DrugMonkey posts on a senior neuroscientist (and fellow of the AAAS) using social media to display his sexist stance towards women in his scientific field. (Too many unattractive women at the Society for Neuroscience meeting! Oh, the humanity!)
And, totally predictably, in both the comments on DrugMonkey's post and on the Twitters, there is the chorus of:
- What's the big deal if one guy reveals himself to be a sexist jerk?
- You're not arguing that we should limit his free speech, are you?
- If you call him out like this, in public, there is no way the man will Learn and Grow, let alone issue a sincere apology. Be nicer!
Plus most of the rest of the squares on the BINGO card.
It's almost like people have something invested in denying the existence of gender bias among scientists, the phenomenon of a chilly climate in scientific professions, or even the possibility that Dario Maestripieri's Facebook post was maybe not the first observable piece of sexism a working scientist put out there for the world to see.
The thing is, that denial is also the denial of the actual lived experience of a hell of a lot of women in science (and in other fields -- I've been sexually harassed in both of the disciplines to which I've belonged).
I can't pretend to speak for everyone who calls out sexism like Maestripieri's, so I'll speak for myself. Here's what I want:
- I want to shine a bright light on all the sexist behaviors, big or small, so the folks who have managed not to notice them so far start noticing them, and so that they stop assuming their colleagues who point them out and complain about them are making a big deal out of nothing.
- I want the exposure of the sexist behaviors to push others in the community to take a stand on whether they're cool with these behaviors or would rather these behaviors stop. If you know about it and you don't think it's worth talking about, I want to know that about you -- it tells me something about you that might be useful for me to know as I choose my interactions.
- I want the people whose sexist behaviors are being called out to feel deeply uncomfortable -- at least as uncomfortable as their colleagues (and students) who are women have felt in the presence of these behaviors.
- I want people who voice their objections to sexist behaviors to have their exercise of free speech (in calling out the behaviors) be just as vigorously defended as the free speech rights of the people spouting sexist nonsense.
- I want the sexist behavior to stop so scientists who happen to be women can concentrate on the business of doing science (rather than responding to sexist behavior, swallowing their rage, etc.)
And, I'll level with you: while, in an ideal world, one would want the perpetrator of sexist behavior to Learn and Grow and Repent and make Sincere Apologies, I don't especially care if someone is still sexist in his heart as long as his behavior changes. It's the interactions with other people that make the climate that other people have to deal with. Once that part is fixed, we can talk strategy for saving souls.