When I first set up an academic Twitter account a couple of years ago, the photo I uploaded showed my face in close-up, smiling over a mug of coffee. About once a fortnight, a message would arrive in my inbox. I only used the account to talk about my research, but that didn’t interest these tweeters. “You have a pretty smile,” they informed me. “We should meet!!” Some of these messages were probably from bots, and none were particularly unpleasant or even focused – just drive-by comments rather than the targeted aggression often levelled at women, especially BME women or those discussing political topics – but they weren’t welcome. They made me wonder if I was presenting myself in the wrong way; if I was somehow inviting people to dismiss my PhD and the book I was writing and concentrate on my personal dentistry. But my male colleagues could present themselves in all sorts of ways online, and they didn’t get this steady ooze of comments about their appearance.
This blog post is part of the Doctor Faustus project which explores gender and knowledge through drama at the University of Oxford. To read the full blog post, please click here.