Dec 03 2013

Women and science on youtube

Emily Graslie asks where the women promoting science on youtube are, and then answers her own question: they’re out there, but youtube is not exactly an inviting environment, especially for women, because of (and she does not phrase it this rudely, but I will) all of the assholes infesting the place.

I’m not a woman (no, really, I grew the beard specifically to prevent confusion), but I’ve felt the same way — I tried to do a few things on youtube, clumsily and awkwardly, but the hostility and idiocy of the youtube commentariat were discouraging further efforts. Open comments meant that most of what I was seeing were knee-jerk twits who didn’t pay any attention to what I said, who flooded the thread with sexist and irrelevant stupidity; use the filtering tools to ban the more egregious offenders, and new idiots join in to scream about how you’re violating free speech, and besides, the same morons just come crawling back under new pseudonyms; shut off all comments as an intolerable waste of time and effort, and then the email comes pouring in accusing me of censorship.

I won’t claim that I was any good at the video medium — I didn’t even have an opportunity to try to get better, because it was all shrieking fanboys of certain popular misogynist babblers doing their best to drive me out. I can see how new talent, real talent, might want to run away from the climate there.

But some women have persevered! Graslie lists a number of good science youtubers, so I’ll steal her list here.

Science (biology):
Claire, Brilliant Botany: https://www.youtube.com/user/Brillian…
Sally Le Page, Shed Science: https://www.youtube.com/user/shedscience
Julia Wilde, That's So Science: https://www.youtube.com/user/wildesci…
Dr. Bondar: http://www.youtube.com/user/DrBondar
Lindsay Doe, Sexplanations http://www.youtube.com/sexplanations
Laci Green, Sex+: http://www.youtube.com/lacigreen
Annie Gaus, Pick your Poison: https://www.youtube.com/user/pickyour…
Vanessa Hill, BrainCraft: https://www.youtube.com/braincraftvideo
The Penguin Prof: http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePengui…
Amoeba Sisters: https://www.youtube.com/user/AmoebaSi…

Science (misc.):
Maddie Moate, Earth Unplugged: http://www.youtube.com/earthunplugged
Elise Andrew, I F*cking Love Science : https://www.youtube.com/user/IFLScience
Rebecca Watson: http://www.youtube.com/user/rkwatson/…
Alex Dainis, Bite Sci-zed: https://www.youtube.com/user/Lexie527/
Amy Shira Teitel: http://bit.ly/1dAXh9T
Joanne Manaster: https://www.youtube.com/user/joannelo…
Jessica King, FieldNotes: http://www.youtube.com/jessicasfieldn…
Meg Rosenburg, Tales from the History of Science: http://bit.ly/18rbhRF
Ella, Sci-Files: https://www.youtube.com/user/EllaC522/
Dr. Kiki, This Week in Science: https://www.youtube.com/user/ThisWeek…
Boonsri, Elemental: http://www.youtube.com/user/Elemental…
Eff Yeah Fluid Dynamics: http://www.youtube.com/user/fyfluiddy…
Allison Jack, Agricultural Science: http://www.youtube.com/user/AllisonLH…
Katie McGill, The Physics Factor: https://www.youtube.com/thephysicsfactor

Amanda Aizuss, iTalkApple: https://www.youtube.com/user/iTalkApple/
Emily Eifler, BlinkPopShift: https://www.youtube.com/user/BlinkPop…

Jerri Ellsworth: https://www.youtube.com/user/jeriells…
Limor "Ladyada" Fried: https://www.youtube.com/user/adafruit/

ViHart: http://www.youtube.com/vihart
Saramoira Shields, Mathematigal: https://www.youtube.com/user/SqueakyM…
LookingGlassUniverse: https://www.youtube.com/user/LookingG…
Rebecca Thomas, Dead Bunny Guides: https://www.youtube.com/deadbunnyguides/

The Field Museum Women in Science group: http://fieldmuseum.org/explore/field-…

Now I have more to watch. Maybe I’ll get inspired and try again someday.


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  1. 1

    Emily Lakdawalla (Maybe not so much YouTube, but just about every other social media)

  2. 2
    Claire Jongenelen

    Oo thank you for all of these. Unfortunately I think my YouTube subscriptions list just got a whole lot longer. What I’m noticing is a lack of videos about metrology… maybe I should start one. I’m not sure there is enough exciting news in the world of metrology but some of the stuff is fascinating for science geeks.

  3. 3

    wait just a goldurned minute here. Rebecca Watson’s degree is in Communications and she once said something wrong about Galileo. This invalidates the entire list.

  4. 4
    PZ Myers

    Careful with that sarcasm. There are people who would take that comment at face value. There are people would seriously make that comment.

  5. 5
    Rob Grigjanis

    She may not be a youtuber, but there’s a shitload of youtube videos featuring Lisa Randall. One of the better theoretical physics communicators out there.

  6. 6
    Usernames are smart

    Yes, there really are only two options: turn off comments or ignore them. And for Dog’s sake, don’t enable ratings.

    ~ shut off all comments as an intolerable waste of time and effort, and then the email comes pouring in accusing me of censorship.

    LOL WUT? Do you mean mean messages to your YouTube inbox or what?

    As for censorship, the answer is, “You’re damn right I censor! Whatcha gonna do about it, punk?!” :p

  7. 7

    Meg Rosenburg, Tales from the History of Science: http://bit.ly/18rbhRF


    Meg and I were in the same program at Caltech. She and the rest of the PhDetours group have been doing some incredibly cool pieces. And to add one more to Graslie’s list, Alex Lockwood (another Techer and member of PhDetours): https://twitter.com/AskAstroAlex .

    @amstrad @1: Emily is great. If you haven’t seen it yet, she’s got a new piece studying comet ISON at perihelion in stereo: http://www.planetary.org/blogs/emily-lakdawalla/2013/12021624-multiple-views-of-comet-ison.html

  8. 8

    Just fyi, Lindsay Doe is non-trivially into woo, so she’s not the strongest candidate for this list [see this vid" and the comments (which are, in a break from pretty much every other instance on youtube, pretty decent in their critique of her position)]. Lots of her stuff is fine, and she’s probably a net benefit given the pathetic state of US sex education, but anyone who suggests homeopathy as anything other than completely fucking useless [in her case, specifically in treating herpes] gets a giant asterisk next to any claim of “scientist”.

  9. 9

    Careful with that sarcasm

    , Eugene.

    ok: belated [/sarcasm]

  10. 10
    David Gerard


    I do this and I’m fine.

    I have three videos up, all of which are my 6yo daughter doing video game run-throughs. They are her favourite genre of video, so she insisted on doing one.


    They’re pretty darned dull for adults. But she is EXCEEDINGLY proud of them. And she showed them to one of her friends, who then got into the game in question. So I think they work for their audience.

    But there’s no fucking way in hell I’m opening them up for the yahoos of YouTube to do their work.

  11. 11
    PZ Myers

    Correct. I never turn on youtube comments, because it just creates a toxic shithole.

    But still, I get harrassed by indignant freezepeachers who are offended by my refusal to give them a forum in which they get to shriek at me. Even otherwise responsible youtubers, like c0nc0rdance, are completely oblivious to the worthlessness of their comments. Only creationists shut off comments, they say.

    If I post a video and disable comments, it’s guaranteed: a bunch of assholes will write to my email address with a nice little profane string of insults. There is absolutely nothing I can do to make those twits happy…nor do I want to. They deserve to be miserable.

  12. 12
    David Gerard

    PZ @11 – if you’re making those twits miserable, it sounds like you’re making the world just that bit better a place ;-)

  13. 13

    I totally agree with disabling YT comments. I rarely look at the comments because they are so often ghastly. Why bother?

  14. 14

    “But some women have persevered! Graslie lists a number of good science youtubers”

    Well, guess I’m a pessimist. First thought reading that sentence was “Shit, now the assholes have a hit list for the ones who’ve stuck it out.” Hopefully not, but I’m not a very hopeful person.

  15. 15

    It makes me rather sad that the only name I recognized on that list is because of something to do with an elevator. I shall have to try to change that. In my defense, I’ll say that if Astronomy had been an included field I might have had one or two more, and for better reasons.

  16. 16

    Watching these young women (I’ve looked at 5 or 6 of the above channels) is very inspiring. I do notice that they are often very carefully groomed, much more so than the random man making Youtubes and especially science ones. As Emily Graslie says, all of the comments women get about their bodies must be a deterrent to making videos. I imagine it also leads to endless thought on how to present oneself, hence the careful grooming.

  17. 17
    Usernames are smart

    I do notice that they are often very carefully groomed, much more so than the random man making Youtubes and especially science ones. — Bicarbonate (#16)

    Anyone making a video will look better with a foundation on, man or woman. It is because the oils in the skin cause a sheen (combined with the splotches of naturally different colors + moles and imperfections), which we’ve become conditioned to see as undesirable.

    Your favorite and random talking news-heads wear so much makeup that you could scrape a visible furrow in their face with your fingernail. Which is why they ain’t shiny.

  18. 18

    Usernames @17

    I wasn’t comparing them to talking news-heads, I was comparing them to your random person posting a video on Youtube, people like Coughlan616 (atheism) who is really scruffy. The scruffiness is part of his charm.

  19. 19

    They should disable the comments.

    People might just send the usual angry e-mail rants (or stalking and death threats apparently), instead of simply sending questions or constructive feedback about a video.

    I appreciate all of your continued efforts to promote science to the general public.

  20. 20

    Nice to see Vi Hart on the list, her videos are absolutely awesome.

  21. 21

    Well, I think I had my securlarist “coming out” yesterday because I responded to one of the youtube comments on PZ’s Skepticon talk, revealing myself (and my wife) to be of atheistic persuasion, not realizing this would show up in my google+ feed. Happily, I’ve never worked to foster any kind of presence for myself on google+, but it still links with some people that are client associates somehow, perhaps because we’ve used gmail to send messages to each other? So, I’ve lost the implied “P” of my assumed generic WASP identity, along with whatever pieces of privilege that earned me in the eyes of some of my corporate clients, probably. They probably picture me with a pitchfork and horns now. Oh, well.

    Anyway, thanks for the youtube links. I plan to mine them extensively.

  22. 22

    *raises hand

    I just want to note for the record, that (despite the recent mess-up of the commenting system) there are plenty of YouTube channels with comments enabled where the discussions are mostly benign and haters are few and far between. I’d correct the moral of the story to:

    >> Don’t open YouTube comments if there is a large subscriber base of some other channel which has a significant portion of people who hate you. Humans, like other groups of hominids seem to enjoy following people around and flinging shit.

  23. 23

    I would like to note for the record that Annie Gaus has an impressively evil sense of humor.

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