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Jun 23 2014

No, not evolutionary biology, too!

We’ve heard so much about bad behavior at conferences, and how sexist attitudes can suppress the contributions of women. And it doesn’t seem to matter what the conference is about: tech, gaming, atheism, skepticism, philosophy, you name it. Now Prof-Like Substance describes the scene at evolutionary biology conferences, explaining how many women are hesitant to participate in important events because of the predatory behavior of some men. And she gives a little advice.

So dudes, pull this apart a little bit. First off, the frequency with which inappropriate advances occur is causing some women to avoid after hours social events. Not only does that have consequences, but that very fact in itself should bother you. Also consider that even consensual sexyfuntimes have very different career implications for men versus women. These communities are small and things get around. Finally, are you going to be That Guy who women are warned against being around alone? Do you want the dumb things you say when you’re out late to be the reason a woman leaves the field or is uncomfortable attending social events? Consider that maybe your work colleagues are not the best target audience for your affections.

Interesting. She isn’t appealing to the altruistic best side of men, who ought to care about what’s best for their colleagues, but their self-interest. Sounds like an evolutionary biologist.

14 comments

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  1. 1
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Imagine the temerity of her, saying “Guys, don’t do that.”

    #NotAllEvoBiologists

  2. 2
    David Marjanović

    No, not evolutionary biology, too!

    That’s exactly my reaction. :-(

  3. 3
    Andy Groves

    One of the commenters in that thread posted a nice policy by the Entomological Society of America which seems an excellent template for any other scientific organization to adopt.

    http://www.entsoc.org/entomology2014/code-conduct

    The Gordon Research Conferences have a no harassment policy, but I can’t see it not their website. It is discussed in person at the start of each conference, but usually as part of an administrative introduction about everything.

  4. 4
    Steve LaBonne

    A useful reminder that just because the life sciences may not be not quite as permeated by misogyny as the physical sciences, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great deal of room for improvement.

  5. 5
    ironchew

    Also consider that even consensual sexyfuntimes have very different career implications for men versus women. These communities are small and things get around.

    It would be interesting to see data about how much of that is men shaming women or women shaming each other. My guess is that most of it is the latter.

  6. 6
    Jacob Schmidt

    It would be interesting to see data about how much of that is men shaming women or women shaming each other. My guess is that most of it is the latter.

    If I remember correctly, slut shaming by women occurs for various reasons tied heavily to class; slut shaming is only a proxy for shaming other traits.

  7. 7
    Amphiox

    A useful reminder that just because the life sciences may not be not quite as permeated by misogyny as the physical sciences…

    Are we really so sure of that?

    It would be interesting to see data about how much of that is men shaming women or women shaming each other. My guess is that most of it is the latter.

    Why should it matter who does it? The root cause is still the same misogyny.

  8. 8
    Rich Woods

    It would be interesting to see data about how much of that is men shaming women or women shaming each other. My guess is that most of it is the latter.

    Oh my not-god. Here we go. Pass the sick bucket.

  9. 9
    Golgafrinchan Captain

    Re Self-Interest vs. Altruism: That’s usually my approach when I’m trying to convince people to do something. Give all the selfish reasons first and then add the altruistic ones as a bonus. E.g. universal education because social problems tend plummet with a more educated populace + scientific, technical, and medical advances made by having more educated people improve the entire society + the next generation will be taking care of you when you retire. Bonus: helping others means you’re a good person.

    @5 Seriously? What was the point of that comment? Even if your guess is true, it is irrelevant to the fact that the gender norms we have are ridiculous, regardless of who is doing the punishing for non-conformance. And yes, there are many ways that men suffer with this system but it is insignificant compared to the crap women deal with. I say this as a male. The solution is to fix our defective cultural norms and everyone benefits. (Selfish benefit for men: women who want to have sex with coworkers will be more free to do so.)

    **Anecdote alert.**
    [I understand that the plural of anecdote is not data but the imbalance is so clear that it paints a pretty clear picture. I would obviously yield to data from a properly designed study on this issue but I have no hesitation in saying that, in my experience, most of the negative consequences do NOT come from other women. I also suspect that the dynamics would be different in a more gender-balanced workplace than where I worked.]

    I used to work in an highly male-dominated industry and I have seen multiple cases of the years when sexual activities had a significant negative impact on female coworkers (never significant problems for the men). Only once was there friction with other female colleagues (slut shaming). When the negative impacts came from the male side, it didn’t come in the form of slut shaming. The men involved would generally (instantly) go from being extremely supportive of the women they were pursuing to being noticeably cold and disinterested, sometimes to the extent of not even acknowledging the existence of the women if they could avoid it. Some of the men would become afraid of the women, as if they might get caught in some web of sexiness. Some of the men would become hyper-interested in the women, very much interested in the aforementioned sexy web. Some other people (men and women) just got awkward around the women (sometimes also around the men but far less often). Most people were professional and continued to do their jobs but the end result was often the women seeking alternate employment in a hurry. I have never seen a man have to find another job after one of these situations.

    N.B. I only addressed, above, the cases when there was fallout. Most of the time there wasn’t a problem, even if the relationship didn’t last. But when it did go wrong, the women took the brunt of it and mostly not from other women.

  10. 10
    Golgafrinchan Captain

    P.S. Holy crap, I swear I didn’t mean to type that much. Sorry all. I also couldn’t find a good place to split that big paragraph.

  11. 11
    Kamaka

    @ ironchew

    My guess is that most of it is the latter.

    Yup, that’s some good guessing you got there, no citation needed with good assertions like you be makin’.

  12. 12
    brett

    It’s natural to be attracted to other smart people who love the same stuff as you and love talking about it, but yeah, don’t be an asshole or a creep. First, because it’s wrong – it hurts people, and do you really want to be the guy that women fear at conferences, or make some new scientists insecure about whether you actually value their input or are just trying to manipulate them into sex?

    I guess you could probably re-post PZ Myers’ old, old post about the good way to go about hooking up at conferences again, if that’s what you’re interested in doing (and there are others interested in it as well). That was pretty good.

  13. 13
    Kamaka

    C’mon, Brett, your comment reads just like you did not check out the blog post PZ linked to.

  14. 14
    ironchew

    @ 9

    I understand that the plural of anecdote is not data but the imbalance is so clear that it paints a pretty clear picture.

    My guess was only as strong as that anecdote, so I will reconsider my assumptions on the matter. I appreciate that you took the time to make a detailed rebuttal of my statement.

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