I know I am, but what are you?*

Something interesting happened to me yesterday. Interesting enough to occupy my thoughts for the 40 minutes it took me to walk back to my hotel, despite a gorgeous view of the Andes in the the setting sun, which should have provided reason enough for my thoughts to wander.

I’m in Santiago, which is a wonderful place to visit, if you like a nice view of a mountain or several. I’m also at a theoretical chemistry conference, which is an even nicer place to be if you like electrons and their quirks. So I am writing this in a good mood (which I find is the best way to write a blog post).

I bumped into a colleague yesterday, at the conference welcome function. We had a quick, social more than scientific, catch up touching upon the fact that I’ve moved institution since we last met, and various other matters, as much personal as not.

Then he called me a ‘raging feminist’.

Luckily he talks at a fair clip, so my blank face lasted through his subsequent comment “of course, I can understand how that might happen, if your local work environment is particularly misogynistic”, and by the time I had recovered enough to respond in any way, the topic of conversation had moved on to something quite different.

We were talking for long enough afterwards that I could certainly have brought the conversation back to the topic of my feminism, but I didn’t. I would have felt impolite.

So I’ve been thinking about this since. I have several questions, most immediate of which is what, exactly, he was talking about? Has he come across this blog? If so, how? Did a mutual acquaintaince, who knows of the blog, point him to it? Or was he looking up something about me (he had been thinking of visiting New Zealand) and find something via google? I don’t know.

I could still ask him, but I’m not sure that it matters too much. I was deliberate about not making this blog anonymous, and I’m still happy about that. But it was a very strange encounter nonetheless.

More straightforwardly, I was speaking to someone at the poster session this evening, and she said, right off the bat: “I’ve been reading your blog.” Not weird at all.

So I guess I’m going to have to learn how to be a ‘raging feminist’ in public. And I’m kind of looking forward to it.

*I have since realised that not everyone who reads this will be familiar with the school playground response, which was good for any insult when I was a child: I know you are but what am I?
I turn this around here to recognise the compliment.

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