This last week was a real shit-show in so many ways. I was especially hit hard by a series of events that highlighted the sexism in my corner of the STEM world. First, @kateclancy published a study in PLoS ONE about how many young women were sexually harassed or assaulted doing fieldwork, then a $20 million suit was filed against Vanderbilt that accused a professor of such horrible behavior that it makes me want to puke. Finally, Science magazine published a ridiculous cover image of head-less trans women, and a white d00d editor went to twitter to defend it and made it a million times more horrible. Ugh. I don't really know what to say/do. But lucky for me (and you, really), @MyTChondria sent me this guest post. I like the idea of recognizing our allies in this fight. Enjoy.
This month has has been brutal for many people in STEM, particularly women. Stunning Supreme Court rulings pulled our reproductive rights away bit by bit. This last week the horrors hit close to our jobs as allegations of horrific acts of sexual harassment against trainees, publication of data of the startling numbers of female field scientists who have been harassed and assaulted on work sites, and blundering non-pologies of Science as they depersonalized the tragedy of transgender sex workers.
I’m exhausted by the fact Henry Gee still works at Nature, that we live in a society where males sing Robin Thicke lyrics about ‘you know you want it’ and every part of #YesAllWomen resonates with me.
Men came by my office making light of these events. When I told them I was sad and these things hurt me and my friends, they squirmed but didn’t listen. They were either convinced simply bringing these things to light would help or that people were making mountains out of mole hills.
It was all I could do to keep from crying. And I don’t fuckken cry. This was the first week I really seriously considered leaving science. I thought I couldn’t look at my graduate students and fellows (all of whom are women) and tell them STEM is a healthy field. I’m not depressed, I’m sad. And it crystalized as @MGHydro tweeted exasperation that nothing seemed to be changing. Were we just documenting history or actually going to do something about it?
Friday night I huddled up with Mini ate some pizza and watched The Butler (she is obsessed with history and social justice). She watched the movie intently while white actors sat by blacks actors graphically reenacted the violence students were subjected to at Civil rights protests. I paused to see if it was too much for her and asked her why she thought the white students sat taking this abuse with their black friends. The real life photos of their injuries were horrific.
With the confidence that only a 10 year old can have, she said “Of course they had to sit there with them. You can’t live in a world where people you know aren’t being treated fairly by bullies. Even if it means you have to get beat up along side your friends. It's the right thing to do”. With the help of wine and a nice fleece blanket, I thought about this over the next few hours, and found myself with a foothold to help me face next week with a sense of hope.
Many of my male Tweeps have called out sexism, thought deeply and fought hard for gender equality. They give me hope I’m not insane and alone. They help me believe there is not some fundamental and insurmountable difference in how men think women. I appreciate their voices cheering for me me when I’m doing the right thing even if I want to puke while it’s happening. I delight in these men who have the wherewithal to tell sexist men to STFU in their blogs, tweets and IRL.
I have no cookies to give. I’m not that kind of person. I also know would stab me if it looked like I was doing it (they would also stab a dude, so I feel okay with this). For all these things I am grateful.
Many of my female friends have similar stories of men who kicked other dudes in social media who impress and encourage them. So, I invite my female tweeps to share the hashtag #ThxSTEMMen with the names of a man or men who have helped you in your gender equality struggles.
@SciTriGrrl will Storify it and we can hopefully connect up other women with the merry band of misfits who champion women’s rights.