26 January 2011

We need to hear what we'd rather not

The issues faced by women in the blogosphere—higher expectations, less recognition, and casual sexism—have officially emerged as the most important discussion topic in the wake of ScienceOnline 2011.

Kate Clancy kicked things off with her recap of the conference panel "Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name." Christie Wilcox followed up by calling out the flagrant sexism of many of her male readers, which made David Dobbs righteously angry—and, seriously, who actually believes that any sentence containing the word "tits" is complimentary in any context? Emily Willingham noted that her voice is unique in ways beyond her gender. And now Clancy is rounding up the rapidly propagating conversation.

The conversation's ongoing in the comments on all these posts, and (barring a handful of amazingly clueless folks) mostly great reading. My major thought on the subject remains what I said in first tweeting about the post that started it all: the most valuable parts of this conversation are the things that men are probably not all that happy to hear. When I read
  • We are all very, very tired of making a point on a blog, on twitter, or in a meeting, being ignored, having a man make the same point, then having that man get all the credit. Very tired.
my first thought was defensive: I've never done that! My second was, Oh, crap. Have I done that?

I've long believed that the value of a sermon is proportionate to how uncomfortable it makes its audience. No one needs to be told they're doing just fine as they are. But if we're not doing fine, we need to hear about it. So to the women science bloggers leading this conversation, I want to say: keep calling out male thoughtlessness, in specifics as well as in general. If I miss that you said something first because I'm not reading your blog, drop a link in the comments. If I write something stupid, e-mail me and complain. I may not be thrilled to be corrected, but that probably means I needed it.

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