Archive for 30th June 2015

Solidarity with Connie St. Louis

Reactions to Sir Tim Hunt‘s controversial comments about women’s role in science continue to illustrate how misogynists dislike to be held to account for their prejudice.

Hunt said: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry”. Although he has since declared he was joking, the three people who initially reported on the story after hearing him speak insist that he spoke in earnest.

 

 

Whether Hunt was joking or not is beside the point. As Hilda Bastion has already demonstrated, his remarks are equally offensive when framed as “humour”  .

In a 2004 review of empirical research, Thomas Ford and Mark Ferguson[PDF] point out:

Disparagement humor (e.g., racist or sexist humor) is humor that denigrates, belittles, or maligns an individual or social group…[P]eople have become less willing to allow joke tellers “moral amnesty” for their derision of social out-groups through humor.

Sexist and other discriminatory disparaging humor takes a code for granted: its funniness relies on people recognizing the stereotypes that are the basis for the joke. It asks us to not take discriminatory stereotyping seriously. That’s not going to take the sting out of it.

Ford and Ferguson concluded that jokes don’t create hostility to the outgroup where it doesn’t already exist. But the evidence, they said, showed that joking reinforces existing prejudice. If you joke about women and get away with it, those who are hostile to women will see this as social sanction for their views and behavior. The joke tellers don’t themselves have to be actively misogynist to end up encouraging others to be.

 

Hunt’s comments initially provoked condemnation of the type above as well as humorous memes from women scientists who poked fun at him using the hashtag #distractinglysexy. It also proved a good opportunity for many to talk about sexism in science.

The discussion turned unpleasant after Hunt resigned from a Honorary Fellowship at University College London. It was then that a narrative suggesting Hunt had been driven from his job by on-line “witch-hunt” from feminists began to form. The narrative has lots of problems, as Emily Hunt has shown. Chief amongst these is the fact that it is simply not true.

Studying the comments under an on-line petition demanding Hunt’s reinstatement, Dr. Dorothy Bishop notes that three misconceptions govern on-line discussion in support of Hunt:

  1. a) They think that Tim Hunt has been sacked from his job
  2. b) They think he is ‘lost to science’
  3. c) They think University College London (UCL) fired him in response to a ‘Twitter mob’.

But as she goes on to say:

None of these things is true. (a) Hunt is a retired scientist who was asked to resign from an honorary position.  That’s shaming and unpleasant, but an order of magnitude different from being sacked and losing your source of income. (b) Hunt continues to have an affiliation to the Crick Institute – a flagship research centre that recently opened in Central London. (c) UCL are explicit that their acceptance of his resignation from an honorary position had nothing to do with the reaction on social media.

Dr. Bishop highlights how this narrative of on-line bullying has been presented to the public via the media: especially, from the BBC. She points to the fact that women and feminism have been the favourite scapegoats for what people believe to be the hounding of Hunt:

there was an awful lot of blaming of women, Twitter and feminism in general, with comments such as “Too much of this feminist ranting going on. Men need to get their spines back and bat it away” and “A respected and competent scientist has been hounded out of his job because of an ignorant baying twitter mob who don’t happen to like his views“. And my favourite: “What he said was a joke. If lesbian feminist women can’t take a joke, then they are the joke.”

In this post, we would like to point out how the Daily Mail is contributing to the propagation of this fictional narrative against women and feminists. In particular we wish to draw attention to its hate campaign against one of the women who initially reported on Tim Hunt’s comments: the academic Connie St. Louis, senior lecturer in Journalism at City University, London.

Last week, the Mail published two articles about Ms. St. Louis:

Connie St Louis who revealed Sir Tim Hunt’s ‘sexist’ comments has no regrets | Daily Mail Online

Sir Tim Hunt investigation reveals flaws about Connie St Louis’ testimony | Daily Mail Online

The first article sought to frame Ms. St. Louis as the reason why Hunt was “fired” from his job. The second was an attempt at discrediting Ms. Louis – “the architect of the witch-hunt” against Hunt- by questioning the veracity of the curriculum vitae available on the City University website. The principal complaint of the Mail journalist, Guy Adams, was that Ms. St. Louis’s CV made references to work done more than ten or twenty years ago as if they were still in progess. He also appears to find it strange that breast cancer and family illnesses might have prevented Ms. St. Louis from concluding a research project.

Neither of these accusations hold much water. As Ms. St. Louis’s statement makes clear that the curriculum available on the City University website is not at all recent. City University itself says it has no doubts to the veracity of her curriculum. Moreover, breast cancer and family illness are both quite adequate explanations for the incompletion of projects.

Of course, the idea that Ms. St. Louis’s CV is somehow suspicious allows the Mail to fan the flames of the misogynists’ conspiracy theories regarding Sir Tim Hunt. It gives weight to the idea that the condemnation of his comments has been orchestrated by humorless feminists who are simply jealous of Hunt’s achievements.

Moreover, articles like those published last week, also mean that the Mail gives host a range of misogynist comments under its texts. The Mail may argue that these views do not reflect its editorial line. However, as can be seen from the following extracts from the comment thread under the second article, it would appear that most of its readers endorse its narrative of a “witch-hunt” of feminists and are in doubt who is the leading “witch”.

As the Mail also was careful to produce a full length photo of Ms. St. Louis, it also invited comment both on her attire and her looks. Much of this commentary is of an explicitly racist nature. The usual content warning apply.



Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.13.44 Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.10.32Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.10.10Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.09.43Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.08.10
Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.05.54Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.05.45
Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.05.17
Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.03.42Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.03.28Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.03.17Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.02.57Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.02.44Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.02.11Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.01.36Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.01.26Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.00.58Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.00.40Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.00.25Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.59.21Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.58.45Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.58.39Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.58.22Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.57.01Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.56.33Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.14.00
Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.13.44Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.13.10Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.12.51Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.12.33Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.12.20Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.11.48Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.11.37Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.11.18Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.11.07Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.10.56
Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.10.31Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.10.02Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.09.38
Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.08.56Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.08.40Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.08.24Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.08.02Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.07.51Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.07.39Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.07.19Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.07.12Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.05.37Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.03.34Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.03.21Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.02.48Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.02.06Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.01.56Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 18.59.22

Finally, it is also of note that many the commentators on this thread heartily endorse and celebrate the continued harassment of Ms. St. Louis. To judge from the comments below, they wish to make sure Ms. St. Louis is kept in her place.

 

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.13.51

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.05.31

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.06.08

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.09.07

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 19.10.46

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-29 20.05.01

This story also been repeated by the right-wing press: both the Spectator and Breibart News suggest that The Mail’s story is not receiving the attention it deserves.  On both sites, the comment threads contain similar opinions to those expressed on the Mail page. In the case of the latter, the racism and misogyny is as explicit in the text as in the comment section.

***************

As ever, we send our solidarity to Ms. St. Louis and all women beng targeted by misogyny and racism.

Solidarity With Dr. Emily Grossman

Dr. Emily Grossman (PhD. in Cancer Research) participated in a televised debate on UK Sky News last week about women in STEM subjects. The debate discussed the controversial comment made by Nobel Prize winner Sir Tim Hunt the week before: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry”.

 

Her participation was subject to misogynist comment on social media in the following days.

The following are some of the comments from under the clip on You Tube. Be aware that the usual content warnings apply. I classify them according to the type of misogynist trope being used.

1.Women are not “real” scientists/professionals. They can only do the “easy” part of any job.

 

thumb_BgfaZl_a_1024

 

 

 

thumb_cbtD5DFb_1024

thumb_2Il5OCnt_1024
thumb_ngFVLFEY_1024

2. She must hate men because she has been sexually assaulted, etc:

 

thumb_-VLHbAO-_1024

 

 

3. Women  are biologically and/or intellectually incapable of certain professions. They demand special treatment and still complain.

 

thumb_Bl7OczKs_1024

 

 

thumb_F-feQdWY_1024

 

thumb_qNmUW32a_1024

thumb_LhH1EtC6_1024

 

 

thumb_QtTlL2QP_1024

thumb_d7SG05xc_1024

 

3. Attacks on the women’s race. In this case, antisemitism:

 

 

thumb_dS_Vdmjl_1024

 

 

4. The charges of being a “feminazi” and of being “insane”.

thumb_6DwPWW5q_1024

 

thumb_QOYxnDBi_1024

 

5. The invocation of violence and the implication that women should not leave the “kitchen”.

 

 

thumb_4GxJFNRf_1024

 

 

 

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-21 18.50.32

 

 

Having read comments of this nature, Dr. Grossman made the following comment on Twitter.

This reference to the sexist nature of the comments she had received has since been questioned by a number of people on social media; most surprising of all, by those who are commenting on the same thread as the examples posted above.   thumb_Ifud555g_1024   Her comment also prompted the person she had debated, Milo Yiannopoulos, to publish an article on 11 June in which he insisted she had invented the harassment received. He displayed his research -done entirely on Twitter- in order to claim that Dr. Grossman was doing women a disservice for making up such allegations as such false claims of misogyny means that this accusation (just like false rape complaints) “lose their power to shock”. Mr. Yiannopoulos apparently did not read the comment thread under the YouTube clip. Or if he did, he appears to see nothing wrong with the comments directed at Dr. Grossman. His understanding appears to be that the qualification of what does or does count as misogynist abuse “comes down to interpretation”. It is our understanding that misogyny has a clear definition: “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.” Moreover, in both science and general debate, opinion is only valid if based upon well-researched evidence. Here Mr. Yiannopulos is on tricky ground, since his evidence is anything but well-researched. In fact, as the selection of comments I have included above attests, by limiting himself to a Twitter search, he fails to consider all the material at hand. And even if we look exclusively at Twitter, the charge that Dr. Grossman is inventing harassment is quite solidly disproved:FullSizeRender_1 FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_4 FullSizeRender   FullSizeRender_2 FullSizeRender_3 FullSizeRender_4 FullSizeRender  The theme of the You Tube comments and  these tweets is quite clear: women are not intelligent enough to be “real” scientists and that when they undertake scientific careers their presence necessarily lowers standards. They should desist from attempting to compete with men and return to the kitchen. These comments also meet dictionary definition of misogyny (“hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women, or prejudice against women.”) The careers of women scientists both today and in history demonstrate the fallacy of arguments which claim women are unsuited to science. Thus the insistence with which this idea is expressed, in the face of this evidence, is difficult to attribute to anything but an irrational dislike to women in general. Similarly, the call for women to “return” to the kitchen and not take part in science, or public life in general, is an affirmation of the need to preserve these spaces for men. This again suggests an aversion or prejudice to women as a group.

 

Why is Mr. Yiannopoulos keen to argue that Dr. Grossman is inventing the misogyny documented here? The answer appears to be that it allows him and various like-minded individuals to continue to berate her for her perceived inability to take part in reasoned, scientific debate. On one hand, they are again playing on sexist stereotypes regarding women’s behaviour. On the other, they are arguing that rational, scientific debate and/or criticism of this debate includes personal attacks and abusive language. Thus, if Dr. Grossman cannot handle herself in such an environment she should not enter it. These ideas certainly appears to be reflected in the reactions on Twitter and You Tube to Dr. Grossman’s tweet and Mr. Yiannapoulos’s blogs:

  thumb_6KfsRrTg_1024  

 

Moreover, as the comments made in the last fortnight under the You Tube clip attest, hostility can quickly turn into insults and personal attacks. Commenters describe women as “stupid”, “harpies” and “parasites”; they imply that their reasoning is impared (“Are all women mentally unhinged?”); they fantasise about sexually assaulting her (“slapping her with my cock”); and gleefully celebrate the verbal violence they perceive Dr. Grossman to be receiving (she “was raped”; her fellow debater “tore her a new asshole” etc). Finally, there are those who simply opt for the old chesnut, “you are women, shut up”.

 

thumb_17ZYxXtk_1024

thumb_1zUk-fBr_1024

 

USE Captura de pantalla 2015-06-21 18.36.39

 

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-21 18.44.35

 

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-21 18.38.36

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-21 18.52.34

Captura de pantalla 2015-06-21 18.50.38

At End Online Misogyny our position is clear: the abusive language and misogynist sentiment evidenced here have no place in any type of debate, be it in academia, journalism, popular science, social media or the street. We know that the use of such language is designed to intimidate and frighten the listener into silence. Its aim is to assert ownership of public space by the aggressors with claims of intellectual and emotional superiority. At the same time, it seeks to make the subject of this language doubt themselves and their professional value; to remind them not to get ideas above their “station”; and to accept the superiority of he who shouts the loudest. As a result, we refuse to be intimidated and above all, we refuse to be quiet.

Finally, we note that Mr. Yiannopoulos does not have a high opinion of women, women scientists or feminists in general. In a second article he wrote about his debate with Dr. Grossman, he argues that the reason that women are not better represented in science is because they are more likely to drop out or switch careers. He claims that efforts to encourage women to study science subjects is a feminist project which is doomed to failure because “given every opportunity to choose, women stubbornly refuse to study the subjects feminists would like them to.”

He refers to his debate with Dr. Grossman in an attempt to illustrate his argument. According to Mr. Yiannopoulos, Dr. Grossman’s arguments can be interpreted to mean that “women [in science] need special treatment because they’re fragile delicate wall-flowers who cry a lot”. In his text, he affirms that institutional efforts to encourage women into science are akin to awarding them privileges over men. Thus, in his words, far from facing a glass ceiling, women are on “a crystal escalator”.

If you listen to the interview, it is clear that Dr. Grossman is not actually arguing any such thing.

What she says is that science has historically been seen as been a subject only for men. And as a traditionally all male profession, it is an environment in which women are not always welcomed. As a result, some women may lack the confidence or the support to pursue a career in science.

Hostility to women in science -as in everyday life- is frequently expressed in the form of “jokes“, and both conscious and unconscious bias. It is seen in attitudes which still class science subjects as for “men only”, and in studies which show that men with similar qualifications to women are regularly preferred over them in job applications. Countering this with special measures and support is not giving women an unfair advantage, rather it is an attempt to level the playing field.

**********************

As ever, we send our solidarity to Dr. Grossman and all others being targeted with misogyny.

 

 

Note: The You Tube comment thread has been edited in the last fortnight and some of the comments we document here in the form of screenshots have since been deleted. We have collated the original shots in an archive on our Pinterest page. These clearly show the comments recorded here were made on the You Tube clip above. You can consult it here.

Follow End Online’s board Dr. Grossman on Pinterest.

Update 30 June 2015: The misogyny directed at Dr. Grossman continues. Here is a selection of tweets we found at the weekend:

 

1 2 (1) 3 4 5

 

 

Follow End Online’s board More screenshots of abuse aimed at Dr. E. Grossman on Pinterest.

Facebook Silences Women Who Protest About Online Abuse But Protects Those Who Abuse

It’s All a Conspiracy. Aaronovitch on Criticism of His Work