a little empty space

This is written for the Tuesday dVerse prompt “women are people: invoking Amrita Pritam“. Thanks for a great prompt Punam, and especially for introducing me to Amrita Pritam’s work. 

I chose as my jumping off point her line from empty space:Look further on ahead, there between truth and falsehood, a little empty space.” 

What if I wrapped up my truth
in academic verbosity,
called it auto-ethnography,
and submitted it for your review?
Would it still get a rejection
on the grounds of misperceptions?
What if I edited it carefully,
removed the tell-tale markers
like all those excess hedges
and threw in more self-mentions?
Would it still require your corrections?

I never knew there was a line,
between your truth and mine,
until you showed it to me.
But I still don’t see why one side has to be
true and the other false.
Can’t we just blur out the line,
and allow a space between to meet
where no one has to be at fault?


I’ve had rants before about being a woman in physics/engineering, and how patronising colleagues can be – how they are (at best) oblivious to, or (worse) blatantly denying of the lived experiences of those who are not (middle-aged+ white) males.  So I won’t start another one of those.
But here is an interesting bit of research from one of my PhD students: there are quantifiable differences in the way (senior) men and women write in science, despite the
very strong genre conventions.  For example, women use more hedges (an explicitly taught genre norm) and more engagement markers, men use more boosters and self-mentions (despite these being officially frowned on in science). The differences are largest in physics… surprise, surprise.   


Filed under poem, rants

22 responses to “a little empty space

  1. VJ

    Sadly every woman encounters this. Infuriating.

  2. axis knowledge
    a colage of college
    pilloried and ivory towered too!

  3. “Can’t we just blur out the line,
    and allow a space between to meet
    where no one has to be at fault?”
    Kate, I couldn’t agree more with your beautiful interpretation. It is appalling how the dividing lines are everywhere. Love this, especially this insight into your work place.

  4. I really enjoyed how you played off the chosen line, Kate, in such a clever calm and challenging way 🙂

  5. `Terrific piece Kate – and your post-script underlines the poem’s point: blokes with the keys to the garden.

  6. I really like the compromise on that space. Good one!

  7. Ah, the pain of binary living as if there can be no meeting point, only someone’s right view, I love how you bring this out and challenge it.

  8. So well articulated! Thanks for speaking up for women in STEM

  9. Rob Kistner

    How frustrating Kate, to live with such absurd moments of invalidation. I wouldn’t be quiet in the face of such stupidity, and I applaud you for speaking out! I chose that same evocative line from Pritam. Loved the power in your piece here — excellent!

  10. Loved your bold and candid thoughts. Liked ‘where no one has to be at fault’

  11. Pingback: lost and found/2022 beginnings | anotherKate

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