Dear friend and ScienceBlogs colleague Sheril Kirshenbaum has–along with her co-blogger Chris Mooney–just moved their blog Intersection from ScienceBlogs to Discover Blogs network. One of her new colleagues at Discover–some astronomer dude–posted the traditional Welcome New Blogger post, including a picture of Sheril and Chris together. Let’s see what kind of welcome she received from astronomer dude’s commenters:
The first comment arrived fewer than 30 minutes after the welcome post was published:
I’ll be the first to say that Sheril is quite fetching.
A couple hours later this gem was published:
Having not read any of their material, I am supremely unqualified to comment on any of their writings.
But, as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.
Non-asshole non-misogynist non-scumbag David Kroll then pointed out the grotesqueness of this immediate focus on Sheril’s appearance:
Oooh, and Chris is so pretty that I’ll hang on every word that his hot little body pumps out.
Sounds kind of odd when directed toward a man, eh?
What the hell is wrong with you people? Is your life so pitiful that the first thing you choose to comment upon regarding an experienced scientist, author, and public policy expert?
For the record, Comrade PhysioProf also left a comment that made the same point as David Kroll, albeit a bit more colorfully. This comment was not published by the astronomer dude. I guess a few “fuck”s (ok, more than few) is beyond the pale, but gross objectification of women and creation of a hostile environment is totally coolio in astronomer dude’s opinion.
Not be left out, yet another of astronomer dude’s sleazebag commenters chimes in with his own hateful leering:
Okay, does anyone else think that Sheril resembles Danica McKellar (formerly of The Wonder Years, occasional correspondent on BRINK)?
Finally, in a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible, mister scuzbucket “Sheril is quite fetching” dude comes up with the following howler in response to David Kroll’s comment:
The problem is not that Electro and I compliment Sheril’s appearance. The problem is that people like you take issue with it, as if somehow that compliment is “lesser” than a compliment on someone’s intelligence. Remove stick from rear end, move on. Lather, rinse, repeat.
OK. Here’s the fucking dealio. Sheril is at Discover as a professional scientist, author, and public policy expert to blog, not to serve as the object of your leering male gaze. When you encounter someone for the first time in a public professional environment, immediately calling attention to how “fetching” she is, or exclaiming “mmmmmmmm……….. wo-man” is not cool.
It is not a “compliment”. It is a hamfisted exercise of male privilege, intended to send the message to Sheril that she has entered a male domain, and that her purpose there is to play an object role in the lurid fantasies of the men who occupy that male domain. The problem is not with decent people like David Kroll who are trying to wake your asses up; the problem is with misogynist pigs like you.
This fucking bullshit is not ok, and it is disgraceful that astronomer dude blogger is allowing it to occur without comment of his own. But yeah, there is no misogyny or discrimination in science, no sirree. The problem is those whiny women and those men who try to act like decent human beings instead of pigs.
UPDATE: Astronomer-dude, Phil Plait, has weighed in in his comments, and I am excerpting from his comment here:
When I first saw the comments about Sheril’s appearance, I was going to comment and smack them down. Then David Kroll did it so well I decided his comment was good enough.
Of course, what I wasn’t thinking about was that, as host of this blog, it’s my responsibility to say something, even if it’s just “What Kroll said”. I apologize if anyone took my silence for acquiescence. It wasn’t.
The comments about Sheril’s appearance are in fact out of place here. She is here on Discover as a journalist, a scientist, a writer, and someone whose intelligence and talents are what counts. In fact, women in science have been struggling mightily against sexism for, well, ever, and casual sexism not only doesn’t help but actually contributes to a difficult atmosphere.
* * *
Some people have taken me to task on other blogs for not deleting these comments, but I prefer they stay up. When people make mistakes, the best thing to do is air them out, not suppress them.
As is clear from what I wrote, I was not calling for censorship, only for comment.