Sexist supervisor says "too girly"


I think my second-supervisor is misogynistic. It's taken a while for me to figure out what his problem is, but I think he's a bit sexist. I'm giving a presentation on Monday, am not too confident about public speaking, and so he asked me to practice part of it in front of him. To give me help and feedback, he then IMPERSONATED me twiddling with my hair and being all 'girly' (his word). He's quite funny, and wasn't being too mean, so I did laugh at the time, but the more I think about it the more I think - how dare he mock my demeanor? Am I being too defensive? I actually can't help being 'girly'. Is there something wrong with that? He kind of made out that no one would take me seriously. I feel a bit silly.
Any one have any advice about what makes a good public speaker? Is it better to try and adopt 'masculine' qualities? If so, how can I do that? M.x

Avatar for sneaks

======= Date Modified 18 Nov 2009 12:42:18 =======
I think you are confusing 'feminine' with 'girly' - I think he is suggesting you come across a bit meek and immature, rather than suggesting you are coming across too feminine. He is right - stop twiddling with the hair. If you have ever performed music then you will know you have to stand in a certain way and make sure your airways are not constricted i.e. don't fold your arms - have an open demeanor, shoulders straight and confident. Maybe try videoing yourself and see what annoys you about it.

I don't think he is being sexist at all - just trying to point out what is annoying when you are listening/watching a presenter.

I now have an image of pippy long stocking doing a presentation!


I agree with sneaks, its a matter of being professional, not girly or otherwise - my supervisor twiddles his beard: not feminine at all, but very distracting! My personal nervous tic is putting my hand over my mouth. The other day I saw a guy hold on to his chin throughout his entire talk. Looked really weird.

I do think doing an impression of you is a bit out of order, but if you know his personality and knew it was a joke, I wouldn't read too much into it.


======= Date Modified 18 Nov 2009 13:42:12 =======
I think impersonating you is not on and from what you say, your sup could be a bit sexist. If your department/research group is male dominated, I would not be surprised, if that is just the way he interacts with people, and most guys find it completely normal to hear feedback in a kind of joke, but maybe women interact/communicate differently, and hence find it offensive. (Have you heard of the book "Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work" by Deborah Tannen?. It discusses this kind of thing, and afte reading it, certain interactions with the opposite sex seemed to suddenly make sense to me.)

About the presentation skills, remember that the feedback itself might be valid, and it is a good idea not to twiddle with you hair and be as professional and focussed on the presentation as possible. The idea to video yourself and watch it back is an excellent idea, I have done it and it works well and helps to understand how you appear/sound to others.


He expressed his comments in a rather unhelpful manner - imitating someone can be very cruel and you have to have a safe relationship for those kind of jokes. It sounds as if his attempt at humour has clouded the issue; it's not about gender, it's about professionalism. We all do little things when we're nervous and they need addressing as they'll detract from what you're saying.
I definitely don't think you need to be more masculine (that could be very weird!) but just a more confident and businesslike version of your usual self. If you feel brave enough, the videoing idea will give you a huge insight into how you come across. It's hard to watch at first but it will help. Other than that; stand tall, keep hands away from face, look at the crowd and generally speak up - ta-da, you are now as professional as Butch McButch :)


Hi Maria,

I think you've had very good advice from the others and I agree with all of it.
Things are not catastrophic. You can tie your hair up for a start :) And there are a lot of things you could do that are much worse. I, for instance, on my first 'real' presentation, kept a hand, flat, on the top of my head. For twenty minutes (- I have a very weird body language, naturally, I've had to work on this so much and it's still far from being good!). The lecturers were making notes all the time so they didn't notice (I think one of them only put his head up once I was finished), but my fellow students were certainly watching. I only stopped when a few of my friends in the front rows started to mimic me!

I did pick that up however:

Quote From maria1:

Is it better to try and adopt 'masculine' qualities? If so, how can I do that?

Don't try and do that! First of all because if it is not 'you' speaking, you'll feel uncomfortable and lack confidence, but also because you don't have to be, look, or speak like a man in order to make a good impression.


Hi Maria

I'm not sure it's possible to tell if your sup is misogynistic from one instance - has he done/said other things to make you believe this? Also, another way to tell if he is, is, would he mimic a male student? If not, he could be a misogynist, if you think he would, then this is probablt just his way of communicating. I also don't think it's the best way to give feedback - making fun of students hardly sounds constructive!

The others are right - don't adopt 'masculine' traits - whatever they are. But project yourself, speak loudly, look at the audience, and don't rush. Keep your arms at your sides, or lean on a podium. Make sure you wear something business-like, so you feel like a professional with some authority. Good luck!