Methods of Prohibition

Following up on my entry on Joanna Russ's book, How to Suppress Women's Writing, and its application to women in science and engineering...

In discussing "prohibitions", Russ notes"

First of all, it's important to realize that the absence of formal prohibitions against committing art [or science] does not preclude the presence of powerful, informal ones.

These include poverty and lack of leisure, the latter arising from overwhelming duties to family and home. Even our heroines had to overcome this latter prohibition:

Marie Curie's biographer, her daughter Eve, describes her mother's cleaning, shopping, cooking, and child care, all unshared by Pierre Curie and all added to a full working day during Madame Curie's early domestic years, which were also the beginnings of her scientific career

Makes those two Nobels look even more impressive, doesn't it?

Lack of access to materials, discouragement, climate of expectation - for example, the expectation that women just can't or shouldn't or don't want to do science. Or, more horribly, the expectation that all pretty young things are sexually available to any predator male who wants them. Russ describes an assault and attempted rape when Ellen Glasgow took the manuscript of her first novel to a New York City agent. That, I suppose, was in the 1800's, but it does put one in mind of Tracy McIntosh,

the former University of Pennsylvania professor placed on house arrest last year after he pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting a graduate student who was the niece of his college roommate.

At least the Superior Court has ordered resentencing in his case. House arrest does seem to be treating him, well, as Superior Court Judge Debra Todd said, " 'less as a criminal than as a school boy requiring direction and supervision' ". Throw the fucker in prison, I say. Five and a half to 11 years, just like the recommended sentencing asked for. He did, after all, have a "long history of sexual behavior toward young women who worked in his lab." Asswipe.

Or perhaps it reminds you of William French Anderson, "the father of gene therapy", also known now as "the convicted child molestor". Anderson was convicted in July 2006 of molesting the daughter of his employee. We can hope that Anderson will spend a good number of years in prison for his crimes.

The girl took tae kwon do lessons from Dr. Anderson at his house. The two were close; he gave her gifts and helped her with her school work. The accuser, now 19, said that the abuse took place over the course of five years, starting when she was 10.

Here's something that will make you want to barf on a lawyer's shoes:

The defense lawyer argued in court that the accusations were part of a plot by the mother to take over Dr. Anderson's position...

Yes, because if I were a mom, and I wanted to advance my career, I would so put my child forth as a sex abuse victim to get ahead. Because everybody knows how readily one is believed when one claims to have been sexually abused by a prominent man. And how seriously they take the crime. Just like Tracy McIntosh. House arrest, please, Your Honor, his work is so very important to society! Which is the same argument Anderson's lawyer made in the sentencing - his work is so important, please don't deprive society of his magnificent brain! Never mind he has deprived this young woman of her childhood and of a lifetime free of memories of sexual abuse.

You know, role models, we always say - so important for encouraging young girls to go into science. You might think a young girl whose mother is second-in-command in the laboratory of a famous scientist, who gets to take tae kwon do lessons from and spend time with that scientist - why, he takes such an interest in her - you might think that little girl would be extraordinarily privileged and expect her to grow up to do great things in science! That's because you wouldn't expect that dogturd of a man to be sexually abusing her.

It's hard to say just what are the most repugnant parts of this whole story, apart from the actual sexual abuse itself. The incredibly insulting defense offered by his attorney? The years and years that this bastard went on committing his loathsome crimes, while traveling around the globe, accepting accolades and research money, and holding, for Christ's sake, an appointment in the Keck School of Medicine as a professor of pediatrics? The Chronicle considering this story worthy of only a five-paragraph blurb on page 10?

Or maybe this: according to the Wikipedia entry for the beastly, vile creature the world knows as William French Anderson, the slimy dirtbag has also been "charged in Montgomery County, MD with molesting a Silver Spring, MD boy for three years in the 1980's.

Let's contextualize that last statement with this information, obtained via a link on the Sadly Normal website.

Most sexual abuse is committed by men (90%) and by persons known to the child (70% to 90%)...In 1985, research conducted by Dr. Gene Abel of Emory University in Atlanta examined a group of sex offenders. Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Abel's research concluded that the typical sexual offender against children is male, begins molesting by age 15, engages in a variety of deviant behavior, and "molests an average of 117 youngsters, most of whom do not report the offense."

But hey, maybe that young girl was lying. I think the faking-the-sex-abuse-allegation-so-mom-gets-control-of-the-lab strategy is awesome. I mean, it's so easy to prove sexual abuse, isn't it? This would be an even BETTER strategy than claiming that you had been raped! Which is the other sex crime that is greeted with widespread belief and support by the establishment! Kudos to the mom on her clever career move! Ladies, are you paying attention? Forget publishing in science! Just have a kid, slyly set her up for tae kwon do lessons with the head of a good lab, and presto! Five years later you've got yourself a court case and a lab of your own! Your child will be traumatized, but you can always put her in therapy. Indeed you'll have to as part of the court case. A small price to pay for career advancement I say. Call up everybody who's got an NSF ADVANCE institutional transformation grant and tell them to add this to the toolkit!

I think most men have no idea how many women are walking around them carrying the pain and trauma of rape and/or sexual abuse. It's just one more issue that must be dealt with on a daily basis as women struggle to cope and achieve in male-dominated professions like science and engineering, where the daily small brutalities of having it made clear over and over that you are not wanted and you do not belong and you are not respected are made even more painful when they evoke past trauma.

I have a friend, Laree, who has thought up the perfect punishment for dogturd men like Anderson and McIntosh. She thinks that every time one of their victims thinks about the abuse, the perpetrator should get an electric shock. Wouldn't that be delicious? Isn't there some talented biomedical and/or electrical engineer out there who could get to work on this? I'm sure any number of rape and sex abuse victims wouldn't mind carrying around a little device, or having some little apparatus implanted in the brain, to send off a signal to a satellite that transmits to the receiver unit on the perpetrator. I know I'd sign up for it. Just imagine him jumping and jerking about. It seems only fair. If the victims have to carry the pain around with them for the rest of their lives, the perpetrators ought to get to share in it, too.


More like this

it's worth pointing out that boys, as well as girls, are also frequently victims of molestation, and are usually equally disbelieved when the perpetrator is a famous man.

one case worth mentioning is Lasaga, formerly of Harvard

several of his esteemed colleagues in the field actually had the nerve to defend him at his trial, as though we would be depriving the world of his wonderful science by punishing him for the horrible things he did to that boy. they should feel permanently ashamed. and yes, they were famous men too.

By anon4thisone (not verified) on 21 Nov 2006 #permalink

sorry, that was Yale, not Harvard. my error.

By anon4thisone (not verified) on 21 Nov 2006 #permalink