- A not very happy observation about +/- being a woman. Adnotated.

Tuesday, 23 July, Year 11 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

one of us has a question

one of us has a question

I'm writing a long post about psychiatry (I write several posts at once, and finish them randomly.) As with many other posts, I often email academics, journalists or other primary sources to ask them a question.

Sometimes I ask because I don't know, but often it's a "stupid" question to test someone's bias/perspective/actual knowledge.

As a recent example: I asked two different academics (paraphrased) "how does seroquel work as an antidepressant? Is it the NET, and how much binding is there?"

Key point here: these are "famous" or busy or important individuals, used to getting a lot of emails; and my questions are very basic, very easy to answer, and an ordinary person should have been able to look up the answer themselves.

I construct the email to appear as if I am a college-aged person.

My observation having done this several dozen times:

  • If I use a (fake) male email address, e.g. "petermiller@" no one ever responds.
  • If I use a (fake) female email address, e.g. "melissamiller@" I get answers almost every single time.

I'll add that the majority of the people I email are male; the few women I've emailed haven't been any different. I've confirmed this by waiting a long time (month) and re-emailing a different (but still simple) version as a woman.

The conclusion I went to first was that there is some unconscious sexual element; not that the academics thought they were going to seduce me, of course, but that they derived some greater pleasure in answering the women than the men.i

But perhaps there's a different explanation: there may be an assumption that if a guy asks such a basic/stupid question, then he's an idiot and not worth bothering with; but if a girl asks it, well, a college girl isn't held to the same standard/ expected to know as much.ii

I'd be interested in knowing other people's reactions and experiences with similar scenarios. I'm quite willing to accept alternative explanations.

  1. Or rather, that nobody needs boys for anything -- which is part and parcel of why most of the anythings worth the mention end up being male. []
  2. Doh. []
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  1. [...] A not very happy observation about +/- being a woman [...]

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