ScienceOnline09: Blogging allies

i-f875c0b07d9b3cb6229668554781b35a-alice.jpgBoth ScienceWoman and I are attending ScienceOnline09 in January; ScienceWoman has already gotten your feedback about her session she’s co-chairing with KH, so it is high time for me to ask your thoughts about the session I’m co-chairing with Abel Pharmboy and Zuska.

Our session is titled “Gender in science” but we’re really interested in how blogging and online interactions can provide allies with a way to support women bloggers, bloggers who are people of colour, LGBT bloggers, and other underrepresented bloggers in STEM. So, as examples, in no particular order (but numbered in case you want to refer to particular points):

  1. How can bloggers find allies?
  2. How can bloggers be allies?
  3. Do you consider yourself an ally? In what sense? How does this impact how you blog or what you blog about?
  4. what can and should allies do to support their peers in blogging?
  5. How do you act as an ally?
  6. What do you wish you could do more of as an ally?
  7. What do you wish allies would do more or less of?

Consider this discussion open for your thoughts! I plan on using this comment thread to bring in some of your voices to the actual face-to-face session as topically appropriate, so consider that too as you add your comments. Thanks!


  1. #1 volcanista
    December 15, 2008

    I think it’s easier to find allies or other marginalized people online than it is IRL, because we’re all out here expressing our opinions all the time! I do consider myself an ally to those groups to which I do not belong (so, I am a woman and identify as queer, but I’m not a woman of color, I generally pass as straight, I’m thin, I’m able-bodied etc.). As an ally, I wish I had the time to read more bloggings on the issues that don’t impact me personally. I intend to do more of this in the future, though.

    I think allies in blogging and in the meat life, in general, should stand up more. I know a lot of men who agree with most of the precepts of feminism, for instance, or even self-identify as feminists, but they won’t often call people out or stand up for that because it’s hard to do so (and I acknowledge how hard that is). This is far easier on the internet than in real life, so it happens more here, but I think allies in general (probably myself included) could stand to be more firm in their alliances. But without appropriating. It’s a fine line. 😉

  2. #2 Isis the Scientist
    December 15, 2008


    Below is an excerpt from a comment I left on one of my posts for a reader invovled in the recent fiasco over at DrugMonkey’s Blog.

    All my best,

    During my career I have dealt with (and still deal with in one case) some men who were very successful scientists with good ideas to add to the field who also were unsupportive of women in science. It doesn’t matter what these people have to tell me about science because their actions serve to ensure that we’ll never have equal footing on which to discuss the ideas. I think, as one opens these discussions online, it is important to try to discern the intent behind the comments. I have had very heated exchanges with other science bloggers about gender, racial, and religious issues in science that have ended quite well. The reason for that is because I know that they view equality in science as an important endpoint. Therefore, discussions with them have value and progress without hard feelings. I know that, at the end of the day, these people want to be able to sit at a table where the playing field is level, even if we don’t agree on the particulars and that gives parity to the discussion. When this does not exist, I see no point in engaging other than to state my beliefs on an issue. Do you really believe that you are ever going to have parity with Dave?

    When I began blogging as Dr. Isis I figured that my blog would be a place I could write about all of the little crazy things I think about in a day. I had 9 readers, including Mr. Isis and I. It would be something I would do to have fun and post things I found amusing. As this evolved I began receiving very heart-felt emails from women who were looking for support in dealing with a lot of the issues I write about and I realized that (all joking completely aside) I had become a role model to some of these women. I still try my best to answer all of the emails I get in one form or another. When I moved to ScienceBlogs, I realized that my readership would probably increase and that I would become an even more visible figure. I decided when I was pondering the move that it would be unethical to move here simply to serve my own interests — if I was going to write at ScienceBlogs then I needed to also be able to contribute something back, even if it is making parts of my life very public so that people see that the things they struggle with are not unique.

    I like to consider this place like a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group with 40,000+ members plus a bunch of really cool guys. I can’t help individual women (and men) do great science, but I like to think that I can offer a place where our humble little group can support each other, laugh together, scrap a little bit, and gain resources from each other.

    I can’t do this and treat it like a game. I don’t mean to sound self-important, but I think it is important that people see where I stand and I don’t want my lack of a response to ever be confused as an endorsement. Because I appreciate the role I serve around this place, I feel the need to respond when someone says something that is immediately contrary to the goal of gender and racial equality in science.

  3. #3 ScientistMother
    December 15, 2008

    How can a blogger find allies? By getting out there and leaving comments. When I first started blogging, I just left a comments on the blogs I always read, they were pure mommyblogs, but then Bean-mom found me and hooked me up with all of you.
    How can a blogger be an ally? It vitally important that bloggers talk openly and honestly about both the positive and negative things that go on. Both personally and professionally. Being a mom, graduate student and wife to a partner that is equally busy is hard. Reading about your struggles, Isis’s, Bean-mom’s etc lets me know that (a) struggling does not equal failing (b) feeling frustrated, angry or bitter at your partner does not mean you marriage is failing, it means you have a marriage and marriage is work (c) enjoyment in being a women does not mean your less of a scientist. I have learned these along with many many other lessons (like don’t let you toddler play in the crib for >20minutes)
    Do I consider myself an ally? Totally. I have long ago learned to not care about being a bitch simply for standing up for myself or advocating for someone else or the cause of equality. I hope I am a role model for other women (minority or not), mothers, parents. Like isis, I would like to demonstrate that we can be scientists as well as having other identities, so I try to blog about everything that is going on in my life. From toys in toilets to switching supervisors.
    What can ally do? I think that supporting one another, from commenting on other blogs, blogrolling each other are good starts.

  4. #4 Lab Lemming
    December 16, 2008

    Against whom are we allied?

  5. #5 Alice
    December 16, 2008

    Lab Lemming, I don’t think I ever have thought of being an ally as being *against* anyone. There is a decidedly positive valence to me about being an ally. What about for others?

  6. #6 ecogeofemme
    December 16, 2008

    Along the lines of LL’s comment, I see the term “ally” pretty frequently, but I’m never entirely sure what it means. Could you please define it in this context?

    I assume that it is the new way of saying “support network”. If that’s the case, then I agree with ScientistMother that bloggers can find allies by leaving comments to make themselves known. I think memes (annoying as they can sometimes be) serve this function as well, because linking to new bloggers helps them develop an audience that might provide advice or other support. Scientiae works similarly. Anything to help people hook up with one another so that they can see that they are not alone in their struggles is good.

  7. #7 Anon4now
    December 18, 2008

    Ally is just defined as a group (or person or country) with an agreement to support another. In that sense it does not need to be against any one. In a social (and historical) context however, one would have to question what it is that one requires support for. If it is simply a support framework, then that’s fine. If it is support against oppression/inappropriate behavior/something that the group disagrees with, then it is indeed a polarized term and should be used with caution.

    In this case, I’d assume ally was simply a support network, and go with ecogeofemme’s definition. Any other definition would feed flame wars and lead to members of the community feeling very isolated because they do not conform to the ‘them and us’ attitude that would arise.

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