Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blinded by the whiteness of it all

This week I asked readers to “delurk”, to give me an idea of who you are and why you read this blog. It was interesting to me that most of my readers are scienc-y types. Not all are scientists per se, but all have an interest in science, whether it be as students, post-docs, PI’s, or science-fi writers and gals just interested in science Which is cool because science is a big part of my life.

Funny enough, its not a big part of this blog. Yes I ask for help on lab things, from troubleshooting to figuring out how to manage my PDFs, but the majority of my posts are about the antics of my child. (Did any of you hear about this? I totally felt for the parents, as they have my childs' doppelganger. I had visions of monkey doing the exact same thing after reading it).

Yet, no one from the mommyblogging community comes here. I read the mommyblogs. They are what got me into blogs. My first readers, clicked through from comments I left on them. As I scan through comments on these blogs, it strikes me that the majority of commentors / blogger are white. When they have blogger meet-ups or talk about attending BlogHer its with they’re white friends. This is not to say that any of those bloggers in my sidebar are racists or even prejudice. Far from it, I believe them to be totally open-minded, everyone is equal, multiculturalism is awesome lefties. Yet when I read their blogs and look at the pictures they post, I can not help but think that I don’t belong. When I click through Canada Mom Blogs, I don’t see myself (as in someone that is non-white).

Which is how I feel about life in general lately. Despite living in city that is truly multicultural and where it is celebrated and embraced, when I walk into my research building. The racial diveristy that is so evident on the street stays on the street (or in the undergraduate buildings). Why has diversity stayed at the level of the street and not moved into the upper echelons? CEO’s, University administrations, professors these disciplines do not reflect the mixture of our communities.

Nor does the blogosphere.


Mrs. Spit said...

Unfortunately, I think you are right. Some of it is from the digital divide, even if more minorities have computers, they may not be as comfortable with the internet.

We don't hear everyone's stories in the blogosphere, and I wish we did.

I am glad that we hear yours.

And I have to confess, I find it a bit of an honour that you and Candid read my blog. Our careers are so very different, indeed, so are our lives, and I often wonder if I am boring you. . .

Mimi said...

I'm with ya, sister! It's really odd that so many of the blogs I read that are SUPER successful are also white. My readership is really diverse and I like that. It's not easy being the "brown girl" in my science classes, etc... I may not have the number of readers that others do... I, too, do not get invited to meetups. I always wondered why, but I think you may have hit the nail on the head. It's a shame, really.

Liz said...

With respect to finding that the diversity in the city you live in stays on the street...

It's possible that my lab (in Canada) is the exception, but when people visit I'm introduced as the "token Canadian". Granted, some of the other nationalities represented are also white, but about half the people in the research unit are not. Attending conferences, I notice that a lot of the older scientists are white, but among us graduate students there is a lot of diversity (the same could be said for sex of researchers: a lot of old men, but quite a few young women).

It's sad to hear how isolated you feel, so I guess I'm just trying to be optimistic and let you know that not *everywhere* is like that.

ScientistMother said...

Mrs.Spit - I don't think as to do with minorities not being comfortable with computers. There are a huge number of bloggers from all countries. I'm sure if I did a google search, I would find a punjabi mom blog group. I know there is a KimChi group for asian-american/canadian bloggers. Why are they separate? Why are they not part of the Canada Mom Blogs? I don't believe its intentional, I just wonder why we still don't mix freely...

You are never boring my dear. You amaze me with your wit, compassion, humor and strength.

Mimi - Do you really believe its because of the colour of my skin? I don't know. I haven't felt any overt racism in science. I just don't know why I know of only 1 black man and 2 or three other punjabi people. Yes there is diversity, a ton of asian and iranian folk, but not the mixture that is similar in my street...

Liz - I don't know if I feel isolated, I just wonder why. Like I said to Mimi - we have a number of different cultures and races represented, but not in the same manner that is evident in our cities. Why are there not more Latinos? Blacks? Filipinos? I don't believe that there is something inherently different about them so why are the same mixture not evident in science? Its present in law, dentistry, medicine, etc.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

This is why blogs like yours are so important, within both the science blogging and the mommy blogging communities.

The upper levels at my institute are still very much white too, although we do have some South-East Asian and South-Asian PIs.

The bean-mom said...

I read the mainstream mommyblogs, too. Yup, it seems most of the speakers (and attendees?) at BlogHer are white. I'd also hazard the guess that most also come from an educated middle-class or upper middle-class background.

Not sure why the ethnic homogeneity. Perhaps there's an element of self-segregation here--similar to the self-segregation of bloggers into science bloggers, lawyer blogs, or other career-specific blogs? Are the "Kimchee Mamas" only linking to one another, perhaps?

I can think offhand of one supersuccessful "mainstream" parenting blog by an Asian, however--"MetroDad" by a Korean-American New York city father. I hear he's even been offered the chance to work on a tv sitcom based on his blog, it's become so popular. Now THAT would be amazing--a network tv sitcom starring an Asian-American family (and not the Margaret Cho one!)

By the way, I have to admit some surprise at your comment that there is not much ethnic diversity at your workplace. The research departments I've worked in have been mostly international at the postdoc level, mostly east Asian with a smattering of other countries. There have always been a fair number of international Asian grad students as well. At my current institute, I feel somewhat like a "token American" in my lab. Except because I'm an Asian-American, sometimes people don't seem to consider me a "real" American, which I find rather annoying.

ScientistMother said...

Bean-mom - It could be self-segregation, but when it comes to my blog in particular. I didn't try to be a science blogger over a mommy blogger. It just happened on its own as that was the community that welcomed me. If it is self-segregation, what does that say about our overall willingness to truly interact? I think Kristen of Motherhood Uncensored is Asian. Really only 1 or 2 non-white bloggers are big? when their are so many asian bloggers?

I wouldn't say that my building is not ethnically diverse. It is. However if you pull together the undergraduate science classes, it would literally be a United Nations Assembly. Which is what my city is like as well. However, if you now pull our graduate students together, although there is diversity it is not present to the same degree. The higher up you go, the less diversity. 10 years after starting research, I am finally seeing more punjabi's men and women do research. 10 years after doing research, I finally met one black guy who does research? why such low numbers? I honestly don't know. Within in science, I have felt my gender to be more of an issue than my color.

Its just sad to me to see such low numbers in so many different communities. Especially when its not an intentional exclusion.

EthidiumBromide said...

I don't know if it's because I am in D.C., and perhaps the location itself draws a more diverse batch of scientists, but I am always a little bit shocked to read that everyone else seems to think that only old, white men (and the occasional woman) can progress in science. In my lab, caucasian Americans like myself are the minority -- most of our lab consists of individuals either directly from or with heritages tied to India, China, and 50% from Islamic countries. Looking around our building, there are more Asians/Indians than run of the mill white peeps, numerous Africans (both African-American and those who came to the U.S. for graduate school/post-doc) -- basically, just about every race and culture imaginable. My own thesis committee has just two "old" (not really) white men... the three other men represent three different ethnicities.

Of course, that doesn't really help in the blogosphere -- as far as I know, none of the others are bloggers (but then again, they don't know that I am).

JLK said...

First and foremost, SM, if I thought for one second that you were located anywhere near me, I would absolutely want to meet up with you. But yes, I am white.

Of the two other bloggers I have met up with IRL, one was caucasian, the other not.

Here's a thought I had while reading this that may be controversial, but I'm not stating it as fact - more like asking whether this might be the case:

Is it possible that many (most?) bloggers of other ethnicities are engaging in circles that are largely defined by that ethnicity? In other words, are people who identify with a minority population seeking out other members of that population specifically as a priority, rather than searching out academia, motherhood, or science in general?

I mean, I get the impression that, overall, non-white bloggers regardless of subject matter feel that another non-white blogger's input, perspective, and advice inherently has more value than that of a white blogger, perhaps because it's more relatable in an immediate sense. So as a white female blogger I might search for "academic motherhood," "psychology," "grad school," "female scientists," or "scientists." But an African-American blogger by contrast might search for "African-American scientists" for example and perhaps never venture out of that realm.

Until very recently, SM, I had no idea at all what your ethnic background and heritage was. It's not exactly prominent on your blog. That might be the reason why your readership is not as diverse as you would like.

ScientistMother said...

Etbr - I do think its because of where you are. My current university as way more diversity than my first university did. I think its just fact of the bigger places attract more people. I am glad that your institution is like that. Is it that the cities are more welcoming than smaller places. I don't have the reason, nor do I have ideas of why the segregation is occurring. Like I said in the post, I think all the blogs I read are written by open-minded, leftist types. If that is the case then why the separation? I find it strange.

JLK - is there self segregation going on? probably. My question is what made my blog, which is totally more about my child than anything else instantaneously accepted and welcomed into the science community but not the mommy-blogging community? I don't think its because of my skin color. But I do find that within the mommy-blog community there is a very small level of diversity, which is odd to me.

Also, I have no issue with my readership. I just am curious to what makes a blogger welcome in some communities, yet not even be on the radar in other relevant communities.

EthidiumBromide said...

I don't know anything about the "mommy-blogging" community, but do you think the reason you could be less popular with the mommy-bloggers is because of your career in science? The fact that you are so career-driven may be something to which some others cannot relate, while being a scientist who also has a child is something which many female scientists either relate, or aspire to.

There is also a small blogging community for wives of doctors that I initially started to follow, figuring there might be some ideas for getting through his long hours, suggestions for our long-distance marriage, etc. But 95% of the wives felt like their only role in life was to do everything for their husband -- they sacrificed their own careers and aspirations, and that is something that I am NOT willing to do. I was kind of unwelcome in the community for still wanting to maintain my own career -- perhaps something similar is going on with the mommy-bloggers; since you actually write about things other than your child (i.e., your career as a scientist), perhaps they just aren't interested/able to relate?

ScientistMother said...

EtBr - I have thought of that before. I realized awhile ago that most of my readers are science-type and figured that since most of the mommy-blogs that I know of are written by either Stay-at or Work at home moms, that my experiences are totally different and alien to them.
I am sorry that you were not welcome for not wanting to cater to Husbands 100%. Even if I wanted to do that, Mr.SM would blow a gasket. It would drive him nuts to not have me be independent. He loves having someone to argue/debate with.

chall said...

I don't even know my demographics (I would guess it is fairly small... ) but I would agree with your inital thinking.

My main thing is that I was so happy reading female bloggers about career and science that it never occured to me to look for "ethnicity". (I am obviously not as aware as I should be) but focusing on "what is other women's opinion and thoughts about life and science and career".

After reading this though, I guess I need to pay attention. But, if nothing else, I tend to look for "people in a foreign country" since that is what I am experiencing right now, white or not.... it is a cultural clash...