A chance to discuss sexism & misogyny in science communication: DNLee, Bora, & the SciAm fiasco

If you’re reading this blog, chances are good that you already know the backstory for this: Last week, an editor at Biology Online asked Danielle N. Lee, a zoology postdoc and well-known blogger, to contribute posts to the site. She asked how much she would be paid — and when he responded that her payment would be in exposure (which, last I checked, doesn’t pay the rent or buy groceries), Lee politely declined. His response to that was to reference the title of her Scientific American blog, Urban Scientist by asking, “Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?”

On Friday, Lee wrote about the experience; within an hour, her post was removed from Scientific American without any explanation. A firestorm, fueled mostly by the patently false justification tweeted by Scientific American editor Mariette DiChristina.

Many people, including me, were outraged by this; I tweeted about it a handful of times during a chaotic and busy Saturday with my kids. By Sunday night, SciAm Blogs had republished Lee’s original post, DiChristina had publicly explained what had happened, and the offending Biology-Online editor, who still has not been identified publicly, was fired.

Then, at some point yesterday, writer and playwright Monica Byrne updated a post she had published a year ago detailing a encounter she had with a “prominent science editor and blogger.” You can read Monica’s detailed description of the encounter; the CliffsNotes version is: The editor friended Monica on Facebook; Monica sent him clips and asked him to coffee; in the course of discussing her clips, Monica mentioned visiting a strip club; using that as a jumping off point, the editor began talking about his marriage, his sexuality, and his sex life in ways that were clearly inappropriate. Monica later confronted the editor over email; several weeks later, he wrote her an apology and acknowledged he had behaved inappropriately.

Monica’s update contained one new piece of information: The editor and blogger was Bora Zivkovic, who runs SciAm’s blog network and is probably the best-known and most influential person in the science-blogging world. Today, Bora acknowledged that Monica’s description of the events was accurate and that his behavior was wrong – and also that his superiors at SciAm had gotten involved.

Monica writes very eloquently about the ways in which her encounter with Bora affected her. I’m grateful to her for sharing this: As a white man living in the United States in the twenty-first century, I have no idea what it’s like to be bombarded with loutish behavior and unwanted advances on an ongoing basis. Several years ago, a female friend told me about being groped on the subway. I was shocked, a fact which she found laughable: She couldn’t believe that I had no idea that every single woman living in New York had to navigate those waters every single day. By bringing light to one of the often-undiscussed realities of being a woman, Monica has made it that much harder for men to be clueless about what’s going on in the future. Speaking as the father of a daughter and as a teacher, I’m grateful she’s deepened my understanding about the insidious harassment women face.

That does not mean that Bora’s outing was not painful and confusing to me. Bora has been a friend to me and a supporter of mine. I’ve always seen him as someone who was a champion for increasing the diversity of voices in science and science communication. So I didn’t say anything about it — I didn’t tweet about it, didn’t bring attention to it on Facebook or Google+ or LinkedIn.

But my not joining in the discussion on social media obviously does not mean I haven’t been thinking about the situation. As I said above, on a global level, I’m glad Monica came forward. On an individual level, I’m struggling with the correct context through which to view his behavior. Viewed in the context of an increasingly visible attitude towards women on the part of some people whom I’d consider intellectual allies, and then in the immediate context of what happened to Lee, this is horrendous — another piece of evidence that women deal with outrageous types of discrimination and harassment that men can barely imagine.

But is that the right context? Bora has, as many have noted, done an enormous amount to increase the voices of women in science. So do I view his behavior of someone who has internalized the power imbalance and misogyny of much of the scientific and science communication worlds? Or do I view it as the fumbling, bumbling, and clearly inappropriate behavior of someone in the midst of what he has said was a difficult personal crisis?

Obviously, I don’t know all the facts here; obviously, we all may learn more in the next few days; obviously, my judgment may be affected by my personal feelings about Bora and his family. That said, to me, this certainly seems like the latter — and for that reason, it saddens me that Bora was outed at this particular moment. Based on what I know right now, I don’t think the implied rationale–that Bora is another example of the type of sexism that allowed a Biology-Online editor to casually call Lee an “urban whore” when she refused to write for him for free–is correct.

At the moment, that is all a bit beside the point. And hopefully, the events of the past four days will force a conversation about many of these issues into the open — and that is inarguably a good thing. Women are overrepresented among the ranks of those starting out in the field — here at MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing, it’s not unusual for between 75 and 85% of our applicants and admittees to be female — but men remain overrepresented in positions of authority. We, as a community, have had years to have this conversation. Let’s not let this opportunity fall by the wayside.

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172 Responses to A chance to discuss sexism & misogyny in science communication: DNLee, Bora, & the SciAm fiasco

  1. Likewise says:

    I’m the woman who posted anonymously as “Likewise” on Monica Byrne’s original post. See: http://monicacatherine.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/this-happened/#comment-1535, and the comments from other women below it. I am posting here to notify those following the discussion that the incident between Bora and Monica was not isolated, as Bora aserted in his apology. I think that’s a very important part of the story. Multiple similar accounts (three or four at this point) tend to tip the balance toward him abusing his position of authority, rather than acting impulsively and badly during a difficult time. But as I said in my other comment, I am still not entirely convinced he deserves to go down in flames. That’s why I’m staying anonymous for now.

  2. Anna Rascouët-Paz says:

    As a twice-attendee of Science Online, and someone who received one of Mr. Zivkovic’s famous hugs upon my arrival at the conference (without any creepiness), I think this deserves investigation. As his friend, please know you can support and help him without excusing his behaviour.

    I’ll say this: the tactics described by Ms. Byrne are unfortunately far too common. Describing an unhappy relationship is something I’ve seen done (to me and others) time and time again with the goal of obtaining mine and other women’s attention, always (yes, always) by repeat offenders.

    For your sake, the sake of the scientific community, and the online science communication community, I appreciate you taking the time to raise your voice about this. As you say, it cannot stop there, a conversation must be had. Social pressure (rather than the protection of silence), especially by other men, is what it takes for such behaviours to end. If Mr. Zivkovic needs help, then he should be counseled to seek it.

    But please, do not ignore other women describing similar encounters with him. Sadly, experience shows that if he got away with it once, either by taking advantage of his position of authority or with the tacit consent of his colleagues and, to use your expression, intellectual allies, he’ll be inclined to repeat the offense.

    This isn’t to diminish his efforts to raise the status of women amongst scientists. But as you know, what one does professionally and with the best intentions can (and will) sometimes appear in stark contrast with regrettable personal choices and compulsive attitudes.

  3. NewPerson says:

    I’d like to bring up a somewhat similar example which I find in my work has been helpful when discussing these arguments.

    If a person had a fight with a spouse then absentmindedly backed into a pedestrian, would their emotional state have any bearing on the damage they caused the pedestrian?

    In these examples I have never had anyone say “yes” by the way. I feel it is worse, yes, if there is a pattern of dangerous behavior but harm can be caused by only one incident. So to focus on explaining why somebody did something to lessen its impact (provide context) is really attempting to diminish the harm that was done to the wronged party and nine of us have enough information to speak to that.

  4. NewPerson says:

    Correction.
    “None of us”

  5. Stephanie Harper says:

    There is a darn good reason why “my wife doesn’t understand me” crops up so much in humor. The sob story about problems with the wife is a line that nearly every woman gets at least once, and some get many times. I have heard it from employers, a realtor showing me houses, professors, and any number of patients. Sympathetic listeners are targeted for this sort of come-on, and it is by manipulators who utilize discomfort with making a scene or being in a position of authority or threat to attempt to pressure women into a sexual encounter.
    The followup suggesting that this was inspired by some “signal” or simply your physical attractiveness combined with “troubles at home” is also as old as dirt.
    This is inappropriate in a social context, and outrageous in a professional one.
    Aside from the insult of having it made clear that you are simply a sex object to someone you think of as a colleague, there is the power imbalance that defines sexual harassment whether it is in the workplace or occurs in a networking environment.
    Honestly, working several decades ago in male-dominated jobs in Texas I saw less of this sort of crap than is going on right now in STEM, conventions, gaming, etc. And there needs to be zero tolerance for it – no bullshit excuses or rationalizations.

    • Alice Gorman says:

      Yes, you’re absolutely right – what appear to be distinctive elements of the story to those who’ve never been on the receiving end are in fact “lines” that form part of a larger pattern familiar to so many women.

  6. Shannon says:

    We have a myth that sexism is something committed by sexist people, who are somehow different from the people we know and are friends with. It’s entirely possible — probable even — that the Biology Online editor has people who would vouch for their good qualities, that they may walk around generally being a good person. Non sexist people, people who are really trying, can commit sexist acts. I don’t think that Bora’s incident was, necessarily, fundamentally different in from Ofek’s. We just have different background information. I think compassion, all around, is a good path. But a spade is still a spade. Bora’s actions were harassment. Full stop.

    • Nikita says:

      I completely disagree with this interpretation. Let’s consider an observer test. Say an independent observer observed Bora’s and Ofek’s actions. What would they say?

      Bora: at worst, he was unaware. There was no malicious intent of any sort.

      Ofek: posted a malicious sexist comment.

      There are no similarities between Bora and Ofek. Zero.

      • A Hermit says:

        Bora: at worst, he was unaware. There was no malicious intent of any sort.

        Intent isn’t magic. he did what he did (apparently more than once to more than one person), he sexualized what should have been a professional encounter.

        That’s exactly what Ofek did.

        • Nikita says:

          Even assuming, arguendo, that Bora did sexualize what should have been a professional encounter, although to me it seems like he went for a cup of coffee – I am not always assuming I am in a professional setting when I drink coffee.

          But assuming everything is as you suggest, he certainly did not call anybody a whore nor was he ever, in any way, disrespectful, offensive, or negative towards Ms. Byrne. Furthermore, once he was made aware of the misunderstanding, he apologized.

          Ofek called someone a whore. That is hardly sexualizing a conversation – it’s an offensive rude derogatory harassment.

          Do you not see the difference?

          • A Hermit says:

            I couldn’t disagree more; it’s clear that he was disrespectful, offensive and the experience was extremely negative for Ms Byrne. Assuming that someone you have just met in a professional capacity should be open to hearing about sexual desires and your marital problems seems to me to be extremely disrespectful. Injecting the suggestion that some kind of sexual favour might be sought in exchange for professional advancement is deeply offensive.

            Do you not see the similarities?

            If anything Bora’s behaviour is worse than Ofek’s. I understand that he’s done a lot of good stuff but that doesn’t absolve him of the bad stuff.

            Happily he’s done the right thing and resigned from the ScienceOnline Board of Directors. Let’s hope SciAM lets him go too.

          • Nikita says:

            I most certainly do not. Let me see if I can assist with an analogy.

            Ofek’s actions are like like you walking up to me and punching me in the face. Bora’s actions are like you walking up to me and then proceeding to take off all of your clothes because you think it comfortable and then my being offended.

            Do you understand my point?

          • A Hermit says:

            What I understand is that you are minimizing what the man did. Neither incident is analogous to a physical assault but both did harm, and from where I sit Bora’s did more harm because it was in person, it was prolonged, it was done to someone who was actually seeking his help, not from someone who’s offer of work had been rejected so there was more of a power imbalance.

            Are you suggesting that ms Byrne is just imagining the harm that was done to her? Are you suggesting that she’s over-reacting? Perhaps just being “hysterical?”

            Hell even Bora admits what he did was wrong, why are you making excuses for him?

          • Nikita says:

            If you read what I wrote carefully, you should notice that I never dismiss Ms. Byrne and I never attempt to belittle or minimize her being offended. Quite the contrary – being offended is her right, as it is of any individual. The question is what we do after we are offended.

            Bora acknowledged Ms. Byrne’s account. He acknowledged that what he did was not appropriate. Again, that is far cry from sexual harassment and is certainly not deserving of the bashing he is receiving.

            With respect to the rest of your comment, I believed I’ve already addressed it.

          • A Hermit says:

            With all due respect, when you tell me that nothing he did was “disrespectful, offensive, or negative” it sure looks like your are trying to minimize it.

          • Nikita says:

            With all due respect, if you read more carefully what I wrote, you should come to a different conclusion.

            In case it is not clear: I am not seeking to minimize either Bora’s or Ms. Byrne’s contribution to the present situation. I am calling a spade a spade to the best of my ability. To call what Bora did sexual harassment is false. To say that Ms. Byrne was not (or should not have been) offended is also false. The trouble is how the misunderstanding is being handled, not the misunderstanding itself.

            What’s worse is that, to me it seems that Bora was respectful towards Ms. Byrne in acknowledging that he, however unintentionally, made her feel uncomfortable and apologized for it.

            Ms. Byrne, for her part, did not seem to afford Bora the most basic respect in how she handled the aftermath and the community, instead of being reasonable about analysis and acknowledging that misunderstandings happen, that perhaps men should be more mindful of how they are perceived, that perhaps women should be more aggressive in conveying their discomfort when encountering men who are dense — instead, what I see is shrill burning of Bora’s effigy to chants of sexual harassment.

            Is this fair?

          • A Hermit says:

            Not only did I read carefully read what you wrote I quoted your exact words. here they are again:

            nor was he ever, in any way, disrespectful, offensive, or negative towards Ms. Byrne.

            How is that not minimizing a clear case f sexual harassment?

            What was supposed to be a professional meeting was turned into an unsettling, creepy, intimidating sexually charged encounter. This is not a “misunderstanding” on Ms Byrne’s pat (that’s you minimizing it again) it’s pretty clear what his intentions were and even more clear what the effect of his unprofessional, disrespectful behaviour was.

            Women are not “more aggressive” in such situations because there is a power imbalance; he is well known, widely respected and has some degree of power over her career. Once more you minimize what Bora did by putting the blame for the situation on her.

            And then when she does “act aggressively” and calls attention to this breach of professionalism you call her “disrespectful.” Sorry, you can’t have it both ways…

            Bora crossed a line, he needs to be held responsible, not treated as if he’s somehow the victim here. We’re never going to change this sexist culture if we give a pass to harassers of women just because they are some kind of VIP.

          • Nikita says:

            First off, sexual harassment is unwelcome attention. There would be no claims of sexual harassment if Ms. Byrne found the attention welcome, correct? And Ms. Byrne did not speak up until after the encounter. That said, even if she wasn’t offended, I agree that it would still be unprofessional and the power imbalance and the idea of professionalism may all be good subjects for discussion. But again, that is a far cry from sexual harassment. It was, at worst, unprofessional behavior and a misunderstanding, for which Bora has apologized.

            This public lynching of Bora is absolutely twisting of values. And what Ms. Byrne did following the encounter is, frankly, disgusting. She has, effectively, gone on a slander campaign against Bora “outing” him for something he didn’t actually engage in and censoring any comments on her blog that were not supportive of her interpretation of events.

            I care immensely about the issues of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment, and so on. And from what little I know of Bora, so does he. But the level of vitriol in the attack that is happening on Bora that is absolutely ridiculous. It is doubly ironic that this is happening in the scientific community, which is supposed to be analytical and level-headed.

          • A Hermit says:

            First off, sexual harassment is unwelcome attention. There would be no claims of sexual harassment if Ms. Byrne found the attention welcome, correct?

            Have you read Ms Byrne account? I think it’s pretty clear the attention was unwelcome: “None of these topics were invited by me. I tried to listen politely and nod when he paused, but otherwise not engage or encourage him. He seemed not to notice how uncomfortable I was. I was trying to mitigate the situation as it was unfolding—which I later read is a common immediate response to trauma, trying to minimize it or pretend it didn’t happen. “

            And Ms. Byrne did not speak up until after the encounter.

            SO what? She explains why in her post, and if do even a little cursory reading on the subject you;ll find that people in her position are often paralyzed in the moment, so shocked by what’s happening that they just shut down…again I’ll quote Ms Byrne:

            “I was trying to mitigate the situation as it was unfolding—which I later read is a common immediate response to trauma, trying to minimize it or pretend it didn’t happen. In my head, I told myself that I could still write for him, as long as I didn’t meet with him in person ever again.”

            That said, even if she wasn’t offended, I agree that it would still be unprofessional and the power imbalance and the idea of professionalism may all be good subjects for discussion. But again, that is a far cry from sexual harassment. It was, at worst, unprofessional behavior and a misunderstanding, for which Bora has apologized.

            If the power balance and unproffessionalism takes the form of unwanted sexual advances that IS sexual harassment. I respect Mr.Zivkovic for having the courage to admit that what he did was wrong and take responsibility by resiging from at least one of his board memberships. I hope he’ll get some help. I don’t think anyone’s out to lynch him, but we shouldn’t be ignoring the harm he did (especially since it now appears he’s done it more than once to more than one person).

            And what Ms. Byrne did following the encounter is, frankly, disgusting. She has, effectively, gone on a slander campaign against Bora “outing” him for something he didn’t actually engage in and censoring any comments on her blog that were not supportive of her interpretation of events.

            Bullshit. She told the truth, even Zivkovic says so. https://twitter.com/BoraZ/status/390614469933813760
            How is her describing what he did worse than what he did?

            And she’s not obligated to post your dismissive comments on her personal blog, get over yourself.

            I care immensely about the issues of racism, discrimination, sexual harassment, and so on.

            I’d be more inclined to believe that if you weren’t trying so desperately to minimize and dismiss this incident and turn the victim into the bad guy…

            It is doubly ironic that this is happening in the scientific community, which is supposed to be analytical and level-headed.

            Yes, because we should all be little Mr. Spocks and never experience emotion… o.O
            Although I have to say It seems to me that you are the one who has abandoned reason here. Mr. Zivkovic admits he did wrong and appears to be trying to take some responsibility for it. Why are you ignoring that fact and trying to dismiss what he admits he did?

          • Nikita says:

            Re: Ms. Byrne’s censorship on her blog – my comment was not dismissive. It was respectful and it asked a reasonable question. Ms. Byrne certainly has the right to not allow discussion on her blog. I also have the right to call her out on precluding a reasonable discussion.

            Hermit, you keep putting words into my mouth of what I do and do not acknowledge. Here is my position:

            1. I acknowledge that Bora engaged in unprofessional conduct and did not accurately read Ms. Byrne’s signals. Bora acknowledges as much.

            2. I acknowledge that Ms. Byrne was offended and had every right to raise the issue. I acknowledge and respect this.

            3. Ms. Byrne then ignored Bora’s apology and engaged in slander claiming sexual harassment where there was none – a very serious charge. I do not see Bora acknowledging sexual harassment at any point. I condemn her action.

            4. People such as you, Seth, and several others picked up the battle-cry and turned what should have ended in an apology and a discussion on how to be respectful of each other into public lynching. Bora does not deserve this. I condemn your actions to this end.

            5. As a result, Bora, who contributes tremendously to the community, has suffered significantly more than Ms. Byrne.

            Again, disregarding how Ms. Byrne handled the situation after the encounter, I fully acknowledge that she felt uncomfortable. I do not seek to minimize this at all – we all have a right to our interpretations.

            However, we also all have a right to treat each other like human beings affording each other basic respect. At no point did Bora not afforded Ms. Byrne that respect. Ms. Byrne does not afford Bora that respect. The community is ignoring this demanding that there should be consequences for Bora. Do you really not see a problem with this?

            Again, an apology for a mistake should be the end. The community should then support Ms. Byrne in healing if she was hurt and buffer to prevent damage to Bora from turning a misunderstanding into grave charges of sexual harassment.

          • A Hermit says:

            I have not put words in your mouth, I have qouted you verbatim:

            nor was he ever, in any way, disrespectful, offensive, or negative towards Ms. Byrne.

            You are still denying that a clear incident of unwanted sexual attention qualifies as harassment, everything you are saying is directed at minimizing the harm that was done and putting the blame back on the person who was subjected to this harassment by making her into a villain simply because she has had the courage to speak up about it.

            Mr. Zivkovic has acknowledged that he was in the wrong, and has apologized and has resigned, as he should. You should respect his decision and not make empty excuses for him.

            That he has contributed greatly to this community is not in question, but it does not absolve him from bad behaviour, or give him a free pass for that behaviour. If he has suffered it is as a consequence of his own bad behaviour; unlike the suffering of the women (and it’s clearly more than one now) at whom he directed his unwelcome and unwanted and inappropriate sexual attentions.

          • Nikita says:

            Hermit, since you engaged in a personal attack against me in a separate thread, I will not continue to engage you until you offer an apology. See #offensive_behavior

          • a hermit says:

            Hermit, since you engaged in a personal attack against me in a separate thread, I will not continue to engage you until you offer an apology.

            Imagine my disappointment.

            Hope you don’t mind if I continue to poke holes in your whiny self serving ignorant comments; I don’t really care if you reply or not.

  7. Ren says:

    On the one hand, we’re all human and capable of some pretty messed-up stuff. Even those we hold in high esteem and those who hold themselves to a higher standard are capable of falling from the pedestal. Some of the people who have hurt me the most have been people who I trusted the most… Hence the hurt, I guess.

    On the other hand, there shouldn’t be a reason why a well-educated man would behave that way. Certainly, to be an editor of those two blog platforms requires a level of education above the average.

    But, then again, we are dealing with a very primal part of the human psyche. Even the most trustworthy, righteous man will have a “reptilian” brain to contend with. Whether that prefrontal cortex controls it or not is very much up to circumstance. Men are pigs when they animal inside overrules the man. It’s a big, huge mishmash of biology, society, education, family dynamics, etc. It’s a mess. It’s filthy.

    I’m glad this discussion is now being had, and it needs to be in light of all the “whore shaming” in popular culture where a woman who doesn’t behave ladylike is to be shamed (e.g. Miley Cyrus) and a man who behaves in a chauvinistic way is just having a “lapse” in their judgment and is “really a good guy underneath it all” (e.g. A list too long to mention).

    I wonder if the “urban whore” comment had been made by a female to a female, or by a man to a person who wrote pseudonymously and gender-neutral?

    Thanks for this write-up, Seth.

    • jipkin says:

      There is no “reptilian brain”. There is no “animal inside”.

      I understand the instinct that says that you can somehow separate yourself from something “within” them. That’s just not honest. You are your whole brain, not just the part that you think you’re aware of, or the part that you think you have control over. You own your impulses, even if they’re wrong. You own your lack of inhibition, even if you wish you could have more. There’s no biological justification to saying “oh that wasn’t me, that was just my primal urges that I was unable to inhibit because my prefrontal cortex yadda yadda”. Maybe that explains your behavior, but it doesn’t excuse it.

      • Ren says:

        Whoa! Whoa! Easy. I never wrote that the “reptilian” brain justified anything. If that’s what you take from what I wrote, I apologize.

        However, there is plenty of evidence that people with impaired or injured higher brain function will act in ways unacceptable to the rest of us. Think of the man high on bath salts who ate another man’s face. Think of a person who is hungry and steals food. Think of a person who decides to go nude in public because of senility.

        My behavior, as you write, is explained by a complex set of functions in my brain, any of which can go wrong at any moment for any reason. To deny that is to deny the problems we have with mental health care. Otherwise, we should just tell a schizophrenic that “You are your whole brain, not just the part that you think you’re aware of, or the part that you think you have control over. You own your impulses, even if they’re wrong. You own your lack of inhibition, even if you wish you could have more.”

        • jipkin says:

          I replied strongly because I think it’s important to nip in the bud any line of thinking that might lead to someone thinking it’s possible to excuse a person’s behavior just because it has a biological explanation. (because ALL behaviors have biological explanations – if we want to blame a part of our brain for when we do something wrong, we can’t take credit away from whatever other part of the brain is involved when we do something right).

          And for what it’s worth, I WOULD tell someone suffering from schizophrenia exactly that. They have a mental illness – yet the illness (while afflicted) is part of who they are. There was a man with a brain tumor that began acting like a pedophile. In my view, while he had that tumor, he essentially became a pedophile. He had a biological explanation, but not an excuse. (Though legally I would expect some lenience in his case since with the tumor removed, he was no longer a pedophile).

          [I also replied strongly because the idea of a "reptilian" brain lurking within each of us relies on a twisted interpretation of the scientific literature, and it's a mini-crusade of mine to push back on that line of thinking. For more, read my post on the subject: http://empiricalplanet.blogspot.com/2013/07/there-is-no-primitive-part-of-brain.html ]

          • Ren says:

            Oh, Jesus… Another post about semantics. Whatever, dude. You’re the neurobiologist. I’m just the epidemiologist. What do I know?

            I’ll go back to trying to suppress my urge to drink water and see how well that works for me. After all, there’s no underlying, deep, innate, first-line part of my brain that will drive me drink it, right?

  8. Orac says:

    Ugh. I’ve known Bora since 2006 when I joined ScienceBlogs. I’ve met him several times at Sb meetups and other times and consulted him for advice during the whole NatGeo takeover of Sb. I never would have guessed he would behave that way.

  9. Pingback: On Racism and the Benefit of the Doubt | Neuroanthropology

  10. Nikita says:

    I posted the following response on Ms. Byrne’s blog.

    Let me see if I understand this correctly:

    ASSUMPTIONS

    1) A man opens himself up to a woman in a private conversation.

    2) The woman feels uncomfortable, but doesn’t say anything. She sends non-verbal signals to the man indicating as much. The man is oblivious to said signals.

    3) After the conversation, the man thinks everything is ok. The woman feels uncomfortable.

    4) She tells him over email.

    5) He responds with an apology.

    6) She blogs about it without mentioning his name discussing the issue of sexual harassment.

    7) Then prompted by an event that is unrelated to said individual, mentions this individual’s name.

    8) In doing so, the woman reveals private details about the man.

    OBSERVATIONS

    First off, I’ve met Bora. I do not know him well, but nothing I’ve seen would indicate that he would be purposefully disrespectful to women. I also see absolutely no evidence of any purposeful disrespect in this instance.

    What I do see is that he, for whatever reason, felt there was rapport and chose to confide in a woman. His intentions were misunderstood and interpreted for sexual harassment. After addressing the misunderstanding privately and receiving an apology, the woman “outs” him for sexual harassment and betrays confidence in sharing private information. The internet “takes up the cause”, there are words like “disturbing”, “predator”, and other nastiness generally reserved for the dumber YouTube channels.

    All this, mind you, with at best a misunderstanding or miscommunication and NO actual intentional sexual harassment to speak of.

    While a discussion on how to deal with misunderstandings (especially of a similar nature) is important, the way Bora has been treated is completely wrong.

    CONCLUSION

    Ms. Byrne, sexism and sexual harassment are important issues, but the present situation seems to be a case of misunderstanding. Bora confided in you private information. I suspect that opening up to you and then abruptly realizing that his assumption of rapport was wrong felt as bad for him as it your interpretation of harassment felt for you. Now you’ve set off a storm that not only affects his reputation, but you unjustly dragged his name through the mud. I think you owe Bora an apology.

    As for the rest of the people commenting – do get off the bandwagon and exercise at least some modicum of critical thought. This is supposed to be the scientific community, not the Salem witch trials.

    • throwaway says:

      i wrote a similar message and this is what happened to me:
      1) She didn’t publish the message (which is fine, it’s her blog);
      2) I very politely asked her to email it to me so I could post it elsewhere (that was denied);
      3) she did an IP trace on me and posted my personal details to her 1200+ twitter followers. The post I made was similar to your and hardly a ‘victim blamming’ post.

      I find it ironic that she complains how someone abuses their power and she just does the exact same thing. Apparently power corrupts. point taken.

    • Tsu Dho Nimh says:

      1) A man opens himself up to a woman in a private conversation.

      No … a woman went to a coffeshop meeting with an editor, hands him some clips of her professional work … and he steers the conversation into a monologue about sex. He hijacked a casual business meeting to talk about his sex life or lack thereof.

      That’s taking advantage of the power mismatch to talk about sex.

      I’m assertive enough – I’ve been told I’m unusually (or unnaturally) assertive for a woman – to tell him that if he wants to talk about his sex problems he should hire a sex worker or a therapist and pay the fees, because it’s not in my job description.

      A less assertive person, especially a writer who would like to poublish under the SciAM banner would probably not.

    • Bill Darjeeling says:

      The interesting thing in all this brouhahua is that from the account of the lady, in no point it looks like – at least to me – that Mr. Bora proposed to her to have a sexual encounter of any kind (and only THAT would be something that could qualify for sexual harassment). More than sexual harassment, all this affair just looks like an over-proportioned act of revenge for not having possibly been considered so much interesting to be hired to write. And it’s quite funny that the “victim” takes as an offense that the cafeteria speech went not in the direction that she wanted ( = her works).
      It’s quite surprising that someone can get so angry and so offended when a casual conversation (read my lips: cafeteria = casual conversation. Office = work conversation) doesn’t go exactly in the way that he or she was planning.
      Casual conversations are just like that, you know? One speaks about what he likes best, and the other speaks about what he/she likes best. That’s freedom.

  11. Sky masterson says:

    And yet, most readers here will blithely toss around “teabagger” or “denier” with wild abandon. I gather it is simply who’s ox is being gored we are supposed to feign outrage over.

    As opposed to simple civility, and that oh so rare, open mind.

  12. Pingback: On #standingwithdnlee and #standingwithmonicabyrne | Matters of Varying InsignificanceMatters of Varying Insignificance

  13. catharine says:

    I haven’t spoken publically on this issue very often and I don’t intend to start now but I want it to be understood that BZ spoke to the wrong person, under the wrong circumstances, about the wrong (personal) problem. He never intended to touch, date, overpower, manipulate or coerce, sexually or otherwise. Nor was he attempting to make her jump through hoops to have her work posted. He was having problems and he needed to talk. He chose his conversant poorly. EVERYBODY who has more than a passing famialiarity with BZ knows this. Few are the number of friends, of the HUNDREDS of women he has helped – without asking for as much as a cup of coiffee in return, but where are they now? If you know BZ, as most of you do, you KNOW that this accusation of sexual harassment s suspect at best. If I, his wife and the one most hurt by this story, can see this, then WHY CAN’T YOU?

    • throwaway says:

      Many people see this.

      Ironically, by speaking up at all we are then judge in the grossly unfair forum of public opinion and are labelled misogynists and called ‘victim blammers’. WE need to stay quiet lest we face career sanctions. The irony is thick.

      I’m sorry you are going through this horribly public scandal. I agree that two awkward people had an extremely awkward conversation that was misinterpreted by both sides.

      • A Hermit says:

        I agree that two awkward people had an extremely awkward conversation that was misinterpreted by both sides.

        Are you really that naive? At the very least he was trying to get some kind of sexual validation form what should have been a professional conversation about publishing. The misinterpretation, if that’s all it was, is entirely his here.

        • Nikita says:

          I wasn’t there, so can’t disagree with the possibility that you are right and the misinterpretation may have been entirely his. Again, this means there was a misunderstanding and, at worst, unprofessional behavior. This does not mean that he should be lynched, nor does it mean that Ms. Byrne should get a free pass for engaging in what I see as slander.

          • A Hermit says:

            Slander? How is this slander?

            Unprofessional behaviour of a sexual nature is not nothing. H eshouldn’t be lynched but he can;t be excused and the harm he has done should not be ignored.

            https://medium.com/ladybits-on-medium/857e2f71059a

          • Nikita says:

            You pose a very reasonable question: “how is this slander?”

            slander: the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.

            I believe this to be slander because Ms. Byrne claimed that Bora sexually harassed her and then precluded reasonable discussion from happening on her blog. As a result, she effectively manufactured a page that, if someone should search for Bora, adversely affects Bora’s reputation.

            So leveling a false accusation and then censoring discussion resulting in damaging Bora’s reputation is slander.

            Now if she leveled the accusation and engaged thoughtfully with people who raised reasonable issues with respect to her interpretation allowing for a possibility of correcting the misunderstanding, that would have been fine. But that is not what she did.

            That said, IMHO, the decent action for her to take would be to a) engage Bora privately to seek to resolve the misunderstanding and give Bora to give a satisfactory apology, which I am sure he would do and b) discuss the issue as she originally did without dragging Bora’s name through the mud.

          • Nikita says:

            *give Bora a chance to give a satisfactory apology

          • A Hermit says:

            It’s not slander if it’s true…and just because you can’t wrap your head around the fact that harassment is not as narrowly defined as you seem to think it should be doesn’t change the fact that this is what happened.

            The fact that she doesn’t feel obligated to post your opinions on her blog has nothing to do with whether or not it’s slander. It does make you sound like an egotistical ass with a bloated sense of entitlement.

            Your idea of a “decent action” is effectively to tell her to shut up and not talk about this in public; that her first concern should be for the man who harassed her rather than for herself or for the other women in the community who may be subjected to the same bad behaviour.

          • Lincoln says:

            Umm…not to be pedantic but it’s “libel” (written) not “slander” (spoken).

          • A Hermit says:

            not to be pedantic but it’s “libel” (written) not “slander” (spoken).

            LOL, Yes, it’s not that either…

          • Nikita says:

            Lincoln: thanks, noted.

            Hermit: since you are now resorting to offensive personal attacks against me, I will not continue to engage you until you provide an apology. Have a good day. #offensive_behavior (ORIGIN)

          • a hermit says:

            Hermit: since you are now resorting to offensive personal attacks against me,

            Was I offensive? Are you sure it’s not just a “misunderstanding” on your part?

            For someone who thinks it’s no big deal for women to put up with the kind of crap Bora was subjecting them to you have an awfully thin skin don’t you?

    • bbkazier says:

      But how is THIS woman in THIS situation supposed to know his intentions? He could have been saving puppies in the street two minutes before hand, and that still would not excuse his actions.

      If I went in for an interview and the interviewer started speaking of sexual topics, that would be sexual harassment. No question, no wiggle room. A man, who has no prior relationship with a woman, who is in a position of power over her, speaking of his unhappy marriage and sex life…how in the world is that NOT harassment?

      You seem to imply that she should somehow have know that he meant no harm, and that he did not intend any implication of a power unbalance that would prevent her from being published. But in truth she had only his actions in that moment to judge him by, and those actions were suspect at best and outright offensive at worst.

      He put her into a situation where she had to consider how her reaction to talk of a sexual nature could affect her ability to publish. That should never happen. Yet he did the free choice to do so, and that means the consequences are entirely his to carry. That he apologized does not erase his actions, nor is forgiveness a mandate. If you don’t want to be exposed for sexual harassment, perhaps one should not sexually harass others. Especially not when you are in a position of power over the one you are harassing.

    • blah blah blah says:

      “If I, his wife and the one most hurt by this story…”

      No. You are not.

  14. GrannyWriter says:

    Having been a working women for a decade longer than Mr. Mnookin has been alive, I can reliably report hearing the “my wife doesn’t understand me” approach early in the Nixon era, and it was antique back then, as every woman knew and knows. In my opinion, the only relevant facts in this case are these: Mr. Mnookin indeed has no idea what it is like to be a woman. The use of professional power in an attempt attempt to extract sexual or other favors is simply that, an illegitimate abuse of power. Such corruption is always wrong and needs to be ended and punished. The fact that additional women have come forward attesting to treatment by Mr. Zivkovic similar to that reported by Ms. Byrne strongly suggests that the abuse of power was systematic, which, in such cases, it usually is. The fact that someone otherwise does good work does not and cannot justify the abuse of one’s position. I doubt that Mr. Mnookin would consider excusing such behavior in other contexts or by people not his friends.

  15. TC says:

    To reiterate what Shannon says above: The only difference (for you) between these two men is that you know and respect one of them. If you can argue for taking other factors into account for Bora, then you need to do so for Ofek as well, or the argument makes no sense.

    I know neither man personally. What Ofek did angered me. What Bora did disgusted me–and is more likely to stay with me, as a woman and a science writer. But, really, how I feel has nothing to do with it, either. What matters here is how the women they went after feel, and how the men’s behavior affected these women. This is about the women and making things right for the women. It isn’t about these men. It’s absolutely not about making things right for the men.

    • Nikita says:

      I responded to Shannon – please see above. To draw equivalence between Bora and Ofek is completely wrong.

      While I recognize that women have to put up with a lot of sexism and harassment, and neither is acceptable, to target Bora in all this is ridiculous.

      I would however point that it seems that Ms. Byrne has turned her blog into a slanderous hatefest allowing only comments that support her position. My comment (a copy of which I’ve posted above) was not allowed to be posted as of my writing this comment. Another user seems to have posted a similar experience. And while I do not intend to diminish someone feeling offended – there is room to discuss this, I think what Ms. Byrne is doing is starting to look rather ugly.

      • throwaway says:

        #DNLeecoattails

      • D. K. says:

        Your comment was not published on Ms. Byrne’s personal blog; whereas Mr. Zivkovic is blogs editor of Scientific American, has many powerful friends, and has seemingly so far been in the position to be able to silence his victims through his status and privilege.

        I can see why your comment was not posted: even as a man I am offended just reading it. It not only continues the harassment that caused Ms. Byrne’s writing of her post by downplaying without good reason nearly every claim she’s made, but it also contains numerous convenient omissions and factual inaccuracies, the worst being: “1) A man opens himself up to a woman in a private conversation.” This was clearly not a private context.

        You accuse her of libel? She merely listed the facts as she acknowledged she experienced them; Mr. Zivkovic has not disputed any of them. Have you thought to ask Mr. Zivkovic about his side of the story, ask him if any of this is incorrect, if he experienced the situation differently? Or did you find that unnecessary in this case? Why does the victim of sexual harassment deserve your scrutiny and disapproval more than the perpetrator?

        I do not know you, sir, and I do not claim to understand your motivations, but from your above comments it really seems to me like you need to strongly re-evaluate your priorities.

  16. Greg Laden says:

    In addition to the obvious issues of harassment and unequal treatment, we are also learning lessons here about how we react as a community. My contribution, such as it is, to that: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2013/10/16/bora-zivkovic-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

  17. Louise says:

    This is a thoughtful piece.

    But at the end of the day, it’s worth realizing that how a person acts in their professional life often differs dramatically from how they conduct their personal lives.

  18. Frank Duronio says:

    We must agonize over improper behavior. But when the vicissitudes of life run into fallibility of mankind “Thinking Fast” reactions to our being thwarted on what we think is a simple request, often get through the civilizing filters of “Thinking Slow”. Your friend ‘struck back’ in anger, even though there was no real ‘first strike’. And, for the record, I prefer Gazzaniga’s terminology of ‘interpreter’ to ‘Thinking Fast’.

    There’s more than one kind of ‘monkey’ that we have on our backs: some go millions of years, or generations, back.

    You’re friend was wrong. But there are more important things than right and wrong. One is being effective. You explain that he is an effective and productive person in his area. Does that him a pass? No. Does it get him a little leeway? For an everyday guy who makes more mistakes than the average ranger he gets ‘understanding’ from me.

    • blah blah blah says:

      Sexually harassing someone isn’t a “mistake.” It’s deliberate behavior. I’m glad your dudely self finds it in you to forgive him, though. How nice.

  19. Pingback: Misogyny and sexism in SciComm, pt 2: Act inappropriately and suffer the consequences. Full stop. | The Panic Virus

  20. Science Writer says:

    I’m a young female science writer moving on up in the world, and my interactions with older men have been influential in the best of ways. But there’s always that one time that stays with you, that leaves you with that mixture of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and anger, self doubt and regret. And the real tragedy is that someone else’s actions made you feel this way. And they did because they think you are sexy. And you blame yourself.

    I was invited by a researcher I had once interviewed to come to a conference being held at his university on a topic of perfect relevance to my current project. The plan was also to visit his lab and others to gather more material and interviews. I was 25. I was so excited for the opportunity to get inside the world of science, get really up close and personal with it, as I should have been and always will be.

    I should have heeded the red flag the minute I got there, when he picked me up in his car and started complaining about his long, hard day with surprising casualness. We didn’t go to his lab at the university, but first went to one of his colleagues’ memorial services. Then, he suggested we go out to dinner and drinks. There, any attempt to talk about his science was met with a suggestion that we just relax and talk about life. He told me he was so glad I had come to visit. He wanted to drive in his new car around the city.

    He finally took me to something science-y, a pre-conference dinner for only the highest-ranking attendees—major, renown brains in the field. I got to talk with them! I drank some wine.

    It got late, and I needed a ride to my hotel, and he offered. On the way, he suggested another drink, and I don’t know why I agreed, but then we didn’t go to a bar, we got to his driveway. He touched my hair and told me I was beautiful. I said I was sorry that I didn’t expect this to be a social visit, that I didn’t want this to go beyond a professional relationship, and why did he think that’s what I came for? “Well, if I had a wife, I wouldn’t need to hang out with you!” I felt sick, panicked, called a cab. Waiting for that cab to come was the most ridiculous experience of my life, and I got back to my hotel.

    The next day was the conference I was there to attend, but I awoke with the memories and all I wanted to do was stay in bed. I had gotten myself into this mess–I had let my thrill of being invited by a respected researcher get to my head and not really evaluate whether this trip was truly worth the travel and effort for my project. Of course, I told myself angrily, of course he didn’t just invite me for the sake of science. Thoughts like this dawned on me over and over and over, and regret and shame crept in as I realized a smarter young women would never have gotten herself in this position. That’s what being manipulated feels like.

    I flew home, and curled up in bed with my cat and cried. I’ve never stopped feeling embarrassed for ending up in that position, for not being a smarter young woman.

    • throwaway says:

      Wow, what a story – a horrible story. This I understand, it’s very black and white to me. You were manipulated and have every right to be angry for being lured to an event under false pretences. There is no excuse whatsoever for what happened to you.

      I see the issue with Monica quite differently as it wasn’t overt like your story. Everyone who is saying that the situation is in a shade of grey isn’t necessarily a misogynist. Perhaps we can identify two people who write extremely well but are obviously both poor verbal communicators. All of it is unfortunate and sad.

      From watching twitter, it seems the rage is getting to it’s last ridiculous stage – all out man hating. It always goes there and ultimately undermines any progress that’s been made. C’est la vie.

      • A Hermit says:

        Just because it wasn’t as overt doesn’t mean it wasn’t harassment.

        • Nikita says:

          If Bora didn’t realize that it wasn’t welcome, it wasn’t harassment. I am sure that Bora would have changed direction and apologized immediately if he realized that Ms. Byrne was in any way uncomfortable.

          http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm

          • A Hermit says:

            Where in that link do you find that it isn’t harassment if he says he didn’t realize it was making her uncomfortable?

            Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances

            This was clearly an unwelcome sexual advance.

            harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision

            You might be able to argue that wasn’t severe enough to rise the level of LEGAL harassment, but even here we have a person who made a decision not to pursue a career opportunity because of this unwanted sexual attention.

          • Nikita says:

            Bora had no idea it was unwelcome and Ms. Byrne did not make this known until well after the encounter, at which point Bora quickly apologized.

            A misunderstanding is not harassment and should not result in public righteous lynching, should not result in calls for resignation. While Bora may have been unprofessional, I see nothing in the account to indicate that he was at any point disrepsectful.

          • D. K. says:

            If you were accidentally run over by a car, is the driver not responsible? I’m sure Mr. Zivkovic did not intend to hurt anyone, but he did.

          • throwaway says:

            The level of accountability is dependent on intent. If it was because the person had a stroke at the time that’s one thing, if it’s because he hates black people that’s another.

            Intent. matters.

          • A Hermit says:

            The level of accountability is dependent on intent. If it was because the person had a stroke at the time that’s one thing, if it’s because he hates black people that’s another.

            Do you think a man makes a habit of sexualizing what should be professional relationships because he’s having a series of strokes?

            The excuses are getting more and more ridiculous…

          • D. K. says:

            Of course intent matters, as it does in the difference between murder and manslaughter. The punishment should be proportionally less harsh, but there should still be punishment.

            I’m can believe that he did not intend to hurt anyone; still he should be punished (to a proportionate degree) and enter treatment for his behavior. Is there anything controversial in that?

        • bbkazier says:

          You’re looking at the wrong definition. Here’s the legal definition for sexual harassment.

          Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment.

          “Unwanted advances”, which Nikta seems so hung up on, is only one part of it. Do you really think that an interviewer can talk about sex (with the implication that sex may be needed to obtain a work position) and that is only becomes harassment if the woman tells him to stop? This falls under “verbal conduct of sexual nature that creates a hostile work environment.” The very point of sexual harassment laws is that the person suffering the harassment is often in a situation where simply speaking out would put their careers at risk.

      • blah blah blah says:

        “all out man hating.”

        LOL. Stop conflating yourself with all men.

    • John Bruno says:

      Science Writer,

      This is a stomach-turning story, that makes me embarrassed to be a man and a university professor.

      I am so sorry you experienced this. Sadly, I know how common it is.

      As the mothership of our science-outreach community, I think we all get many of our social cues about what is acceptable behavior from academia. And I think academia is the root of much of the problems we’ve all been discussing; namely the harassment of woman, usually younger woman, by males in power in science and science writing (obviously the same cues and problems exist in many other work cultures).

      Iv’e certainly observed this first hand more than once. It is also evident in the things male profs say about female faculty and students when only men are present. And I think the big indicator is how frequently and openly my male colleagues have sexual relationships with their students and post docs. (And it isn’t just faculty, I’ve seen plenty of examples of male post docs and graduate students doing the same thing).

      It seems to me these consensual relationships are the end product of successful harassment (or at least of sexual advances). And doesn’t our acceptance of them reinforce the behavior? Iv’e been thinking of blogging all this for a long time and want to hear what people think.

      I have on several occasions complained to superiors (chairs, deans, vice chancellors) about this stuff and always ran into a brick wall and in fact have felt some harsh retribution. That too should be brought into the light, including about actions and indiscretions in my own department and institution. I don’t know if I can actually names names, or if the legal (libal) risks are too great. Legal advice is welcome.

      jb

  21. Keala says:

    I am sorry that you are dealing with these issues through the personal lens of a friendship and mentorship, but I feel I must point out that your turmoil over the either/or dichotomy of your friend being, in so many words, a misogynist or ‘someone going through a hard time’ is a false one. You can’t fight sexism in science (or anywhere) working under the assumption that there are hidden misogynists among us, and as soon as we out them, one by one, the problem will solve itself. The problem is the institution, the fact that people ‘going through a hard time,’ who are otherwise pleasant or even inspirational, can act out in sexist or misogynistic ways and feel like it is acceptable or reasonable behavior, maybe isn’t even sexist at all, and so will not face consequences for it. We are all potential misogynists, it is our actions that are misogynistic. Progress in this area can’t be treated like a witch hunt, it’s not the people you should be focusing on, it’s the actions, the motivations, and how these are reinforced by our society.

  22. Rosalind says:

    Nikita,

    As a woman who has and continues to suffer from sexual harassment you are simply wrong. Inappropriate comments are unacceptable behavior at work. It not only makes me feel uncomfortable, it impedes my ability to focus on my work because I’m upset. And when no one believes me which is all the time, it’s even worse. It’s about power you must understand that. I’m suffering from PTSD triggered by sexual harassment that brought back historical traumas of child sexual abuse and rape that happened a long time ago and I thought were forgotten forever. I believe the reason is because I always feel powerless just as I did then. I have flashbacks of these traumas all day everyday and this disease is a living nightmare.
    I can keep leaving such jobs but then I go on to a new job and I’m sexually harassed again. So I feel if that’s the kind of behavior I elicit it’s better I stay out of Science entirely. Note that I’ve done nothing wrong, I go about doing my cancer research and I’ve always treated my male colleagues and bosses with respect even though they have not. I’m seriously considering leaving Science entirely at this point which is sad as I love Science.
    I’m very concerned about your attempts to excuse/justify/minimize/deny that it’s about power and it’s injustice.
    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -MLK
    Does that come from misunderstanding? I’m not sure but understanding always bring compassion. Would you please try to understand? Would you please try to put yourself in the shoes of the women suffering from sexual harassment? Just imagine what it would be like if it was you and you’re afraid for your job and for your career and please find in yourself some compassion for sexually harassed women everywhere.
    “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – MLK

  23. Rosalind says:

    Nikita,

    Furthermore, I realize this may be difficult for men to understand since you don’t have breasts so rather than ask you to put yourself in women’s shoes, imagine it was your girlfriend/wife or daughter or better yet your mom. You must have had a mom at some point to give your birth.

    Please take a moment and consider this from your mom’s perspective. If you don’t get along with your mom, please consider a woman that you care about/like/admire/love whatever.

  24. Rosalind says:

    I also totally agree with Keala. The fact that the man sexually harassing the woman is a friend or nice otherwise doesn’t excuse his actions. Actions speak louder than words. Suppose you had been friends with Hitler before WW2 and he invited you for a beer and say you really liked him. Would you find excuses for him and forgive him for the Holocaust? No, right? My point being I’m not comparing sexual harassment and genocide, that’s not it. I’m saying there is a spectrum of attitudes, a man may be super nice, he may open the door to an old lady and turn around and try to rape a young woman. That’s what I mean. So men who sexually harass women may be lovely people otherwise, they may be awesome scientists, they may have tons of friends, they may have BBQ with their families, they may donate to charity, but still none of that can ever excuse their actions. I hope this generates more understanding and not hatred.

  25. Pingback: Women in science: does my brain look big in this? | the sabbatigal

  26. Seth Mnookin says:

    Folks,

    I really appreciate all of the conversation here. I know this is a difficult issue that well-intentioned, decent people have disagreements about.

    It’s not my practice to censor comments or shut down conversations, but I’m worried that parts of this thread have devolved into people talking at/past each other instead of to each other — and that the longer that has gone on, the more personal and vituperative some of the comments have been. I’d like everyone to take a step back and think about what they’re hoping to accomplish before posting again. If the answer to that is cutting someone else down, please think carefully about whether the comment is truly necessary.

    Thanks,

    Seth

  27. throwaway says:

    Sweet jesus – THIS story convinces me.

    https://medium.com/the-power-of-harassment/3e809dfadd77

    When someone REPEATED say’s stop (it should only take once and ideally saying stop shouldn’t even be necessary) that should be more than enough. Christ, I take a full retraction of my views above now that this information is available. SORRY!

    This guy deserves to be fully rejected from the scientific community let along the blogger community. Any good that he has done in the past is no excuse for what he’s done.

    • a hermit says:

      Thanks for the link.

    • John Bruno says:

      Thank you throwaway, and others that were wondering what exactly happened, what was the intent, etc., for your earlier points and discussion. And for being willing to change your mind with new evidence and info.

      I agree, this nails it.

      Bora isn’t a creep but instead a pathological predator. Im now starting to wonder whom else knew this (eg at Sci American, SciOnline, etc) and said or did nothing.

      At this point, even in harassment-permissive Academia, an investigation would be launched, emails would be read by an HR admin, etc. I bet Sci American does none of this. And frankly, given the institution knew (at least some of it) an outside authority should be doing it anyway.

    • Nikita says:

      Ooof. That’s heavy and I am not sure how to respond. Need to digest. @Throaway, you seem to be a fairly reasonable participant in this discussion. Mrs. Raven’s account is disturbing, but is it sexual harassment or is it a messy and complicated private life? I mean, everyone has demons and I am sure Bora is no exception with Mrs. Raven’s account quite disturbing, but to call him a predator?

      I need to digest this a bit before establishing a position. The one thing that precludes me from jumping to conclusions is the movie Hilary and Jackie. In it are presented two viewpoints. In one, the main character (Jaqueline du Pre) is demonized. In the other the viewer realized that what was interpreted as eccentricities and terrible behavior were cries for help or misunderstood loneliness. The movie is based on a true story.

      I want to be careful not to draw too many parallels between Bora and Jaqueline , but I think we are dealing with a complicated situation where Bora is somewhere on the spectrum between what we expect as a society and the extreme of sexual harassment. Where he falls exactly? I don’t have an opinion yet, but it seems that he certainly doesn’t seem to fall into either extreme (white-picket-fence or sexual-harassment-predator).

      I think it is important to pay attention to how we, as a community, address this. @Throwaway, I am very curious to hear your opinion.

      • a hermit says:

        I think we are dealing with a complicated situation where Bora is somewhere on the spectrum between what we expect as a society and the extreme of sexual harassment. Where he falls exactly? I don’t have an opinion yet, but it seems that he certainly doesn’t seem to fall into either extreme (white-picket-fence or sexual-harassment-predator).

        this is the problem with everything you’ve been posting here; you seem to think that if Zivkovic doesn’t have horns and a tail and isn’t blatantly slobbering over some poor defenseless woman he’s trapped alone in a corner that what he did can’t be harassment.

        The error is in focusing on the person and not the behaviour.

        Whatever produced his behaviour, even if it’s the product of some sad circumstance of his own, does not change the effect of the behaviour or excuse it. To make an analogy; plenty of child abusers were themselves abused as children; that doesn’t excuse their behaviour nor does their misunderstanding of what constitutes healthy human sexual interactions make their abuse of others any less abusive.

        Zivkovic probably rationalizes his behaviour in exactly the way you are suggesting. He probably even believes it. But he’s still hurting people…

        • Nikita says:

          Hermit, since you engaged in a personal attack against me, I will not continue to engage you until you offer an apology. I have not read nor intend to respond to you until you issue an apology and acknowledge that your behavior was inappropriate. See #offensive_behavior

          • a hermit says:

            I’ll tell you what; you apologize to Ms Byrne for calling her honest account of what happened to her “disgusting” and falsely accusing her of “slander” and I’ll think about retracting that comment.

          • Nikita says:

            Hermit, re: disgusting – you are right. I should not not have used the word “disgusting” as it creates animosity and be interpreted as offensive where we should be cooly analyzing the situation (whatever the viewpoint that we ascribe to). While I do not believe it was inappropriate, I apologize for and retract using the word “disgusting”.

            I stand by my claim that, in her actions, Ms. Byrne chose to engage in behavior the purpose of which is to create a libelous/slanderous site against Bora. I will retract this claim if Ms. Byrne (or someone else) explains why it is not true. I believe I’ve explained my position on this matter previously.

            I will not engage further with you until you offer an apology for being offensive towards me. #offensive_behavior

          • a hermit says:

            I stand by my claim that, in her actions, Ms. Byrne chose to engage in behavior the purpose of which is to create a libelous/slanderous site against Bora.

            She gave an honest account of what was done to her; it’s clear that it was not an isolated incident (which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone with a modicum of understanding of how this stuff works) so by what standard does this constitute libel?

            As for my behaviour I gave my honest impression of what it looks like when you complain about your dismissive comments (and yes, they were dismissive if it’s the one you posted here) not being posted on someone else’s blog. It’s not all about you after all…

            If my language was intemperate I’ll apologize to Seth for that but I won’t apologize to you for an honest observation.

          • D. K. says:

            While I do not believe it was inappropriate, I apologize for and retract using the word “disgusting”.

            This is not an apology. You still owe an apology.

      • throwaway says:

        The court of public opinion can be unfair and cruel. Unfortunately it seems as if it ended up being absolutely right in this case. This doesn’t necessarily justify this approach, for example torture sometimes reveals important information but that hardly means we should go around torturing everybody.

        We area all bayesians at heart and my heavy prior in this case was based on me working with a few borderline autistic individuals that would make awkward remarks on occasion. He really was oblivious and he was also the fiercest of promotors of his graduate students – he really didn’t care (probably didn’t understand) the gender issues he only cared about the science. Subsequently, he had averaged about 50-50 male female over time simply because he chose the best individuals.

        I know this isn’t a popular belief but the intent and motivation of the perpetrator does deserve some consideration: there is a difference between manslaughter and murder after all. My heavy prior put me on the benefit of the doubt for BoraZ but even the heaviest prior can be moved by enough data. The latest revelation removes all doubt about BoraZ – what he did was repeated harassment (at least with woman #3) that is inexcusable and damning. The shades of grey that existed in the previous blog postings are now stained black in my mind.

        I think the court of public opinion can be a dangerous game and we need to be careful. However, I can’t help but think that if we had followed Andrew’s route (which at the time I thought reasonable) would the other’s have come forward and would BoraZ be fully exposed the way he was? Much of me thinks not which makes me think that in this case at least the ends do justify the means.

        There has been an ugly event any way around. There are a lot of people out there that should think about their actions both in the recent and longer pasts. The pilloring of anyone who dare think there may gave been shades of grey in Monica’s account was also nothing to be proud of. I think that’s what put you and me off Monica’s story at first, after all she did an IP trace on my post and tried to embarrass me publicly simply for stating that I thought there may be shades of grey in her account. Ironically she was using her position of power over me just as she was complaining was done to her. Anyway, it was an emotional time and hopefully everyone can walk away with some added appreciation for other people’s viewpoints.

        • Nikita says:

          I propose that we set aside Ms. Byrne – her handling of the situation is shameful and inexcusable in my opinion, but it also shouldn’t negate the possibility that Bora is at fault.

          That said, I am concerned that we are only hearing one side of the story and that side leads me to believe that Bora overshared, overexpressed, and saw the situation in a way that is different from the way it was perceived by Mrs. Raven or by an independent bystander.

          Having met Bora and in absence of purposeful violent or malicious acts I think there remains the possibility that this was a misinterpretation of consistent romantic (or perhaps even platonic) persistence. Is this sexual harassment?

          In court there are generally two sides each presenting their case. Unfortunately I find myself in a situation where I am operating on very limited information and so it is hard for me to secure a solid position.

          • Nikita says:

            Correction: that Bora is at fault was acknowledged by Bora himself. What I meant was that Ms. Byrne’s behavior shouldn’t influence assessment of Bora when there is other information.

          • D. K. says:

            Nikita, not too long ago, you were very ready to pass judgment on little information. In fact, you have made some pretty strong (and, unfortunately, offensive) claims based on less information than is now available to you.

            However, I am glad that you have opened up to information that conflicts with your accepted world view, which is certainly not easily done. We should all do more of that, myself definitely included.

        • Becky says:

          This is a very thoughtful response and clarifies your point of view for me (here and in comments on other sites) a great deal. Thank you for posting it. I very much appreciate your willingness to reconsider your stance in light of new / additional information, which can be an extremely difficult thing to do!

      • Todd W. says:

        Nikita,

        Given the three accounts, it does appear that Bora was being predatory, whether or not he was aware of it. Yes, he was having issues that he needed help with, and it appears he was seeking out women to use as a sort of counselor or coping mechanism. Whether or not it met the legal definition of sexual harassment, he was in a position of power and creating a hostile and unwelcome environment for those women.

        In light of what has been revealed, it is just that he lose that position of power and whatever privileges it entailed. He also should get help from a professional to discuss whatever issues lie behind his behavior.

        The situation is more than just a messy, complicated relationship between two people. Focusing only on that aspect of it ignores the important context of the power relationship.

        • Nikita says:

          Todd, being an entrepreneur, perhaps one element here is that I do not ascribe (or understand?) the “power relationship” argument. I don’t believe in people working “for” each other. I believe in working “with” them. In the entrepreneurial world, if someone is not happy for whatever reason, they disengage.

          That being said, the scientific community is notoriously political with “power” being a major element. I believe that everyone should be treated as an individual and Bora’s advances are to be seen only in that context without issue of power. I do not believe that women or men should be treated as anything but accountable individuals regardless of sex, race, religion, etc.

          In that context, I know some people who are aggressive flirts. Bora’s behavior seems to go beyond flirting, but is it sexual harassment, which is a very extreme charge?

          • Todd W. says:

            @Nikita

            Ah, now I understand the problem. Just because you may not believe in or ascribe to the idea of power relationships or supervisor/supervisee relationships does not mean that they do not exist. They do. And those relationships add another dynamic that is not present in other types of relationships. Ignoring that, or saying that the difference in power stations doesn’t matter, that only the actual interactions and behaviors matter, ignores a crucial and important part of the equation.

          • Nikita says:

            I see. What you say is reasonable. Perhaps my position is admittedly naive – from what I understand of academic environments, it’s a bit of a dog-eat-dog world where my “high morals” do not apply…

          • Todd W. says:

            Nikita,

            Whether it is academia or corporate, the dynamic between someone in a position of authority and someone in a subordinate position influences what behaviors are allowed, as well as how a person feels about speaking out (subordinates may feel that they are not allowed to speak up about a superior’s inappropriate behavior because it may cost the subordinate their job). While I’d like to believe that most people who are in a supervisory or similarly exalted position would not be vindictive, there’s often no way to tell beforehand whether punitive retribution will occur for speaking the truth, whether the incident will be swept under the rug, or whether appropriate corrective action will occur.

          • Nikita says:

            Todd, power differential seems to me to be an artifact of the industrial age, when job mobility was low. This is no longer the case (or at least we should not be allowed to exist when observed). Although an argument can be made (and often has been) that academia and early industrial exploitation share a lot in common. It seems to come down to the superior-subordinate mentality: us vs. them, employee vs. boss. A mentality that is so fundamentally flawed that perhaps this should be the issue to come out of the current discussion.

            Still, I like to think that the community will defend the little guy/girl rather than bully. In this case it seems Bora has become the little guy – someone with problems at home who sought companionship and understanding in the wrong places. Power differential aside, there isn’t much wrong with that except for it being a ripe ground for misunderstandings.

            I hate that what’s missing is his voice in all this. I’ve seen too many a situation when things are twisted over misunderstandings.

          • a hermit says:

            power differential seems to me to be an artifact of the industrial age, when job mobility was low. This is no longer the case…

            Wow.

            What kind of fantasy world are you living in?

          • Todd W. says:

            Nikita,

            Whether you like it or not, workplace power differentials exist and are unlikely to go away. That is part of the reason that we have laws and workplaces have policies regarding harassment and discrimination. There are people who abuse the power of their positions. While that is an important discussion to have, it’s not one that should be the sole focus in the current situation. It is part of a larger whole.

            As far as Bora being the “little guy”, I think you’re discounting the experiences of those he targeted. Again, yes, he needs to seek appropriate help, but also it needs to be acknowledged that what he did was wrong and should have consequences that fits what he did. Commenting that his behavior was wrong and deserves consequences is fitting and not unreasonable. And that’s what I’ve seen happening.

          • Todd W. says:

            a hermit,

            He’s an entrepreneur, which means he works for himself and so is speaking from a position of privilege. If he has any kind of disagreement with a colleague, he has the option of leaving, and that appears to be something he takes for granted.

          • Nikita says:

            Todd,

            I don’t take mutual respect for granted – I take it as a baseline, which is what I believe we all should do.

            That said, I need to re-read and digest my thoughts on Bora. Before I do that, in your opinion, what would you think of Bora’s actions if he was on equal footing with the three women in question?

          • Todd W. says:

            Nikita,

            As you reconsider your thoughts, try to put yourself in the place of someone who does have supervisors and who does not have your same freedom of employment.

            As far as Bora, were he on the same level as them, I’d still consider what he did inappropriate and grounds for corrective action. It was not an isolated incident, and it appears to be more than a simple misunderstanding, as some would like to paint it. I would also still say he needs to seek out professional counseling to help him deal with whatever issues he has.

      • Nikita says:

        After thinking about this quite a bit, here is my response:

        http://nikitab.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/the-bora-controversy-and-american-values/

        Summary: “An adult doing adult things is not sexual harassment, until they intentionally do something in bad faith. Until then, misunderstandings happen and are generally resolved by way of personal and respectful conversations. Companies and the community are wrong in how they have treated Bora – wrong in a very fundamental way.”

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  29. John Bruno says:

    Thanks Nikita. I appreciate all of your commentary above . Thanks for being willing to speak out.

  30. a hermit says:

    I can’t help but think that if we had followed Andrew’s route (which at the time I thought reasonable) would the other’s have come forward and would BoraZ be fully exposed the way he was? Much of me thinks not…

    Of course not. This is why the dismissive reactions to a post like Ms Byrne’s are so destructive; they discourage those who might come forward with corroborating accounts from doing so; the targets of harassment are usually already questioning their own perspective; everyone is assuring them that it’s “just a misunderstanding”, putting the blame for all the awful things they are feeling on them, letting them know (even if unintentionally) that THEY are the villains.

    To be told that speaking up is a “disgusting” thing to do, that daring to name names is slander or libel, that they are just imagining things or being too emotional etc etc just increases the stress they are already under.

    And that’s before the real trolls start turning up with the personal attacks and the rape “jokes” and all the other crap women who complain about sexism online can expect.

    So I am unapologetic when it comes to standing up for those who, like Ms Byrne, have the courage to stand up publicly and object the sexist crap they have to put up with and name names. There were no “shades of grey” in her account that I could see. Less so than there may have been since Zivkovic never denied any of it.

    And in my experience where there’s smoke there’s fire; so I’m disturbed but sadly not surprised by this latest revelation.

    • Nikita says:

      Hermit, you engaged in a personal and disrespectful attack against me, another member of this community. I respectfully suggest to the community to ignore Hermit’s comment until he makes a public apology. See #offensive_behavior higher in this thread.

    • throwaway says:

      I think you need to go through the thread again – I don’t see what you are stating happened. I never saw any rape jokes, I didn’t see anyone claim that her coming forward was disgusting. The issue was the immediate public shaming for what appeared to be a single incident that could be interpreted as a shade of grey. The blog posts accusing people of being ‘defenders of BoraZ’ are wrong, it was a defence that perhaps some form of due process was in order because the consequences of being wrong are very high (and running on the assumption that due process can be effective).

      Public witch hunts are dangerous things and the allegations were/are extremely serious. Sometimes ‘it was a misunderstanding’ is actually the correct answer, from MB account that’s what I thought; however as further allegations came forward this obviously became an untenable position, one I am more than happy to give up.

      What you are advocating is what leads to such things as profiling and a loss of due process. Being innocent before being proved guilty is a cornerstone of any just justice system. Due process exists for a reason (and yes, does actually work sometimes).

      Let’s calm down the rhetoric and hyperbole a little, this isn’t a debate to win but rather a discussion of ideas.

      • a hermit says:

        I think you need to go through the thread again – I don’t see what you are stating happened. I never saw any rape jokes,

        I didn’t say there had been any in this thread, but if you think Ms Byrne isn’t going to be subjected to the same crap that any woman online who talks about this stuff gets then I think you must be awfully naive…

        I didn’t see anyone claim that her coming forward was disgusting.

        Then you need to re-read the thread yourself…

        <blockquote.The issue was the immediate public shaming for what appeared to be a single incident that could be interpreted as a shade of grey. The blog posts accusing people of being ‘defenders of BoraZ’ are wrong, it was a defence that perhaps some form of due process was in order because the consequences of being wrong are very high (and running on the assumption that due process can be effective).

        Which seems reasonable at first blush, but the problem is this makes it nearly impossible for anyone to ever come forward; if a single account is never enough to be taken seriously who is going to risk being the first to speak up? This concern for caution and “due process” (and we’re not in a court remember) is too often a convenient excuse for inaction and dismissal of the complaint in place of serious examination.

        And in this case there wasn’t even any denial of the facts by the person being accused of the harassment. So where’s the grey area?

        Public witch hunts are dangerous things and the allegations were/are extremely serious. Sometimes ‘it was a misunderstanding’ is actually the correct answer, from MB account that’s what I thought; however as further allegations came forward this obviously became an untenable position, one I am more than happy to give up.

        I don’t think taking Ms Byrne’s account seriously constitutes a ‘witch hunt”, especially in light of Bora’s admission of guilt. I’m glad you’re sensible enough to accept it’s veracity in light of further accounts, but really shouldn’t that admission have been enough to validate her story?

        What you are advocating is what leads to such things as profiling and a loss of due process. Being innocent before being proved guilty is a cornerstone of any just justice system. Due process exists for a reason (and yes, does actually work sometimes).

        What is it you think I’m advocating? I’m saying let’s take these accounts of harassment seriously, and when it’s as clear as it is in this case; ie when the harasser has admitted wrong and doesn’t dispute any of the facts let’s see some real consequences for such destructive, unprofessional behaviour.

        Let’s calm down the rhetoric and hyperbole a little, this isn’t a debate to win but rather a discussion of ideas.

        No, this is discussion of how to deal with a serious problem which affects too many people, most of them women, in the science community every day. It’s about the respect we should all be affording to people in a professional environment, it’s about putting a stop to destructive sexist behaviour which too often acts as a barrier to the careers of competent individuals.

        Of course it’s going to get emotional; the harm that’s being done is emotional as well as professional.

        And if you’re really concerned about hyperbole maybe you should knock off the talk about “witch hunts…”

        • throwaway says:

          Anyway, I think we likely agree on most things and we’re batting semantics back and forth at this point.

          Maybe you’ll get lucky and BoraZ will end up killing himself. It seems there is a subset of the community (probably in the same proportion as those making rape jokes) that will only be satisfied with that. This is all very ugly.

          Hyperbole is rarely helpful.

          • a hermit says:

            Maybe you’ll get lucky and BoraZ will end up killing himself.

            What a disgusting thing to say.

            What makes you think I’d be happy with such a tragedy? I’ve said elsewhere I admire and respect his courage in taking as much responsibility as he has and that I hope he gets some help with his problems.

            Hyperbole indeed…

          • Todd W. says:

            Maybe you’ll get lucky and BoraZ will end up killing himself.

            Not cool to joke about or suggest that that is what A Hermit would like to see happen. Joking about something like that is just as bad as making a joke about the victim being raped. It is tasteless.

            I’m guessing you were trying to just be sarcastic, but that comment was totally uncalled for and is the sort of comment that would be better left unsaid (or untyped).

          • a hermit says:

            You know what’s really ugly is the fact that if it weren’t for all these other accounts coming out you and others would still be treating Ms Byrne like the villain here. (As Nikita still is…)

            What’s really ugly is the continuing failure of the academic community to take the subject of sexism and sexual harassment and discrimination seriously enough. How many other women in Ms Byrne’s position have been dismissed as “hysterical” and seen their careers damaged or worse because they had the courage to speak up and weren’t taken seriously?

            I certainly think there need ot be consequences for unprofessional behaviour like Bora’s, but to suggest that I want to see him dead is sickening. What the fuck is wrong with you?

          • D. K. says:

            I see more hyperbole in your own comments than in A Hermit’s, throwaway. It seems to me that you hold the power of the “court of public opinion” in higher regard than it really merits: what will happen to Mr. Zivkovic’s job and position if most of us are disturbed by this story while we do not yet have all the facts? Do we somehow have the power to fire him? There is no witch-hunt going on here, there is only a report of a serious offense that deserves further scrutiny. Though it seems that for some, the mere fact that the report is taken seriously and investigated for its merits is somehow a problem.

            Do you believe that one person speaking out on their personal blog about another person who has that very same power to speak out (and then some) is a problem in some way? Mr. Zivkovic has had all the power, privilege and opportunity in the world to provide us with his side of the story, but has chosen to do no more than tweet an apology — rebutting no single part of Ms. Byrne’s account. Has it even occurred to you to scrutinize Mr. Zivkovic as much as the victim on this?

  31. Van says:

    There needs to be greater introspection by, and greater outcry towards, the people who reflexively defended Bora, in particular those who lashed out against the first person naming him, Monica Byrne. I’m thinking in particular of @AndreaKuszewski, who immediately labeled Monica “cray-cray” (note that Andrea has since deleted that tweet, but her statement is referenced here: https://twitter.com/shaenasaurus/status/389957329786920960 )

    Frankly, this kind of behavior is also abuse, of sorts: it augments the #ripplesofdoubt and contributes to a chilling effect on women stepping forward, by making anyone who might speak up realize that she will be subject to that sort of “nut and slut” characterization.

  32. a hermit says:

    Frankly, this kind of behavior is also abuse, of sorts: it augments the #ripplesofdoubt and contributes to a chilling effect on women stepping forward, by making anyone who might speak up realize that she will be subject to that sort of “nut and slut” characterization.

    Exactly.

    It’s not all as blatant as that “cray-cray” comment either; in fact the worst of it often comes in the form of a passive-aggressive “just asking questions” pose; the complainant’s character becomes the subject of discussion instead of the abusive behaviour.

    There is always a reaction from self styled “skeptics” who seem to think that a person talking about being sexually harassed is committing a greater offense than the person who harassed her.

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  35. NewPerson says:

    Okay,

    At this point I feel I should speak up and I’m offended that nobody else has.

    First for those you of currently dealing with sexual harassment at work. Please consult a few attorneys. I can assure you that contacting an attorney does not put you in a lawsuit. However, it was through my attorney that I was introduced to a psychologist who specialized in institutional harassment as they worked with that same patients I think its a discovery I would not have made if my attorney hadn’t referred me. I had sought professional help before but the right person who innately understood what I was dealing with was the difference between having to explain what happened and being able to actually get therapy for it. From this I cannot encourage enough that people need to look out for their own health and safety and being advised of your rights is never a bad thing. Please seek some help before your experience becomes disabling.

    Now for those of you who don’t understand sexual harassment I really do encourage that you start researching it. Individual reports and any studies you can find. I also strongly encourage you to research Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how the mind reacts to and processes trauma. Not only is it very very interesting but it will give you more information than you can get out of individual victims who are still processing their experience(s).

    Now the Employment Advice. See I can kinda “get” how you all would go to the publishing victim for answers. However, I shouldn’t be the first to tell you that seeking out a victim because they are a victim and insisting on their blog that they debate with you their experience and consider that they are wrong is actually Retaliation. I don’t know how you-all’s employment and earnings work so it may not be enforceable in your individual situation. I don’t know that at all. I can tell you if employment or earnings are involved it very likely is/would be a legitimate claim (even for those not directly retaliated against) and that is where people get sued.

    It doesn’t really matter that you don’t think it is an issue or should be. Hell you could tell me that you don’t think Black people are fully people and therefore don’t deserve equal treatment. What I am saying is your opinion on some of these matters is worth nothing. This is a legal Civil Rights issue, which I can assure you can result in measurable harm and the parties involved don’t seem to be disputing anything that happened so third party opinions don’t really matter; until they reach a point of also being an illegal/prohibited activity. Retaliating against a victim on her own blog is pretty reprehensible. Advocating it openly to anyone who will listen to your entitlement is even worse and is advocating a crime.

    Now for the few of you whining that Bora is suffering from this, I will advise you that you are whining. I will also advise you that telling anyone that isn’t a sexual partner of yours that you are a very sexual person is beyond unreasonably rude. Its just is so not acceptable I almost want to laugh, but it seems a few people don’t understand this so I, as a woman, am making it clear this is beyond rude.

    From my non-science community opinion I have been laughing for two days at your assertions that he is being harmed by this. From what I have read he sounds pretty alright. This behavior is terrible but he sounds very capable and has talents that will serve him well in most any field. In contrast to the up and coming women who may be blocked out of an entire field by his actions, I expect with a little soul searching he will turn this into a different opportunity and ultimately do quite fine. And I wish him well in his future pursuits in and out of science. I hope that he can find a validating personal relationship(s) such that he doesn’t impose his whims on random women.

    I come to this topic not from the science or writing community. I’m anonymous because I actually do live in fear that my previous harassers will seek me out to continue to make my life hell. I would not be surprised if they file completely meritless legal suits against me just to cost me money and upset my current life-stability; its a real thing. But I can also tell you that I am back in school to career change not only out of my industry but out of any job that shares certain similarities of daily operations. It sounds extreme but I don’t know how else to keep myself safe. From what I understand, the industry I came from probably has women and men all over the country suing their supervisors and direct employers. Afterwards we all go on our way into other lives not speaking about it ever again.

    The Science community is not the be-all end-all, but I can understand how it feels that way. I read a few blogs from one science writer 5-6 years ago and ultimately started following them on twitter. From there I have added 6-10 science writers but its not like you all are well integrated into society. Therefore its not like “everyone” knows about this. Thats a good thing in its way.

    I began obsessively following the science writing community not only because I now have the best water-cooler conversation but also because you-all speak so much more honestly about sexual harassment in the workplace. This is somewhat amazing to me. The only conversations I had were the annual training and once the trainer left all management then immediately “qualified” the information provided which left few options for victims and no real solutions. This is how systematic harassment grows and largely why we had/have no options other than hiring attorneys.

    Reading the follow up comments to these posts actually gives me a sense of being defended even when my coworkers couldn’t because they couldn’t afford to loose their jobs. Every post on sexual harassment I have read has contained features that I personally lived. (qualifier, I was not one of the Armed Forces Members who was raped while on Active Duty but I can see how it happened). And every post has had a list of people advocating for the victim. I read on every one of these posts people actively defending women and their right to be valued based on their work product. Clever people, interesting people. People who are all doing great and really cool work and generally are mad that someone is hampering that. I shouldn’t be shocked but I kinda am.

    Some of these comments may sound less than productive, but I have to tell you to have so many people actively questioning how to be better people and appreciating how some people have felt when they were taken advantage of is one of the best things I have read lately.

  36. throwaway says:

    And then this happened: Female edition.

    https://medium.com/the-power-of-harassment/873515a58835

    What a trainwreck week for the online science community. Are you guys running around just harassing each other. Jesus people.

  37. Rosalind says:

    Dear NewPerson,

    Thank you for your comment. I suffer from PTSD for the past 2 years triggered by sexual harassment and I’ve done countless treatments over this time but I’m not getting better. In fact I’m getting worse as I still get triggered pretty much every day. Please read this post on my blog: http://rosalindevefranklin.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/sexism-spectrum-1/

    Wishing you all the best!

    • throwaway says:

      Rosalind, I’m interested in reading your blog but your background makes it close to unreadable. Would you consider changing it?

    • NewPerson says:

      Rosalind,

      I have read you blog and chosen to respond to you here because I feel it is the most appropriate location. I’ll try not to sound like a ranting trauma survivor this time.

      I didn’t mean to offend you when I suggested therapy. I’m just sorry that I didn’t make that point very well which could be offensive. I am not saying you need to see a professional and get fixed or take responsibility or that you are in any way part of the problem; which is why it’s so hard. If you were the problem you could fix it. (I have had people tell me to get therapy to put the onus of fixing the situation on me, which was offensive and so much more)

      PTSD made it very difficult for me to focus on one topic at a time and I was easily re-triggered which prohibited me fully explaining myself. I was easy to manipulate.

      From therapy I can much better articulate how injustices are unjust, which helps me look back on previous situations where I didn’t like something or didn’t agree with or feel right about something but couldn’t really explain why or how. It also helped me feel comfortable putting the correct words (harassment, assault etc.) to the individual behaviors and defend those word choices if argued with.

      I hope this clarifies that I didn’t mean to slight you.

      I also think you need to consult and attorney. A good one. Your needs are your own. However, it doesn’t make any sense for you to bear all the cost and give up all your investments and just start from scratch because someone else is violating your rights. That is just ridiculous.

      I was given a lot of wrong information, which really increased the harm I suffered. Therefore, I believe that this is a common problem harassment victims face. I want you to feel comfortable seeking the help it took me too long to get and to really know and feel comfortable with your rights.

      I wish you the best of luck!

  38. Jim says:

    Why does no one find it wrong for Monica to mention visiting a strip club? That sure sounds like a come-on to me. Monica should have kept any mention of sex out of the conversation. But she didn’t.

    • A hermit says:

      Why does no one find it wrong for Monica to mention visiting a strip club? That sure sounds like a come-on to me. Monica should have kept any mention of sex out of the conversation. But she didn’t.

      Nonsense; she was describing her work history:

      “I managed to mention that I used to write a column for The MIT Tech called “I Did It For Science,” where I did weird activities like getting my tarot read, visiting a strip club on a Tuesday afternoon, and doing MRIs for the neuroscience department.”

      That’s a far cry from the personal stuff about his marriage and personal sexual feelings that Zivkovic inserted into the conversation.

      • Jim says:

        I don’t see where you got your quote. This was taken from the article above.
        “The editor friended Monica on Facebook; Monica sent him clips and asked him to coffee; in the course of discussing her clips, Monica mentioned visiting a strip club.”
        Read it your self. Could be considered as a ploy for entrapment. Why did she bring up sex?
        You sure are one angry person. Some women do hate the male sex.

        • A Hermit says:

          The quote is from Ms Byrne’s original article about the incident which is linked to in the one above. Maybe you should read all the material before jumping to conclusions…

          You sure are one angry person. Some women do hate the male sex.

          I’m neither angry nor a woman, I’m a balding middle aged man who is laughing his head off at you right now…

          • Jim says:

            Reading the quote from above is enough to validate my impression that Monica was the first to mention sex. You should take up the inaccuracy of the remark with the author of the above, not with me.

            Maybe you should read the material that I wrote correctly before jumping to conclusions… . The proximity of the two sentences does not mean one predicates the other. You are one angry male and some women do hate men. So do some men.

          • A hermit says:

            What that quote tells us is that she was giving him an overview of her past work as a science writer which included one reference to visiting a strip club for work purposes.

            One mention of her work related strip club visit is NOT an invitation to personal conversation about his wife’s mental history, his personal sexual appetites, his desire to have sex with women other than his wife etc etc

            Can you really not see the difference?

          • Jim says:

            She brought up the topic of sex. She hugs him at the end of the meeting. She contacts him twice even though he did not reply the first time. She has a lot of experience with “serial offenders”.
            She says, “This is far from the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of sexual harassment from an older man in a position of power, and in my experience, offenders are often serial offenders.” She brings sex into the conversation, she hugs him, she persists in contacting him, she claims to be a dilettante in the arena of sexual harassment, and then SHE complains of sex harassment!

            Can you really not see the difference?

          • A hermit says:

            She brought up the topic of sex.

            No, she was discussing her work writing about science, one occasion of which tangentially involved sex. She didn’t raise her personal sexual activities or felings or her personal relationships; he did that.

            here’s the relevant passage:

            Thinking this was a business meeting, I tried to tell him about my background and interests, but he seemed mainly interested in telling me about himself, and my input was mostly reduced to reactive responses like “wow” and “that’s so cool” and “that’s so neat.” I managed to mention that I used to write a column for The MIT Tech called “I Did It For Science,” where I did weird activities like getting my tarot read, visiting a strip club on a Tuesday afternoon, and doing MRIs for the neuroscience department. He began describing his own experience of going to a strip club. Then he described himself as “a very sexual person.” Then he told me about his wife’s sexual and mental health history. Then he began telling me about his dissatisfaction with his current sex life with his wife. Then he reminded me that he was “a very sexual person.” Then he told me, in an awful lot of detail, about how he almost had an affair with a younger woman he’d been seeing at conferences—how they’d met, how it escalated, how “close they’d come.”

            None of these topics were invited by me. I tried to listen politely and nod when he paused, but otherwise not engage or encourage him. “

            She’s not the one trying to make the conversation about personal sex lives there.

            She hugs him at the end of the meeting.

            Again here’s the relevant text:

            ” I hugged him, which may seem bizarre; but earlier he’d identified himself as a “hugging person” and so do I, generally, and I was still in shock and trying to smooth over the incident.”

            She doesn’t say she initiated the hug, she’s trying to normalize the situation.

            She contacts him twice even though he did not reply the first time.”

            Because she’s hoping that she can still get some professional work here, in spite of what happened.

            She brings sex into the conversation, she hugs him, she persists in contacting him, she claims to be a dilettante in the arena of sexual harassment, and then SHE complains of sex harassment!

            You really have to twist that account into pretzels to come up with a scenario in which she’s the villain here…

          • throwaway says:

            You have to admit the hug at the end is pretty weird. I certainly wouldn’t have hugged him, especially after a 1 hour meeting.

            I agree with Hermit that BoraZ acted inappropriately but I must admit the hug at the end initiated by MB is a bit odd and hypocritical.

          • A Hermit says:

            the hug at the end initiated by MB is a bit odd and hypocritical.

            Why are you assuming she initiated it? She tells us he was the one who brought up being a “hugger.” Put yourself in her shoes’ she’s trying to make sense of the situation, trying to normalize it for herself, hoping the meeting wll lead to work, not wanting to alienate the guy…

            Expecting someone in that stressful, confused moment to act in a way consistent with our disengaged, arm’s length hindsight isn’t exactly reasonable, is it?

          • Jim says:

            She brought up the issue of sex and apparently made no effort to steer away from it. Instead she mutters “responses like “wow” and “that’s so cool” and “that’s so neat.” She’s an old hand at dealing with ‘serial sex harassers’ but doesn’t snip this kind of talk in the bud. Sounds like the a formula for victimhood. Maybe she has a hidden agenda here.

            You say she did not initiate the topic of sex nor did she initiate the hug; but from her own words she did mention a sex club and she “hugged him, which may seem bizarre”, even if you deny it! You say “she’s trying to normalize the situation” with the hug, “trying to smooth over the incident”, she says; but I say she has exacerbated it, maybe deliberately.

            You really have to twist that account into pretzels to come up with a scenario in which she’s the innocent here… . Don’t be so naive. You have taken sides in this matter and for what?

          • a hermit says:

            She brought up the issue of sex and apparently made no effort to steer away from it.

            No, she was talking about her work and says she “tried not to engage or encourage” the sexual conversation.

            So now you’re reduced to just making shit up to suit the fantasy you’ve constructed. You’re kind of a second rate little troll aren’t you?

          • Jim says:

            Dear Hermit:
            From the nature of your last comments about me it is only too obvious that I won the argument.

            You never had a chance.

          • a hermit says:

            Sure Jim, you tell yourself that if it makes you feel better…

            But you don’t win arguments by making shit up and repeating the same nonsense over and over.

            Zivkovic himself admits he was out of line and doesn’t dispute anything Byrne has said. Are we supposed to believe you understand what happened better than either of the parties involved?

          • Jim says:

            Where in any of my posts do you see me defending Zivkovic? I never said anything about condoning or condemning anyone. You did.

            Just because Zivkovic “doesn’t dispute anything Byrne has said”, doesn’t mean he has confessed anything either. I don’t know: I didn’t read his version. Her mention of an incident which “tangentially involved sex” introduced the topic of going to a sex club. She then says, “He began describing his own experience of going to a strip club.” She brought it up, and she, such a dilettante in the arena of sexual harassment, should immediately have veered away. But she didn’t. Why not? She’s a grown woman, she could and should have done that.

            “She confronted him after the shock of the incident wore off”, you say. What shock? Was she actually in shock as she walked away from the meeting? Must have happened suddenly because if she was in shock during the meeting how did it last so long?. Her story just doesn’t add up. With her history of being a victim by her own admission, for example, “This is far from the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of sexual harassment from an older man in a position of power, and in my experience, offenders are often serial offenders”, she sure tries to come across as quite the innocent. She certainly is not going to say anything which weakens her account of herself.

            You say she was telling the truth because this “other party says she is…is he lying too?” Well, was he there at the meeting? I don’t know. Do you?

            You really have to twist that account into pretzels to come up with a scenario in which she’s the angel here…

            An example for you of a woman “spurned and angry”. My friend’s son was about to get married. His ex-girlfriend finagled him into bed with her. She went to the police after and charged him with rape. She had the sperm in her analyzed for DNA and of course it was the boy’s. He was charged with rape and arrested. It cost his father $20,000 to defend him against this false charge. This was not the first time I have seen a man or boy unjustly charged with rape.
            So… who cares? It’s only guys.

        • Jim says:

          Maybe, just maybe you don’t know the full story either. Has it occurred to you that you may have lost your detachment and taken sides here? Why are you so sure only one person is telling the truth and the whole truth?

          I said, “Monica should have kept any mention of sex out of the conversation. But she didn’t.”
          Then you come to her defense like a white knight and say, “Nonsense; she was describing her work history.”
          I would not go to a job interview and mention a visit to a sex club. Just wouldn’t seen appropriate.
          And what makes you so sure you know what “Zivkovic inserted into the conversation”? It seems to me you are being biased, bigoted and prejudiced in your eagerness to defend her honor. She brought up the matter of sex and hugged him after. Only after reviewing her actions and her failure to achieve did she later decide to denounce him. But you cannot see this. Maybe she didn’t get what she wanted and hey, a woman spurned is an angry woman indeed. I don’t know and neither do you. But you seem to think you do.

          • throwaway says:

            I’m going with you Jim. BOTH acted inappropriately – the hugging at the end and encouragement of the inappropriate comments was weird no doubt.

            If women want to be treated equally quit giving hugs at job interviews. It’s ridiculous and manipulative.

          • a hermit says:

            Why are you so sure only one person is telling the truth and the whole truth?

            The other party says she is…is he lying too?

            I would not go to a job interview and mention a visit to a sex club. Just wouldn’t seen appropriate.

            If you were talking about past professional science writing assignments and one of them involved visiting a stripclub on a Tuesday afternoon why not mention it? How is that less appropriate than talking about your wife’s mental health and your personal sexual desires and history? The two things really arent the same at all…

            And what makes you so sure you know what “Zivkovic inserted into the conversation”?

            She describes it, he endorses her account as accurate, we have similar independent accounts from other women describing him doing the same thing to them at least on of which he has also endorsed…

            But somehow you know better?

            Only after reviewing her actions and her failure to achieve did she later decide to denounce him.

            She confronted him after the shock of the incident wore off, raised the issue with his employer, he admitted doing wrong, and apologized.

            She went public after the organization he works for and helped establish was involved in another sexist incident and she felt compelled to go public since there seems to a pattern of trying to keep such incidents quiet at Sci-Am (not just her problem with Zivkovoc, but also the post by Dr. Stollznow about being harassed by Ben Radford, and now the incident with DL Lee’s disappearing post about being called a “whore”)

            Zivkovic doesn’t dispute her account or the other ones, he commended her and others for speaking up. What makes you think your opinion carries more weight here than his?

            When even the guy being accused of harassment agrees that what he did was wrong and that the women speaking up about it are doing the right thing who the hell are you to accuse those women of being “spurned and angry”?

            Are you really this stupid, or are you just a lying troll?

          • a hermit says:

            the hugging at the end and encouragement of the inappropriate comments was weird no doubt.

            If you’ve been following the story it;s clear that Zivkovic is someone who encourages and invites hugging (often to the discomfort of others.)

            And where do you find her “encouraging the inappropriate comments?” She says exactly the opposite in fact.

            And again, Zivkovic doesn’t dispute her account or the others that have come out since, he admitted he was in the wrong, he commended her for coming forward and instructed his followers on Twitter to not do what you’re doing and try to defend what he did.

            So who the hell do you think you are to presume that somehow you know better what actually happened?

          • Jim says:

            October 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm

            Where in any of my posts do you see me defending Zivkovic? I never said anything about condoning or condemning anyone. You did.

            Just because Zivkovic “doesn’t dispute anything Byrne has said”, doesn’t mean he has confessed anything either. I don’t know: I didn’t read his version. Her mention of an incident which “tangentially involved sex” introduced the topic of going to a sex club. She then says, “He began describing his own experience of going to a strip club.” She brought it up, and she, such a dilettante in the arena of sexual harassment, should immediately have veered away. But she didn’t. Why not? She’s a grown woman, she could and should have done that.

            “She confronted him after the shock of the incident wore off”, you say. What shock? Was she actually in shock as she walked away from the meeting? Must have happened suddenly because if she was in shock during the meeting how did it last so long?. Her story just doesn’t add up. With her history of being a victim by her own admission, for example, “This is far from the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of sexual harassment from an older man in a position of power, and in my experience, offenders are often serial offenders”, she sure tries to come across as quite the innocent. She certainly is not going to say anything which weakens her account of herself.

            You say she was telling the truth because this “other party says she is…is he lying too?” Well, was he there at the meeting? I don’t know. Do you?

            You really have to twist that account into pretzels to come up with a scenario in which she’s the angel here…

            An example for you of a woman “spurned and angry”. My friend’s son was about to get married. His ex-girlfriend finagled him into bed with her. She went to the police after and charged him with rape. She had the sperm in her analyzed for DNA and of course it was the boy’s. He was charged with rape and arrested. It cost his father $20,000 to defend him against this false charge. This was not the first time I have seen a man or boy unjustly charged with rape.
            So… who cares? It’s only guys.

          • A Hermit says:

            Where in any of my posts do you see me defending Zivkovic?

            Well what is your purpose here then? Why are you so desperate to smear Ms Byrne and the other women Zivkovic harassed??

            Just because Zivkovic “doesn’t dispute anything Byrne has said”,
            doesn’t mean he has confessed anything either. I don’t know: I
            didn’t read his version.

            Well gee, maybe you should do that before jumping to conclusions…

            Her mention of an incident which
            “tangentially involved sex” introduced the topic of going to a sex
            club. She then says, “He began describing his own experience of going
            to a strip club.”

            And that would have been fine if it had stopped there, but HE chose to take the conversation into his personal life, describing himself as a “very sexual person” trash talking his wife, complaining about the lack of sex in his marriage, talking about almost having affairs with other young women whom he had a professional relationship with…

            She brought it up, and she, such a dilettante in the
            arena of sexual harassment, should immediately have veered away. But she
            didn’t. Why not? She’s a grown woman, she could and should have done
            that.

            Why are you ignoring the part where she says she did exactly that?

            “She confronted him after the shock of the incident wore off”, you
            say. What shock? Was she actually in shock as she walked away from the
            meeting? Must have happened suddenly because if she was in shock during
            the meeting how did it last so long?. Her story just doesn’t add up.

            Except Zivkovic says it does; he doesn’t dispute it, he commends here for having the courage to speak up, he takes responsibility, admits he was in the wrong.

            You say she was telling the truth because this “other party says she
            is…is he lying too?” Well, was he there at the meeting? I don’t
            know. Do you?

            I was talking about Zivkovic hmself; of course he was there…

            An example for you of a woman “spurned and angry”. My friend’s son
            was about to get married…

            Unlike you I’m not going to jump to conclusions or raise the many questions I could with this anonymous account; I’ll be charitable and accept it as true for the sake of argument. But so what? I haven’t suggested that such things never happen; I’ve seen it myself. But those incidents are much rarer than real incidents of harassment; one “spurned woman” lying does not make all women “spurned liars.”

            You have repeatedly accused me (without any cause) of being angry and biased. You even called me an “angry wpoman” at one point in this conversation. Let’s consider another possibility here. Could it be that your anger over the incident you describe is blinding you to the facts in this case? That it’s you who is bringing an unreasonable bias to the table?

            Try and set aside that bias and read ALL of the relevant material before jumping to such sweeping judgements about people.

  39. Pingback: Women in History & Fantasy | Random (but not really)

  40. In addition to the issue being addressed at length here, there is the just as large issue of being asked to work for no pay. As a freelance science writer and adjunct professor, I find that issue just as troubling as the reaction provoked by the writer’s refusal to provide services for free. As competition for jobs increase, many of us are in the unhappy position of having to work in less than ideal circumstances. However, no publications and no educational institutions should expect qualified people to provide services for less than a minimum wage.

    • John Bruno says:

      I totally agree Carol. I see this as the underlying issue and the editors distain for a science writer asking about pay was what provoked his nasty email. I made this point on twitter and got shouted down BIG TIME by people only wanting to see this as asexual/racial issue. It is that but there is more going on here too: a broader disrespect and dismissiveness for what we all do, regardless of gender. (yes, men too are expected to write for free)

  41. Pingback: What Was Interesting This Week | Random (but not really)

  42. Pingback: The Bora Controversy and American Values | Nikita's Blog

  43. acementhead says:

    A Hermit says:
    October 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Well what is your purpose here then? Why are you so desperate to smear Ms Byrne and the other women Zivkovic harassed?

    There’s no evidence that BZ “harassed” anyone. Furthermore he did not admit wrongdoing. He apologised because his words had caused somebody distress(or so she claimed; I do not believe her). The apology was the right thing to do; admitting wrongdoing was not, and he didn’t.

    Byrne’s account is very artfully written(she’s a novelist) and leaves out MUCH pertinent detail.

    We haven’t heard BZ’s side of the story; he rolled over but had his throat torn out anyway. Sad.

    • acementhead says:

      Sorry about poor format of my post. Didn’t notice that some HTML is available, until too late.

    • A Hermit says:

      There’s no evidence that BZ “harassed” anyone. Furthermore he did not admit wrongdoing.

      Here’s what he said: http://blog.coturnix.org/2013/10/15/this-happenned/

      “I am very ashamed of this incident which happened more than a year ago. Staff at Scientific American spoke to me and Ms. Byrne about our interaction at that time. I asked that my sincere apologies be conveyed to Ms. Byrne for the distress she suffered as a result of my inappropriate remarks and emails to her, and I also expressed my deep regret to the company about acting unprofessionally. The company offered her an apology as well. It was a difficult time for me personally and I made a mistake – I should not have shared my personal issues with her. It is not behavior that I have engaged in before or since. “

      He admits that his behaviour was inappropriate and unprofessional and caused distress. That’s kind of the definition of harassment…

      He also lied in that last sentence because we now know he did exactly the same thing (and worse, including actually asking for sex) to several other women who have since come forward.

      • Nikita says:

        I would like to point out that my interpretation is that Mr. Hermit is engaging in twisting of Bora’s apology into admission of sexual harassment. That is incorrect.

        I would also like to point out that Mr. Hermit engaged in a personal attack against me in a separate thread. See #offensive_behavior higher in this thread.

        My position on this controversy can be found here:

        http://nikitab.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/the-bora-controversy-and-american-values/

        • A Hermit says:

          I would like to point out that Nikita prefers to smear the victim than to accept the perpetrator’s admission of guilt at face value.

          Zivkovic at least has had the decency to admit he was wrong and accept the consequences of his bad behaviour.

          I would also like to point out the hypocrisy of Nikita whining about my alleged personal attack on him when he is running around falsely accusing Ms Byrne of committing libel…

  44. dirty d says:

    Give me a break….

    I bitch about my wife and talk about sex to both men and women in the work place. Grow the fuck up and get the fuck over it. You know what is sexual harassment, trying to treat a woman like a male colleague and then having that twisted into some kind of sexual advance. There are plenty of women I work with who laugh and do not get offended. Some of them are even self-described feminist.

    Classic double-standard bullshit. Maybe women should just go back home to their little kitchen if they can’t handle the big bad man world. Don’t like that do you? Sounds ignorant doesn’t it? Good, that’s exactly how all these easily offended women filing sexual harassment claims sounds to me, ignorant.

    Sick and tired of walking on egg shells to protect some overly sensitive persons little feelings. This is addressed to men too, many a time men will have the same limp dick response, “I’m offended”. Oh, STFU Sally and go live in a bubble if you are so easily offended.

    At one point did we become so weak. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, grow a uterus or a pair of balls, adult up and just tell them, “Hey, I’m not really into that kind of discussion at work, we’re cool – just an FYI” If it continues, then you have a right to go complain, so many people are scared and weak in today’s world, it makes me ashamed to be a human being.

    - dirty d

    • a hermit says:

      There are plenty of women I work with who laugh and do not get offended.

      Are you sure they aren’t offended? or are they just going along because it’s easier/safer/less stressful than having to put up with an angry, belittling response like the one you posted here?

      If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, grow a uterus or a pair of balls, adult up and just tell them, “Hey, I’m not really into that kind of discussion at work, we’re cool – just an FYI”

      Pretty easy to say when you’re not the one whose job/career might be on the line if you object too loudly. You’re ignoring the power imbalance in these situations.

      Read what happens to a woman who does what you suggest and almost loses her career because of it:
      http://www.starstryder.com/2013/11/06/truth-against-humanity/

      “Let me state this more clearly, because I admitted that gender related comments hurt my self esteem, there were authority figures who demanded I be punished. While my direct supervisor and the dean we report to have always made me feel respected and have supported me, there were others within my profession who demanded I publicly apologize; that I be formally punished for what I said. …

      …Three people wrote documents against me, and they named a forth complainant. No one else came forward to back me up…

      …I felt I had to get a lawyer in order to make sure my career wouldn’t be ruined – someone to find ways to use the existing guidelines to protect me. I exhausted my (admittedly small) savings. I started working more and more in isolation. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I tried to hide in my work, and that alone may have kept me going.”

      Would you be brave enough, strong enough to speak up when you knew those would be the consequences?

      so many people are scared and weak in today’s world, it makes me ashamed to be a human being.

      The only thing you should be ashamed of is your appalling lack of empathy.

    • chandru says:

      You’re not going to win any points here with those statements, dd. I mostly agree with you, it should be possible to deflect/ignore what *you* consider as inappropiate, but which the other may not. Just speak up. A few incidents where speaking up had repurcussions is just the tyranny of small numbers. In the vast majority of cases, a simple brush off will work (and please cite if you know stats to the contrary.)

      In decades of workplace experiences, I’ve seen both putative and actual harasssment. I’ve seen women rebut such strongly (and how does the previous responder know they ‘just go along with it’?). I’ve heard women make dirty jokes as well as men. It’s all in how it happens, and how it’s responded to. Personally, I find it suspect when people say they’ve been ”serially harassed”. Like one’s friend who’s constantly complaining, one should treat that with a large grain of salt.

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