Throwback Thursday: Stop Sexism in Science (Synopsis)

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” –John Stuart Mill

If there's nothing else that science has to offer, it's this elegant notion: that anyone, anywhere, at anytime, can investigate and uncover the mysteries and workings of the Universe simply by asking it the right questions in the right ways, listening to its answers, and putting the pieces together for themselves. Anyone can do it.

Image credit: University of Baltimore. Image credit: University of Baltimore.

Only, for various and sundry reasons, not everyone gets to do it. Some people don't have the economic ability, some don't have the sustained drive or interest, and some simply can't cut the mustard. But some people -- some really, really good people -- are driven from their passions for a sad, simple and completely unnecessary fact: that they were treated in unacceptable ways that they refused to just accept. And in a great many cases, that unacceptable treatment came simply because of their gender.

Image credit: retrieved from Lily White of Image credit: retrieved from Lily White of

Sexism sometimes looks like what you expect, and sometimes not. Here's what we can all do about it to create the world we really want: where science really is for everyone.

More like this

So we pick and choose what sort of sexual deviancy we deem "inappropriate"?
How does this follow, people with all sorts of other sexual flavors is on par with the emetophiliac or the pedophile
but we crack down on a guy checking out a chick?
Call him a sexist pig if you wish and it may be inappropriate, but it seems a bit odd that his sexual hang up of flirting with females is bad evil, foul, no go zone but people with all sort of other paraphilias is normal
because we want them to feel the "inclusive" environment but not the sexist pig?
I don't get it...

And as far as institutionalization, that would seem a stretch based on this part of the article
"Most authority figures in my field aren’t sexist"
Or am I misquoting something out of context?

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

Here, here ! Bravo ! Well put.

This site could be a good place to 'clean up' on inciteful & negative commentary, as well as the above.

My above comments are for Ethan re his article. I guess Tex was writing at the same time. First come, first served.

@#1 Tex
It is more a case of reading the body language correctly & being more observant. When it comes to 'falling in love', most are guilty of 'falling in lust'. It is a fine art to get it right. Parents don't always give the appropriate signals as to correctness of actions, either; something which becomes detrimental to potential partnership growth.

If a female can handle the job, she has a right to be there as well as any man. I have had several ladies in my brigade over the years. If there were any sign of weakness in any area, then we would work on those issues. Whether it's strength, mental ability; doesn't matter. Teamwork is most important during a turnout, and, of course, off the fire ground. This is what the training is about. Any disagreements, harassment, or other problems were dealt with as soon as possible; usually a confrontation with the parties concerned was enough to settle the difference.

But should strength and fitness standards be relaxed simply because someone can not pass them?

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

If the standard was too high in the first place, as was stated in the article, then lowering it to allow others in is more progressive. There are still certain criteria which have to be met, but that is across the board.

I find it interesting how people are so willing to forgive and forget sexual predators who prey on women because they are of the same political mindset.
Bill Clinton (Slick Willy) is a perfect example of this.
Now is Monika Also responsible for the cum stained dress?
And then his flat out LIES about it.
And yet people have no problem paying him hundreds of thousands in speaking fees and Democrat women have no issue with him and his wife being their voice and seeing that couple back in the White House.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 14 May 2015 #permalink

It takes 2 to tango. ML made a lot of bucks out of that conquest. Preying is common with both sexes. It is not a one sided deal.
Power has such a dominating effect on people who seek it; just as money has the same influence. In other words, greed conquers many a weak soul.

Dear Women:

You are not worth as much as a man who does equivalent work. You are lucky to get 0.77 cents on the dollar and this article is a perfect example of why.

The motivation for the posting of this article was a set of comments made about the appearance of Amanda Peet. One of the comments was singled out for shaming was as follows:

Not the Amanda Peet you’re thinking of, I’m afraid.

This comment was in response to another poster who had conflated Amanda Peet the Physicist and Amanda Peet the Celebrity. For making this comment, this poster who had absolutely no history of making sexist comments and arguably didn’t even make one here, was tarred as a sexist in a subsequent post by Ethan.

While this massive overreaction in the noble effort to have all people treated as people seems to be harmless or even helpful, that view is naïve. Unfortunately there is no shortage of naïve people. The quick jump to outrage on display here is not uncommon.

Let me introduce you to the American Civil Justice System.

First of all, it has nothing to do with right, or wrong, or justice, or the merits of whatever it is you are trying to prove. People who claim to have been wronged will be heard. The Constitutionally guaranteed Right to Petition for Redress of Grievances is a little known component of the First Amendment. If Sally in accounting thinks someone in her workplace pointing out that Physicist Amanda Peet doesn’t look like Celebrity Amanda Peet makes for an oppressive workplace environment, she will undoubtedly be able to find a lawyer who will be happy to initiate a lawsuit against the employer.

The lawsuit has little chance of winning at trial, but it will never get to trial. Depending on where in the country you live, defending a sexual harassment lawsuit would likely cost you a minimum of $75k to $150k. Sally’s lawyer will likely front load the suit with expensive motion play and a ridiculous discovery schedule just to make the prospect of continuing with the litigation as expensive as possible. This is where the employer or their insurance company steps in to pay off Sally and settle the case.

Here is another tidbit that is not well known: If you are a startup with one or two owners and you have incorporated your business to protect your personal assets, you are screwed. Corporations cannot represent themselves. That means if you can’t pay a lawyer to say it, the court isn’t allowed to hear it. In such cases, the plaintiff is awarded a default judgement of whatever they were asking for, which could be millions. If your insurance doesn't cover millions in damages, then Sally’s lawyer can use being “underinsured” to pierce the corporate veil to come after your personal assets.

Sally could have a ridiculous claim of overhearing a conversation about contrasting Amanda Peets, and end up taking everything you and your wife ever made. It would be at about that time, you’d be thinking to yourself “why didn’t I just pay a little more to get a guy to do the work?”

In full disclosure, I am not a lawyer. I have never been sued by any current or former employees for any reason, but I have been through Civil Litigation more than once. I do hire women and I pay them the same as I pay guys, but I am really, really, really careful with whom I decide to bring on.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to clue you Chicken Little’s into the damage you are unwittingly doing in your noble efforts. When you say some commenter devalued women, you have no idea how much that is the pot calling the kettle black.


I can't for a start. I can't do less than none.

For seconds, I don't think your claims are correct. At least not in their framing.

We see harassment of men and it isn't sexism.

We see harassment of women and you claim it IS sexism.

That doesn't make sexism a problem in science.

There's no need to point that out, Rag.

There is no evidence that more can or should be done in science to "Stop Sexism".

There is the equality of opportunity.

It takes time for balance (if it is going to occur) to happen.

Stirring up hate is counterproductive as it just enrages everyone who is doing their part that they're being blamed when they (seeing what they do) see blamelessness.

Which goes for Ethan as well as you, Rag.

Pot..Kettle.. Meet Wow.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

Freudian slip. The guy in the story laughed because he's attracted to trans people. Instead of seeing a word on paper, he saw something scintillating enough to make an exclamation. He shouldn't have laughed, he was being sexist by making an exclamation, and you were right to call him out.
My suppostion, this guy read the listing for "other," then projected himself as the person interviewing a trans applicant, and being excited that he'd already know someone was trans in that scenario.
Analogous, this guy might make an exclamation reading an actor's application when asked for measurements.
Its an example of someone thinking sexism is okay if it's in a abstract-greasy-complimentary format. It's good your active on this subject, that needs to end.

By Anonymous Coward (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person's sex or gender. I'm all for fighting that.

But I don't agree with Ethan when he implies that:
- looking at a woman's butt as she walks away, or
- letting your eyes drift to (impressive?) mammaries
is sexism. Where is the prejudice or discrimination? You might as well ask a cat not to look at a piece of twitching yarn.

So yeah, let's fight sexism on all fronts, but let us please agree on what it means.

By Jens Rasmussen (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

It requires empathy to recognize the damage done by the sexism Ethan describes. I've noticed that - among my colleagues - the shortcut to becoming a feminist is fathering a daughter.

By Robert Norris (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

Rag, you're immune to reason. Hence no worries antagonising you. The only way to avoid that is to congratulate you on the perspicacity of your insane rantings.

Which is a lot less productive than merely taking the entirely deserved piss out of your dribbles.

"but people with all sort of other paraphilias is normal"

Of course that isn't the case anywhere except in your mind full of whatever it's full of.

@Ragtag Media #12

That is an awful story for sure, but not exactly what I am talking about. In that case, the person accused of wrong doing is the one fighting for his innocence. That prosecution is about addressing the merits of a criminal complaint and there are steps all along the way where prosecutors have to prove they have enough evidence to continue. Furthermore the investigation is carried out by law enforcement professionals on the tax payers' dime.

In Civil litigation, the whole goal is to extract money, and the party who is the real target is seldom the one who did anything wrong. The real target is the one with the money to extract, but those people are often savvy enough to not engage in such blatantly actionable conduct. Instead it will be some stupid, insensitive employee who commits the act and the employer gets roped in because the employee was in the work environment. The make thing even better, the accused has to incur a massive cost investigating himself or the courts will issue fines. This cost of discovery is one of the main motivators for quick settlement.

My point is that people hear the disparity between what women are paid and what men are paid and totally misunderstand the reasons. Business owners and executives are not stupid. A woman, and in fact all protected classes, are a more risky hire because of the increased potential of lawsuits.

This of it this way, imagine you are in an electronics store buying a new television. You see 2 models of the television that are so similar as to be indistinguishable, except that one of the televisions has a warning sticker notifying you that it could explode and kill your family. You would probably be willing to pay a little more to get the non-exploding television.

The way Ethan was so quick to libel someone who made a comment in the thread shows just how like exploding televisions women can be. The truly sad part of the story is the women themselves aren't the reason they have less value. Ethan is male, and women didn't create the litigious society we live in.

If there is one message I would like to drive home here, it is that women are not the weak, stupid creatures needing your protection that you make them out to be. They know full well when they are dealing with a creepy old boob-gazing professor. They know when they are being treated differently because of the way they look. Women are powerful and can handle the situation if it really is a problem. The toolset for them to deal with just about anything is more than accessible.

Male so-called do-gooders aren't helping the cause for women, In fact they are making it worse. Hyper-sensitive men are far more of a problem these days than old letches who are now basically unemployable if they don't have tenure.

I will call sexism out: this article is sexist. Stop it.

@ Denier #21
"If there is one message I would like to drive home here, it is that women are not the weak, stupid creatures needing your protection that you make them out to be. They know full well when they are dealing with a creepy old boob-gazing professor. They know when they are being treated differently because of the way they look. Women are powerful and can handle the situation if it really is a problem."

Like This:

@dean#20 I had this gift for you in reserve for this weekends perversion diversion; however this setting seems more fitting:

@Wow #19
See above clips for my perspicacity

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

tt, it's somewhat offensive, but I don't think it's (at least intended) as sexist.

The offense is the presupposition.

It would be no different to having people claiming you need to do more to stop child molesting or kidnap or some other offensive criminal act.

You're doing all you can already. You don't know others who do it, or correct those who offend when you do find it.

The cry is telling you you aren't doing anything, that you're part of the problem and assuming you need to be told.

I'm an adult. Please treat meas such until you get evidence otherwise. Doing otherwise is offensive.

For instance, look at the cartoon.

Taking it as given, that it DOES have the magical ability to show you the accurate thoughts of each person, the man is thinking "Science. Discussing science."

The woman is thinking "He's secretly *laughing* at me".

This indicates that it;s the woman who is being sexist.

Yet the presenting of it is indicating that Ethan believes it's showing that men are sexist and that women are leaving because of it. The title of the piece indicates the author thinks it too.

It's no different than any other conspiracy ideation. Except this one is defended as the fault of EVERYONE ELSE who "makes her" think that.

Your self-created fear isn't my problem. Whoever you are. What ever is scaring you.

Terrified of black men following you in the dark when walking home? Your problem: get over it. Most would add, accurately, "you racist".

Terrified of men, same situation? You're sexist for not walking along another street, according to a hell of a lot of VERY vocal people.

Very backward thinking.

This day is going to be noted in my personal history. Today Wow said something closely related to what I was thinking.

That awesome graphic at the top of the page is of a women being insecure and fabricating a non-existent hostile environment in her own head. It is the opposite of sexism.

I think the image is very fitting for a piece in which Ethan is fabricating a non-existent sexist culture over the Amanda Peet comments.

"Today Wow said something closely related to what I was thinking."

What a beautiful pedantic waltz you two performed together. It's hard to tell who's the hand and who's the sock.

Sorry deano, I just couldn't resist.

By Ragtag Media (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

If women in revealing clothes are not causing men their thoughts why are men being held accountable for what women think of themselves in male dominated professions?

By Dellenite (not verified) on 15 May 2015 #permalink

Yes, rag you couldn't resist.

Because you're a twat.

There we go. Never mind, eh?

Sorry, I couldn't resist (hey, apparently it's a good excuse!)

No more sexism? This would be great! This would mean that, as a highly qualified male, I would have an equal shot at one of those "plum" jobs that only go to less qualified female or minority candidates.

"If there’s nothing else that science has to offer, it’s this elegant notion: that anyone, anywhere, at anytime, can investigate and uncover the mysteries and workings of the Universe simply by asking it the right questions in the right ways, listening to its answers, and putting the pieces together for themselves. Anyone can do it."

I am semi retired Aeronautical Engineer.. I have no higher degree.. in lets say Physics.. but I have done a fair bit of thermodynamics.. and I appreciate the maths. I discovered a number.. {which I call the Bellamy Limit} a special number with specific relevance to the application of the 2nd Law to any large physical system. Its effectively a limiting value based on the absolute entropy (where calculable) of a system. It defines the boundary beyond which the state of the system cannot go without violation of the 2nd Law. But there's a problem.. very few people understand the 2nd Law.. and no one but creationists are interested in the result.

If I am right it amounts to a formal proof that the theory of evolution violates the 2nd Law.. which as a theist I had no particular problem with.. but to everyone else in the scientific community I am Judas..! But the math does not lie.. and strangely it is complimentary and agrees with Fred Hoyle's findings in 'The Mathematics of Evolution'.. It wasn't just the Big Bang he had problems with..

Now before you go abusing me about it I would suggest you check the work of Ludwig Boltzmann and avoid the Wikipedia on this subject.. its a complete an utter mess.

You'll find the reasoning at..
[ "The God Law"] summary page 9.1-2 Appendix 1.5

By Mike Bellamy (not verified) on 14 Jul 2015 #permalink

Yeah, it doesn't.

Losing energy can increase order, ask anyone who has frozen some ice cubes.

And that energy escapes the limits of the system and therefore increases overall entropy.

Your "idea" is getting the region you apply 2nd to wrong again.