There are surely untold numbers of excellent scientists who are sexist, but I know of at least one example in which sexism is resulting in Bad Science. I should say at the outset that I am not enraged, outraged, or even upset about this. I am rather entertained because the sexism-driven science is becoming absurdly bad, to the detriment of the scientific reputation of the Sexist Scientists, and I think that is a fair outcome of their behavior and actions.
The (vague) details:
A particular international group of scientists do not like a certain part of my research. I have maintained outwardly cordial relationships with them, but there have been some rough patches over the years. For example, one of them is the notorious pay-per-reviewer I wrote about last year at about this time. They have engaged in some sneaky behavior to find out what my recent research activities are -- they could just ask me and I would tell them, but I suppose that wouldn't be as much fun. They have written some 'attack' papers, mostly in low-impact journals. And I have heard some rather unambiguous rumors from more than one colleague to the effect of "International Professors X, Y, and/or Z hate you", even though I have not even met some of them in person.
Well, if they don't want to be my friends, then I don't want to be their friend either. Oh wait! We aren't in first grade anymore! I forgot for a moment.
I am reasonably sure that they hate me and my work because I am female. Circumstantial evidence: They do not similarly hate my male colleagues/coauthors who work closely with me on this research and similar topics, nor do they hate other male scientists with whom they disagree on various scientific topics. They focus their hate and anger on me specifically.
I have not done anything personally to attract such negative feelings. I have, however, published research that perhaps they wish they had thought of first. Or maybe my publications offend them for some other reasons. I really don't know. I just know they hate me and my work, and the best explanation is that it offends them that I am female and have published a lot on a certain topic.
Oh well, so I can't be universally loved and respected by all. Lucky for me these guys are not very influential or even particularly good scientists, although they are not non-entities either. And they are very busy in their dislike of me.
I was thinking about this situation recently because a colleague emailed me after attending a small international meeting at which my name "came up quite a bit" in discussions. My colleague did not provide many other details, except to say that he got upset by some of these discussions and attempted to leave the room. He had to be convinced to stay. It would have been nice if he had challenged the rude people to a duel, but perhaps the fact that he expressed his severe discontent with the tone and content of the discussion somehow registered with these guys.
I can afford to be bemused rather than upset about the situation because it has very little effect on me. I am enjoying this part of my research immensely (for scientific reasons) and have continued to receive funding and publish my work. I suppose that sounds smug, but a more accurate word would be "contented". I love my work and am happy with how it has been going so far.
I can also afford to be bemused because the work they have done in response to my research has become increasingly bizarre and desperate over the years. It's as if they are willing to propose anything as long as it is different from my ideas and observations, even if what they propose is not based on data and/or violates the laws of physics, thermodynamics, and reason.
For example, if I say that there are purple kangaroos hopping around on Jupiter, they will say that there are green kangaroos hopping around on Jupiter; or that there are purple kangaroos, but not on Jupiter, they are on an extra-solar planet that has yet to be discovered; or that there are purple creatures on Jupiter, but they are definitely not kangaroos, they are bandicoots. If I provide absolutely solid and reproducible documentation of the purple Jovian kangaroos, they say that in fact they knew there were purple kangaroos and knew it before I did even though they didn't get around to publishing this fact, but I am still wrong about the mechanism by which the kangaroos hop, the average height of the hops, and the shade of purple of at least a few of the kangaroos. And furthermore, even though I didn't say anything about the effect of kangaroo hopping on Jupiter's orbit, if I had said something about this topic, I would have been wrong.
I therefore conclude that sexism is driving them mad and that this is dramatically decreasing the quality of their research and that, in this case, sexism is the cause of bad science. If only it were so in more cases.
Note: Comment moderation will be sporadic this week, but I will get to all comments as time permits.
9 months ago