Why I’m Leaving the STEM Field

This blog entry is partly for my own therapeutic needs, but also partly to inform others of what it’s like to be a woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

To give you some background, my career trajectory has been very unconventional. When I started university, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I transferred to a different university after my first year, and my first year of university ended up being a waste–nothing counted toward my degree requirements at my new university. When I got to my second university, I bounced around a bit. One thing I loved was my culture and foreign language classes. My love for language ended up putting me in the English department with minors in Japanese Studies and Chinese Studies. This was as close to a linguistics degree I was going to get at my university. I thought with my foreign languages (3.5 years of Japanese and 2.5 years of Chinese, as well as three years of Spanish in high school and being a native German speaker), I wouldn’t have a problem finding working. Ultimately, I wanted to do a master’s in linguistics, but as I graduated in December, I thought I would work until I could apply/start a program. Well, employment never came.

It was the beginning of 2011, and even grocery stores wouldn’t hire me. Eight months after graduation, I decided I couldn’t just sit around and wait for employment to come to me, so I decided to go back to university, except this time I would go into a field with more security: STEM. My major? Chemistry.

I had always loved science, and I would never say I didn’t enjoy the classes I took for my chemistry major. Chemistry (rather than biology) seemed a hard enough science to provide some job security, but not so difficult I wouldn’t be able to get through it (like physics). My decision was very intentional. I started undergraduate research my second semester of my new degree. I did well in chemistry! I brought my GPA up from a 3.35 for my English degree to a 3.48 by the time I received my chemistry degree. So there was no question of my academic capabilities. I felt pretty good about my decision and decided to pursue a master’s by research in England to get more lab experience.

This is where things started to change a little. For my master’s, I took on a research project in a bioanalytical lab. My project was essentially an engineering project: I designed a part for an instrument that we used for analyzing compounds. I actually had to learn to use AutoCAD and design this part, find a place to manufacture it, and then troubleshoot the part. Despite the fact that I did this with some success, and my project created the foundation for a fully funded PhD project, I always felt like my qualifications as a scientist were in doubt. This was typically felt during discussions with my colleagues, who were mostly PhD students and all men. Even though I had more experience in biology than any of them (having worked in biochemistry research for most of my undergraduate research experience), they rarely seemed to receive the information I shared as anything of value. It was like it went in one ear and out the other, almost like my information was less valuable than what the other guys were sharing, even when it was relevant to the conversation. Simply put, it felt like I had nothing valuable to contribute to the conversation as a scientist.

To paint a bit more of a picture, even as a chemistry student, I never really blended in well. I always wore skirts and dresses, liked cute accessories and shoes, and wore lacy items whenever given half the opportunity. At first, I didn’t draw the connection. I figured, I have proven my success and capability as a scientist academically, first as an undergraduate and now as a graduate student who is making a difficult project work (and everyone was in agreement that my graduate project was a very difficult one).

I brushed it off for a while and thought maybe it was because I was American. People in England generally didn’t hold a very high opinion of Americans, and it had often felt like being American in England did not play in my favor in many other circumstances as well. So, I didn’t take it personally.

When I returned to the US and started job hunting with my newly earned master’s degree, things began to look a little different. My first job, which still took me nine months to get, was a contract job as an analytical chemist. My master’s was in analytical chemistry using the same analytical techniques, so it was a fairly natural fit. Without going into the moans of working as a contract chemist in industry (worst job ever), I felt like I was treated very differently, even from the other women who worked with me. I was required to wear pants to work, which was fine, but I still wore nice tops that were cute, slacks, and cute shoes while everyone else came to work in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers. My manager, the quintessential tomboy-type who was especially buddy-buddy with my male coworkers, seemed to have a special place in her heart for me–and not in a good way. She picked on me, saying things like, “We need to toughen you up” or “We need to work on those muscles” and essentially telling me I need to stop being such a girl. She praised the boys when they had done a good job or finished a project quickly, but no words of praise were ever handed out to me. There were only two other women who worked in our contract worker group, and they seemed to be pretty good friends with my manager but almost in a love-hate way. The dynamic was a bit odd really.

Anyway, once again, I shook it off as being just a bad work experience. I could feel my manager aiming at the core of my femininity and trying to destroy it and turn it into something “bad”. She was certainly not feminine. She was bossy, powertrippy, a know-it-all (even though she had no background in the sciences, she told people how to do their jobs), and a micromanager. Still, I tried to chalk it up to having an unfortunate manager and moved onto another job as soon as an opportunity opened up. Luckily, this was only about four months later!

My next job was at a research lab at a university. It felt like home being at a university again. Furthermore, instead of there only being 3 girls out of 12 workers, the odds seemed to be in my favor: 5 women and 2 men. Maybe it would have been different if I had been working under one of the women, but unfortunately my job was working under one of the men. Again, I experienced the same thing I had as a graduate student: the information I provided and the background I brought to the table was not valuable. Met with only doubt and brushoffs when it came to information exchange or discussion, I was only a pair of lab hands with no brain.

To be honest, I had thought for some time that despite that my facial features aren’t especially feminine and that I’m not really especially pretty either, the way I presented myself could have an impact on how men in the sciences received me and what I brought to the table. However, it never occurred to me to what extent this would be true, until I read this article from the University of Colorado, posted just last year in 2016.

In their second study, Banchefsky and her colleagues strove to see how strong the effect was. They found that a woman’s feminine appearance still affected career judgments even when participants were not asked to evaluate her appearance, and regardless of whether the photos of scientists were presented grouped by gender or randomly mixed.

“This is important because it means that people don’t have to be asked to consider a woman’s appearance for it to still affect their judgments about how likely she is to be scientist,” said Banchefsky. “It also indicates that people use variation in women’s feminine appearance as a cue to her career even when gender differences are made more obvious – that is, when photos of women are interjected with photos of men.”

Exploring the idea of feminine facial features, I came across this online program called pictriev that uses a photo to analyze for feminine or masculine features and tries to estimate age. I used a non-touched up photo for this, so you can see the photo is a little bit dark. My makeup was also light. The photo was taken with a $600 Nikon camera, though, so I have some confidence in it’s quality. Several articles had cited this website, but whether it is accurate or not, I am not entirely sure. It was the best thing I could find to determine whether I had underestimated how feminine my features are, though.

Pictriev

After getting some insight from this mysterious face attribute calculator and reading the previously cited quote, in addition to some other articles, it all began to make sense. Reading further:

The research confirms the all-too-real experiences of many women in STEM fields. The paper opens with the story of Isis Wenger, whose photo was featured in her tech firm’s ad to recruit more engineers. Because she was deemed “too attractive” to be a “real engineer,” some doubted the ad’s veracity.

“We knew there were accounts out there in the literature for decades that women (scientists) can’t wear skirts if they want to be taken seriously. They are seen as ‘too feminine,’” Banchefsky said. “One paper shows that about 75 percent of male and female engineering students believe the perception that scientists cannot be feminine is a problem for female engineers.”

This hit home so hard, it nearly crushed me. It was a very bittersweet moment of realization. That was what I had experienced, and it was a relief to know that it wasn’t me, it wasn’t personal, and it wasn’t in my head, nor did it have anything to do with my capabilities as an individual! What was hard was the fact that this is still how it is in STEM: become one of the men or become disqualified as a legitimate scientist.

“These feminine-looking women have ‘heard’ verbally or nonverbally that they don’t look like scientists, that they don’t belong in these male-dominated, highly prestigious fields,” Park said. “The message that your appearance matters and that it is relevant to your career choice likely leads other women — as undergraduates, as high-school students and even as young girls — to conclude they just don’t fit with science.”

At the end of the day, I chose to keep my identity as a woman instead of my maybe-would-have-been career as a scientist. I love being a woman, and I love being feminine. My desire to express my femininity should not impact my ability to be accepted as a competent scientist, or anything else for that matter. But the truth of the matter is that it still does. So, that’s why I’m leaving STEM. To preserve myself, I feel like I must, because it is not a battle I want to fight.

So what will I do from here? I will go back to my first career path: linguistics. For more than seven years now, I have tutored as a English as a second language teacher and have continued to study languages (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, Russian, Finnish, Greek). Simply put, I think the field will be more accepting of me and suit me better for it.

Managing/Healing Seborrheic Dermatitis: My Skin Routine Now

It’s been a long time since I last wrote, but I have been hard at work trying to get my skin and overall health in a better place. My whole life, my skin has been a series of woes and complications. I have always had to put in twice as much effort as others even just for mediocre skin. After hundreds of products, many years, and many more tears, I am finally in a place where I can say, “I HAVE GREAT SKIN!!” Knowing there are many others out there who struggle with acne, oily skin, seborrheic dermatitis, and other relentless skin conditions, I decided to compile a comprehensive article of what I am doing now and what changes I have made. I hope this post will be helpful for others, although be ready for a pretty lengthy article, though I will do my best to cut out anything that isn’t essential information. Feel free to ask questions if there’s something you want to know. Let’s start from the beginning.

A Little History

As a teenager, I had moderate to severe cystic acne (closer to the severe side than the moderate side) and undiagnosed seborrheic dermatitis, mostly on my scalp. I started puberty very early, having my first period at 8 or 9 years old. By the time I was 10, I was having some pretty serious skin issues, and by the time I was 13, I had stopped growing (I still say I was cheated out of my true height). My periods were horribly painful events as well, which eventually led to seeing an endocrinologist at around 15. At that time, I was diagnosed with high testosterone and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I was having issues with blood sugar, probably as a result of the PCOS, so I was put on metformin, but quickly stopped taking it after it made me sick (and I mean sick all the time). In addition, I was put on birth control pills to help with the PCOS and testosterone dominance.

While the birth control pills helped with my periods, even after seeing a dermatologist since I was 12 and being put on a series of topical antibiotics and oral antibiotics and using every skin care regimen under the sun (tried Proactive twice, tried Clinique for several years, etc.), I saw practically no resolution for my acne. The dermatologist eventually decided to put me on Accutane, and this cleared up my skin beautifully–for a few years anyway. I was 19 when I was put on Accutane, and by the time I was 22, my skin seemed to start rebelling against me again. At 22, I also decided to stop the birth control pill, but my periods were wildly irregularly after that, and who knows what the heck was going on with my hormones! As I got into my early 20’s, I also started using more and more natural products, doing a lot of research on diet and nutrition, and started my long road of overhauling my entire lifestyle.

Fast Forward to Today Relatively Recently

I’m getting ahead of myself ! We need a little more background.

My irregular periods continued until I started bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. To my surprise, I was not diagnosed with high testosterone, but with low progesterone, so now I am supplementing bioidentical progesterone (not to be mistaken for plant-based [phyto] progesterone or phytoestrogens). So my hormones were all good at this point, but my skin was still…well, mediocre.

My skincare regime had evolved several times at this point. I had tried oil cleansing, oil cleansing with steam, carrot masks, tea tree oil, honey: the extreme of all natural. This stuff works for a lot of people, and that’s great. However, much to my dismay, it did not work for me. My only guess is that my skin is so complicated and has had compounded effects of using very harsh products (Clinique and Proactive? Super harsh) in addition to my already existing skin problems, especially seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis seemed to cause excessive layers of dead skin on my face and scalp, worsened by increased oil, which made these layers stubborn as hell when trying to remove. It took me a very long time to even figure out I had seborrheic dermatitis. I gave up on the dermatologist after 20, as they were really not helping me at all and were unwilling to try a different approach. They just kept throwing the same stuff at me, hoping it would work. Well, it never did.

Rant aside, I used oils for a while and went completely natural. Because of my seborrheic dermatitis, though, it wasn’t very effective. It was like the oil would just sit on top of my face and would have almost no cleansing effect at all. Needless to say, that didn’t last very long. After a while, having switched back to somewhat more traditional cleansers, I read more about sulfates in cleansing products. Sulfates, which are actually used for desiccants (absorb moisture to keep products dry), are so harsh that they remove more moisture from the skin than the skin or any lotion can replenish. Sulfates dry the skin down to such a deep layer, your lotion will never reach how far your skin has been stripped of moisture. This has a compounding effect: dry skin will become increasingly dryer, and oily skin will freak out and increase the amount of oil produced to make up for the moisture loss–except the oil produced is usually poor quality oil and it ends up just giving you very greasy skin.

After this revelation, I immediately switched both my skin cleansers (face and body wash) and shampoo to sulfate-free. The change was immediate and improved more with time. I saw probably an 80% reduction in the oiliness of my skin once I started using only sulfate-free cleansers. To illustrate this, before switching to sulfate-free products, I had been using French green clay on my face once a week, and this was perfect to manage my oiliness for a week. After I started using a sulfate-free cleanser, the French green clay was way too drying, even with jojoba oil added to it! This was a pretty dramatic step toward amazing skin, and I recommend to everyone, even those who do not have skin problems, switch to sulfate-free! Your skin will thank you for it. Sulfate-free products are also becomingly increasingly easy to find. I eventually even switched to sulfate-free hand soap, because I get eczema on my hands. I don’t get eczema on my hands anymore!

As I was making this sulfate-free switch, I was also getting more acquainted with high-quality skincare brands. It is still a lot of trial and error, as some products are just the right composition to be brilliant for one person’s skin, but may not be worth the price tag for another person’s skin. It can be overwhelming how many options there are now, but I can speak from experience in saying that it is worth trying a ton of different products when you finally find the ones that work. One of the greatest resources for me has been a website called My Pure. It is a UK-based company that ships worldwide (only ~$7 for shipping, too!) and has some of the best all-natural and organic European brands on the market. My favorite for body wash, body lotion, and hand lotion is Madara. Their products are amazing. The cost is a little bit high, but try it just once, and I think you will find it worth it.

Okay, Now Fast Forward to Today

Yay! Now I get to tell you about what I have done in the past few weeks that has really transformed my skin!

Facial Products
Let’s start with facial products, as I have already discussed the body lotion I am using. I have fallen in love with South Korean skincare products. They are the leading country in formulating great skincare products that are plant-based, while Western countries tend to believe in the power of chemicals to make great skin products (this does not work well for a lot of people). Many people who have very sensitive skin have had great success switching to South Korean products, and I don’t mean “South Korean” products sold at Sephora. I mean South Korean products directly from South Korea.

These can be found on Amazon, though some people claimed to have received fake products (I’ve never had this problem, and you can buy from South Korean shops through Amazon). I prefer to order all my Asian cosmetics from YesStyle, as it is a store I trust and have been shopping on for years. Some brand names that spring to mind if you aren’t sure where to start is Innisfree and Etude House. The Face Shop and Nature Republic are two brands that are also very good and a little less expensive than Innisfree or Etude House. I have been very happily using a combination of Innisfree, The Face Shop, and Nature Republic for months now. They all have a green tea series, which is what I have really been liking, as green tea has lots of great properties. I recently decided to switch completely to Innisfree products for skincare, as it has received slightly better reviews, a few of which were written by girls with oily skin issues. Once I have tried these, I will post my own review. Right now, this is what my routine looks like:

Morning
Face: Innisfree Green Tea Cleansing Foam, The Face Shop Green Tea Waterfull Emulsion for face and neck, Replenix CF Cream for eyes, Nature Republic Fresh Green Tea 80 Cream
Back of neck, upper arms, shoulders, chest, and upper back: Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer (contains retinol/vitamin A, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E + B5, and green tea)
Evening
Face: Skin Blossom Gentle Cleansing Milk or baby oil for makeup removal (for both, I just massage the product on my face and use toilet tissue to gently wipe the makeup away. It works great and makes a huge difference in how oily my skin gets overnight.), The Face Shop Green Tea Waterfull Serum, Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer
Breasts and decollete: Mio Boob Tube+ with a few drops of Evening Primrose Oil
Back of neck, upper arms, shoulders, and upper back: Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer

There are a couple more items I want to mention about my skincare. I have been getting microdermabrasion treatments for a few weeks, which has made a world of difference in removing those excessive layers of dead skin on my face. Since I started getting these treatments, which I get every 8 weeks, my skin products absorb MUCH faster and are much more effective. If you have seborrheic dermatitis, I highly recommend going through a series of microdermabrasion treatments. I am hoping it will “reset” my skin. Once those layers of dead skin are removed after years of skin abuse, I hope my skin will not feel the need to create such a barrier now that my skin care routine is much gentler. This is also one of the reasons I decided microdermabrasion over chemical peel. As the name suggests, chemical peels are very harsh, and I know my skin: it has a tendency to overreact and then I am worse off than I started. I am still getting the microdermabrasion treatments now, but I am really curious to find out how my skin does when I stop getting them.

Also, I do exfoliate once a week, but now that I’m getting microdermabrasion treatments, I can use a really gentle exfoliator and get great results! I had tried the Japanese product Natural Aqua Gel Cure (available on Amazon) without a very satisfying outcome several months ago before getting microdermabrasion. However, now it is the perfect exfoliant: gentle enough not to cause an overreaction in my skin, but just enough to smooth my skin very nicely and help my products absorb better. I hope this continues to be a good option for me even after I stop the microdermabrasion.

Now that I’ve discussed all of my skincare products, there are a few other essential changes I have made to my lifestyle.

Detox
This is important for overall health and even more important for the skin. The skin is a major elimination organ, meaning anything the body wants to get rid of gets pushed out of the body and through the skin. This means that if your body is overloaded with toxins, chemicals, anything at all that the body is wanting to remove, your skin is going to constantly be impacted negatively. Your body probably needs some detox support to effectively clear everything out, and by properly clearing things out, your skin will eventually reach a point where it is not always being irritated by what the body is trying to get rid of.

There are lots of different ways to detox. I prefer the daily/weekly mild detoxing methods over the debilitating once a year liver detoxes that I have only ever read about. As such, I will limit my discussion to what I’m doing now. First, I go to the sauna twice weekly for 30 minutes. Sauna is amazing for detoxing and deep skin cleansing! I have read of people who have healed their seborrheic dermatitis using sauna as part of their treatment. Sauna has a lot of the same benefits as cardio workouts, including increasing human growth hormone. Known as the “hormone of youth”, human growth hormone is essential for repair. I would caution against using sauna too often, as it can cause dehydration if you’re not careful, but 2-3 times a week is great. To read more about the benefits of sauna, read here, here, and here.

Another detox element I have added to my lifestyle is some detox supplements. As part of my bioidentical hormone therapy, I have been taking supplements containing DIM, 3-indole-carbinol, and milk thistle (I use EstroSense). All these support liver detox, especially hormone metabolism. The pills tend to be slightly too large for me to swallow comfortably, so I have been breaking the capsules open and dumping it in with my daily protein shake.

The last step I have added is daily skin brushing and weekly exfoliation. Skin brushing using a dry brush helps stimulate the skin and increase blood flow. It is also great if you have skin problems, as it is a light exfoliation that you can do on a daily basis. I brush in the evening before using my creams. I also use a salux (available on Amazon) once a week for a slightly more intense exfoliation. This is especially important for my chest, back, and upper arms/shoulders where I still have a lot of active acne. I love being able to do this, because it is a really easy way to add some detox support specifically to the skin on a daily basis.

One more thing that’s really important: Collagen Protein Powder
This is probably the basis of my great skin now. Collagen is a building block for skin (and joints, hair, and nails, but let’s focus on the skin). The body loses its ability after age 30 to product its own collagen, therefore supplementing collagen is very important if you have skin troubles. The way you supplement it is critical, though. The body is best able to absorb collagen when it is in a liquid form. The good news is, this is really easy to find. I use Bulletproof Collagen Protein Powder daily. Powder collagen is a little more expensive than tablets, but it is much more effective and easier to take. It dissolves readily into any liquid, and a good quality collagen powder will have no flavor. It will take a minimum of 4 weeks to see results, though for people over 30, it may take up to 8 weeks, so be patient and consistent with taking it.

The jury is still out on this one, but I will mention it anyway: Injuv Hyaluronic Acid
One of my previously mentioned creams, the retinol cream, contains hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is essential for cells to maintain intracellular water levels, which means this is directly connected to moisture levels for skin cells. Injuv variety hyaluronic acid (available at a reasonable price through Swanson Vitamins–especially when they have it on sale) is an oral supplement that has undergone an enzymatic process that makes it absorb more easily. I recently started taking this, as some say it is even more important for skin health than collagen! The two together should make a killer combo, but as I have not been taking it long enough to say one way or the other, the jury is still out. I will report back once I have gone through the first 4 weeks. There are other benefits to taking hyaluronic acid, though: detox. Hyaluronic acid is needed by cells to help remove metabolic debris and dead cells out of the system. This in addition to its moisture benefits makes hyaluronic acid a great one-two for both skin support and cellular detox.

The Takeaway

  • Sulfate-Free! This is so important. If you do nothing else, switch to sulfate-free cleansers, even if it’s only for your facial cleanser, body wash, and shampoo. This will help your skin better maintain its moisture balance and will help make your lotions and hair conditioner effective.
  • Detox For overall health, detoxing is essential, especially today when we are surrounded by all kinds of pollution, chemicals, and stress. There are lots of different detox targets from overall detox to liver detox to cellular detox. Any kind of detoxing you can add to your daily routine will help. I don’t recommend doing harsh liver detoxes that last for only a few days or weeks. I believe more in including detox as a part of lifestyle, as I think removing toxins as they enter the body is more effective than letting toxins hang out in the body for a while before removing them.Sauna is a great overall detox method and is fairly easily accessible through a gym. Sauna has other great health benefits as well, such as increasing human growth hormone, which is essential in repair functions of the body. Sauna is also said to help in healing all kinds of skin conditions. For the best results, use only 2 or 3 times a week for 30 minutes. If you don’t have access to a gym with a sauna, but still want to use a sauna, you can find sauna kits for your home online (and the prices are surprisingly reasonable).

    Adding detox support supplements to your diet is the easiest daily detox step you can add to your regime. If you’re targeting hormone detox, milk thistle, indole-3-carbinol, and/or DIM are great. To target the skin more specifically, using hyaluronic acid helps with cellular detox and is essential for maintaining moisture.

    Skin brushing, while a little more effort, is an easy way to add daily exfoliation to your skincare routine. Using a salux once a week can help maintain smooth skin in stubborn areas where you’re still waiting for seborrheic dermatitis to resolve. These both can help manage acne as well.

  • Collagen For the most effective collagen supplementation, use powdered collagen. It’s really easy to mix with beverages you’re already drinking like coffee, tea, or even just water. Collagen is the building block for joints and skin. After age 30, the body begins to lose its ability to produce its own collagen, so supplementing even before 30 can only help your skin.
  • Be Gentle Avoid harsh products. They will only aggravate your skin, and your skin will in turn aggravate you for it. As much as you’re able, it is best to use natural products. South Korean skincare products are well known for their very gentle ingredients, and most people who have a history of very sensitive skin do great with these products! The price for these products is also quite reasonable, especially in comparison to some of the products you will find at places like Sephora.
  • Most Importantly, BE PATIENT, BE CONSISTENT The body needs time to make adjustments. Taking collagen supplements is important, and you will probably start out very enthusiastically, but you won’t start seeing a difference in your skin for 4-8 weeks as the skin is the body’s last priority (it will use the collagen as needed in other areas first). Hyaluronic acid supplementation will also take a few weeks to see results with. It may also take longer to see results with sauna and other detox methods, as the body will have a lot of detoxing to do initially and with time will have less to eliminate. In the case of exfoliation methods (microdermabrasion, skin brushing, and salux use) and switching cleansers, you will see a difference right away.

I hope this article has been helpful and informative! Please feel free to leave comments if you have any questions and best of luck on your journey to amazing skin!

Femininity and Vulnerability (Mostly Ranting)

Femininity is a dying quality. Women today seem to feel like they need to behave like men to survive, to survive. You see, women are in survival mode. They don’t have fathers or brothers or boyfriends looking out for them or protecting them or guarding them in any way. Women are having to be independent to survive.

I’m not going to say this is all men’s fault. The second wave feminist movement started this mess when they said women don’t need or want men and then convinced a whole slew of women that this was true. As these women got older, they realized it wasn’t true, but it created a generation of men who leave the women in their lives to their own devices. It’s a sort of the chicken and the egg dilemma.

The result, however, is still difficult for women. Women now feel like they have to be strong and independent to survive, because no man will step up to protect them (and when I say man, I don’t just mean a boyfriend or husband, but fathers and brothers, too). Then men wonder why women behave the way they do: they’re unfeminine. Women are serious, closed off, defensive. Some women have started to pride themselves in their ability to be one of the boys, while other women struggle being in survival mode just to make it through the work day. And there’s no off and on switch for this mode of living, especially if you’re unaware you’re doing it.

Working in a male-dominated field in the hard sciences, I see this with the women I work with. They carry themselves like men, talk like men, and the ones they end up treating the worst are other women. I have a manager who is very much the quintessential one of the boys. I’m very girly. I love presenting myself as a woman and not being sloppy. I’m only 4’11” (151cm) and 105ish lbs (46kg) and need help reaching things or lifting things. The response I often get from her for this is beratement. “We need to toughen you up,” “we need to work on those muscles,” and all these comments about how I should be more independent and, essentially, more masculine.

This bothers me. Why are women putting more pressure on other women to be this way? Why do women put this masculine expectation on other women? What is so wrong about a woman needing to ask for help and showing she is vulnerable and not completely independent? It doesn’t bother me to have to ask for help. Why does it bother her?

Growing up, I also received a lot of these types of comments from my dad. “I’m trying to toughen you up, make you stronger, make you more independent.” Why do I have to be independent? Why is relying on others so bad? Isn’t that what makes women women is their relationship with people? Yet it seems today women are more competitive with each other than men are–and worse, women are competitive with men! This is not how women fundamentally function. It’s been ingrained into their minds that this is the only way to “survive”. And most women are in survival mode right now. Is it self-inflicted? Partly. Is it a result of men not being masculine? Partly. At the end of the day, there’s no point in laying blame on anyone. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

I think it needs to start with women. Stop putting other women down for being okay with their femininity and accepting themselves as women. Stop being competitive with women, and for your own sake, stop being competitive with men (men don’t like this). Learn to be vulnerable and accept help. Women in their heart of hearts want to be protected, but unless women learn to be vulnerable and show they need protection, no one will ever step up and say, “I’ll protect you!” But as long as women are going after other women for trying to return to their feminine core, this won’t happen. What I really can’t understand is why have women become woman’s greatest enemy ? Shouldn’t we be supporting each other?

Once women can learn to accept their own femininity and their own core as women, I think both men and women will be happier as individuals and in relationships. Once women start acting like women again, men can start acting like men again. At least, this is my hope.

Femininity Lost

It’s been a while since I’ve written about femininity, or I have written about it at all ? I don’t even remember. Anyway, I’ve been doing some Googling on it to see what is out there, and I’m amazed at how many more resources and relationship counseling professionals are talking about it now compared to even just three years ago. I’ve thought this for a very long time (probably eight years since I took an interest in the topic of femininity/masculinity in Japanese language), and finally there are a lot of other people putting it out there: people are so confused. When it comes to relationships, nobody knows how to act anymore. Men act masculine, and women have been instilled with the idea that they must act masculine, too, in order to be successful. So when it comes to personal relationships, men and women come together and everybody is masculine. The funny thing is, and I’m not an expert but use history as a guide, most men are not attracted to masculine. The result is women who struggle to figure out why they are unsuccessful in relationships, and men are frustrated because their relationships aren’t going well either. Everybody is so confused!

Times are also changing. Traditionally, men had more formal education than women, and women with more education than average typically ended up old maids. Now, that is being turned on its head. Women are increasingly earning more of the higher degrees awarded than men, but most women still want a man they can look up to, a man who knows more than they do, and a man who has more education than they do. It’s getting tricky for everyone out there. As someone who is considering a PhD, I can’t help but think about these things as well. I’ve always thought I would like to find someone who has the academic ambition to get a PhD, whether or not I ever got my own PhD. But now I wonder is that unattractive to have a PhD? Would it make it harder to find someone to marry if I decided to go in that direction? Would it make it harder to find someone who would be that person to look up to with more knowledge than myself? Because like other women, that’s what I would want.

Talking about how confused women are over their spirit (whether it be a masculine core or a feminine one), it should be mentioned that there are women who are naturally more masculine in their core. There are women who are neither masculine nor really feminine in their core. Most women are naturally feminine in their core, though, and always having to go against their nature by being conditioned to be masculine is hurting these women in their relationships and in their very core beings. These are women who are at odds with themselves. I can speak from personal experience to this. I grew up a tomboy, convinced when I was 15/16 that I would have a sex change, and struggled intensely with disliking my body for being female. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I began to be able to begin embracing my feminine core, and it took years to be able to fully embrace it. But I am so much happier for it now. I know who I am, and I am not just at peace with that part of myself but in agreement with it.

That being said, I receive a lot of hostility from female coworkers who behave very masculine. Some of the women I’ve worked with have been naturally more masculine, and that’s okay. The ones I find that are hostile toward me are the ones who seem to be forced into behaving that way (perhaps through their position at work or maybe because of how they were raised) and resent me. Now that I am in the working world, I’m feeling more push from my work environment to be masculine. It’s quite difficult to navigate, too. Workplaces are not open-minded about being anything but masculine, especially in the science field. This is one of the reasons I want to leave industry (let’s face it, business is a very masculine field, no matter where in the ladder you are) and move back into academia. Additionally, I want to leave chemistry and do linguistics/teaching English as a second language, because I feel the environment would be healthier for me as a feminine individual. Sadly, this should not be the case. Women who want to embrace their feminine core should not feel uncomfortable in their work environments because of expectations, but that is the reality of it. And until more women are able to accept their feminine core, the rest of the world will not accept it either, and the expectation will never change. I get the impression this is especially a problem in the US and is a problem to a lesser extent in Europe, where women were never really ingrained with the idea that to be successful one must behave like a man. I blame this mentality on the second wave feminist movement. The feminist movement started as something very good, but was hijacked and became something that told women to behave in a way that went against their nature. Many of these feminists are also the most miserable individuals you’ll ever come across, so really not many people benefited from the mantra of the second wave movement.

I think it’s time more women started to let themselves be women. For many of us, it will take deep digging to find that feminine core. For many of us, we will be surprised at just how feminine we actually are (I certainly surprised myself in this). Most importantly, those of us who discover our feminine core, we must learn to embrace it and express it. It does little good saying, “I know it’s there” and then just staring at it. We need to relearn how to live our lives and prioritize our values accordingly. It is very important that we learn how to express our femininity and become comfortable with it, but also learn not to apologize for it. Many women may have relatives, friends, or people at work or school who push her to be independent, assertive, and career-oriented, and it will be hard to say, “I’m just not like that, and I don’t really want to be”. Accepting it yourself will be a journey. Getting others to accept it will be a battle, especially in a world that is only open-minded to certain ideologies.

While I do not excel at direct confrontation, I can stand against what is being pushed on me quietly and continue to carry myself as is natural for me, despite what the world says. The world cannot force my behavior, but I also don’t have to be brazen in my going against it and thus making myself a target. It will depend on the individual what approach works best, but I hope any woman reading this will take time to consider it.

Brightening Up Your Eyes When You’re Very Pale

When I was younger, people used to make fun of me for my almost ghostly pale skin. I always kind of liked it, though. In a way, enjoying my pale skin, not using bronzer, tan-in-a-bottle, or intentionally spending hours in the sun just to darken my skin was my way of rebelling against the tanned-look fad. Besides, shouldn’t you love what you already have? It makes for a much happier you.

There are challenges to being porcelain-skinned, though, especially when it comes to finding the right shade of makeup. My whole life has been bouncing from one makeup brand to another, looking for a shade light enough for my skin. Once I would find one, the line or brand would always inevitably disappear!! It was always so frustrating. Right now what I use for liquid foundation now that works flawlessly is Laura Mercier’s Smooth Finish Flawless Fluide in Crème (this is the neutral undertone shade) and for powder Korres Wild Rose Mineral Foundation in Porcelaine (which is actually a bit too dark, but I still have a full container, so I make it work). For concealing, I’ve found nothing that works better than Cover FX Total Cover Cream (which is actually what has now replaced what I have–go figure) in N0. Granted that the new line is the same as the old one, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s worth the splurge and will last you ages.

Now the tricky part: for covering up those dark under eye circles and brightening up around the eyes, when you’re just short of being ghost white and need a lighter shade, what do you use? Use white!

I found on Amazon UK a white mineral concealer from JTshop. JTshop also has its own website with free shipping. I love this concealer, because it’s very creamy and very pigmented. A little goes a very long way. So I like to use this first under my eyes and cheek bones to blend it out a bit (like in this video). Then I put the Cover FX concealer over it to give it a skin color rather than white. I also like using the white concealer above my eyes just under my eyebrows to brighten my eyes up. It works fabulously.

The Path to Becoming a Princess❤お姫さまになる道

For a long time, I’ve been very interested in etiquette and elegance. This includes how to interact with others in a kind and warm way, especially in difficult circumstances, how to carry oneself in a graceful, feminine manner, and of course, appearance. In short, for many years, I’ve been studying to become a princess. (That makes it sound so much more appealing, right?)

Comportment

How we treat others. How should a princess treat people? How do you use your words? Do you tear people down? Do you swear often?

Grace

Moving like a petal in the breeze. Think ballerina, like you’re dancing your way through life with dramatic music in the background. This requires practice and a concerted effort.

Appearance

Dress, delicate gestures, what do you look like when you’re just standing there? Self-awareness is key.


私は長い間に礼儀作法とエレガンスに興味があります。人と親切で暖かく交流する方法、特に厳しい状況の時、優雅で女性らしく振舞う方法、そうしてもちろん外見を含めます。要するに、私は数年間にお姫になる方法を勉強しています。(そういうと、魅力的そうですね!)

振舞う

他人を扱う風。お姫様は他人をどう扱いますか?自分の言葉をどんな風に使いますか?人を傷つけますか?汚い言葉をよく使いますか?

優雅

花びらがそよ風に乗っているように動きます。バレリーナの事を考えて、背景に劇的な音楽が演奏しながら踊っているように生活を進みます。練習と努力が必要です。

外見

服装、繊細な身振り、何もせず立っている時にどんな姿がありますか?肝要が自覚なんです。