At the risk of inviting a miasma of socks, I am going to talk about Womanspace once again. It’s important, and I’ve got a point to make.
There are a couple of open letters that are worth reading. Dr. O’s An open letter to Dr. Rybicki makes a very important point:
Maybe your short story isn’t the biggest issue out there concerning sexism, but it’s the little issues that are frequently the most dangerous. Little slights, which appear innocent enough on the surface, permeate our thoughts and actions without our conscious permission and ultimately DO have consequences, whether we intend for them to or not.
And when your small act of sexism, intentional or otherwise, ends up published in a venue the size of Nature, it has an outsize effect. This is why women and men spoke out. Silence would imply the issue is unimportant. It’s most certainly not. As any scientist who also happens to be a woman whether a culture of sexism harms, and chances are excellent she will tell you it does.
Of course, this wasn’t the worst act of sexism ever perpetrated in the entire history of civilization. And it would have probably died quite quietly if the author had possessed the humility and courage to utter just two words.
I’d have liked it if he had. But he chose to pour gasoline rather than balm, and we all know what happens when someone starts a fire on the internet. I’m not sorry it happened. Many excellent posts came out of it. Nature got put on notice, and so did anyone else who might have thought that a little light sexism was quite all right. Dust-ups like this raise awareness. And I want to talk about why that’s important.