Guest post: The day I broke some twitter feeds: insights into sexism in academia, Part 2

Intro from Meghan: This is the follow up to Gina Baucom’s guest post last week on her experience asking on twitter about sexist comments made about women in academia. In that post, she summarized (and categorized) the variety of sexist comments that occur regularly in academia. The responses to her initial tweet were overwhelming, and her original post generated quite a lot of discussion (some of it, unfortunately, sexist). In this post, Gina has thoughts on how to move forward (with some additions from me at the end). Here’s Gina’s post:

“We need to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead.” -Beyoncé

In a previous post, I summarized how a small first-person narrative gathering exercise went awry and broke my twitter feed, and that of my twitter friends. It also gave people a place to vent and share the crappiest and most unfair thing they had heard said to or about a woman. In this post, I aim to step up and give my two cents on the wtf-ery*, tell you how I choose to think about this moving forward, and provide a potential set of responses for when such statements occur. Further, in the postscript, Meg adds some more thoughts on responding to crappy statements. Add your own ideas in the comments!

While the tweeted crappy statements were flying all over the place, many DM’d me private and/or anonymous examples. Some people told me they had similar experiences** but didn’t feel comfortable airing them. Some women tweeted that this was making them think science wasn’t the right place for them. Before I address this unfortunate outcome and add what I learned from the experience, I want to stop and acknowledge a few things. Stay with me, because acknowledging someone’s experience is the first step in making a space where change can happen.

First, I acknowledge the discomfort/upset/annoyance/anger of the person that has had a terrible thing said to them. I am sorry people suck. Second, I acknowledge that some who read the twitter feed may be unhappy with the realization they have been a jerk to others by saying similar things. If you recognized a comment that echoed something you have said in the past, I hope you use it as a learning experience. No one outed you, and now you have the opportunity to do better. Third, I acknowledge that as a bystander, whether male or female, trying to respond in the moment is difficult. Finally, I think it is important to acknowledge that we can all screw up in social situations, but that we should all aim to be better when we do. I have certainly stuck my foot in my mouth before. A few times. (Narrator looks around while someone coughs loudly in the background).

What is my overall take-home from the tweeted responses? Primarily, that if you are female, at some level, a ridiculous, untrue and damaging thing may be said about you***. It doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do. A woman’s ability and intelligence may be questioned regardless. Likewise, her appearance may be the source of jokes. Too pretty? You clearly aren’t serious enough to be a scientist, and/or you’re only getting attention because someone wants to sleep with you. Yes, it’s distressing. At another level, however, I find this knowledge kind of freeing. To me the majority (if not all) of the statements seemed to be divorced from reality and were part of some kind of in-crowd exclusionary tactic (I realize exclusion is a reality. But the statements themselves are pretty much entirely crap, yes?). After a couple of weeks ruminating, my response is basically this:

Leslie Knope gif saying

Of course the attitudes in the tweeted responses are a huge problem if (when?) they translate to restricted opportunity for women, so let me be clear in that I am in no way letting people off the hook for saying ridiculous and unaware things about women. But in the local, immediate sense, worrying about IF they are going to be said about you, or interpreting it to mean you shouldn’t be in science is the wrong road. Knowing that it may happen, picking yourself up, gearing up, and doing kick-ass science regardless of the static in the background is the right road. Please quote me on that.

Beyonce gif,

I want to stress (and I’m using underlined text so you know I’m getting heated and typing VERY LOUDLY) that it is distressing to think of the promising scientists who are women and/or underrepresented minorities that may leave science because of the environment, whether it be hostile or unwelcoming.

To anyone who is questioning whether their gender or some other aspect of their identity makes them unqualified to be a scientist: You are good enough for science. You are good enough regardless of how you dress and regardless of how others perceive you physically. I don’t care if you wear a damn potato sack or 3 inch heels and bold lipstick. It does not matter how you look, it matters that you have space and time to work, to perfect and apply your ideas. A woman’s body representation at work is only relevant to how SHE feels about it, and to everyone else that feels they must comment: it’s none of your damn business. Put another way, I want you to look however you need to look to have the confidence that leads to super good, novel science. It is my hope that your ideas are flawless and stem from a place of confidence and kick-ass. Further, women are not less intelligent than men, so when someone is criticizing you or you overhear something negative said about ability or intelligence in regards to a woman, I want your spidey senses to prick up. Be suspicious. Don’t believe it****, smack it down if you feel comfortable doing so, and try not to internalize it. And then go slay that project, amirite?

“Change requires intent and effort. It really is that simple.” -Roxane Gay

For those of you who told me they read a few tweeted responses, got disgusted, and kind of shut the computer and walked away; for the people who want to support women colleagues and students (and by people here I really mean men in the room that were super shocked); and for any of you who haven’t quite landed on the feminist ship, I gotta tell you — and I’m going to be straight up about it — this is a feminist issue. This is why feminism exists, and, a great example of why everyone should be a feminist. Inclusivity and equality. All of us***** need to work together on this to retain and promote talent, and the path to doing so is already there: pick up a book by Rebecca Solnit, Roxane Gay, Chimamanda Adichie, read about the intersection between feminism and science, note the women who have been working very hard to keep women in science SAFE, find & read the bloggers and WOC/BlackandSTEM scientists on twitter, AND FOR THE LOVE OF FSM, go to the diversity in science luncheons that your society or university organizes. Ask your department to host an event related to diversity in science — or, better yet, offer to organize it yourself. Find the local people who will help you formulate and enact your ideas. These contacts will provide you a community of people who are working on this issue and want to help. Given that we’ve lost our security blanket at the federal level, we need everyone at the local level to not only recognize these problems, but to get active.

THIS IS OFFICIALLY YOUR INVITATION SO OMG GET INVOLVED. Don’t simply have this awakening, go ‘Huh, whaat can I doooooooo’ and abdicate this work to the women. We need everyone to think about feminism, and in an intersectional way. Women of color have different experiences than white women. The concerns of disabled women may be, in part, about access to space (think conference accommodations!). Gay scientists experience bigotry that I as a married hetero-seeming woman don’t. Trans folks are worried about a host of things, including safety concerns, that I don’t think about on the regular. All of these groups have components in common, and components that are different. But we’re all here. We all want to science.

A very important note, that should be a whole blog post, or an article, or a book, or a volume. In my original tweet, I said ‘women.’ I did not ask the question in an intersectional way, and even when I was thinking through the reasons why women would be excluded from speaking opportunities, my first thought was not ‘racism.’ This shows my privilege as a white woman; I think first on the gender axis rather than think about the multiplicative issues that WOC experience. Please take the time to read through responses from WOC/POC that are currently being documented via twitter, and you can add your own through SurveyMonkey.

And now to some distilled responses for when you are caught unaware by crappy statements. In the below table, I supply a response that one might want to use in a conversational, ‘Hey, let’s talk about what you just said’ kind of way. My second group of responses aims to be a little more direct, and my third group of responses is basically . It’s your choice in how you respond, and different people will respond differently. You’re capable of doing the math and choosing the appropriate response to the situation at hand. (Note that instead of responding immediately, you may decide that discussing what was said with a supervisor is the right answer for you).


Comment type Conversational Direct
Right to be in workplace What do you mean by that exactly? That sounds like you don’t believe she/he/they belong here. I assure you that they do. Perhaps you need to visit HR for a lesson on legal hiring practices and/or equal access.
Body objectification This is surprising, do you want to re-clarify? I’m uncomfortable by this comment. This body is not here for your viewing pleasure, so shut it down.
Pregnancy-Negative Very successful female/male scientists are also mothers/fathers. I disagree, since having children is a basic human right. GTFOI
Awarded/offered because…. In my opinion, they were awarded this due to XYZ components of their work, which was novel (groundbreaking) because ABC. Do you have data to back up this assertion? Snort-laugh, that’s total BS!
Emotional state, i.e. crazy or bitchy I’m concerned the way you phrased this is ableist and damaging. You’re lucky to never have experienced mental health issues. I find that offensive and unnecessary, and ask that you do not use those terms around me.
Likening to a girlfriend/wife or prostitute Isn’t XX your student? (Raises. eyebrows.slowly) I never think about professional contacts in that manner. That is unconscionably inappropriate.
Sexually explicit or threats That is unconscionably inappropriate. I have HR on the phone. They want to talk to you. I called the police, and they would like to chat with you for a sec.
Toxic masculinity Can you repeat that? I’m not sure what you meant here. Why does his body size or shape matter to you exactly? That is unconscionably inappropriate.

(Note: the last entry in the table has been updated in response to feedback in the comments. Also read here in the comments for ideas for alternatives to the “ableist” response [and thoughtful discussion of why those alternatives might be preferable].)

So what next?

Do any of you remember the game frogger? Are you laughing because you weren’t expecting me to reference frogger? I used to play this as a kid on the Atari (the Atari! lolz) with my brother on Saturday mornings. I can’t help but think of awareness of others and self-awareness as kind of like a frogger game.

gif showing frogger atari game

Sometimes you make it across to the other side because you are paying attention and make the right moves. Other times you screw up and end up splattered on the road or you end up drowning. Sometimes you move backwards to avoid certain death, and other times you wait on that log for a while before making a move. If you are new to the realization that women and other marginalized scholars deal with obnoxious and damaging statements, or that there is a level of toxicity aimed toward scientists from underrepresented groups that you weren’t quite aware of before, I hope you move forward with deliberate and thoughtful steps as you consider how you will improve the environment. If you are like me, you will sometimes get swallowed by that alligator and you will need to do some apologizing. There is no shame in that, and there is no shame in learning from our mistakes and moving forward. Below, Meg provides an expanded set of ideas for people who find themselves in the role of bystander. I hope you find our combined ideas and suggestions useful.

Postscript from Meghan:

First, I want to thank Gina for doing the hard work of summarizing all the responses, for highlighting this issue, and for moving the conversation forward! I wanted to add a few things:

  1. One thing I’ve learned from attending bystander intervention workshops — and from having been a bystander to and a victim of these sorts of behaviors — is that most people do not respond in the moment they way they think they will ahead of time. Here’s one study on real vs. imagine responses to gender harrassment. From the abstract of that study, “Results indicate that interviewees who are actually harassed react very differently than those who only imagine their responses. For example, imagined victims anticipate feeling angry but actual targets report being afraid. Anticipated behavior also did not mesh with actual behavior.”
  2. Role play is really, really helpful. It feels silly, but it makes it much easier to recognize and respond in the moment.
  3. If you don’t reply right away, it’s not too late. You can revisit it later, either with the person who said something (e.g., “I wanted to ask you about something you said at the faculty meeting last week, because it’s been bothering me…”), with a superior (e.g., if a faculty member said something and you are a grad student, you might want to report to another faculty member, your chair, or someone else), or with someone else. As the replies to Gina’s first post indicates: a lot of men are not aware that this sort of thing goes on regularly. So, sometimes I’ve responded to a sexist comment by telling male friends and colleagues about it, both to vent and to make them more aware of what is going on.
  4. Another really useful strategy (which relates to ones in Gina’s table) is simply asking someone to rephrase what they said. You can either pretend to not have heard everything (e.g., “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. Can you repeat that?) or you can call them out a bit more directly, (e.g., “I think you just said she got that postdoc because her advisor likes Latinas. I must have misunderstand. Can you say it again?”)
  5. Don’t tell someone they are sexist (or racist or transphobic or anti-Muslim or whatever). Tell them what they said sounds sexist (or racist or transphobic or anti-Muslim). Gina already linked to this video on how to tell someone they sound racist above, but I want to link to it again down here because it’s such a great introduction to this idea.


Footnotes from Gina:

*I 100% borrowed this from Trae Crowder.

**I mentioned this last time but will do here again. While the twitter responses were most often male toward female, there were examples wherein women said negative things to or about another woman. Lemme repeat: women are socialized right along with men by the patriarchy.

***I didn’t ask how often men are the subject of crappy statements and unwanted sexual attention, and I know they can be. I doubt, however, that men experience the frequency and intensity of negative attention that women deal with. It would be great to see this done as a properly controlled experiment!

****That said, be willing to listen to people that are giving you feedback on your work. It is sometimes difficult to learn how to separate real advice on your ideas and performance from statements that are said by others out of jealousy and insecurity, but you must learn how to differentiate the two, because taking feedback is critical to growth.

*****“We don’t all have to believe in the same feminism. Feminism can be pluralistic so long as we respect the different feminisms we carry with us, so long as we give enough of a damn to try to minimize the fractures among us.” -Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist

Thanks to Meg and the rest of my science posse for giving me feedback on this post, and to ljh for reminding me that all of it is important.

39 thoughts on “Guest post: The day I broke some twitter feeds: insights into sexism in academia, Part 2

  1. Meghan: thanks for this, it is really, really helpful, I think. Many times as you say, there is a delay in our reaction because we figured out 5 minutes too late what was being said, or we just don’t believe what we just heard (this is often my case). So you are right when you say that we can go back and ask for an explanation (if it is possible, sometimes circumstances don’t permit). It is important to do this, for one’s own sanity, and to clarify what you heard. One can sometimes misinterpret as well.

    I agree that we should just forge on ahead with our best manuscripts (and most of us do), but sometimes I think (and I can see examples around me) people just get so worn down by this same behavior over time that it compromises their mental and physical health. Really. So if you are approaching this point, I think it is better to get out and stay sane and healthy, and not sacrifice oneself to the advancement of science. There are some toxic environments that should just not be tolerated, and there are other ways to be creative, or to come at science from a different angle.

    THANKS again for sharing all of this, to me it is not new, but I think we need to talk about it openly as you and Gina have done. Bravo!

    • “There are some toxic environments that should just not be tolerated, and there are other ways to be creative, or to come at science from a different angle.”

      Agreed, thank you for saying this!!

  2. Conversation about equality that takes its source from sexism often presents us with an uncomfortable duality—empathizing with women and fairness towards men. But most of the time, we don’t recognize these dual obligations because we tend to mistake human condition for institutionalized aggression. For instance, what if we also conducted a different twitter experiment where we compile ugly remarks made by female faculty/staff to minority students? Side by side with the current experiment, what kind of conversation do you think we would be having? Would we be gracious to bring ourselves to admit that most of this is just a part of human condition and has nothing to with equality? When we phrase questions in certain ways, we’d always get our usual suspect. This is similar to the cognitive bias within the U.S justice system, where a certain group is considered to be more criminally inclined. An uncritical standard of engagement does not advance civil discourse. Perhaps those women (and men) that are reluctant to embrace groups that claim to advocate on their behalf recognize these common emotional fallacies and prefer a more rational standard of engagement.

    Of course, response to sexism should not be subject to cold logic. I’ve witnessed what sexist remarks can do to people’s psyche especially young girls. I played pick up soccer with a girl every summer. Last year we had a situation where we had an extra player. A player on the other team said to us, it’s okay, she’s a girl. Everybody reacted, which was nice to see. Knowing that her ball skill is better than half the guys on the other team, I told her not to take it personally but to show him. But the damage has been done. She was a shadow of herself that day. That experience stuck with me. But what I read from her return the next game and over again is that she is resolved in her interest and most of us didn’t let her down. That guy is insignificant.

    We should also be aware that many women have never experienced sexism in the form of hurtful verbal remarks and many would not in their lifetime. Through this twitter experiment, for the first time, some women now have a rich awareness of this ugliness, which is now registered in their consciousness. I see the merit in creating awareness about these issues but less resolute about seeing people’s innocence taken away. In this case, it’s hard to tell whether we made a progress or simply duplicated the scars.

    If equality would mean anything, whatever I (or anyone) think or feel should not matter. The choice to feel, to be aware, to engage etc should be for individuals to make. My hope is that we will direct our energy towards deconstructing those socio-economic provisions that makes us less equal.

    • 1) “Would we be gracious to bring ourselves to admit that most of this is just a part of human condition and has nothing to with equality?”

      Could you clarify this? It seems you’re suggesting that sexism and racism is immutable and simply part of being human, and thus we should not work to challenge these instances, which is a stance I cannot support. Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood.

      2) “We should also be aware that many women have never experienced sexism in the form of hurtful verbal remarks and many would not in their lifetime”

      I disagree. Anecdotally, every woman I have spoken to about this has had a story to tell about how they have experienced similar comments to those Gina shares. Women experience sexism often, and it’s doubtful that “many” women have not experienced at least one instance where verbal remarks were sexist and harmful, whether in a professional setting or otherwise. URM also must deal with many comments that are harmful, often on a daily basis, that those among us who are not part of that marginalized group may not see or understand. We must trust those in the group that certain words and phrases are offensive and even damaging when they speak out.

      Additionally, people are not robots, and how we feel impacts how we perform in a workplace, as we acknowledge with your story about soccer. Our attitudes shape our actions. Ensuring women are not accosted verbally or otherwise, their intelligence or ability questioned simply for being women, is in everyone’s best interest to foster productivity.

      3) “My hope is that we will direct our energy towards deconstructing those socio-economic provisions that makes us less equal.”

      I agree that this is a worthy goal, though I believe we should attack this problem at an individual level as well. De-colonization and recognition of biases occurs at an individual level.

      • re: 2) I have literally chatted about sexist or quasi-sexist experiences with every academic woman I’m close enough to to talk about these things. I have never run into anyone who couldn’t bring up some kind of experience with sexist remarks. Some of them chose to laugh it off by playing into the whole “cool girl” thing; some of them chose to ignore it; some of them chose to say something back or leave; everyone handled it differently. But every woman I know well enough to ask has experienced some form of sexist interaction.

        When I interviewed at grad programs, we swapped warnings and gossip about where people had good experiences, bad ones, neutral ones. I had two independent women warn me about misogynistic experiences in labs they’d heard about or seen in three weeks.

        I think I mentioned in comments on the previous thread that the first time I encountered misogyny in science was perhaps two weeks after I started working in the lab I did my undergraduate work in. My female PI and I were both floored as the PI whose equipment we were borrowing cheerfully explained that he gives all the specially tedious work to his female students “because they have longer attention spans.” I would have been about nineteen.

        Lest you complain that those times were long ago and far away, incidentally, I am currently twenty-six.

        Tobi, I don’t know your gender, but I’m rather suspicious indeed of the idea that this twitter thread introduced many women to the idea that verbal sexist remarks really do still happen. The magnitude of unacceptability that some women document, maybe, but the reality of sexism is pervasive enough that most women acknowledge it, brace themselves, and go on anyway.

    • @Tobi

      I’ve spent a while trying to parse your thoughts on this. It seems to me that for an -ism (in this case sexism), there are at least three flavors:
      1) Systemic – where different members are treated inherently unequally by the system. EG when women were systemically discouraged from advanced studies. Or were given worse grades, or less likely to be hired. Jeremy below provides some evidence that at least in the world of academic ecology this flavor has shown great progress.
      2) Legacy – where despite current equal treatment, historical differences still show through. Unequal pay probably has a strong component of this. Historically we paid jobs women went into less, and this now is a big (but not only) piece of current pay inequality.
      3) Random A**hole – people saying things like Gina compiled.

      If I understand you, Tobi, you argue that we should be focusing primarily on #1 (maybe also #2 we haven’t discussed that) and not worry so much about #3. I can understand your logic – #1 appears to be the one that would most fundamentally affect the paths available to a person.

      But here’s the thing, I don’t think #1 (and #2) and #3 can be so neatly cleaved apart as I appeared to have just done. When a member of a graduate admissions committee or one’s adviser or even a random senior person in your field (who might review your papers one day) says a “you don’t belong here” comment, or I only see you as a sex object comment, is it a type #3 (Random a**hole) or a #1 (systemic) form? Well one can argue that statistically Jeremy’s data shows it cannot be #1. But a person doesn’t live a statistical life – they live a single instantiation of that life. It sure must seem to the recipient like those comments have systemic force and scope. And they might well do. Just because we don’t on average discriminate in hires, it doesn’t mean some hires aren’t based in discrimination. Conversely, if I as a white male don’t experience the #3 comments and then don’t waste the emotional energy (and possibly institutional energy if I complain) on them, but somebody else does experience the #3 comments and ensuing waste of energy repeatedly, well, I now have an advantage, and its just turned into systemic (#1) type of discrimination hasn’t it? Similarly, if I perceive the system as fair, but somebody else perceives the system as unfair (and here I talk only of perception, not “reallity”) due to #3 type of discrimination, then I am going to have an advantage in a field where confidence matters. The only way #3 doesn’t turn into #1 is if everything is symmetric and all subgroups experience random a**hole comments equally. But that is not the way the world works. Humans are very fond of pecking orders and those with the power tend to try to enforce them by illegitimate means.

      In short I think #1, #2, and #3 are a big tangled tarball that cannot be separated. While I like your vision of of fixing #1 and then being strong enough to ignore #3, it just doesn’t strike me as how our world is really constructed. Because of asymmetry in power (and nastiness) between groups and because even a**holes hold positions of power in systems, they cannot be separated.

      And of course that leaves aside the simple raw emotional fact that #3 comments hurt a lot, cause self-doubt a lot, and etc. And these are happening to my friends, colleagues, sisters, daughters, etc. That just plain matters to me, although I guess it doesn’t have to matter to others.

      In short I don’t think “equality” means anything when the #3 stuff Gina so carefully documented is still occurring in a highly asymmetric fashion.

      • @E, Erin & Brian..I’m heading out for an event. Please let me get back to you

      • @E & Erin

        “It seems you’re suggesting that sexism and racism is immutable and simply part of being human”

        That wasn’t what I meant. But consider this story: a female lab mate came to me to discuss something along the line of plant resource dynamics. To make myself clearer, I started using an analogy about babies—breastfeeding vs bottle feeding etc. Mid-sentence, I caught myself. The person that I was talking to never had a baby, I know little about babies. But why did I use that analogy in a science discussion? I’m certain I wouldn’t use that analogy with a male student. Was it wrong for me acknowledge her gender? Was it sexist? I don’t have answers to any of these. But one thing that I was certain about was that my intention was pure. I used the word “gracious” deliberately in my post because she felt my struggle when I caught myself mid-sentence and she was gracious to me not to read anything into my poor analogy. I know her very well. She’s a woman that would not entertain an irrational argument. If she thinks that my analogy was sexist, I cannot argue my way out of it because she’s the only one that can determine that. To her, my poor analogy was a human condition and has nothing to do with sexism or me trying to question her worth in academic environment.

        “We should also be aware that many women have never experienced sexism in the form of hurtful verbal remarks and many would not in their lifetime”….”I disagree”

        The next time you are with your male family members, friends and colleagues, ask yourself—are these people capable of hurtful remarks? If your answer is mostly no. There is chance that a lot women have not experienced hurtful sexist remarks. If your answer is mostly yes, the society is more dangerous for women than we imagined.

        Not to question how anybody felt about their situation but let’s be critical for the sake of clarity. One of the sexist remarks compiled from twitter or perhaps somewhere on the blog was about a woman attending a meeting that was meant for faculty members but in another department. She was told by a man that the meeting was for faculty members when in fact she was a faculty member. From the evidence presented to me, I could think of a reason or two why someone would think she’s not a faculty. First the meeting was outside her home department. The man may not know her. Perhaps she looks younger than an average faculty etc? These things happen all the time. There was a high-profile army officer that a woman that mistaken for a waiter at one of the white house events. The officer went along with it and got the woman a glass of water that she requested. Everybody thought the officer was sweet but a similar mistake in our world is termed sexism.

        Also, in the comment section there was story about a presentation that involves a naked woman holding a fish. My guess is that by “naked” they meant someone dressed in bikini or clothing of some sort. I could be wrong. Again, if we can be probing for the sake of clarity. Why is this man using a pic of a “naked” woman holding a fish? Is he a marine biologist and the pic happens to be of one of his students in the field? Is it possible that the man has nothing to do with the production of the pic? Was the use of the pic trivial? There’s a lot that we don’t know in this instance but we think it is sexist by our standard because it is being used by a man. Would it still be sexist if it is being used by the woman herself and who should determine that?

        “Additionally, people are not robots, and how we feel impacts how we perform in a workplace… Ensuring women are not accosted verbally or otherwise, their intelligence or ability questioned simply for being women”

        Like you rightly mentioned, I acknowledged this in my post and as I mentioned in the soccer story, many guys reacted to that sexist comment. I believe in the goodness of people.

        Yes, it is important that we tackle those institutional discriminations at individual level. As you can see from my post, I was challenging people to be self-critical because self-criticism allows us to understand others’ point of view and it opens our eyes to any unconscious bias (or self-victimization) that we may hold.

        @Erin….“I’m rather suspicious indeed of the idea that this twitter thread introduced many women to the idea that verbal sexist remarks really do still happen. The magnitude of unacceptability that some women document, maybe, but the reality of sexism is pervasive enough that most women acknowledge it, brace themselves, and go on anyway”

        I’m not saying that sexist remarks are not common. What I’m conflicted about is whether it is fair to tell women to always expect the worst. That’s not the best way to live. From your grad interview story, it worries me that a woman cannot join any lab she wants without doing an extra detective work beyond whether she would have an opportunity to do a great science. It is possible that through this current debate we have eroded some women’s trust in men. Because take my poor analogy about babies for instance, if it shows up in that twitter experiment, you know what the verdict is. I was grateful that that woman continued to trust me as a colleague.

      • The next time you are with your male family members, friends and colleagues, ask yourself—are these people capable of hurtful remarks? If your answer is mostly no. There is chance that a lot women have not experienced hurtful sexist remarks. If your answer is mostly yes, the society is more dangerous for women than we imagined.

        The answer is, unfortunately, almost entirely ‘yes.’ This goes for men I love dearly, and men who would never say such a thing to me but might say it to someone else, and men who would never consciously say such a thing but who might uncritically drop a comment or a thought that is, nevertheless, sexist. And those men might or might not own up to what they did and apologize if I remark on it, too; if I say “wow, that was not okay” they often bluster and insist that really it was, or that I am using an incorrect definition, or that I am in some way otherwise wrong.

        (Hey! I have also said racist things, and things that helped to reinforce marginalization of disabled people, and some hellishly classist things that I regret. That is part of being human, to me, and part of being aware of how marginalization works. I regret saying those things, and I have apologized where I could (sometimes immediately!), and often they were not thoughtfully constructed or spoken out of malice–and yet I still said them, and I try very hard to be aware of myself when I am talking about these things. It happens. It may be worth considering that I am talking about remarks that uphold and strengthen the systemic effects that Brian lays out, and that these may not be as malicious and extreme as you are envisioning.)

        The whole point of these things is that they’re ideas that are woven so deeply into our culture that we are not consciously aware of them. Sexism is not required to be malicious to still qualify as sexism, Tobi–in fact, I would heavily encourage you to read up on the concept of benevolent sexism, wherein well-meaning attitudes that the holders think are complimentary to women actually serve to harm them and restrict their opportunities. In my experience, as well, once you fall off the pedestal for someone who believes strongly in benevolent sexism, you become a target of rage–which is just great as a woman who is gender non-conforming, I should add, because I rarely fit those models.

        Sometimes, in fact, these sexist comments take the form of reassuring women that they’re “not like those other girls” and that they are unusual outliers. These comments aren’t helpful in the least, because actually there are many women like me, and if you are dismissing women as a class you are dismissing me also. These comments may be intended as compliments, but they are not! I have gotten ‘compliments’ along those lines from friends, family, and instructors over the years, and they all serve to strengthen cultural ideals about who women are and what they are capable of doing, ideals and stereotypes that give birth to the structural disadvantages Brian is discussing.

        Intent, sir, does not matter. The effect of the statement hits me either way. I cannot read the mind of the person who said it. I can’t tell what they meant, and often they are embarrassed by what they meant and will react with anger if I draw attention to it. The instance you mention, for example; certainly the woman who is always mistaken for someone who holds a lower status position than she does is probably not experiencing conscious, malicious attacks on her from everyone around her. I’ll bet, in fact, that she would be the first to make that clear. But the effect of the behaviors to which she is subjected–that of many people, over time, constantly making clear to her that she does not fit their mental idea of what a faculty member looks like–is to erode her confidence in her own work and degrade her comfort in her workplace. It causes harm, sometimes severe harm, in the aggregate.

        Intent is not magic. Actions have meaning. That, I think, may be where you and I are disagreeing. I too believe in the basic desire of the majority people to be good to one another, whatever that means to them. The trouble is that the desire to be good and kind do not prevent us from behaving in ways that we have been socialized to behave in, the ultimate effect of which is to marginalize some people for no particularly good reason. So we must not rely on ‘desired effect’ as our yardstick for real sexism.

        I note, actually, that you listen to examples of sexist behavior and imagine a less sexist event that “really” must have happened instead in order to maintain your belief in good people. I gotta say, with all the kindness I can muster, that this would make me highly unlikely to tell you about examples of sexism in my everyday life if I was a woman who knew you personally. I can afford to be honest here, Tobi, because I don’t know you and if you don’t like what I have to say, I’m unlikely to receive personal repercussions. (Unless, I suppose, you are someone who winds up in a position to exert control over my career in the future, which is not unlikely because I am very junior–but that is a risk I am consciously taking by using my full name here. I am trusting the commentariat here by doing this.)

        But what your behavior here is telling me is that in order to maintain belief in the goodness of people, sir, is that you would rather hold that belief than back women up when they tell you the shitty things that happen to them. Some people believe that inappropriate things are acceptable. Some people believe that they are doing nothing wrong or harmful while they cause harm to another person. Sometimes intent does not rescue us from causing harm. Think about someone you know with a bad sense of boundaries who might think putting a naked photo of a woman–or a half-naked photo, or a photo with her dressed such that everyone is primed to think of her as a sexual figure, and not as a professional human being–think of someone you know who might think that is perhaps risque but acceptable professional behavior.

        If you do not know anyone fitting that description, well, you certainly know better men than me, because I can think of three to five people off the top of my head who would do that if they did not think that “stuffy” people would censure them for it. So I don’t have much trouble at all believing that someone might do this.

        As a woman negotiating an early stage in my career, “fair” versus “not fair” are abstractions to me. Whether I like it or not, sexism is a force in the universe that does affect how I am treated and how my career will progress. It is inescapable and unavoidable to me. I can either choose to pretend it does not exist or I can choose to acknowledge it, push against it where I can, and take measures to keep myself safe from the worst excesses it brings when I can’t push back. I can surround myself with people who will listen to me when I say I am experiencing something that feels dodgy, like gender might or might not be involved, and who might in fact say “yes, that is hinky” as well as “nah, I think you’re overthinking.” People who listen to me and listen to my instincts and experience.

        That is what it means to be a woman. I am sorry if that upsets or hurts you. That is not my intention. But my god, sir, would you please listen to my reality before you tell me whether it is fair to view my own life the way that I do?

      • @Brian, you are right, none of those levels that you highlighted stand clearly alone. But we have more leverage in #1. For example, in general there are more women than men at undergrad level in many programs. If our grad programs do not reflect this or at least show a reasonable male-female ratio, we can start to ask questions. If there’s no problem in the grad admission, we should end up with quite a number of female post-docs, some of which would proceed to become faculty members. This aspect of #1 is self-perpetuating and I believe accounts for some of the progress that we have made. It’s slow but it gets us closer.

        Let me address the complexity that you put forward. It is true that some people by the virtue of their gender, race etc are not burden by the institutional barriers. But that only explains why certain people may easily succeed but many still fail despite what they look like. For women, we seek to balance this out by making everybody equal under the law—equal pay for equal work, fair hiring, protection from systemic discrimination etc. These are achievable because all we have to do is to institutionalize those provisions. However, we should also recognize that we were not born equal. This is an uncomfortable fact. Some of us were born into poor families, some of us were born with certain medical conditions etc. These differences in how and where we were born and the psychological facts of our environment can hold us back despite equality under the law and these includes how some random A**hole react to our presence.

        To put this into context, many women in science especially the young women are preoccupied with the fact that their intelligence and intellectual abilities are constantly under question. This is self-evident in many of the comments in this debate. But many women are working in supportive environments and as a man in science, I go to these women (faculty members, grad students, post-doc etc) for advice about my research etc. But where does this self-doubt comes from despite the evidence that we value them? This is a psychological effect—when we stand alone such as being physically different, it is easy to wonder what people are thinking about us and any sign of indifference or unfriendliness towards us can cause us to overcompensate, question our position and chance for success. A lot of things can trigger this feeling too (including a failed research experiment). This is a temporary condition that will dissipate as we see more women around. This is one of the reasons why I’m uncomfortable seeing women bombarded with those ugly comments. A lot of women in science are working in supportive environments and we should not risk the chance that some women could go around wondering what men might be thinking about them. Instead we should tell them that those rude guys are some random A**hole. Men should do more than talk but stand up for women. In fairness, there used to be fewer women in science, it means that some men were influential in making it happen. We can do more. This should be our message—look at what we have accomplished.

      • I believe Brian has described this situation extremely well in so much as sexism does not spontaneously occur in a void. A sexist or racist person tends to edit out (often very effectively) derogatory comments and slights when they perceive they are in an environment where those words are not appreciated. Conversely, these people tend to let it rip when they are in a place where they know others either share their views, or will not object to their insulting behavior.

        With two MS degrees and a PhD, I’ve seen that pattern play itself out time and again in graduate school settings. In the 1980s, when I attended the University of Alabama, I frequently overheard many faculty (almost all white male) use words like girly, babe, cutie-pie, hottie and what not to describe female students. I will spare you the descriptors they used for African Americans and Jews… But the point being, they spoke that way when there was a critical mass of them in the room, and not when they were out numbered. So I think Brian is right that what we might think is an isolated and random occurrence of bad behavior really was more likely someone “slipping-up” in the “wrong place”. So for example, one of these faculty I mentioned was very anti-Semitic and would let those feelings be known when he *thought* he was in the company of other anti-Semitic people. But once, he let it “slip” in the “wrong place” and then spent weeks apologizing to everyone… Yet, that experience did not change his systemic belief that Jews were bad people.

        During my PhD studies I was in a department that was, believe it or not, dominated by gay faculty. Some of these faculty never interjected their sexuality into professional settings, while others frequently did. One day, in a seminar course, the lead professor rather abruptly asked every person in the room to stand up and announce their sexuality… “I’m gay, I’m gay, I’m gay…” and then, it was my turn. I froze, and actually felt intimidated because I was not gay! I did not want to stand up in a room full of gay people and proclaim I was a garden-variety, knuckle-dragging, white male heterosexual… so I simply said “I do not discriminate”… Oops, that was a mistake. Why, you ask? Because a gay male professor took that to mean I was bisexual, and then one evening he took me to dinner and made a very aggressive verbal and physical pass at me. Yikes! I did manage to navigate through all of that without offending or alienating anyone, but let me tell you, it was stress-ridden for me.

        So even though I was criticized in the comments section of Part 1 of this series for by belief in and application of what I described as a “gender-blind and color-blind” approach in the workplace, I maintain it is a gosh darned good way to avoid most, if not all of these pitfalls. Because I do not care what a person’s race, gender or orientation happen to be- that means for 99+% of the time I simply will not discuss those issues in the workplace. Work is work, and by golly, we have a job to do.

  3. The response of bystanders will depend – unfortunately it must depend – on their status in the group relative to the offender. It’s pretty easy to.respond forcefully to.people of equal or lower status. But people have to be more careful responding to higher status offenders. Suppose, for example, your a male grad student w/ female colleagues who share the same supervisor. If that supervisor makes inappropriate.comments about or to women, you need to have a much more nuanced.response. For these situations sometimes twisting it into a joke – as though, say, the being facetiously (sp? 🙂 ignorant, or mocking ignorance – can send the message without embarrassment, giving the offender a chance to change.course.

  4. Gina and Meghan, thank you for the very practical advice. And Gina, thank you again for the serious investment of time and emotional energy it took to pull this together.

    Gina: I too was distressed (not surprised, but distressed) to hear about some women reading the comments you compiled and wondering if science is the right place for them. I appreciate your suggestion that as a woman you have to know such comments might happen, pick yourself up, tune out the noise, and keep doing kick-ass science. But for women wondering if academic ecology and evolution is for them, I wonder if pointing to data like those compiled in these posts would also help:

    (tl;dr: the first post shows that recent asst. prof. faculty hires in ecology at N. American colleges and universities are 54% women; the second discusses data showing that, at Functional Ecology, peer review outcomes are gender-neutral)

    I’d point to data like those NOT to minimize or dismiss the sorts of terrible remarks that you compiled. It’s awful that comments like the ones you compiled are still being made in 2017, and data like those compiled in the linked posts doesn’t make those comments any less awful, or reduce the importance of speaking up when such comments are made. But it’s heartening to read about data like those compiled in the linked posts–they demonstrate systemic progress.

    As an aside, systemic progress on the faculty hiring front isn’t widely recognized in ecology. That first post also contains poll data showing that ecologists seriously underestimate the proportion of women among recent asst. prof. hires in ecology. A majority of men and women, at all career stages, mistakenly think that recently-hired N. American asst. profs. of ecology are mostly men. Which seems like a shame to me. It’s a shame not to recognize when progress has been made, even as we also recognize that progress remains to be made.

    EDIT I also emphasize that in pointing to data like these, my goal isn’t to try to steer anyone into academic ecology. People’s career choices are their own. I just believe that people ought to make career choices on an informed basis, and that data like those linked to above are useful bits of information.

    • I agree it is good to see this data; I hope that the hiring % translates to retention!

      • It does translate to retention. Stanton & Shaw (2012; have a great analysis of a big NSF dataset that bears on this. To my (and their) surprise, in US science and engineering fields as a whole, women asst. professors in the US have a higher probability than male asst. professors of going on to become tenured professors. That’s been true since the early ’90s. To fully interpret that result I think you’d ideally want other contextual data that Shaw & Stanton didn’t have (I definitely wouldn’t interpret the result as indicating “reverse discrimination” at the tenure stage). But on its face I think the Shaw & Stanton analysis is quite encouraging regarding retention at the tenure stage.

        Shaw & Stanton’s analysis also looks at retention at each stage in the career path from undergraduate degree to asst. prof. Retention at those earlier stages, particularly grad school to postdoc, is still an issue, though the long-term trends are moving in the right direction and matters are a lot better than they were back in the late 70s and early 80s (which is as far back as the data goes).

  5. Oh, I love the idea of having distilled responses ready to go. I was just talking recently with a friend who had encountered an actual facts neo-Nazi (not hyperbole) while out to dinner with her mother, and she was very upset about not only the fact that she had encountered this person but also that she and her mother had frozen, stunned, and pretended that he and his bigotry didn’t exist instead of trying to do something about it. And I…. pointed out to her that if this sort of thing that completely violates social norms has never happened to you, well, of course you’re not going to know how to handle it ahead of time. Having pre-prepared “here’s what I’ll say/do if I see this form of bigotry happening around me” plans makes it much easier to punch through that first shock of inaction and respond quickly enough to do something about it.

    I do want to call attention to the suggested Conversational response under “Emotional state, i.e. crazy or bitchy.” My impression is that the Conversational responses are those intended for people who can’t or don’t feel comfortable shutting down something *ist hard in the moment, either because of basic personality, comfort levels with conflict, or hierarchical social dynamics that would make it unsafe to do so. They’re intended as low-conflict forms of gentle pushback, yes?

    My experience as someone who is simultaneously pretty comfortable with my own mental illness issues–and, aw, hell, I don’t want to get into my own diagnoses here because ironically I worry about potential professional backlash, but please do trust me that I’m speaking from personal experience on an affected axis–anyway, my experience with gently pushing back on those types of statements in a low-conflict way is that using terms like ‘ableism’ is not a great way to do that, because someone who thinks it’s fine to undermine a woman by calling her a crazy bitch is probably not also someone who is super invested in fighting ableism or even all that aware that marginalization based on disability is a thing. You’re likely to get an aggressive, mocking response right back, which will discourage most of us further because ow.

    For effectiveness reasons, if I’m trying to gently push back along those lines, I might say “Wow, do you really think that her behavior looks like mental illness? How do you think we could get her some support and help?” if I was feeling like being aggressively obtuse. That’s a pretty useful tactic for conflict averse people because it works like conversational judo–pretending that the attempt to undermine or insult was “really” a comment made in good faith, and responding as if that was the intent of the insulting person all along. It makes it very very difficult for them to react aggressively to you, and it tends to straight up confuse people.

    I might also say something like “huh, I know people with $MENTALISSUE and that doesn’t sound like them” or “I don’t know, if I was in $SITUATION I’d feel pretty $EMOTION/do $BEHAVIOR too. Her reactions seem reasonable to me.” or something along those lines if I wasn’t feeling like putting the person on the spot. I tend to use that more when I think I’m talking to someone with internalized self-hatred kinds of things than I do when I want to make someone shut up and take behavior away from me, but it’s useful in a variety of contexts because it normalizes the mental illness (if one is specifically named–i.e. calling someone autistic as an insult or schizophrenic or a psycho, that kind of thing) and normalizes the reasons that the woman might be acting in a particular way instead of letting the speaker lump them all under a generic “un-understandable, crazy, Other” word.

    Or hell, you might focus that on confronting the sexism of calling a woman “crazy” or a “bitch” rather than the ableism in your responses, since we’re talking about this on an axis of sexism. Don’t assume that someone who is shitty about women is going to be great about other axes of marginalization–sometimes that can be a red flag if you’re a female scientist who has other marginalizations under her belt, too.

    Feelings about ableism and confronting it in every day: I have them! And it just struck me as a well meaning kind of way of dealing that, uh, has not been my experience at all when advocating for disabled students or accessibility for people with varying kinds of mental shit in my own everyday life. Or advocating for myself, really.

    • These are great suggestions, thank you for leaving them! I especially will try to incorporate this one:

      “huh, I know people with $MENTALISSUE and that doesn’t sound like them” or “I don’t know, if I was in $SITUATION I’d feel pretty $EMOTION/do $BEHAVIOR too. Her reactions seem reasonable to me.”

  6. This post reminded me of a recent episode of the podcast invisibilia. Although not this exact topic, the episode called True Self talks about racism and understanding our biases. The episode even dives further into the idea that there might seemingly be progress but that we still treat certain groups differently. So although we might be hiring in a more gender neutral fashion, is there gender equality in getting tenure? Is there gender equality in those that are receiving achievement awards and being invited to partake in panels (discussion, grant, etc.)? More personally, do judgements you make about other scientists have implicit bias? How can we be more aware and work towards improving these biases as a group of professionals?

    I like idea of taking something that might make us really mad and using it as an opportunity for growth and to move forward!

    Thank you for the post! I enjoying hearing from all the strong, smart scientists on this blog!

  7. Gina- Kudos on such a wonderful series concerning women’s issues. Your comment about not having support in DC (i.e., the Trump administration) caused me to contemplate the status of feminism in not only today’s political clime, but more broadly the cultural realm. As a longtime/ part time lobbyist concerning environmental issues (wildlands, mostly) I find myself recalibrating approaches under the new regime… and, admittedly, still haven’t identified a cohesive game plan- although I am getting closer. I have been alarmed by some recent trends relative to the women’s movement and was curious what you thought might be causing them. Below I list a few observations:

    1) In a 2014 Colorado race, then-US Senator Mark Udall (D) lost in a heated contest with the up and comer, Cory Gardner (R). Udall largely (well, almost completely) based his re-election campaign on women’s issues. So heavy was his emphasis, that the Denver Post infamously dubbed him “Mark Uterus”. The backlash was severe- with Udall, the incumbent, falling to Gardner. Most post-election analyses suggested Udall blew it by coming across as a less-than-sincere candidate by beating the “women’s horse” to death.

    While Udall carried the women’s vote by 9 points, women had their lowest turn-out in a Colorado election since 1992. Many pundits believed this was a bellwether of an impending shift in America: that the messaging of the Democratic Party, which had for many years focused upon the “war on women,” had seen its better days.

    2) Debbie Wasserman Schultz served as chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2011 through 2016. During her tenure, the “war on women” message was amplified in races across the country. Yet, during that time the Democratic Party lost 12 governorships, 69 US House seats, 13 US Senate seats and nearly 1000 state-level legislative seats. As we are all acutely aware, that save a handful of deep-blue states, the Democrats are in the ditch.

    3) Donald Trump is quite likely the most misogynistic president we’ve had since before the Reconstruction era. While Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy obviously objectified women in private, I do not believe anyone has come close to Trump’s derogatory public rhetoric. Alternatively, Hillary Clinton (it goes without saying) was THE most feminist presidential candidate in US history. But not only did Hillary lose, she lost in large part BECAUSE of women. 62% of non-college educated white women, and 45% of college-educated white women vote for Trump. Given that Hillary easily won the popular vote, and very narrowly lost crucial swing states, we can conclude that it was women, not men, who cost Hillary the presidency.

    My concern is an obvious one: Women, at least many of them, seem to have lost interest in feminism, and that loss of interest has in large part imperiled the Democratic Party.

    Please share with us your professional insights on these and similar events, and also provide some advice on what we need to do to change not only the conversation, but the message.


  8. It’s interesting–and slightly disappointing–to me that this follow up post has been much less widely-shared on Twitter and Facebook, and has drawn much less traffic than Gina’s previous post (though both have drawn a *lot* of traffic compared to a typical post on this blog, especially a typical summer post). I’d hope that people who care about this problem would be just as interested in reading and sharing ideas about what to do about it.

    But in truth it’s probably not worth reading anything into two data points. Virality is an infamously stochastic thing.

    • I personally think a little bit of that was due to the same title. I saw other people say it, and I too was guilty of thinking it was the same post getting a signal boost. Not until Megan voiced these concerns did I personally realize it was the follow up.

  9. This is a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing. The table of responses is especially useful. I have a minor quibble with one entry though

    “Whoa. Examine your insecurities.”

    As the flame response to toxic masculinity, is not appropriate. This response is unlike all the other flame responses. The other responses point out the perpetrators actions, and how they are unacceptable, while this one seems to be a statement about motives. We should never make statements about assumed reasons as to why people do what they do. We should focus on saying how inappropriate the behavior is. It also seems to reinforce gender normative stereotypes. Its a reminder that sexism against women can harm men. These insecurities are directly caused by sexism. While letting people know why its good for them to “examine their insecurities,” is good in general, as part of a long conversation on toxic masculinity, here it comes off too much like calling the perpetrator “a woman,” reinforcing negative feelings against women and stereotypically feminine characteristics. I think this type of response does more harm to feminism than good. I’d recommend changing the flame response to your lovely, “That is unconscionably inappropriate.” or something similar.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, can I get some more clarification? I’m not clear on this:

      “While letting people know why its good for them to “examine their insecurities,” is good in general, as part of a long conversation on toxic masculinity, here it comes off too much like calling the perpetrator “a woman,” reinforcing negative feelings against women and stereotypically feminine characteristics.”

      I think you may have a good point here, but I am not able to see how this statement likens the perpetrator to a woman. I suppose I think men and women are equally likely to have insecurities?

      • Well if the perpetrator identifies as a heterosexual male, he may take a statement about examining his insecurities as calling him “gay” or a “girl” – an assault on his masculinity. Toxic masculinity is a really broad category, so whether he may interpret the comment this way might depend on what he actually did or said. Obviously the statement isn’t meant this way, but it could be interpreted this way.

        Ultimately, I think its best to focus on behavior rather than motives, in general, unless we are willing to have a detailed conversation about it. And a detailed conversation is often not possible or worth the emotional load for us. In the case of a conversation, I think it’s best to ask about motives rather than assume that the reason for the behavior is particular insecurity that needs to be examined.

        Perhaps as a gay male, I have a different perspective. I can’t imagine telling a perpetrator to examine their insecurities, when they were exhibiting toxic masculinity, as that could create a dangerous situation for me.

    • Ah, got it! Thank you for the expanded explanation, and this:

      “… I think its best to focus on behavior rather than motives, in general, unless we are willing to have a detailed conversation about it.”

      Absolutely right on.

    • While not wishing to sound critical of your remarks, most of which were spot-on, I feel like you skirted the issue of defining just what “toxic masculinity” is. As a person with one foot in medicine and the other in ecology, I tend to insist upon clarity when it comes to speaking of something in a “condition-like” state, like a disease, for instance.

      Physically, masculinity and femininity are a carefully coordinated set of well-defined biological features that have arisen through hundreds of millions of years of evolution. So when we use terms like “toxic masculinity,” I would say we are obliged to outline what could be characterized as a set of maladaptive behavioral and/or biological sequelae, in such a manner that they can a) be quantified and b) subject to quantitative academic rigor. I do not see that in your discussion of “toxic masculinity,” and so, candidly, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around your broader argument.

      • Toxic masculinity is a somewhat technical term from social science. There is a bit of disagreement as to what exactly counts as toxic masculinity but the way I view it is all forms of demeaning, overly aggressive, or violent behavior that results from a socially constructed male gender role.

        I understand your confusion, it is not about males as a biological sex (as a biologist might intuit), rather, it is related to the social construct of gender. For more info see the wiki page on the topic

      • I appreciate the effort to provide a definition, Matthew. Although in hindsight I may have been better off not knowing…

        I must confess I REALLY cringed when I read the part about “aggressive/ violent behavior” that apparently “results from a male gender role”…

        Geez Louise, while I do not want to touch off another war with the sociologist crew, I gotta say what they are putting out for public consumption might not pass muster for a pizza burger in the school lunch line…

        “RESULTS FROM”:- eh, excuse me, this is a blatant cause and effect argument. Note to self, sociologist crew: You best recruit a few Ivy League school of medicine psychiatrists to support your view before going out on this limb.

        Ouch, I hate to say it, but I am actually embarrassed for whomever is responsible for floating this mythology in the guise of science. I could just well as say publications about global warming cause global warming, as evidenced by my stellar R-squared value concerning the regression of these variables.

        I’ve no doubt your heart is in the right place on this issue, Matthew, and for that you should be commended. Personally, however, I would jump ship on this particular idea, as the logic behind it is deeply and critically flawed.

        Stultus est sicut stultus facit.

      • Matthew- I would also suggest you are on the right track, but perhaps going the wrong direction concerning a correlate betwixt masculinity and violence. I believe it is more likely (given the evidence provided in the link below) that it IS NOT a certain flavor of masculinity that precipitates violence among males. Rather, it IS the lack of any male role model that is connected to these behaviors.

        You will also notice that it was the aggressive and violent behavior of males used to discipline misbehaving juvenile males that put an end to the “toxic” outcomes.

  10. I would also like to offer the following final follow-up to the behaviors of violence and aggression that some have suggested are linked to “masculinity” and “maleness”:
    Bert H. Hoff, J.D. *
    SUMMARY: According to a 2010 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Department of Justice, in the last 12 months more men than women were victims of intimate partner physical violence and over 40% of severe physical violence was directed at men. Men were also more often the victim of psychological aggression and control over sexual or reproductive health. Despite this, few services are available to male victims of intimate partner violence.
    Mind you, I am not here to suggest we do not have ongoing problems with sexism in the workplace, and that more often than not, it is us knuckle-dragging Neanderthal males who are the culprits. You get no disagreement from me on that point. However, dragging the issue of violence into this discussion, when in the original post nothing was said about violence is a whole other matter.
    And yes, I do take offense with the blatantly ridiculous and unfair stereotype that is promulgated by the twaddle of this so-called “toxic masculinity”. Let’s deal with facts, not political agendas when it comes to science blogs. Overt aggression and violence are not behaviors encoded to the y chromosome…
    Thank you.

    • I let this comment through, but I would remind you to treat other commenters with respect. Strong disagreement with others is fine. Calling another comment “twaddle” or “blatantly ridiculous” is not.

      • Ah, my mistake, I own that. I meant to refer to the idea itself, which did not originate with the person commenting on it, so my bad. I meant to infer nothing about the person.

  11. Pingback: Guest post: The day I broke some twitter feeds: insights into sexism in academia, Part 1 | Dynamic Ecology

  12. Pingback: The good, the bad and the ugly of scientific conferences – Ramblings of an ecóloga

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