The usual predictable BS about women in science

Katie Bouman was one of the primary team leaders on the project to image a black hole. She’s gotten a flurry of media attention lately, which she always seems to handle with grace and takes care to acknowledge all of her teammates, but you can imagine what’s going on in the cesspools of the internet, Twitter and Reddit and the chans. A woman is being respected for her contributions to science? We can’t have that. So the trolls went hunting for a different member of the team, one with a penis, so they could declare that he did all the work, and she stole all the credit.

Except they picked the wrong guy, one who wasn’t full of sexist BS and who understood the roles of the various people involved in the project. Actually, one could argue that it would be hard to find a productive, functional member of a scientific team who wouldn’t appreciate the cooperative work required. But they picked Andrew Chael.

You know, the trolls (and you can find a few in that thread) are not astrophysicists with solid knowledge of the inner workings of the project. Their only qualification is that they’re contemptible assholes who are irate that their stereotypes don’t hold up to the evidence.


  1. Saad says

    Dudebros continue to be the most fragile and easily “triggered” demographic. Video games, movie casting, and now something as wholesome and unoffensive as someone being recognized for doing great work towards advancing our understanding of the universe.

  2. killyosaur says

    3 things:
    1. @ Saad, agreed. Never understood how the so called “Emotionless, logical” set could get so butt hurt over these things. It makes no sense to me.
    2. Andrew made a point about number of commits. If Katie is anything like me as a developer, she may be really bad at committing work, which doesn’t mean her contributions were not great (just that they are not obvious by number of commits) I wonder if the people attacking her input looked into what parts of the software she wrote/changed or if they just looked at lines changed/commit numbers. Not that it matters (and I generally don’t expect that set to actually do their research)
    3. OMG the code is on Git! That may end up being something I spend a part of my day browsing :P

  3. Larry says

    A common trait you see in sociopaths like these is the belief that everyone thinks like them and holds the same beliefs. In the darkened basement that they inhabit, that’s probably true. Most cockroaches think and behave like all the others. When their views make it to the light such that their massive inferiority complexes are evident to all, the beliefs are suddenly and jarringly exposed as fraudulent. This, of courses, drives them back to the dark where the hatreds continue to fester and grow.

  4. killyosaur says

    Last comment (because I am still digging into this and I dunno, find this stuff interesting) If they did any paired programming, the commits/pushes would be whoever logged in, not necessarily whoever did the work. No one can make assumptions about how much of a contribution someone has to a project (especially one such as this) based solely on git commits…

  5. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I’d like to remind everyone of the dual picture of the woman standing next to the stack of paper of her code she wrote for the Apollo moon landing, alongside Bouman with the dozens of hard drives holding all the Terabytes data from radio telescopes around the world to produce this pseudoaperture image of the black hole, with the code she wrote. Overlaying was the statement, These two women show women CAN do science. take that.
    [ It’s been floating around social media, should be easy to find ]

  6. chrislawson says

    The idea that number of commits = value of work reminds me of a story from the old days of IBM teaming up with Microsoft to make OS/2. Apparently there is a memo from an IBM manager complaining to his Microsoft counterpart about how MS programmers are not doing their fair share of work because they write code that is a tenth the size of IBM’s for the same subroutines. (I read this in John Carroll’s Big Blue — a very entertaining read but I can’t tell how historically accurate it was.)

  7. says

    I did see a bunch of stories in my FB feed giving Katie Bouman a lot of credit saying she was “behind” the black hole image. That angle does annoy me knowing that the EHT collaboration has over 200 scientists, which certainly includes more than one woman in a leadership position. But this is very typical in science reporting, because journalists only have time/opportunity to talk with a few scientists, and they need to turn it into a coherent narrative. And I can believe that Dr. Bouman did in fact play a key role in a vital component of EHT software.

    But I don’t believe for a second that Dr. Bouman herself is trying to hoard all credit. Nor would I expect anyone in the EHT collaboration to cooperate with her harassers.

  8. drst says

    Most of the asshats doing this are hiding behind the “it’s just about ethics in who gets credit for what” dodge. Like nobody will notice what they’re doing. Idjits.

  9. davidrichardson says

    #7 There’s a joke about that. A bloke gets a job on a building site and he’s put on a team carrying sacks of cement across the site. The foreman comes up to him at the end of the first day and says, “You’re sacked”.

    “Why?” says the bloke. ”

    “I’ve watched you all day and when everyone else carries two sacks across the site, you only carry one.”

    “Ah,” says the bloke. “That’s ‘cos I’m not as lazy as them – I don’t mind walking backwards and forwards twice as often as they do.”

  10. Bruce says

    For years, the FFRF has noted that most sexism has its cultural roots in our patriarchal religions. So, one way that religion poisons what it influences is through its sexism.

  11. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    I’ve been doing science or reporting on science in small to medium sized collaborations for almost 40 years now, and in that time, I’ve only come across one situation where scientists actually argued for how credit was apportioned for a big (or even medium-sized ) discovery. In that case, there was a Nobel prize involved (no, I wasn’t part of that effort), and since a Nobel prize can only be split 3 ways, that made sense.

    All these dude bros who have never created or discovered a damn thing and never will arguing about who gets credit for a discovery they don’t understand–that’s just fucking adorable.

  12. unclefrogy says

    I wonder if the people attacking her input looked into what parts of the software she wrote/changed or if they just looked at lines changed/commit numbers

    hahahah! I doubt very seriously that they looked very close to anything after fist seeing “SHE’S A GIRL!”
    it does sure look like these conservative types are very sensitive and easily offended and hurt despite being all macho and manly and stuff. I would have thought they believed in the cowboy way?
    uncle frogy

  13. laugengebaeck says

    For all I know about software development, Katie Boumann could have made exactly zero commits and still be the mastermind and driving force behind this project. After all, metrics like “number of commits” say only something about quantity but not quality. Plus, from my own professional experience I know that you can have a major technological impact on a software project without writing a single line of code by just being the senior guy around who consults colleagues, devises the overall architecture, comes up with a crucial algorithm and so on and so on.

  14. killyosaur says

    @laugengebaeck I was also thinking that as well. After a re-read of the thread (and a few other articles on Katie) she’s often described as a lead or leader on the project, and every lead or senior developer I know on major projects make the same statement about not coding. Most spend more time dealing with higher level design

  15. magistramarla says

    My granddaughter is named Cecilia Star because her parents saw the Cosmos episode that highlighted the scientist named Cecilia who did most of the work of mapping the stars that were visible at the time, even though the man that she worked for was given credit for it. Her parents will tell her the origin of her name when she’s old enough to understand. We hope that she will grow up learning to lead and to be able to take credit for the work that she does!

  16. says

    Are thinking Cecilia Payne-Gaposhkin?

    Because IIRC the work with which she most advanced astronomical science was determining the makeup of stars (primarily hydrogen with some helium other elements being rare). If she also did mapping work, I don’t know of it, but her supervisor did take credit for her stellar-makeup discovery, so if she also did mapping, I wouldn’t be surprised that work was stolen as well.

    But I think the likeliest scenario is some slight mis-remembering of Cecilia’s discovery’s nature.

  17. blf says

    In today’s Grauniad, The misogynist trolls attacking Katie Bouman are the tip of the trashpile:

    Trolls latched on to Bouman’s achievement of the first black hole image with a vitriol that, in a saner world, would be shocking — but is par for the course for women


    Anti-feminist trolls latched on to the story and attacked Bouman with a vitriol that, in a saner world, would be shocking, but in this one looked a lot like the reaction to a Ghostbusters movie remake with a female cast — that is, sad, angry men yelling at women on the internet. Trolls created fake social media accounts impersonating Bouman. They quested her contribution to the project. When she said that she was part of a team who all worked hard to make the photo happen, they dug in deeper, suggesting she was only getting public attention because she was a woman, when men did all the real work.

    Unfortunately, this is par for the course for women on the internet. Or women in politics. Or women on television. Or women who become prominent in any way, even if they are, like Katie Bouman, private citizens who did something truly amazing.


    For each of the hundreds of whiners who proclaimed their childhoods ruined by female Ghostbusters, there are a hundred more men who may not care about the Ghostbusters saga, but would also have to be dragged to see a movie with an all-female cast and simply don’t consume many cultural products — books, movies, television shows, music — in which women dominate and men are either marginal or absent. For every guy still, in 2019, yelling expletives about Hillary Clinton, there are thousands and thousands more who would say they would love to support a woman for president … just not any of the actual women who are running or have ever run.


    Attacks from sexist trolls are overwhelming and destabilizing. But far worse is the slow drip of sexism that keeps women from achieving their full potential for power, success and achievement every single day.