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Old 10-12-2013, 06:17 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Woman science blogger called "urban whore"

This is a fairly long yet fascinating train of events. The tl:dr summary:
  • DNLee (a black woman post-doc biologist who blogs as "The Urban Scientist") is approached by the editor of an online biology blog site and asked to contribute
  • She asks for more information about his publication and whether he offers compensation for contributions
  • He responds: "Are you urban scientist or an urban whore?"
  • Her video response is pure gold. Her advice about valuing your own worth is a must-hear for anyone in the field.
It gets better...
  • DNLee posts about this experience on her Scientific American blog
  • The SA editor (also a woman) removes that post as being inappropriate and not about science
  • Quite a few comments on the blog discussions point to innumerable SA blogs that are not directly about science. Only this one appears to have been excised.
Oddly enough, it turns out that the online biology blog is a PARTNER of Scientific American. A coincidence, I'm sure, that had absolutely nothing to do with stripping out this post. * cough cough*
Quote:
Earlier today my friend DNLee shared an interaction with me that really disturbed me. It disturbed me, in part, because it happened to her and and she’s my friend and I love her. It also disturbed me in part because I think that its the sort of thing that happens to many women. But, most of us lack the bravery and clarity of DNLee, and so we keep quiet about it. We tuck these experiences away and call them part of the female or minority experience. We don’t share them.
Tell Someone “No”, Get Called a “Whore” – #StandingwithDNLee #batsignal |

An Open Letter to Scientific American and Why You’ve Lost a Reader: #BoycottSciAm |

ETA: I've clarified where the tern "urban" came from in this narrative, because of a few comments posted below that didn't catch the association.
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Last edited by Beebo Brink; 10-13-2013 at 12:47 PM. Reason: For clarity of associations
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Old 10-12-2013, 06:50 PM   #2 (permalink)
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This incident has touched a nerve for a lot of women (and men) in the science community. Several eloquent blog commentaries about the way in which women and/or minorities are made to feel unwelcome as scientists:

I will not be silent any longer about the way women and people of color in science and leadership are treated | Highly Allochthonous

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More broadly conversation about Danielle’s treatment, first by biology-online and then by Scientific American, has reminded me of the wider issues in our treatment of women and minorities in science and leadership. For all those wondering why we still lack diversity in STEM, Scientific American’s actions illustrate the problem quite nicely. First, we have to put up with harassment from jerks like the editor of biology-online. Then, we call out that bad behavior, respected institutions ignore, or worse censor us. It sends a pretty clear message: “We don’t want you here.”
What @sciam’s actions tell me as a female scientist of color |

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@DNLee5 isn’t seen as equal to her @sciamblogs peers by @sciam admin. It tells me @sciam has one set of rules for it’s real team members and another set for us brown folks.
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Old 10-12-2013, 07:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Another easy boycott (sorry, eb). I subscribe to the AAAS Science journal but I only ever end up with a copy of SciAm when I'm at the airport. It's a bit too fluffy for me.
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Old 10-12-2013, 07:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Aimee Weber View Post
Another easy boycott (sorry, eb). I subscribe to the AAAS Science journal but I only ever end up with a copy of SciAm when I'm at the airport. It's a bit too fluffy for me.
I'm very proud to announce that I received another of their routine "please renew" notices in the mail today and trashed it
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Old 10-12-2013, 07:35 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Let's firebomb their offices!!



Come on, I'm not the only one who thought of it.

What amazes me is these scumbags still think that women are just going to sit on their hands and accept this kind of abuse and discrimination. Especially in the "information age" where we can air our grievances and name names online for the world to read.

Fuckers. I hope they pay. I'm not a reader or a scientist but I hope they are forced to do something, an apology at the very least.

Last edited by Io Zeno; 10-13-2013 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 10-12-2013, 08:16 PM   #6 (permalink)
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My comment to the second blog linked:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Me
Part of writing about science is writing about how scientists work. Not just in labs or in the field, but things like public outreach and education about science. (I teach budding scientists and engineers how to write, including communicating to the public.)

This kind of transparency does several things. First, it gives the public an idea of just how much and how varied work scientists do. It also helps to humanize science by letting people see that it is people doing a lot of interesting things that makes up science, not just the occasional talking head expert they see on TV or quotes about the latest paper that has been turned into an alarmist article by a newspaper or TV station. Scientists write, teach, try to get grants, help Museums, visit community groups, and do lots of other things that help people understand science and the world around them. In my experience, scientists love to share and are passionate about their work.

Finally, writing about the broad work of scientists pulls back the curtain and lets people exploring careers see what goes on. And that is where the encounter that DNLee wrote about is important. It lets potential scientists see what to expect in their careers. And it rightly names and shames a person who represents a real barrier to a lot of people considering a career in science. So I applaud DNLee’s original post and the restraint that she showed in her response. No one should have to defend themselves for asking for professional compensation for professional services. So far as I know,”exposure” is not a negotiable currency anywhere in the world (well, maybe in Hollywood….). Thank you, and keep up the good work. You deserve better.
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Old 10-12-2013, 08:24 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I have acquired horrifyingly few bits of wisdom. However, one I do have: Anytime anybody asks you to do a favor for them while acting like they're doing a favor for you, run. As far and as fast as you possibly can, and don't look back.
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Old 10-12-2013, 08:36 PM   #8 (permalink)
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On a related note, my favorite Bloggess has an effective method of dealing with requests for free work:



Here’s a picture of Wil Wheaton collating papers

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Old 10-12-2013, 08:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Veritable Quandry View Post
On a related note, my favorite Bloggess has an effective method of dealing with requests for free work:



Here’s a picture of Wil Wheaton collating papers


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Old 10-12-2013, 09:05 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Blogger's Post About Being Called A "Whore" Is Deleted By Scientific American
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:02 AM   #11 (permalink)
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More good stuff on valuing your time and expertise:

A Note to You, Should You Be Thinking of Asking Me to Write For You For Free | Whatever
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Old 10-13-2013, 07:44 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Here is one of the Urban Scientist's previous blog posts -- on Scientific American -- commenting about how racism affects her scientific work. Note, this post wasn't removed; but then this post didn't embarrass a partner of SA.

Brown Faces in White Places doing science (and wearing hoodies) | The Urban Scientist, Scientific American Blog Network

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I was having a Twitter conversation with @LeafWarbler about being a lone brown face in a research setting. I told him of my adventures in field research in rural Illinois (outside of Urbana-Champaign). I was trapping small mammals on corn fields just off of a rural road. It became common for law enforcement to show up and check me out. For each visit, I would have to explain that I had permission to be there (provide name of land owner), who I was, what I was doing (often having to show them the animals I had in hand to prove it), and wait. Wait for the call-in and confirmation.
So now we have CSWB (Collecting Specimens While Black).
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Old 10-13-2013, 10:20 AM   #13 (permalink)
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I wonder how much of the response was fueled by a mix of racism and classism, with the classism coming from an assumption made by the asshole editor due to her appearance. He didn't ask if she was a scientist or a whore. He asked if she was an urban scientist or urban whore. The use of the word "urban" seems unusual to me. Most universities are in cities and are thus urban. This guy most likely either lives in an urban location or interacts every day with folks who do. I doubt he has a problem with all people who live in cities, just certain types he is bigoted against. I wonder what his reaction would had been if she looked like this:



or this:

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Old 10-13-2013, 10:41 AM   #14 (permalink)
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The use of the word "urban" seems unusual to me.
The name of her blog is "The Urban Scientist."
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Old 10-13-2013, 10:45 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Arilynn View Post
I wonder how much of the response was fueled by a mix of racism and classism, with the classism coming from an assumption made by the asshole editor due to her appearance. He didn't ask if she was a scientist or a whore. He asked if she was an urban scientist or urban whore. The use of the word "urban" seems unusual to me. Most universities are in cities and are thus urban. This guy most likely either lives in an urban location or interacts every day with folks who do. I doubt he has a problem with all people who live in cities, just certain types he is bigoted against. I wonder what his reaction would had been if she looked like this:



or this:

If course, if he's a misogynist, he might have said the same thing to either of these women too.
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:36 AM   #16 (permalink)
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If course, if he's a misogynist, he might have said the same thing to either of these women too.
I'm not sure it's helpful to inquire too much into his mental processes, since someone who gets so angry (and does it in writing) when someone he doesn't know politely refuses a request to write for him clearly isn't operating the way normal people do.

If we're going to go there, though, my money's on unthinking misogyny -- "she wants money before she'll give me what I'm asking for".
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:16 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I'm not sure it's helpful to inquire too much into his mental processes, since someone who gets so angry (and does it in writing) when someone he doesn't know politely refuses a request to write for him clearly isn't operating the way normal people do.
Nonetheless, I'm intrigued by the dynamics of the encounter, especially when you start peeling apart the layers:

1) Editor asks for a favor (this is what we call uncompensated effort)

2) Contributor refuses to perform a favor for a stranger and for no perceived benefit to herself

3) Editor tries to change her mind


It's at Step #3 that the interaction starts to get interesting. There are all sorts of ways that a person could try to persuade someone else to change their mind.

He could have (politely) pointed out all the ways in which this unpaid contribution would still provide compensation of another kind than money.

He could have called upon her generosity by describing the financial pressures which precluded compensation then emphasized the lofty mission and goals that were so in need of her contribution.

Instead of either of those tactics, however, he chose to shame her for valuing her time and experience. In this context of their exchange, the use of the word "whore" is tied to some vague implication that the purity of scientific endeavor is somehow sullied by asking to be paid for one's science work. Of all the ways to persuade someone, he thinks this is the most appropriate when dealing with a woman and that it offers the greatest likelihood of success. That speaks volumes.

The addition of the term "urban" to that concept is an oh-aren't-I-so-clever play on her blogging as the "Urban Scientist" but it adds more of a misogynist twist to "whore" as well. It deepens the attempt to shame by sliding over into slut-shaming imagery.

But the final layer is that he threw the term "urban whore" at a black woman. As a black man (DNLee mentions this in her posts), this editor can't have been oblivious to the ugly cultural connotations he was dragging into his response. His intent was to bully her into doing what he wanted, and for that reason I think he reached for the most powerful words that came to mind. If he had been trying to bully a white man into this same arrangement, the editor would not have dragged out "urban whore" in contrast to "urban scientist." The word whore only has sting when it's thrown at a woman.

What it comes down to is that this man is a petulant bully and wholly unprofessional. And the Scientific American action supported his indefensible position because of a commercial relationship and the smug assumption that they could cover up this unprofessional behavior, again because it was directed at someone who is supposedly powerless: a black woman.

I'm curious to see whether their complacency is a bit rattled by now. The internet allows voices to be heard that not so long ago could be silenced.

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Old 10-13-2013, 01:41 PM   #18 (permalink)
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What it comes down to is that this man is a petulant bully and wholly unprofessional. And the Scientific American action supported his indefensible position because of a commercial relationship and the smug assumption that they could cover up this unprofessional behavior, again because it was directed at someone who is supposedly powerless: a black woman.
I think that is exactly right: He tried to shame and bully her. I don't doubt it was misogyny, but I also think there are probably more factors than her gender. In all likelihood, he behaves badly to anyone he thinks he can. I wonder if there are people working below him at SciAm who will have interesting stories to tell. If so, I hope someone is listening now.
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Old 10-13-2013, 01:53 PM   #19 (permalink)
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It's at Step #3 that the interaction starts to get interesting. There are all sorts of ways that a person could try to persuade someone else to change their mind.

He could have (politely) pointed out all the ways in which this unpaid contribution would still provide compensation of another kind than money.
He actually sorta did do that first:

(From the first link in your OP.)

At that point there was really no more convincing; "I will have to decline your offer" is pretty clear and doesn't give room for much in the way of convincing. It didn't look (to me) like he was trying to shame her into doing what he wanted, he was just lashing out at her for daring to say no.

She also mentions the bit about how she was supposed to be honored by the request and it seemed to me like that was linked to her refusal of the offer. If somebody asks you to do them a favor and you do them a favor, you're on the same page. The same isn't true if they ask you to do them a favor while acting like they're the one doing you a favor. A busy professional certainly can't do favors for everybody who asks, but as she points out, sometimes she might decide to do somebody a favor if she wants to. A giant red flag like acting like they're doing her a favor when they're asking her to do them a favor probably takes their favor out of consideration in itself. He already thought that she somehow owed him. If she'd done him this favor, he would have been forever convinced that she owed him for having given her this "wonderful opportunity to attract more readers."
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Old 10-13-2013, 03:42 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Maggie, your post reminded me of Ken White's (Popehat) coverage of this story. He feels this isn't just about sexism and racism, but is also a symptom of the "marketeer" mindset:

Biology-Online.org, "Urban Whores," And The Many Axes Of Douchebaggery | Popehat

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But Ofek is currently in the business of spamming bloggers to ask them to contribute free content to a sordid little advertising-heavy aggregator site in order to increase traffic and thereby increase advertising revenue to Ofek and Ofek's team. In other words, Ofek has ceased to be a scientist and begun a career as a marketeer.

And marketeers are entitled douchebags. Within the context of online marketing, Ofek's behavior is perfectly typical. Ofek's belief — that he is entitled to profit off of Ms. Lee's work, and that she's worthy of abuse if she objects — is the apotheosis of marketeer culture.
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:06 PM   #21 (permalink)
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I just started reading that Popehat article, and I'm bucking at the fact that he refers to her, quite repeatedly, as "Ms. Lee." No matter how complementary he's being about her, I find it really disturbing that he repeatedly chooses to ignore her doctorate. He could have referred to her as "DNLee" (which seems to be the most popular) or "Danielle Lee" but he chose to specifically use a salutation, and used the wrong one? Why is this okay?
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:15 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Yeah, that's kinda weird. Maybe write him a comment? He may fix it if it's brought to his attention.

Edit: OK, this bugged me enough where I posted it. It's awaiting moderation.

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Old 10-13-2013, 04:36 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Dr Lee and Ms Lee are both appropriate. If the author is unsure of what is correct the safe bet is Ms Lee.
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:45 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Dr Lee and Ms Lee are both appropriate. If the author is unsure of what is correct the safe bet is Ms Lee.
Eeeeeehhh, not really. I mean, it's not an unforgivable offense to not know (though Dr. Lee's qualifications are kind of front-and-center to the topic, so Ken probably should have known) but it's the kind of error where a quick correction to the author is in order without it being a big deal.
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:58 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maggiedoll Alter View Post
I just started reading that Popehat article, and I'm bucking at the fact that he refers to her, quite repeatedly, as "Ms. Lee." No matter how complementary he's being about her, I find it really disturbing that he repeatedly chooses to ignore her doctorate. He could have referred to her as "DNLee" (which seems to be the most popular) or "Danielle Lee" but he chose to specifically use a salutation, and used the wrong one? Why is this okay?
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Eeeeeehhh, not really. I mean, it's not an unforgivable offense to not know (though Dr. Lee's qualifications are kind of front-and-center to the topic, so Ken probably should have known) but it's the kind of error where a quick correction to the author is in order without it being a big deal.
Is it an error? Some places don't routinely refer to Ph.D's as "Dr.". The New York Times, for example, only does so in limited circumstances:

From the Times' FAQ on Style:

Quote:
...
Dr. should be used in all references for physicians and dentists whose practice is their primary current occupation, or who work in a closely related field, like medical writing, research or pharmaceutical manufacturing: Dr. Alex E. Baranek; Dr. Baranek; the doctor. (Those who practice only incidentally, or not at all, should be called Mr., Ms., Miss or Mrs.)

Anyone else with an earned doctorate, like a Ph.D. degree, may request the title, but only if it is germane to the holder’s primary current occupation (academic, for example, or laboratory research). For a Ph.D., the title should appear only in second and later references. The holder of a Ph.D. or equivalent degree may also choose not to use the title.
...
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