The Science Online 2012 session on the perils of blogging female generated discussion, both at the conference and on the internet. Comments to female bloggers are not merely sexist. Many are viscious, some are threatening, and some cross the line into criminal intent. If you don't believe me, search the #mencallmethings hashtag on twitter for examples. Kate Clancy blogged about the need for a posse, a group that gets it and can fight off these, well, douchecanoes when they materialize.
A number of us gathered later that evening, expressing our frustration that the session continues to remain necessary. We cannot believe that we have not moved beyond these blatant displays of sexism and misogyny and hate. We are ready to move forward; why isn't the discussion?
Yup, it's pink.
The answer came at the banquet Friday evening, when Janet Stemwedel took to the stage in The Monti Storytelling event. (This story will eventually be available as a podcast here). In the fall of 2011 the blogosphere exploded with a discussion of "gendered" science kits - you know, pink girl kits for bubble bath and cosmetics, while the boys get microscopes and chemistry sets that look like something an actual scientist might have in the lab. These kits reinforce the overwhelming value of girls' femininity while supposedly encouraging scientific endeavors. Dr. Free-ride, her "nom de blog", related how she heard about this topic and thought, "Not again." She felt tired; she wanted to let someone else fight the battle this time.
Eventually, she sucked it up and posted.
Then, a miracle occurred. Someone at this scientific toy company saw the virtual shitstorm on the internet. Multiple blogs, opinions on Facebook, updates on Google+, and a flood from the Twitterverse were not ignored. The company announced that they would no longer sell gendered science kits. They would simply sell science kits.
Now, I cannot say that without Janet's post that this would not have occurred. Was she the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back? We will never know what the minimal unit of rant is for any given change.
As I look back on our musings in the bar that evening, I realize that we must continue having these same sessions. The conversation and complaints must continue until the appropriate parties notice and act. Yes, we get tired of it. Yes, it is repetitive. Yes, it sucks. But it must be done. If not for us, for our daughters. The real daughters, whether they be tomboys or pretty-pink-princesses, and our daughters in society, those younger than us who want to inquire and write and express their thoughts on an equal footing with the menfolk.
So we will continue to complain and rant and fight and whine and even bitch. Get over it, boys - only then will it stop.
I am in this battle for the long haul. And so is my posse.