When I was poking around at the Protein Wisdom right-wing wackaloon treehouse seeing what they had to say about my fisking of the NY Times piece on Title IX and science, I stumbled upon a species of apologist argument that I would like to address generically. The basic idea is that there must not be inequitable discrimination in some venue, because if there were, those discriminated against would be suing left and right, thus providing a strong incentive for the institutions that control that venue to stamp out discrimination.
Well the fatal flaw with this argument is that the overwhelmingly vast majority of inequitable discrimination that occurs in science is not legally actionable. I will illustrate this with shit I have seen with my own two eyes.
I have seen a very senior male scientist turn to a young female scientist in the context of a small group of men and women and state, “I’m imagining you right now in a bikini”.
I have been at a conference where all the big swinging dick male machers pompously lob each other softballs after each other’s presentations, but then gang up and mercilessly hound a prominent senior female scientist after her presentation, even so far as to carry on the hounding for over a half hour into the supposed “open-topic” discussion period. And not a single one of the organizers or anyone else did a single fucking thing to try to move the discussion on.
I have been at an alcohol-soaked science-related social event where a male faculty member leeringly tried to feel up a junior female post-doc.
I have heard a male plenary speaker at a major conference lead off his talk by telling a joke about a female scientist giving a seminar in which the punchline was “I don’t care if I can hear you, so long as I can see you”.
And I have seen female scientists with tears in their fucking eyes after shit like this happens. I know female scientists who speak too goddamn quietly, because they know that when they raise their voices, their pitch rises too, and then they sound like shrill harpies.
I know many brilliant female scientists who are uncertain of their own brilliance, and many not-so-brilliant male scientists who are certain of their own brilliance.
None of this shit taken individually is legally actionable, but it adds up incrementally to severe inequitable discrimination, just like a dripping pipe, over time, eats a hole into a fucking concrete floor.