Archive for the 'Sexual Harassment' category

ScienceOnline and Followup to #ScioSafe

Let's start by acknowledging that I was not at SciO14, so obviously I was not at the impromptu/spontaneous #ScioSafe session. Had I been at SciO14, I am sure I would have been at #ScioSafe. I hope that I would have done a good job of listening and doing my part to help create an environment where people felt safe to speak up and share.

I have the greatest admiration and respect for EVERYONE who participated in that session. And I have great sympathy for those who might have wanted to be there, but didn't find out in time. It's too bad they couldn't have had access to such a session on the regular conference agenda, as many have noted.  I do think it's entirely possible that what occurred in #ScioSafe could only have taken place outside the official boundaries of SciO14. Okay, in an ideal universe, the board of ScienceOnline spent the past year dealing head-on with their Boron-issues, got a lot of professional advice, and brought in some top-notch facilitators to help the heal the community. They had a plenary session in which they reviewed what happened, explained exactly what steps will be taken to change the culture, and outlined concrete plans for improved communication.

Roseanne Connor once said "I'm still waiting for chocolate air!" in response to sister Jackie's statement that she was waiting for Roseanne to say she was right. Organizations will be direct, effective, and rapid in their response to Boron-like disasters sometime shortly after we have chocolate air. They have to be pushed, nagged, prodded, dragged, "incentivized", and sometimes, reinvented, to make things better. Oh, you think you are hoping to just slide by this year with the "recent events" euphemism and some hand-waving in the direction of "boundaries" and then whoosh! back to "real" scicomm and on to 2015!  Well, maybe. Except, no. ScienceOnline as an organization should be thanking its lucky stars that it has dedicated and passionate members who want to make it into what it should be - a welcoming space for everyone who wants to talk about science online.

It's easy-peasy to be just one more unwelcoming, non-inclusive, harmful kinda conference. Nobody needs to attend a Scio conference. They aren't part of professional organizations, universities don't necessarily support attendance costs, the eclectic mix of professionals, students, and academics thus far drawn to SciO have to be choosey with their conference dollars. Why go someplace where you know there are serious issues that are festering and unlikely to be fixed, especially if it's an informal sort of get-together? Might as well go to the usual unwelcoming places that are official career-builders. So kudos to the people trying to do SciO a favor and make it better.

If you haven't already, read the summary of the #ScioSafe session here at Doc Freeride's blog and give some serious consideration to the seven items listed in the document session attendees produced. As far as I'm concerned it's all pretty much a no-brainer, except for part of #5. I think the SciO org desperately needs to clarify what, if any, relationship they still have with Bora Zivkovic, and what, if any, they currently plan to have with him going forward. Then let the community descend with pitchforks and torches decide how they feel about that. In my dream world, Boron is invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference on using social media for science communication but when he shows up, he is put on a rocket ship and sent to Neptune. I will admit that the rocket ship to Neptune is my preferred, albeit impractical, solution for dealing with all harassers. If SciO does its job right in creating a community that is truly welcoming and inclusive and safe, and that does not support or reward bad behavior, there will be no need to ban the Borons of the world. The community will make their existence so difficult they'll seek easier places to do their dirty work.

That's what I would like to see, beyond creating a community where people feel safe to report bad things that happen to them, knowing the perpetrators will be dealt with: I would like to see a community that makes bad actors less likely. I would like to see a community that plays a role in building better communities. Not just the stick, and punishment after the fact, but something like a carrot. Actions to prevent occurrences are a start, and then it would be wonderful to be part of growing a crop of folks who create inclusive environments wherever they go, because they have the tools to do so.

I think this is part of science communication, and part of what science online can and should try to accomplish. The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) offers a rotating series of mini-courses that can be taken for accreditation, to develop skills that medical writers need. There are skills that science writers need, and of course there are places you can go to take such courses. But ScienceOnline could offer something no one else does. I would like to see development of a set of courses that are offered on a rotating basis, maybe for some sort of accreditation, if SciO becomes a member organization. Participants would learn how to foster inclusivity through communication. Here are some topic ideas:

1. What is inclusive language - and will it ruin my beautiful prose? (Subtopics to be covered include: his/her is so awkward!; you people can't take a joke; lame is just an expression!; what's wrong with talking about hard & soft skills?; we just want "the best and brightest")

2. What is an inclusive lab group and what communication skills does it need?

3. How do I write about a scientist who is a woman without mentioning her knitting?

4. Is it ever okay to mention the knitting of a scientist who is a woman?

5. There's more to February and March than George Washington Carver and Marie Curie

6. Got privilege? Leverage it as an ally online!

Those are just some off the top of my head ideas, I'm sure you people working out there in real science communication can think of better ones, but you get the idea. Now go forth, my friends, and get to work. ScienceOnline isn't going to invent chocolate air without your help.

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So Sad

I've been reading the comment thread on this post over at Whizbang! and I grow so sad. Poor Boron! Subjected to a witch hunt, tried and sentenced by an angry mob, when he didn't commit legitimate rape or even real harassment, which God knows is a horrible thing IF you have ever seen it, trust me. I mean, people have a right to their hurt feelings, but that doesn't give them a right to violate Boron's privacy, because if the topic of sex is in any way under discussion - say, in relation to a bit of science  journalism - why then it is perfectly normal to describe at length how you like to get down and dirty with your partner, especially over coffee. There is no evidence! Of anything! No harassment to be seen! Boron is a victim! People are being silenced! The mob is scaring people from speaking the truth! Boron is just a poor lad with Asperger's from a foreign country where they do sex talk different and no one has asked him his side of the story about this lapse of good judgment! People are too emotional and over-reacting, probably because they were harassed, and so they see it everywhere and when you think about it, what is real rape anyway, especially in a marriage, or some strange foreign culture? A court of law would give a proper hearing to all sides.  If only some journalist would investigate the true story. Why, oh why are you mean, cruel, horrible people making such a great and wonderful man suffer consequences for his actions? Can't you just let him do whatever he wants and let him be the judge as to whether he thinks it was harassment and he should apologize or not? What do you people want? It's like you think you have the right to define things and take actions. That is not how it works. Shut up and keep pulling the levers for the Great and Powerful Oz. Come back and show love for this great and good man. Don't be so crazy. Don't make us kill you delete your comments.

9 responses so far

Who Else Would The Perpetrator Be?

I understand full well why some people pressure victims to keep quiet. It's not, despite what they say, for the sake of the perpetrator and his/her reputation/ability to earn a living/the poor family etc. Or not just that. It's to keep to keep us all from looking behind the curtain. We must all continue staring straight ahead at the big green scary head of the great and powerful Oz (where Oz is, variously, patriarchy, racism, heteronormativity, unfettered capitalism, ableism, or some heady stew of it all).



The shouting, the scary noise, the bellowing smoke and flames - the big green head cannot produce these effects on its own. Someone must pull the levers and speak into the microphone. It takes a village, if you will, to run Oz. In Oz, supplicants are given minor rewards and the right to prepare future supplicants to appear before Oz. If they work hard, they can one day pull some of the levers themselves. Indeed, one day they must, or Oz will collapse. Livelihoods and the very architecture of Oz depend upon Oz. It is best to strictly regulate who can get close to Oz, lest the curtain and thus Oz and thus everything be endangered.

All this is logical, and easy enough to understand.

What I don't get is this: Say someone yanks the curtain aside a little bit. Look, see, this person. This person is a perpetrator. And the good people of Oz are shocked and appalled. They are shocked that one of their own is involved in the lever-pulling.

Well, who else would the perpetrator be? It is the colleague who harasses, who casually flings racial insults. It is the brother who molests. It is the priest who rapes. These people do not come from Mars. They come from right here where we live and work, in Oz. They are our neighbors and friends, our co-workers and bosses, our lovers and relatives, our clergy and officers. They may be very good people, but they are very bad friends, bosses, priests. They are, indeed, humbugs. Just as we know that Ted Cruz is a humbug of a member of Congress, we know these people are humbugs of what they purport to be in our lives. Perhaps they are nice to their pets and give generously to good causes. Perhaps they have been good to other people at other times. But their acts behind the curtain have made of them a humbug of the role they would play before it.

When the curtain is pulled back, it is right to feel shock and sadness at what we see - but not at who we see. The levers are being pulled all day long, every day, and somebody you know is doing the pulling. It cannot be otherwise. To continue to think otherwise is to lay bricks in Oz.

Maybe it was you once. Maybe you had a minor lever, just a tiny puff of smoke. Maybe you had to learn how to let go of the lever, try to walk out of Oz, and build something new. Oz is so appealing, though. You know how things work there; the climate's always just right for you; you don't have to think about things so much. You thought you were walking out of Oz but you're right back where you started...will you sigh and once more grasp the lever? or try walking out of Oz again? There is no balloon, and there are no ruby slippers. Just a long, difficult walk, away from everything comfy and safe, with everyone in Oz yelling "come back! come back! you're crazy! we'll kill you!"


3 responses so far

When to Tell? Who to Tell?

The most awesome Hermitage asked in a recent post

Ignoring the fact that knowing who to even complain to, and to what purpose, is not always clear, how bad does something have to be before you are compelled to take a stand? Should the criteria be severity, or simply how easy something is to prove? Should you always do the right thing, or should your career come first?

I wrote a long comment that sort of turned into a mini-post.  I'll reproduce it here. My answer was written assuming that what was being complained about was harassment or discrimination.  One main point I wanted to get across is this:  DO NOT WAIT until you have been harassed or discriminated against to try to figure out what you should do when you have been harassed or discriminated against.  Read and educate yourself about your school or workplace's relevant policies and procedures, understand how things would officially be handled and what that would imply for you.  Go talk to someone at the office of diversity or the equal opportunity office (where a complaint might be likely to be handled).  If your university has a women's studies department, ask them for resources to help you understand the situation women in science face in academia and how to respond to harassment and discrimination (tell them you don't need to read high theory, you need practical stuff about dealing with douchebags).  An informed woman scientist is one who is less likely to be harassed, and more likely to be able to aid a colleague who is dealing with a problem.

Okay, here's the rest of what I wrote over at Hermitage's place.  I encourage you to go read her post and the comments there, too.  Continue Reading »

11 responses so far

Cuisine, With Feminism: I'll Have The Large Plate, Please

A Kitchen of One's Own is a brand new blog, but I am already madly in love with it.  Blogger Ginny W is bringing the kick-ass. We thought STEM fields were tough places for women to make a living - and they are - but this post makes, say, your average physics department or engineering construction site look like a care bears tea party.

Women are also expected to take part in active misogyny: to refer to men and other women, and even themselves, as bitches; to deal yo mama insults; to deplore weakness, weeping, and other “girl” faults; to make and laugh at rag jokes, rape jokes, and a host of other jokes relying on the revilement of women. Not just tolerate it from the men, but actively take part in it.

The post on Disability and Restaurant Life is also highly recommended.  It gives me a new perspective on this Philadelphia Inquirer story from last July about Jennifer Carroll, pastry chef at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge.  Hell, the whole damn blog, new as it is, is a real eye-opener for me in thinking about any of Philly's women chefs (and how precious few there are, given the restaurant renaissance the city has seen over the past few decades).

Zuska loves good food and good restaurants, and, of course, is a feminazi.  This new blog is a delight to her hairy-legged heart.

5 responses so far

Links for 4-3-2009

Scads of stuff I don't have time to blog adequately...

  • Johns Hopkins Provost Kristina Johnson was nominated by President Obama to be under secretary of the Department of Energy in mid-March. From the email press release:

    She is a distinguished researcher, best known for pioneering work -- with widespread scientific and commercial application -- in the field of "smart pixel arrays." Last year, she was awarded the John Fritz Medal, widely considered the highest award in engineering and previously given to Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Westinghouse and Orville Wright. She is an entrepreneur and has served with distinction as dean of engineering at Duke and, since 2007, as provost at Johns Hopkins.

    I should have blogged that for the last Diversity in Science carnival!

  • Isis smacks down the whiny jerkwads always complaining about "illegals" stealing "our jobs". You know, the ones the whiny jerkwads don't want to do.
  • Bean-mom left this very meaty comment three days ago on the motherhood/science careers issue,and it got lost in moderation. Check it out. Also check out her blog!

More stuff after the jump.

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far

Sexual Harassment Lawsuits: Even When You Win, You Lose

Reader JC left a comment on a recent post about sexual harassment that led me to a Feminist Law Professor post on a sexual harassment lawsuit against Brigham & Women's Hospital. It is a post well worth reading, if you have ever wondered why more women don't sue over sexual harassment, or why women don't just speak up immediately and complain at the first sign of harassing behavior. Maybe you have been secretly suspecting that women who file sexual harassment charges or lawsuits just have some ax to grind and/or are trying to ruin some Nice Man's career because they are bitter pre-/post-menopausal shrews and are just doing this to get sympathy. Uh huh. Well, read this, my dears, and be disabused of all your false ideas and pretty fantasies about how easy it is to file these lawsuits, and just what it means to "win" one. Here's a taste:

So even if you get a verdict like this, the amount is barely enough to cover the costs of litigation (that's definitely true here) because the impact of the attacks on your livelihood, professional reputation, etc. is minimized. You of course realize that this woman is now marked for life: she will never, never, ever, get a job offer from any other hospital in this country. So, the bonus payoff here is, she gets to work in an environment where she is ostracized, despised, feared, and hated - barred from any leadership position - and will never be taken seriously as a decision-maker or policy-maker - for the rest of her professional life. And that's because she WON!

10 responses so far

Why Do We Think Only Really Hideously Evil Human Beings Could Be Sexual Harassers?

It's certainly a tragedy when anyone takes their own life. I feel very sorry for the surviving family members and colleagues affected by the suicides of two U. of Iowa professors accused of sexual harassment who took their own lives last year.
And yet. I have little patience with this Chronicle of Higher Education article about them. You can file it under the category of "but he was such a really wonderful person! There's just no way he could have done these things!" Or, alternatively, "Those TERRIBLE women RUINED the lives of these WONDERFUL men!"

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20 responses so far

Women Paid Poorly, Men Behaving Badly - What Else Is New?

According to the Chronicle Newsblog

Female professors at the University of Texas at Austin earned an average of $9,028 less than their male counterparts in 2007, and senior female faculty members there feel more isolated and less recognized for their work than do their male colleagues.

You can find the full report here and a press release from the university here.
The comments section at the Chronicle post is full of the usual dismissive commentary that arises whenever the issue of gender inequities in salary is broached. I liked this response from Meshiko:

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6 responses so far

A Reply to Dr. Isis

A warning: if you are a survivor of sexual assault you may just want to skip this post and the ensuing ugly comment thread it is sure to engender.
A week or so ago the redoubtable Dr. Isis wrote an open letter to me.
In part she wrote:

The pragmatic part of me wants to agree with you that there is no place for open ogling in the workplace. The other part of me fears that there may be a hint of truth in Greg's argument that we are inherently sexual beings...

I see no reason to fear the truth that we are inherently sexual beings. But the fact that we are sexual beings does not mean that women just have to put up with tit-ogling in the workplace because men are just incapable of controlling themselves. One can both be a sexual being AND exercise self-control. This point has been made before but apparently it bears repeating: tit-ogling in the workplace is not just, or only, about sex. It's about power, dominance, and control. This has little to do with us as sexual beings and everything to do with patriarchy.
Dr. Isis also commented on a blog post of mine:

Continue Reading »

30 responses so far

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