Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's Not About That Damn Shirt

The following was submitted to the Women in Astronomy Blog by a female astronomer who wishes to use the pseudonym Kerri Benjamin.

The next sentence is the most important thing in this whole post:  

I am posting this under a pseudonym because I am afraid to post it on my own blog or Twitter.

I am afraid. 

The snafu known as ShirtGate or ShirtStorm is complicated, nuanced, and exhausting. 

The below is not comprehensive. I'm going to talk about the things I consider to be the most important or most misunderstood. I'm doing bullet points because I am too damn tired to make this narratively pretty. And I don't mean physically exhausted. I am tired of THIS. THIS is sexism, in the world, in science, and on the Internet. 


It's not about the shirt (or Dr. Taylor)

Dr. Taylor has apologized, and I'm choosing to believe he was sincere. This conversation is not about him, but I wanted to cover a few things: 
  • "He" did not land on a comet. He was part of a vast, international team of scientists and engineers who worked together for decades to make this mission happen. Philae is not "his" accomplishment. 
  • Doing smart or cool things in no way prevents you from being an idiot. Nor does it protect you from the consequences of being an idiot. 
  • That shirt was inappropriate. Period. End of story. I don't care what you wear to work, what that woman you work with said, or anything like that. He was going on global TV to talk about history-making science. I don't know how you show up for work that day wearing anything but a mission t-shirt or a suit and tie. 
  • Being a scientist or a "geek" does not excuse it. I have one coworker who regularly comes to the office in plaid shorts and another who is wearing a superhero logo three days out of five. They still both know what professionalism demands. This is not beyond "scientist" comprehension. 
  • The female scientists bringing this up have just as cool things on their CVs. The people who he insulted were, first and foremost, his colleagues. And we're not impressed with him just for being on a mission team.


Sexism in STEM

There is a problem with sexism in the scientific community, just as there is in many communities. I have been relatively fortunate in the men I have worked with and for, but I have a LONG list of friends and acquaintances who are not so lucky. The shirt might seem to be "not a big deal", but our world is the sum total of every "not a big deal". 

It's "not a big deal" when someone tells you he came to your talk because you're attractive. 
It's "not a big deal" when a coworker comments on your appearance.
It's "not a big deal" when someone makes a "joke" at work demeaning women.
It's "not a big deal" when you are asked in a job interview if you have or are planning to have kids. 
It's "not a big deal" that you were warned about what professor to avoid basically as soon as you got to school.
It's "not a big deal" that that same professor was untouchable by the administration because he was too famous.
It's "not a big deal" when someone assumes you are your own secretary on the phone.
It's "not a big deal" when someone calls you "Miss" and your male colleague "Doctor."
It's "not a big deal" when going to parties at a conference comes with warnings of which of your fellow scientists are dangerous.
It's "not a big deal" when your boss, adviser, or senior colleague asks you out.

All of these things have happened to me or to someone I know. Not a single one of them is OK. People have excused each one individually as "not a big deal." But the reality of living as a woman in STEM (or in general) is that these things happen every single day. You may never encounter some of the most egregious offenses yourself, but you will know someone who does. And women do not - and should not - accept that as an ok way for the world to be.  

"Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them." - Margaret Atwood
Guys: if you have not heard, or sat down and really thought about the above quote, do so now. It is absolutely true. 

This is where we circle back to my being afraid. I'm not talking about concern for my career or my reputation. People - particularly women - are being abused and threatened with violence over this. 

Pointing out sexism almost always comes with some type of blowback, but this shirt debacle has been made exponentially worse by coming on the heals of another one known as GamerGate. In brief:

GamerGate purports to be about journalistic ethics and/or defending "gamer" culture, depending on which apologist you are listening too. In reality, it has been a months-long assault on female, queer, and feminist voices in or around the video game community. Women have been driven into hiding after receiving death threats. One woman was threatened with "the worst school shooting in history" if she didn't cancel a speaking engagement. People who oppose GamerGate have their personal and financial details hacked and posted publicly on the internet. Rape threats, spamming "targets" with child pornography, encouraging them to commit suicide, staging virtual attacks on employers to try and get people fired. These are the tactics of GamerGate. And their goal is to silence women. 

What does this have to do with the damn shirt? Since the worst of their threats got mainstream media attention, I would say the GamerGate "army" of abusers and criminals was losing a bit of steam. The non-misogynistic members of the game community (who are many in number) finally found their spines and started standing against them, and then ignoring them. So when "another example" of "feminazis" "oppressing" a man appeared before them, they latched on with gusto. 

Female scientists started getting the same treatment as female video game developers. Rape threats. Death threats. Organized, constant online abuse. Not all of this comes from "Gaters", and not all of the "Gaters" are involved, but there is significant overlap in the people - and the behavior is nearly identical.

This is worse for women who are more high-profile, obviously, but it's not limited to them. A female scientist ran an experiment this week: She has less than two dozen Twitter followers. She is almost never online, and is not "famous" in any sense of the word. She posted a tweet expressing support for the women being threatened, using the hashtags #ShirtStorm and #ShirtGate, to see how long it would take the "GamerGate" guys to start in on her. 


Women said "Dude, wearing that shirt is not cool". Men are now spending days telling those women the graphic, specific ways they would like to rape and murder them. 


The Internet is Real

OK, final point. Do not tell me that "it's just the internet". The internet is an increasingly important part of how we live our lives. 

Every single person on the internet is a PERSON. I expect to be treated with respect in the real world, and I expect to be treated that way in the virtual one. That should not be too high a bar. The people who are threatening my friends are not "trolls". They are people, often (but not exclusively) grown men who think these are OK things to say to a woman. 


The Silver Lining

People are capable of learning. People have the right to change their minds. Sometimes discrimination is out of malice, but it's also often out of ignorance or thoughtlessness. People LEARN - and when they do, they are allowed to say "Wow, I was a complete and utter idiot about [X], sorry about that." That's called progress. Hopefully we've made some of it this week.

60 comments :

Anonymous said...

"Being a scientist or a "geek" does not excuse it."
I seriously wonder if some of the people who got so worked up over a shirt being criticized think that The Big Bang Theory is real life or something... Scientists are just as responsible for their behaviour as anyone else. They should still be held to the same standards of decency. Dude made a mistake and apologized. No one is doing him any favours by being a giant jerk to women online in his 'defence'.

Furthermore, Just because someone does something inappropriate without malicious intent does not mean that they are somehow exempt from criticism.

If I accidentally step on someone's foot, and when they ask me to get off I keep responding with "BUT I DIDN'T MEAN TO" and never move, I would be the one in the wrong.

Jonathan Dresner said...

Well said. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Very well written post. Do you have any opinion about the recent trend in Title IX enforcement over the past two years? It strikes me as way too important and relevant to the conversation not to be mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting as anonymous too for the same reasons, but I wanted to add a couple of things to the "it's not a big deal".

It's not a big deal when you're called "wifey" by a colleague and told your relationship is "just like a married couple"

It's not a big deal when you go to a meeting with a Professor who tells you re: grant funding, "I'm sure the funders would be happy to talk to you because you're attractive"

It's not a big deal when you tell your colleagues about this and they say "oh, but isn't that a compliment?"

After a bunch of times, this is a big deal and it's exhausting and it's disheartening and it's not on.

annag said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for posting this.

...and thank you to any fellow supporters, female or otherwise, for taking part in this discussion, not just taking a backseat. We need more brains talking about this.

Anonymous said...

As a female in astronomy myself, I understand and emphatically agree that there's a ridiculous amount of sexism going on, really I do.
However, I really fail to see how Dr. Taylor's shirt issue is actually in any way a sexism one--inappropriate yes. Tacky yes. Kind of stupid definitely. But wearing a stupid shirt itself isn't sexist. And it was a design that his [female] artist friend created and was proud of and as an art piece I fail to see how that's sexist either.

(Not to mention the fact that, as a girl myself I feel incredibly uncomfortable saying that anyone deserved anything because of what they were wearing.)

Now. There's a lot of very potent misogyny on the internet, and I think it's horrific that anyone should be graphically threatened over expressing their opinion (that is DEFINITELY a sexism issue). But in a world of "not a big deal" transgressions, I really think Dr. Taylor wearing a dumb shirt wasn't one of them. And I'm frustrated with all the discussion around it because it draws attention away from so many actually serious and threatening problems at hand.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put.


There are men genuinely who mean well but, who because of their enculturation and privilege have a giant blind-spot to things like sexist workplace attire. The way you can tell the difference between those guys and thinly-veiled assholes is that those guys, when you say "Hey, hoss, you fucked up a little bit", they SEE their mistake, get embarrassed as hell, and apologize: and that's the mark of a decent person. Everyone fucked up, as long as people correct themselves when they fuck up, there's no need to rake them over the coals.

That's what this guy did, to all appearances. He publicly admitted he was wrong {which is REALLY fucking hard}, apologized, and hopefully will go on to never make that mistake again.

If only the rest of the internet could take the approach that he did, listen to people saying this is a problem, and work to correct it.

ob said...

Was wearing the shirt really an insult?

Otherwise: well said and I fully agree.

Anonymous said...

It's "not a big deal" when you're the woman who didn't get warned & you end up having to fend off passes from Respected Professor Emeritus Old Enough To Be Your Grandfather.

It's "not a big deal" when you're the Director of [Tech Area] and customer asks to speak to "anyone there who works in [Tech Area]".

It's "not a big deal" when you're solving someone's technical problem for them, and they ask, "Are you married?"

It's "not a big deal" when you're in a passionate technical discussion about the appropriate tools for a project and boss snaps "Don't take that tone with me!"

Etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam.

Anonymous said...

I just don't understand why people care so much and are so against women in astronomy. Most of them have nothing to do with astronomy and the women in astronomy have literally zero personal contact with these women, but go out of their way to attack these women anyway. Why? What personal instinct or belief are they acting on? It takes an incredible amount of effort to sustain that kind of hate and malice. What is it about us that offends them so much? And what on Earth makes them believe that this kind of behavior is acceptable?

Anonymous said...

Can I add others "it's not a big deal"?

It's not a big deal when your supervisor asks for you to do coffee, because, you know, it's a woman thing.

It's not a big deal when you listen "how could professor XXX accepts you to work in his lab, he only accepts good looking students?"

It's not a big deal when your supervisor says that women are no good for this kind of science work, it requires a lot of math.

It's not a big deal when a supervisor split a lab work for two people, one man and one woman, and after the woman come up with the solution for the problem and, basically, do most of the work, he gives the first name on the paper to de man. And gets annoyed when the woman complains about that.

It's not a big deal when you listen two male professors talking about other two female professors who are working with each other. And they say something like, they must be lesbians, or are planning to make the girls academia club. Woman does not work with other woman.

It's not a big deal when your supervisor comes in a room with 6 students, 3 men, 3 women and asks only men to lunch with him. Every FUCKING DAY.

All those things happened to me (the first and the last one) or to some close friends in grad school.

For the same reason mentioned before, I am also posting anonymous.

PS: All this happened in biological science, that nowadays is said to be full of female researchers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your blog post.

I am a woman (earth) scientist. And a mother.

My 5-year-old daughter -- who is interested in space -- fortunately did not see the shirt. Maybe she would have just ignored it. Or maybe it would influence her thinking about herself. I think she would have seen the busty women and wanted to dress up like them -- not realizing how overly sexualized the images are.

That scientist -- and his supervisors -- and his agency had a HUGE fail. He apologized, but if casual sexism is institutionalized, more than just he is at fault.

His actions and his agency's make interfere with the educational component of this mission. They interfere with our ability to get more women into STEM. Yes, there are those of us who can 'deal' with this kind of environment -- but why should we have to -- and why should we exclude those who don't want to deal with it?

The abusive retaliation online is the scary. How has our culture evolved where we think that kind of behavior is okay. I hope we can change this culture before my daughter gets old enough to start tweeting herself.

Anonymous said...

Being told that your clothing is inappropriate for the venue in nothing like saying that you "deserve" something bad to happen because you wore it.

Anonymous said...

It is sexist, because it reminds women, in a professional context, that women are predominantly decorative objects who exist primarily as titillation for (straight) men. Sure, in a cultural vacuum it might be fine, but he's in a culture already saturated with messages telling women that we can be anything we want as long so we are attractive.

Anonymous said...

If you fully agree, does it really matter whether it was "really" an insult?

Dr. Taylor obviously agreed that it was a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this and I won't bother adding my "It's not a big deal when" because mine would just be duplicates. However, I want to add that wardrobe choices are so important in careers, and especially media appearances, because we are all tasked with the higher work of being leaders and mentors for the next generation. The one comment that mentioned the woman who had designed the shirt was interesting. I wonder if the artist ever thought about the ramifications -- it's almost like a Banksy art fest, only the guy wasn't hired to wear the shirt.

Brainmist said...

To the anonymous comment that "it was a design that his [female] artist friend created and was proud of and as an art piece I fail to see how that's sexist either."

It was a design which emphasized sexuality, which the artist herself labeled 'Space Slut'. Just let that title sink in.

Now, if a colleague bought a piece of art to hang in his home that depicted a sexy woman and was titled 'Space Slut', that'd be entirely his business. Paint it on black velvet, fine, whatever. But when he hangs it in his workplace, suddenly it's a part of that environment. And when he's representing his workplace wearing it, that's a problem, especially when his workplace has been trying to counter a long history of sexism.

Anonymous said...

Also, it's possible to talk about many forms of misogyny at once. If all you talk about is rape and wife-murder, people get the idea that everything else is nbd.

Anonymous said...

They aren't against women in astronomy specifically. They actually hate women.

Anonymous said...

It's "not a big deal" when a colleague tells you that your breasts are big enough to distract from any mistakes you might make in a presentation.

It's "not a big deal" when a coworker tells you to bring along your single girlfriends to a client meeting so there will be "even numbers".

It's "not a big deal" when you are advised that no one is going to listen to you if you wear high heels.

It's "not a big deal" when a colleague continues to steer the conversations toward your breasts and when you ask him to stop you are called a prude.

I work in a high rise office building in corporate america and my neckline goes all the way up to my neck. This is apparently normal though. We need to change what is considered normal.

Leah Elzinga said...

In my analysis class the other day we were asked to try to talk about Gamergate as reasonably as possible, listening to all points made, and really considering them. (To give some context, I'm one of two women in the class). One of my male classmates said that men are attacked online all time time, told horrible things, yada yada but that no one takes it seriously because: internet. But it all comes back to that Atwood quote for me: men may be verbally attacked but they can ignore it, while women seem to have a harder time. Why? Because no guy believes that that dude ripping into him while he's RPGing is ACTUALLY going to find out where lives and rip him limb from limb. Many woman are afraid of just that, though. They ARE afraid that someone will get their address, follow them home from work, etc. Why? Because it happens. A lot. Women's fear of the power of the internet isn't about hurt feelings or a delicate ego, it's a about an in-real-life, jusfitifed fear of physical/sexual harm.

Leah Elzinga said...

"why should we have to?" Exactly. Also I appreciate you pointing out that this culture excludes those that can't deal with it. So a woman with an AMAZING scientific mind is left out in the cold because she's not tough enough. Ridiculous. Reality, but ridiculous nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

The shirt incident isn't the issue. It's how the women who dared to voice an opinion were treated.

l zed said...

I am a professional woman, and I am being told at work I cannot speak privately with a man in my office unless it is work-related. The idea is, management is trying to "protect" my reputation. These restrictions started when I refused to tell my boss who I am dating (the visitor in question). I feel I've been labeled a slut somehow. I am 41 with teenage kids and I'm respected in my field. I'm living in misogyny every day!

Anonymous said...

I noticed that shirt briefly when I was watching the live feed. It only caught my eye for a moment, so I didn't register the pattern. (There were far more interesting things going on that I was more interested in.)

My first thought was,"Oh, he's got his party shirt on. He's optimistic about the outcome of this mission." But then later, when I had a second glimpse, and figured out what the pattern was, it made me uncomfortable. At least my first thought was, "He didn't really think this one through, did he?"

I found his apology to be appropriate and I respect him for it.

It's a shame there are too many people out there who are using violence and abuse against my fellow women in science who expressed the opinion that that shirt didn't flatter his reputation.

Jim Dominic said...

Where I work, employees are required to participate in training designed to prevent sexual harassment. We are also required to participate in training designed to prevent other forms of harassment. We are required to sign statements to the effect that we have completed the training and we are required to behave professionally. Behavior that creates a toxic work environment is not tolerated. Academia and the sciences apparently need similar institutionally-enforced reminders of unacceptable behavior. Yes, the Internet is real life--there is a real person working the keys, and that person can choose between contributing something helpful or something destructive. The threats would be unacceptable behavior at any professional workplace and in most venues other than the Internet. To the people indulging in vicious attacks: stop. You've made your point. You can continue to share your opinions but you do not need to attach a bullhorn of fury to them. To everyone else: do not be silenced. Your right to free speech is just as valid and valuable as the right of everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I feel that there are a few women who have acted just as badly as men in this scenario. Dr. Taylor was driven to tears during his apology, and that is not ok. He did not go to work knowing that the shirt would be viewed as sexist, nor should he have if it was a gift from a female friend. I believe both sides of this debate have made mistakes ( men more than women to be sure, but nonetheless) and that both sides should have people willing to apologize for the whole debacle. But in the end, since Dr. Taylor already gave his speech, we should all be willing to drop the issue and move on to those who have committed greater crimes. What is most important in these scenarios is to to use them as springboards to bigger issues, and for that reason I truly do appreciate this article calling attention to attitudes toward women in the workplace. I feel confident that Dr. Taylor will not be wearing his shirt to public events again, whether he has the right to or not. Let's find other people who have acted worse, and try to work on them, but with respectfulness and tact from both men and women.

Chris Lamke said...

Wow. Thank you for the great comment. I didn't realize sexism was this bad in so many places.

The best thing that can come of this is that we'll have a very public discussion about sexism and the power of anonymity to enable the violence we've been seeing. Very few people are genuinely anonymous on the internet, to law enforcement at least, and I'm very disappointed that no one has been charged in the Gamergate debacle. Courageous people like Sarkeesian should be respected of course, but they should also be protected by bringing to justice those who've threatened her.

Anonymous said...

That would be me. When I made the decision to quit graduate school after 6 years working on a PhD in chemistry, I told the one female professor in the department that I just don't have it in me to fight the fight. She looked me right in the eyes and said, "I understand." This absolutely is reality. My male advisor cut my funding because I had a baby. NBD, right? He had the right because I couldn't work as much, right? Mmhmm.

Anonymous said...

The shirt was definitely inappropriate and carried lots of sexist connotations, and he never should have worn such a thing at work (much less at an international press conference). The national uproar directed at this guy (intentional or not) was also definitely disproportionate. These things are not mutually exclusive.

Jessica Parsons said...

I love what you've written here. In my blog post, I also ask "what reaction if the shirt showed a stereotypical cartoon black slave"? http://minimalistmum.blogspot.co.nz/2014/11/pin-sexist-shirt-on-comets-tail.html

Anonymous said...

I too quit grad school with all but my dissertation because I simply couldn't see myself working in and tolerating the aggressively sexist culture any longer that women in STEM deal with every single day.

Anonymous said...

I'm for all intents and purposes a cismale. I work in technical support.
"It's "not a big deal" when you're the Director of [Tech Area] and customer asks to speak to "anyone there who works in [Tech Area]"."

this shit gets my rage up so much more than anything else. Dudes will call in, get a woman, and "oh, I meant to call support." "This is support.." "oh, this is Sales Support? I meant to get Tech Support."
The call will go on, usually on a complicated issue that the dude refuses to fully explain as to make the woman look inexperienced and frustrated. Yea! Remote Gaslighting!!!
Citing "You're just too emotional about this, I need to speak to a male," they refuse to go further in the call. That's when they get a looooooooooooooooooooooong hold time waiting for the "next available male operator."

Fucking ridiculous these dudes.

Anonymous said...

Less about the specific industry, more about the success of women in a male-dominated ...everything.

Anonymous said...

Wow ^^ fuck that adviser. Sorry that happened.. fucking pitiful.

Anonymous said...

It's not a big deal when you are warned (via what is supposed to be a funny joke) to lawyer up before even starting undergrad to protect yourself from your supervisor and chair of the department.

It's not a big deal when said supervisor corners you and gropes you in his office the first time you meet.

It's not a big deal when you walk away and decide to ignore it because, he's got tenure, he's famous, he's powerful, and will be determining whether you get a good reference to grad school, besides you weren't raped...

It's not a big deal that because you didn't speak up he went on to rape and beat another student while away on a class trip

It's not a big deal that it took 25 years for the school to finally stand up and fire the sonofabitch

Anonymous said...

wonderful article. Thank you for writing it

Joy inTorah said...

Here's a typical STEM prof telling everyone that math is male and the reason why men do math is because they pee standing up.

The prof is Prof Em. at San Diego State Uni, Thomas Impelluso.
http://mancheeze.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/prof-emeritus-thomas-impelluso-mechanical-engineering-from-san-diego-state-has-a-message-for-the-ladies-trying-to-get-into-stem/

If people don't think there's a problem with patriarchy in STEM, they're willfully ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this very informative article. It really moved me.
I have a daughter at grad school in a STEM field and I highly appreciate your input. I've always tried to support my daughter and unfortunately this included being motivated (actually compelled) to find and pay for self-defense classes, practice self-defense w/her & introduce her to pistol shooting. I wish my only reasons for doing this was to promote self-confidence & the intrinsic enjoyment of these sports but this is not the case.
I also agree that the shirt was inappropriate (particularly at a press conference). Nevertheless, many of the reactions were totally disproportionate to Dr. Taylor's unprofessionalism.
Hopefully, this situation and your article (along with many of the comments) will be a learning experience for those who might commit some of these sexist misdeeds at work or school; and those who didn't know how to gracefully accept the fact that Dr. Taylor's err was an honest mistake, particularly once Dr.Taylor apologized in tears.

Anonymous said...

It is an example of a larger problem in society. In another article I read, the author asked why the company who made the shirt not the focus of criticism. Or the system in general that has a market for shirts like these.....

Anonymous said...

The issue is not about how he looked in the shirt, or how the shirt fitted, whether or not it was attractive and whether or not his perceived attractiveness in the shirt was appropriate.
The reaction to this is the same as if he had been wearing a plain shirt, but holding up a soft-porn magazine to the camera. The fact that the images were on an item of clothing is irrelevant.
Does the shirt objectify women?
Is objectification of women acceptable?
Had an influential person shown support for the objectification of women in another manner at such an important (and public) time would you expect the outcome to be any different?

Anonymous said...

To wear a pornographic shirt like that means that I can't show my class of 7-year-olds the interview. Not just for the girls, but the boys too - sexism affects all genders.

J McK said...

I know of a similar experiment by a scientist on Twitter and I'll check with her before linking. She and her husband both tweeted about this at the same time with the same message. He mostly got debate, and the worst (attempted) insult he received was being called gay. She got rape threats, death threats, you name it.

Anonymous said...

I'm a woman and I used to work in technical support and billing support for a cable company. I actually hung up on one customer after he was being extremely rude to me (as in calling me a liar for saying I could do tech support). An hour later he gets through again and tells the other rep (also a woman) to apologize to me for being an ass. I also did not get in trouble. Most of the time I had to try to cope with it.

Anonymous said...

I co-moderate a forum and I recall this one guy who posted a description of knocking an elderly woman down some stairs. I don't know whether he actually did it or not, but he posted at length about his hatred for all women. So I trashed his thread and told him he needed to chill out. His response? He threatened to use personal information I posted on the forum to figure out who I am and where I live. Now, I know he [i]couldn't[/i] do that to me because I had not posted enough personally identifiable information, but the fact that this was his go to response to a woman moderating his posts - implied violent threat.

I have been stalked and harassed online on several occasions. I have had people track down personal information to use against me. I currently have someone who [i]thinks[/i] she's figured out where I live (this is the only woman to ever try to stalk me) and is talking about a lawsuit because she doesn't like some things I had to say.

I have never met a man who has been through this kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

I am a women working in engineering and have encountered casual sexism all of my life. However, I will suggest that it was not (entirely) Dr. Taylor's fault that he wore something inappropriate. Yes, he probably should have worn something more professional, but in fact, his job is science. I blame the director and producer (and possibly others involved) whose jobs it *is* to think about things like that. I can believe that Dr. Taylor made an honest mistake. I have difficulty believing that people whose jobs are to make someone look good on film did not think about the impact that t-shirt might have. Why didn't one of them ask him to put something else on!?!

Anonymous said...

Where is the evidence that he was 'driven' to tears? Would it be acceptable if he cried because he felt shame and disgust at his actions? I've cried because I felt bad about choices I've made. Is that 'not ok'?

It doesn't matter if he knew the shirt was sexist (which he should have, because that's incredibly obvious). It was, and I'm glad he apologized.

The only people dragging this out are the GamerGaters who seized on this as an opportunity to bash on women in STEM. If you look at the shirtstorm hashtag, the only people posting to it are misogynists. If they stop, this stops. You're targeting your pleas at the wrong audience.

Anonymous said...

I have an honest, serious question. Is it truly inappropriate for an employer to ask a prospective employee in an interview about their likelihood for a medical condition that may in the future cause missed work days? I asked this before but I'm sure it just got lost in the shuffle.

I'm also asking anonymously because tempers are heated on both sides of the issue, and just in case my question before wasn't lost in the shuffle but intentionally censored, I wouldn't want to face repercussions for simply asking a question.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. It helps to know that when I tell the truth, sensible people are outraged.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is. Discriminating on the basis of pregnancy is illegal gender discrimination (at least in the states).

Aside from the legal problem, it is a serious issue women are the only ones ever asked that question. Men are just as much parents and will likely miss work for a new baby, pediatrician appointments, etc. And before the child arrives, OBGYN visits with their partner. If the pregnancy is complicated (which I assume is what you mean by 'medical condition') then they're likely to take off work to care for their partner.

One more thing - employers don't get access to medical info. I have a family history of high blood pressure, but no job interviewer ever asks what my likelihood of *that* is.

Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous who asked, " Is it truly inappropriate for an employer to ask a prospective employee in an interview about their likelihood for a medical condition that may in the future cause missed work days?"

In the US, it's illegal.

Dina said...

Regarding asking about medical conditions: At best, highly ethically dubious, imo. At worst, highly illegal (see: ADA in the US).

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate this thoughtful blog post and the contributions of most of the commenters. I also found the shirt sexist and offensive and wondered why Taylor's colleagues did not suggest he wear something else for the worldwide interview about the Rosetta mission. But I wonder why no one has mentioned the very first words he SAID in the interview... I can't quote exactly, but I remember something like, "This is the sexiest mission I've ever worked on ~ no one said she's easy, but she's really sexy." THAT bothered me almost as much as the design on the shirt!

Anonymous said...

It's a shame the toxic climate of the internet has made it necessary for the poster and many commenters to hide their identities, because this is an excellent written and important piece.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of this article, but is it offensive for someone to ask you out, provided they do it in a respectful way? I don't think it's sexist for someone to want to date another consenting adult.

Jessica Kirkpatrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Kirkpatrick said...

Dear Anonymous,

In general it is not a good idea for a boss, manager, advisor, or person in a position of power to proposition or date someone below them. Most companies and universities have sexual harassment policies which forbid this behavior.

The problem comes down to consent.

If it is perceived by one party that the other party could fire them or negatively effect their career if they say "no" when asked out, then it is not clear if the junior person is saying "yes" because they want to go out with the senior person, or because they feel obligated to go out with them otherwise they will have negative professional consequences.

This is not an issue with coworkers who are peers or where there is not a threat of professional repercussions if the advance turned down.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_harassment#Situations

Anonymous said...

"Rape threats. Death threats. Organized, constant online abuse."

All of which has also been dismissed as no big deal. Yes, even the death threats.


"It takes an incredible amount of effort to sustain that kind of hate and malice."

Look at what Rebecca Watson is still facing more than a year after Elevatorgate.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you.

Anonymous said...

As a female in the IT field, I think I can add something myself...

It's not a big deal when your male colleague feels entitled to explain you how Visual Studio works, even if you're a senior developer.

It's not a big deal if your male colleagues is constantly triple-checking your work, "just to be sure", while they keep planting bugs in the code and no one says a word.

It's not a big deal if your boss keeps praising your outfit during a stand-up meeting, even if you're clearly uncomfortable with such compliments and the only thing you want to do is to finish this meeting.

It's not a big deal if you're the only one female developer in a team of 18 persons - the other two women are the beta-tester and the secretary.

Yep, it's not a big deal, indeed. Because it's not a big deal, I quit this job and been hired by another company.