Perception

I do not look like a college professor. Try this: Google Image Search “professor”. Actually, I’ll save you the trouble – here are the first hits, in all their (gray wild haired) glory:

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 3.51.44 PM

So the first 17 images show us exactly 2 women, 1 black man (our current president – who is not currently an acting professor), and 14 old white men. Most with facial hair in various stages of rebellion from the faces they reside upon.

I do not look like the 15 men in those images. I do not look like the older cartoonish woman either. The lady in the upper right though – I’m pretty sure I had that shirt once. Pretend she’s me.

Only, I probably look a little younger. I’m told that’s a good thing.

Just this past week I had a conversation with several students in my lab class. One young man kept calling me “Miss” – not “Miss Lastnamehere” or “Miss Firstnamehere”. Just “Miss”. I didn’t say anything because this kind of thing happened the entire year last year and I vowed I wouldn’t be fussy about the whole “doctor so-and-so” thing. But at the end of class he stopped himself mid-sentence while asking me something and said, “Wait. I’m sorry. Are you a doctor? Should I be calling you doctor?” And we had a nice conversation about it. And other students chimed in and told me they thought I was a student too because I look too young to be a professor.

And there it is. Our society seems to share Google’s view about what a professor looks like. And it’s generally not me.

Which makes life interesting when I go to a professional conference and want to be treated as a professional. I have been mistaken for a student several times already. In general I don’t mind the assumption, but it DOES bother me a bit when I introduce myself as a professor and later in the same conversation the person refers to me as a student. It’s like their preconceived bias has caused them to edit my introduction to better fit their worldview. I suppose we all do that. But still.

In any case, I actually didn’t set out to write about any of that.

No.

I sat down to write about something else. Still my appearance, because apparently I’m on a vain streak. I have been suffering from pink eye or something so I had to wear my glasses to the conference. This is unheard of. I wear contacts. ALL. THE. TIME. Unless I’m sleeping.

Or have pink eye.

So. My glasses. They’re nice black plastic rimmed sexy-librarian things and yesterday I was convinced they added to my professorly air. Yesterday I felt very respected and no one forgot I was a professor.

Today I am still wearing my glasses and I’m wearing the same black pants, shoes, and jacket from yesterday (what? ONE suitcase people! I changed my underwear, of course. Nosey.). But today I have been accused of being referred to as a student several times.

I can only conclude the pink scarf I wore yesterday (and not today) made all the difference.

So lady professors take note: pink scarves up your professor game.

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