Monday, December 30, 2013

How this is Related to Astronomy?

As part of my role as Blogger-in-Chief for Women in Astronomy, I cross-post blog articles to groups on various social networks. Cross-posting has been great at getting wider exposure for this blog, and our readership has increased dramatically since I've started doing this.

However, with increased readership and exposure, we also get increased feedback, criticism, and frustrating responses to our posts. As the person who posts these blog articles to these communities, I get notified when people comment, and its been very interesting to see how many people don't believe that discrimination, harassment, or biases exist in scientific communities, or don't think information about these issues is relevant to them.

Below are some examples of these discussions, with links to the threads on Google+ and Facebook. I encourage those of you who read this blog to participate in these discussions (mostly in the Facebook Astronomers Group and the Google+ Science Community although there is also discussions in the LinkedIn Groups Association for Women in Science, APS Physics, Women in Physics, and American Astronomical Society.  In my opinion, the fact that people vocalize these views means that we have much more work to do.

'Sometimes being good isn’t enough' thread in the Facebook Astronomers Group:
  • Could you please stop spamming this group with 'womeninastronomy.blogspot.com' content?
  • I though this group is more focused on professional astronomy discussions. Most of womeninastronomy.blogspot.com content is non-scientific, hence I think that it should be posted in maybe it's own dedicated facebook group. 

'My Successful Experience with Sexual Harassment' thread on Linked In:
  • I think it is perfectly natural for a man to suggest certain things to a woman (or vice versa). If such were not the case, then the human race would eventually become extinct. It's ok to say no when you recognize the social interaction as an invitation for something more intimate. It becomes harassment when, after a no has been issued, the invitations continue (and especially when the invitations become more frantic). Make sure that the no has been properly received and understood and if the invitations continue, report the harassment to the authorities. It's not nice to harass.
  • As a society, are not going to be successful in getting guys to not make suggestive remarks. And I agree with you that the workplace is generally not the place to make suggestive remarks. But it is going to happen.

'What Can I Do? Become a Guest Blogger' thread on Google+ Science Community
  • Why do you have to "do" anything to promote women. If women want to study science, they can and will. Then they will be as noticeable or not as any other male scientists. There are many female scientists already. I don't see that it does any good to keep isolating females as some sort of desperate creature that needs promotion or help to be noticed. It seems a bit insulting to the many women who just get on with actually doing science, rather than waving their arms around demanding to be noticed just because they are women. 
  • Meanwhile many women just get on with being great at their chosen area of science, or anything else, without having a chip on their shoulder. People in general are discriminated against for so many reasons. You can't change other people, you can only change yourself. And those who recognise this do just that, they change themselves to be positive and fearless. They do not interact with the world with a pre conceived notion that others will be out to get them, or intent on stifling their progress in some way. They just do what they love and they have positive attitudes about themselves and others around them, and so they are successful. Women of that nature do not have the problems that you talk about and fear. I listen to, and read about science all the time. I read papers written by women, watch intelligent and informative debates that include female scientists. I see science documentaries involving many female scientists. I see women leading countries. Most of the doctors in my local surgery are women. If there is one thing you can be certain of it is that people bring about the reality of their own worries and fears, by fearing them in the first place. I just happen to think that a constant attempt to divide men and women in this way is not helpful. It doesn't help to encourage young women to grow up believing there is something to fear before they ever encounter it themselves, and may never encounter such problems unless they begin to fear it first. You can point at statistics and personal accounts in anything and you can always find something to support your beliefs. A good scientist is a good scientist, male or female, and the vast majority of people treat and respect them equally. Of course I'm sure you'll disagree. But that's ok, we don't have to agree. I just thought I'd comment on your post. I don't mean to upset anyone. 

Closing Time at the "Astronomy Nightclub" thread on Google+ Science Community
  • Grow up girl. The world is dangerous. Men & women can be very aggressive. We are large dangerous mammals.
  • The world is full of jerks. Try to see them before they mark you. Alcohol lowers impulse control, anything can happen. 
  • That is life, tell the pig to go to hell!

Closing Time at the "Astronomy Nightclub" thread in AAS LinkedIn Group
  • Sorry to say, you should have seen that coming. I always observe people even when I am discussing science. You should try to detect the signs of a discussion going the wrong way. 

You're Too Pretty to be a Scientist thread on Google+ Science Community
  • What a pretty girl you are!
  • Sexism seems to be in the eye of the beholder.  I don't think the sentence "Hm. Well, you're too pretty to be a scientist!" is inherently sexist. To me it seems like a completely gender independent comment
  • If comments on a person's looks is going to distract them and undermine their confidence..... maybe they need to do some internal analysis. If I react to everybody's comment on me about anything then, hey, maybe I am thinking too much about myself...
  • Why just not to tell "I am glad that I changed your stereotype about scientists" and move on with your life w/o making a big deal of it.
  • These types of issue are not gender related but could happen to anyone... there is no point into making a big deal out of it or making it a gender related issue.
  • Women these days just can't handle or take compliments any more.
  • Welcome to my mute list.  I am all for equality, but I joined the Science group to talk about Science... not politics or equal rights.
  • We hate men! We hate men!
  • There are over fifty percent in the biological scientists group, now I'm confused what your point is.
  • I've never met a woman who's a mechanical engineer, that was higher than I expected.
  • There's no 'issue'.  There are more male pilots, and there are more female nurses. There are more male engineers and more female teachers. I'm working in an engineering job myself and we don't, and to the best of my knowledge never have, discouraged females from participating. The cover page of our university actually points to the stereotype and explains it's nonsense. From what I can tell, our female members aren't unhappier than the male ones. We just have less of them, because less sign up. Could this be different? Absolutely. Is it a problem that it isn't? No.
  • The regression is disappointing, but focusing on the gender issue is short-sighted. 
  • By nature men and women are not equal. Promoting unnatural equality makes our evolution regressive. All the inheritable traits conducive to success are reduced when women's equality is promoted.
  • Sorry, but the prejudice is BS. I work with some talented men and women at a national laboratory and it's my observation that the really good scientists and engineers get rewarded. It's the mediocre ones who don't. And that's too bad for them. 
  • Can't recall the study but in almost certain women earn more than men in similar or equal jobs.
  • We should expect a lower pay and lower promotions because we had considerably fewer women going into higher ed.
  • Sorry to ask. How this is related to astronomy and astronomers?
  • I don't agree that sexual harassment is the problem in well-developed astronomical society.
  • Don't get me wrong. I don't think that sexual harassment is [a] right thing. Neither do I think that you can stop sexual harassment by simple blogging about it.

Let's Talk about Street Harassment thread on Facebook Astronomers Group
  • Nothing against what you're doing and I'm definitely not saying this issue isn't important. But it's not astronomy.
  • I strongly agree that the post is not in the right forum!
  • I was just under the apparently misguided impression that "Political viewpoints and other non-scientific topics should be posted to other fora." meant that discussions about non-scientific political viewpoints ought not be posted here.

*** Update ***
Reactions to this blog post on Google+ Science Community
  • This entire post is a joke, relevance was never here to begin with.
  • How is this post scientific? The mods letting these posts be are pathetic hypocrites.
Reactions to this blog post the APS Physics Group on LinkedIn
  • Hail, Blogger-in-Chief for Women in Astronomy.  Ever heard of Margerita Hack, the Italian astronomer who died in June 2013? She did more for women in astronomy than any blogger-in-chief of any gender will even be able to do: above all, she did Astronomy! Though I have no idea what are you doing on this forum, self-promoting your blog, and blatantly violating the rules set by APS by linking to it !!!
Reactions to this blog post in the AAS Group on LinkedIn
  • I really do not understand how yours twitter page is related to astronomy. As well I do not understand how deep is yours research results, included in yours thesis.  Are they original?
Reply from the Moderator of the Astrophysics And Physics Group on Facebook on why they wouldn't allow this post to be in that group (please contact him if you disagree):
  • I am the administrator that did not allow your post in Astrophysics and Physics. There is no irony in this. Your post was denied because it offered no science in astrophysics or physics. Blogging about it or the plight of women it isn't what the group is about.
After responding (in a private message) to the moderators of this group, trying to explain why these posts are relevant to Astrophysics and Physics, and asking that they reconsider posting it in the group, I was publicly shamed on the group page by the above moderator, and then removed from the group.  I guess I hit a nerve!  I wonder if moderators abusing their power to shame contributors is 'what the group is about'?