Friday, November 4, 2011


One of the risks of being on the CSWA is that my friends regularly send me email that makes me angry.* Like the link to the "Womanspace" article in Nature, as reported on in AASWOMEN last week. The comments were particularly interesting to read. I was glad to see the outpouring of criticism of the article, going on at length about the harm of perpetuating stereotypes, particularly in a high impact journal such as Nature. The letter from Lucianne Walkowicz in this week's AASWOMEN is also well worth a read. All these commenters say what needs to be said better than I ever could.
But the most interesting comment is from Ed Rybicki himself. He completely misses the point of the comments. The article was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, he says. Even my wife found it funny!
Which makes me wonder, do men like this ever see what's wrong in their actions? Is this why people like Herman Cain can claim that they were wrongly accused of sex harassment, because maybe they honestly believe that? I would like to believe that men who commit misogynist behavior, whether it's telling sexist jokes or sexually harassing someone, can be led to see the error of their ways, and that they can learn to become better people. Someday, I would like to see a man say, "yes, I did something wrong. But I've learned from that experience, and it will never happen again." Recovering alcoholics learn to do this, why can't harassers?
I fear that as long as perpetrators of sexism can get away with calling themselves the victim and deflecting responsibility for their actions, this culture will remain "manspace," whether you are talking about scholarly science or political discourse.

*But angry in a good way. Keep those emails coming!


Caroline Simpson said...

In my experience, there are some men who just don't, and never will, 'get it.' Their biased attitudes tend to be subtle (implicit, rather than explicit), and so they truly believe that what they say/do does not come from a biased perspective. Hence, any justification they come up with ('my wife thought it was funny') works for them. They are impervious to change, because they see no problem, so no fix is necessary.

L.C. said...

I don't think most will ever get it. So instead of spending energy trying to educate them, my approach is to confront and then ignore. Tell them plainly their comments are biased/misogynist/sexist/offensive. And then ignore them as well as possible in the future.

Evgenya said...

Lucianne, I'm curious what response you receive to that excellent letter you sent to the editor of Nature.