Help Me Out Here, Scientific American

I’ve been reading your blog network for a while now, since Bora Zivkovic came along and put together a remarkable crew of diverse bloggers who can speak to life in science, communicating science, and scientific results themselves. I’ve even contributed to the Guest Blog twice. It’s been a good run (though today, you face the very real possibility that it’s coming to an end). Now, however, I’m confused. Maybe you can help me out.

Once upon a time, this post by Kate Clancy and the other posts that led up to it were considered not just acceptable, but important.

It was getting late, the student center all but deserted. My old friend and I had a table to ourselves, awkwardly wedged among the chairs that had been set in a circle for an invited talk I had just given to some undergraduates about issues for women in science.

My friend alluded to having a challenging field site. Her face, which was usually open and bright, with a smile so infectious and delighted and thoroughly optimistic you couldn’t help but love her, was subdued, careful. She talked around it for a while. Then she told me of her sexual assault in the field.

Then this post by Karen Stollznow was considered acceptable…until the head of one organization involved sent a letter demanding changes. Then it was removed and never restored, even with changes.

From late 2009 onwards I made repeated requests for his personal communication to cease but these were ignored. He began manipulating the boundaries by contacting me on the pretext of it being work-related. Then came the quid pro quo harassment. He would find opportunities for me within the company and recommend me to television producers, but only if I was nicer to him. One day the company offered me an honorary position that I’d worked hard for, but he warned me that he had the power to thwart that offer. I threatened to complain to his employer, but he bragged that another woman had accused him of sexual harassment previously and her complaints were ignored. According to him, she had been declared “batshit crazy”. Then, he saw me at conferences and took every opportunity to place me in a vulnerable position. This is where the psychological abuse turned physical and he sexually assaulted me on several occasions.

Now, after yanking this post by DNLee with no proactive communication, you tell us it is “not appropriate for this area”.

It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand. What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request.

There are some inconsistencies here. There may even be a trend, though that’s hard to spot from three data points. So here are my questions.

  • Does Scientific American still consider it appropriate at all for women to talk about the sexual harassment and assault they face while conducting and communicating science?
  • Does Scientific American consider it appropriate to talk about this harassment and assault, but only if they protect the identities of the people who harassed and assaulted them?
  • If Scientific American still considers it appropriate to talk about this aspect of a career in science, do bloggers need to run these posts by Scientific American staff first, in order to make sure they won’t be disappeared down the memory hole without warning or even notice after the fact?
  • Does Scientific American think its bloggers are real people worth communicating with?

At this point, I really don’t know the answers to any of those questions. As both a reader and occasional contributor to your blog network, I think I need to.

Comments

  1. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    Scientific American has some problems. SciAm is the one who needs help. Let’s see if SciAm will take a hand to help it climb out of the hole it so willingly climbed into.

  2. says

    Luckily, it’s starting to look as if there’s a nice little shit-storm brewing over this. Now if only I could convince myself that it would change how they do business.

  3. Nuke says

    Too bad, I really used to enjoy my subscription to SciAm…. But I’ll be following DNLee from now on.

  4. tuibguy says

    Well, it is looking like several of the Sci-Am bloggers are writing about this, so it can’t be swept under the rug. I hope that they don’t expect to hold their breath until people stop writing and tweeting about the issue.

    DN needs an explanation and deserves and apology.

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