Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ed Yong - Sexism and Harassment in the Science-Writing World

Ed Yong (photo below) blogs at National Geographic's Phenomena: Not Exactly Rocket Science blog here he does a weekly column of cool science-related articles from around the interwebs (I've got your missing links right here" - this week's is I've got your missing links right here (19 October 2013).

Before I continue, I want to mention that on the sidebar of his blog, Yong has this:

My wife, who makes it all possible  

I share this because Yong's personality and commitment to his wife is relevant to his comments on and coverage of a recent series of disturbing events in science journalism. This lends Yong more weight in his refutation of the behaviors described below.

A very well-known science writer and blogger, the Blogs Editor at Scientific American, and co-founder of - Bora Zivkovic - was accused by first one and then several science writers - all female - of sexual harassment.

The pattern is pretty distinct in each of their stories
[Bora] contacted her, showed interest in her work, met with her, and then proceeded to steer the conversation straight towards sex (such as repeatedly telling her he was a "very sexual person.")
This is all so effing disturbing as a man - I work with women who go through this is much less public ways. Often, as is the case with Kathleen Raven, this kind of harassment devolves into rape.

I am so proud of these women for speaking out and revealing the culture of control and power in which they work. And I applaud Ed Yong for featuring this story on his blog this weekend.

Ladybits have issued a call for submissions on the power of harassment.

So with that, here is the opening to this week's "missing links" column.

Sexism and harassment in the science-writing world

It’s been a bit of a week in the science-writing world. First, Scientific American blogger Danielle Lee wrote about an editor who asked her to write for free and called her a whore when she turned him down. SciAm took down the post with inconsistent explanations, prompting a fierce online response. Maryn McKenna sums up the story and I’d really recommend this post by Kate Clancy. The post is back up; the editor, fired.

In the wake of that, writer Monica Byrne accused Bora Zivkovic, a leading figure in the science blogging community, of harassment. He apologised, but concurrently other women stepped forward, including science writers Hannah Waters and Kathleen Raven. The women are brave; their accounts, devastating. Raven’s is the most gut-wrenching thing I have read in recent memory. Trigger warnings apply.

The event has also prompted a lot of good pieces on gender and power issues in the science community. This is a non-exhaustive list, but: many good pieces on Ladybits; Melanie Tannenbaum on the psychology of impact vs. intent; Alice Bell on the nature of the sci-blogging community; Laura Helmuth with sage advice for people seeking mentorship (and those who can provide it), and more; Martin Robbins on keep-it-quiet-ism.

The whole thing also led to the heartbreaking #ripplesofdoubt hashtag as many people shared their stories of how pervasive harassment and sexism affects them. See Hope Jahren’s piece.

I’m pushing this to the foreground because it’s more important than any of the stuff below. We need to open our eyes. We need to ensure that our colleagues don’t have to go through this, and certainly not alone. We need to speak up about it because doing so will create a culture where people can speak up about it, where they can stand up and be supported. Not this. [emphasis added]

More coverage here, here, here.

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