Stay within the lines. The lines are your friends.

Starting this post by saying:

1. I stand with DNLee.

Everyone who has been watching the science blogosphere in the last week knows what that means. Everything that happened to Dr. Lee from Ofek to how the removal of her post was handled, to excuses that were made for this and that……was a big snowballing shit load of wrong. I’m so sorry that Dr. Lee was victimized.

2. I stand with Monica Byrne, Hannah Waters, and every woman who has been the target of sexual remarks, harassment, or abuse in the workplace. That, as should be apparent by now, pretty much includes everyone who goes to work bearing two X chromosomes. The end results of this kind of thing are never good- they damage the victim (you can read the two posts above, or maybe talk to your own wife or daughter about how this hurts if you still don’t get it) and also have consequences for the perpetrator sometimes.

Honestly, I feel kind of shell-shocked from watching all of this unfold.  I’ve read all the posts, at least as many as I could find particularly regarding the business of men making sexual remarks to women at work, or where a professional power differential exists. Sometimes it is just really hard for me to believe that in this day and age, some men could be so fucking clueless. Its not like this is the first time you have encountered a girl in the workplace y’all. (and no, I don’t want to paint you with a broad brush, because I know and work with some really professional guys)

This morning Seth Mnookin has another post about this at PLoS Blogs….in which, I think, he tries to take a bold step of saying let’s DO something about this problem right NOW. Seth comments thusly:

One obvious step is to insist that there be consequences for people who engage in inappropriate behavior regardless of whether they were aware that their behavior made someone uncomfortable at the time.

I’m on board with that, but many of the commenters on Seth’s post were not. Commenter NIkita said:

I think I may be missing something, but could you please clarify where Bora acknowledged that he “sexually harassed” Ms Byrne? Could you also cite evidence of Bora harassing Ms. Byrne? So far I have only seen that Ms. Byrne was offended over a misunderstanding. I see no evidence of sexual harassment. (bold is mine)


You are looking for heads to roll for Bora, an innocent individual who’s only mistake seems to have been that he misunderstood context of a conversation and opened up to a stranger without any intent to offend or harass.

and Bruce K. says:

This person cannot even articulate what the other person did wrong and you say he must be punished for it, EVEN if he did not know he was doing anything wrong?

and Tom B. says:

I’m not condoning his behaviour, just simply noting that as Nikita points out it seems to be the result of a miscommunication between people with different boundaries,

I can’t read any further down in the comments because I can’t take any more of the same tired argument. I don’t give a rats ass about people’s intentions. I really don’t. Isn’t there some saying about the road to hell being paved with them …. Let’s get one thing straight: Talking about strip clubs and your sex life with a woman in a professional setting is NEVER a ‘misunderstanding’ a ‘miscommunication’. Do you even understand how offensive it is to suggest that the victim was so stupid that she ‘misunderstood’ the perpetrator’s intentions????? Don’t even try to mansplain that away.  If I came home from work and told my better 1/2 that some guy I work with was telling me about his trip to the strip club and about his sex life, I’m pretty sure DrMrA would not think that was a ‘misunderstanding’ or a ‘miscommunication’.

And the second trope that always follows this one is the ol’: does this mean we can’t flirt with anyone at work, does this mean that we can’t hug anyone at work, does this mean that we can’t ever look our female colleagues in the eye for fear we will be accused of harrassment, …. we don’t know where the boundaries are. Oh noes!

On this one too, I say- give me a fucking break already. This is NOT mysterious. It just isn’t.  Implying that you guys can’t figure out where the lines are is to make you appear as the vicitim, and insult all of our collective intelligence. I’m so tired of fighting this. Just tired.

So let me lay it out there for you, so you know where the lines are:

1. Do not, under ANY circumstances, make ANY remarks to your female colleagues of a sexual nature. No jokes. No comments. No analogies. None. ZERO.

2. Do not, under ANY circumstances, make ANY remarks to your female colleagues regarding their anatomy. None. ZERO.

3. The ‘good intentions’ defense will NOT excuse you if you disobey #1 and #2.

4. School your colleagues, your friends, and your sons in this.

THAT, is all.

P.S. Another post appeared about this at Slate, while I was putting together this post.


10 thoughts on “Stay within the lines. The lines are your friends.

  1. Not very far. I’d not even write about this if the ‘misunderstanding’ defense wasn’t so sickeningly common.

  2. I went to battle with those guys (surprisingly, we did not manage to change each other’s minds…) and raised exactly the same point to them. They never really responded to the argument, though nikita admitted that what Bora did could have been unprofessional… he just thinks that we shouldn’t be gutting the guy’s reputation for it. Not much you can say in response to that, if that’s how he feels though, y’know? Also he has a major rage-on for Ms. Byrne not allowing his comments which is just…

    I get the feeling the world is often not on his side, though:

  3. I’d like to propose a couple of edits to your rules:

    Do NOT, under any circumstances, make sexual remarks to your colleagues. Do NOT, under any circumstances, make remarks about a colleague’s anatomy.

    Even assuming for the sake of argument that men are immune from serious discomfort about this sort of thing, which of course they’re not… it always feels shitty to realize that you’re being treated differently because you’re not a man. You start wondering if it feels like a drag for your male colleague to filter himself when you’re around and maybe he’d rather you weren’t there. Uniformly professional behavior is the best answer.

  4. A quibble: “Let’s get one thing straight: Talking about strip clubs and your sex life w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶a̶ ̶w̶o̶m̶a̶n̶ in a professional setting is NEVER a ‘misunderstanding’ a ‘miscommunication’.”

    Unless your work involves strip clubs and sex lives (as participant or observer), the gender of the person you’re talking to DOES NOT MATTER. This stuff is off-limits in the workplace. You do not get to relax your conduct because you happen to be talking to a dude: doing so actualizes and enforces a gender-specific two-tiered conduct system.

  5. As I said, a quibble. Everything else in your post needs to be shouted from the rooftops — which is part of why I commented under my meatspace name rather than under my usual nom de byte.

  6. What was most disturbing…and still is. (I have a lingering ick feeling of contempt due to this entire issue)….is the fact that people automatically gave Bora a pass, because he’s such a ‘nice’ guy, because he’s the ‘blogfather’… in the hell do you think that he got away with this insidious behavior for sooooo long?? How many women were left questioning themselves because he’s “such a good guy”? Based on comments in various places and the #ripplesofdoubt: lots and lots. It breaks my heart and makes me furious at the same time.

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