Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Where IS my outrage?

[note- this is a bit rambling, but I think it's important to get these thoughts out, ill-formed as they may be. And on the off-chance that you haven't read about Monica Byrne's experience, go do so now ]

I want to thank ScientistMother for her post last night, and for noting that only Isis explicitly reblogged Monica Byrne's story. I couldn't stop thinking about how my own response to DNLee's experience and Monica Byrne's experience differed so much.  Why was that? It felt pretty easy to stand with DNLee when some two-bit online marketer called her an "urban whore." Didn't require a second thought. Why not the same response for Byrne's story?

Because Bora has been a science blogger for so long? Well, I've never interacted with Bora online, and honestly I never did follow his blog.

Because he's an editor at SciAm blogs? Maybe, though I don't have any aspirations for deliberately trying to widen my blog's audience (if I did, posting something, anything, would be a step).

Because after what he did to Monica Byrne, he apparently didn't continue making sexual advances to her? Ok, but other women writers say he did the same to them (see comments on her post), and honestly, his apology is weak.

Because I didn't want to be seen as a trouble maker, or 'activist' in this regard? Whatever I write here may be read by people I'd want to hire me, and is this how I'd want them to see me?

Because I know of times where I know I've acted badly, and recognize there are surely times where I've acted badly without knowing it. So, who am I to judge?

It's been bothering me all night, and that's good- it should. Because it's not consistent to stand up loudly for DNLee and not for Monica Byrne. And because my thoughts above place the center on the incorrect location: either Bora, or me. The attention should be on Byrne, and then what is the best response

Monica Byrne wanted to talk to Bora about writing on science- Bora thought of Byrne (and the other women he did this to) purely as a potential sex partner. "I'm a very sexual person," he said. There's no way to see that as anything other than a disgusting and outrageous comment in a work setting. I still can't grasp what it would feel like to meet with someone about a cool new opportunity to write an article, a blog post, whatever- and then have that person make it clear that they don't give a shit about that. They just want to go to bed with you. And then integrate that over a lifetime of similar experiences? I have no words, cause I cannot conceive of it. Need more concrete examples? Read about Kathleen Raven's experiences.

This pisses me off. Any right thinking person knows these actions are horrendous and unacceptable. Behavior like this shouldn't be tolerated anywhere. I'm pissed off as a man, who is judged, reasonably so, as a possible creep by people who don't know me. I'm pissed off thinking about what experiences the women in my life (my mom, my wife, my daughter) have endured. But that's too narrow a focus. I'm pissed off that other people have to experience this. I don't really know what to do to address it. But the response overall has been somewhat muted, when more outrage is in order.

I want to thank Monica Byrne for her bravery in speaking up. I don't know what it feels like, but can only imagine it's incredibly difficult to do so.

Relevant links:
Priya Shetty has an excellent piece about the relative silence of the community's response.
Dr FreeRide's post
DrugMonkey's post
Odyssey's post


bam294 said...

As someone totally uninterested in Bora, I immediately thought his behavior was far gone and puke - inducing. I don't know Bora personally. He tweeted so much I unfollow him and was horrified SciAm kept him on in light of the first egregious incidence of sexual harassment. Women have taken to blogging, and anon blogging as an outlet. A safe haven. To have the guru of this domain abuse that power is a particular kind of slap in the face. I had no problem with my outrage; I was stunned by the folks who were timidly processing events. This is the only post that has hit the mark for me.
Having any kind or relationship where you know/follow/read the thoughts and advice of others, you feel you have developed a relationship of 'virtual proximity' (although I'm sure someone has a better word). The closer you get by reading their blogs/taking note of their advice, the harder it gets to be horrified IMO. Excuses fill in the fractures of your understanding of this person. It's unimaginable that anyone YOU would pull in as an advisor would violate the trust you give them. The trust, I might note, that they have in no way earned.
As news unravels, people lose faith and go numb and often respond poorly. There were/are a lot of numb people out there. I don't fault anyone for that. The emotions one can comfortably associate with these violations evolve and can't be processed in real time.
And yet, I sat talking to Gertyz (referring to Twitter @gertyz) last night telling her 'laughably horrifying' stories of things men in positions of power over me and my career have done. These things were sometimes cloaked in playfulness, sometimes just outright over the top misogynistic and sometimes just so hurtful as to induce blind rage. I told Gertyz I had made peace with these events because I damn near murdered a couple people, called them out immediately or talked to my chair when I couldn't do anything in the moment. I felt I had called offenders to task. And yet, as these events unfold, I am growing increasingly uncomfortable as part of me knows that without public disclosure, I haven't.

DrugMonkey said...

You got bam to be serious for a minute. I am flabbergasted.

Nat Blair said...

I'm sorry for the bad things you've had to experience, which then gets compounded by worries that you haven't done enough. No one should have to suffer that initial harm, or the later doubt.

If you come to decide it's time to share your experience, there are people who will be there for support.

For everyone else, there's a woodchipper, fully gassed up, and well sharpened.

Anonymous said...

Thanks bam294 for sharing what I suspect many of us are feeling. I don't follow BoraZ and I'm not part of the blogosphere, but reading about everyone's experiences with him just reminded me of so many of my own experiences with others, to varying degrees. It's disgusting and upsetting to say the least.

Damien Samways said...

Bam294 "And yet, as these events unfold, I am growing increasingly uncomfortable as part of me knows that without public disclosure, I haven't."

Thinking out loud on the keyboard here... There has to be a means of lowering the energy barrier to identifying serial harassers. Somebody posted this article on Byrne's blog about developing information escrows that could be utilized for this sort of purpose.

It wouldn't be a bad idea prototyping such a model at scientific conferences, imho. Attendants could enter complaints about other attendants with the knowledge that no other person will view them until a critical threshold of similar accusations causes the system to flag the putative offender. At the point at which, say, ten people have reported the same individual a variety of things could happen. First, the ten people who reported the incident could have the option of revealing their identities to each other, allowing them to pursue any further action as a group. The system could send an automatic, but initially private, warning to the offender, and perhaps coerce them to alter their behavior.Further infractions would result in the society office being informed and action taken.

The hand-wringers worried about unjustified or fraudulent accusations (which rarely occur anyway) would be dealt with because it would literally require a concerted and organized conspiracy to game the system and identify an innocent person as a problem. Also, anonymity would be preserved for all parties up until the point at which an individual has amassed sufficient complaints to be considered a problem. At which point, the concerned parties and society authority could be informed.