self-presentation as academic discipline
Profgrrrrl has a very specific and useful post about how to answer that question, you know, the “how’s your work going” question. I’ve come to the same conclusions as she has, but not without previously falling into most of the traps she describes. The “Oh I’m so busy” trap (boring) or the launch-on-long-monologue-about-struggles monologue. Yes, they’re both really rather self-defeating and really won’t help. And that probably goes for students too. I think part of the problem is that as a student, at least when I was a student, a lot of the time you were supposed to do the “oh god my thesis is going terribly I’ll never finish” thing to co-students. It was part of our solidarity thing. Like the way you weren’t supposed to admit to getting good grades in high school. (Or was that just Norway or my suburb or something?) That’s really not a very constructive way of talking with colleagues who’ll be cooperating with you and participating in assessing your work, though.
Profgrrrrl also mentions how young female academics get the message we should dress frumpily and try to look older and as un-gendered as possible, well, I’ve definitely had that feeling too, not that anyone ever said so – when all your colleagues at meetings outside of your department are twenty years older than you and almost all male, you do feel like dying your hair grey and wearing a pant-suit and tie. Definitely not a way to help academia be more friendly to young women, though.