Talking Like Girls

September 21, 2021

Last week, we sent out a pretty benign email. In essence, it was a list of some of our favorite fairy-tale and folkloric retellings, ones we find especially inspiring, thought-provoking, and revolutionary.

But we happen to mention that these fairy tales are, to us, feminist fairy tales. And we used the word “patriarchy.” (For the record, when we use the word “patriarchy” we just mean that, in patriarchal societies, it’s easier for men to grow up and take on power and authority than people of other genders. Race, ability, and other factors absolutely play into it, too.)

We got a… fascinating email in response. It literally said “wahhhhh wahhhhh” and that we have “victim mentality.”

After we finished laughing at this unveiled trolling, we got to thinking. Because honestly? We feel like we’ve had it pretty good. The vast majority of people we’ve met in a professional capacity have been awesome – interested in the actual substance of what we’re saying or teaching, and, you know, professional. 

(In our personal lives? We have SEEN SOME THINGS. One of us has an ex-boyfriend who actually said, out loud, that by having dinner with her parents, she was “undermining his authority.” At which point, he became an ex. Sweet, sweet freedom!)

But even so, people say things to us. At public talks. In comments. In emails. Things that probably wouldn’t be said to us, at least not with the same frequency, if we were men.

So we started making a list of things that people have said to us in a professional capacity that seem… gendered to us. And it kept growing.

We decided to share it with you. In case you’d heard some of these things, too. 

So, without further ado, behold: things that people have actually said to us, out loud or written down, in a professional capacity:

  • We smile too much.
  • We don’t smile enough.
  • We laugh and smile too much, which is unprofessional.
  • Our handshakes aren’t firm or masculine enough.
  • We wear too much color.
  • We wear too much black.
  • We shouldn’t use “Dr.” in front of our names because it makes us seem stuck up and intimidating.
  • We should always use “Dr.” in front of our names because don’t we have any self-respect?
  • We should not wear our hair down.
  • We should not wear our hair up.
  • We should cut our hair.
  • We sound too serious and academic.
  • We don’t sound serious or academic enough.
  • We are frauds.
  • We care too much.
  • We don’t care enough.
  • We shouldn’t wear makeup.
  • We wear too much makeup.
  • We care too much about looking pretty.
  • We care too much about aesthetics. 
  • We don’t care enough about looking pretty.
  • We shouldn’t wear such feminine clothing.
  • We should not charge for our courses or talks.
  • We talk too much.
  • We don’t talk enough.
  • We shouldn’t talk like girls.
  • Our subjects are too frivolous. 
  • Working together collaboratively will destroy our careers.
  • We should not talk about the man who stuck his hands in his pants while seated next to us at a conference panel.
  • We should not share information about a professor who sexually harassed people.
  • Sexism isn’t real.
  • The patriarchy isn’t real.
  • We have victim mentality (wahh)

If you’ve heard these kinds of comments, too, they’re literally not about you – at least not about you personally. They’re about the kind of society we live in and the way it’s considered totally ok to personally critique women existing in public. (Quadruple it for women of color, gender non-comforming folks, and other marginalized identities.) 

They’re about keeping us in line.

Don’t stay in line. 

Keep doing you and making your magic.


  1. Linda M Willson

    The next time you get a message such as you describe, I think you should be the ultimate ladylike professor and say sweetly, “Fuck you, asshole. At the very least. God I don’t know how you stand it. When I opened my first blog years ago, a very close male friend said, “Nice. Who does the writing for you?” “I do the writing of course,” said I. “I mean who does the actual writing for the blog?” I shall not tell you what I said next.

  2. Jody Helme-Day

    Strong women like yourselves, and those that frequent this school, eat spineless man-babies like the author of that email for breakfast. Keep up the good fight, ladies, and keep being you. <3

  3. Collette Cumella

    ROCK ON, My Favorite Doctors!!! Give me a potion, a hex, a high 5!! Thank you for pointing out the obvious, AND speaking about it!! Now we can express ourselves, myself, with fun and laughter!! At equinox, the male and female energies can be more balanced. We could slyly confront a man who may want to grow….or not but we can speak up!!! I love the image of OLD WITCH!! They were old because they were healers, botanists, and were, ARE magical. I LOVE YOU!!

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