Monday, December 2, 2013

If You Can't Say Something Unrelated to My Gender, then Shut the F*** Up

Spend a few minutes reading the short article and watching this video by Emily Graslie, who is a science reporter/blogger in Chicago.  (Props to facebook friends for bringing attention to it).

I don't know how Graslie remains so poised -- this sort of thing makes me furious -- but we all benefit from her wisdom and clarity when tackling the issue of gender bias against women in science, technology, engineering and math (and one can safely extrapolate to pretty much any academic discipline with significant underrepresentation by women and other minorities).

Awareness is the first step, but lord it feels so small.  And in my heart of hearts I thought we'd be well past the point, in 2013, in a progressive country, where the following still needs to be stated: after a woman presents her work, whether it be in print or in a video or at a conference or during a workshop or lecture, etc., it is never okay for your response to include, let alone be solely comprised of, commentary about her physical appearance, dress, posture, or "mansplaining" (cf. here and here) aspects of her own research back to her.

Do you know how often this sort of thing happens?  In my own experience, more often than not.  In the over 30 talks I've given at this point in my career, I'm hard-pressed to think of more than 9 instances in which I received only appropriate, professional, collegial responses to my work.

That means that after 2 out of every 3 talks, some guy has sauntered up to me with commentary primarily directed at my being female. (Once, a colleague told me he was too distracted by my looks to focus on my talk. ABSOLUTELY OUT OF LINE.)  More frequently I receive special male "instruction" on how to better give my talk or present my own findings, or how to answer certain questions I was asked during Q&A.  One man even gave me advice on how to stand behind the podium during my talk.  In this case, I did tell the man flat out that this was entirely irrelevant, and he should only speak to me further if he has actually understood the content of my research and can formulate a coherent question pertaining to it.  He didn't respond; in fact, he didn't speak to me for the rest of the conference (no great loss on my part).

This behavior is unacceptable.  The fact that people evidently still don't know or realize that this behavior is unacceptable... is unfathomable.

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