First, take a look at this: a write-up of a panel of women at the National Association of Science Writers meeting on November 2, talking about sexual harassment and women in science writing.
After the preliminary summary we get
Hearing from Women
Under that we get two paragraphs, one for the panel and one for the audience.
Among the panelists’ comments, Emily Willingham explained the concept of social privilege, which is advantage derived from a feature of a person that he or she did not create. This reality, she said, imposes responsibilities on those who possess such features—responsibilities that the privileged often ignore. Christie Aschwanden noted that the scandal had surprised men and not women and also described her feelings of marginalization in the world of science writing. Maryn McKenna noted that science journalism will soon be a majority female occupation, but that won’t in itself end the marginalization of women. And Kathleen Raven, one of those who came forward to accuse Zivkovic, told of doing all she could, to no avail, to stop the harassment, including repeated warnings. She will, she said, be much more clear about ground rules of interactions in the future.
So much for the panel. The paragraph on the women in the audience is even shorter and more perfunctory:
When Blum opened the floor to comments from the audience, women came forward to tell their own experiences of harassment and marginalization. The special vulnerability of freelances—who generally depend on personal relationships to get assignments and rarely know publications’ anti-harassment policies or reporting procedures—was a common theme. In addition, Ginger Campbell, a practicing physician as well as a podcaster, brought word from the world outside science writing. Numbers alone will not end these problems; on that point she agreed with McKenna. The medical profession is now also heavily female, she said, but there, too, invisibility is everywhere
Then we get
Hearing from Men
Under that we get four paragraphs, all for men in the audience, and the men get whole paragraphs to themselves.
But some of the most powerful and significant statements came from men. Mike Lemonick described his astonishment at the different reactions of men and women to the revelations. Men, he said, were amazed that harassment appeared to be common. Women were not. He, like many men, had simply been unaware, a situation that needs to end. Unless men’s consciousness is raised, he said, men will continue to be unconscious.
Mitch Waldrop recalled that when he rose to a position of editorial power, he didn’t feel powerful or get any training on how to think about or deal with power differentials that can cause innocently intended behavior to be misinterpreted. Editors, he said, need such training. Waldrop, an NASW board member, also mentioned that the board is taking the issue very seriously and is working on several approaches to help.
And so on.
Really. Even in a story about an all-woman panel about being a woman in a particular line of work, written by a woman, the women on the panel plus in the audience get two paragraphs while the men in the audience alone get four.
Now read Emily Willingham’s post on the subject.
There were six of us who sat there, who presented, paneled, and answered questions, yet in this writeup on the session at the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) conference in Gainseville, Fla., where our panel convened, one of us doesn’t even get a mention. The writeup appeared at PLoS blogs on the site of NASW blogger Tabitha Powledge, but Beryl Benderly, NASW treasurer, wrote the XX panel summary.
Instead of highlighting what each of the six of us said, the post, in what I must characterize as “business as usual,” not only leaves out mention of a member of our all-women panel but also treats the standing-room only plenary session as an aside, something to roll into a longer section that talks about … life on other planets? Indeed, of the 2285 words that make up the post at PLoS, 1335 are devoted to the possibility of Earthlike planets and life elsewhere instead of the possibilities of the lives of at least half of us right here.
And of the 950 words allotted to the XX science panel at the NASW meeting, 264 were devoted to what the men in attendance at the session had to say. That stands in contrast to the 238 words given to what women on the panel and in the audience at this session on women in science writing had to say, words that trail off in the post without even an end punctuation. Not only that, but the section devoted to the men’s commentary begins with, “But some of the most powerful and significant statements came from men.”
Wouldn’t you think that…oh never mind.
As a sort of coup de grace, the post tags are as follows: aliens, astronomy, Bora Zivkovic, exoplanets, intelligent life, Kepler spacecraft, Milky Way Galaxy, On Science Blogs, science blogging, science journalism, science writing, Scientific American, sexual harassment, Tabitha M. Powledge, women. Not one of the names of the women who were on the panel appears in the metadata. A summary of the post on the NASW Website focuses, like the post itself, on astronomy and gives a single line to what ought to be a major issue for a national association of science writers representing its membership.
After that series of what I can only describe as mounting offenses, the XX panel summary comes to an abrupt end, offering a segue into the bulky remainder on Earth-like planets by saying, “We Now Return You to Our Regularly Scheduled Program.”
Based on the content and emphasis and oversights of that post, it looks to me like we never left that program. The old emphasis on male voices and the attitude of “phew, that’s over” are the same old regular programming we’ve been watching and living for decades. And that, my friends, is the problem that put the six of us in front of a standing-room only crowd at NASW in Gainesville in the first place. And–I believe I can say this with certainty–not a single one of the six of us is content to return to that regular programming. There will be no sliding back into complacency this time.
We don’t want your stinkin regularly scheduled program!!