The Price of Silence
Juggling life as a woman and a scientist and a professional is hard. I’m currently flailing at it pretty badly. But that’s life, right? Live and learn. Well there’s an extra dimension of crap that weighs one down, increases the “impostor syndrome,” makes it harder to move through professional circles simply because of gender. When I see the trials of women who came before me, it’s discouraging. But it’s important that we all pay attention.
A little while ago I wrote about watching my friend and boss, Pamela Gay, deal with harassment in our profession. Today, I’m reading about it again as she comes forward with more details about her story, her “mistake of silence.” I encourage you all to read it carefully.
In it, she describes a particular instance of sexual harassment that many of us just deal with and brush off. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have dealt with it as often, or in as many professional situations, but my ass is a target, too, and it happens and you move on. The problem escalates when Man of Power and Influence™ has the potential to deter the woman from participating in further projects, or even intimidate the woman into being silent. This is the kind of situation she describes.
Now, as someone who has seen some of this crap unfold, I wish she could name persons A, B, X, Y, Z, or whatever letters get used. But again, there is the fear that some degree of silence will be protective. That’s the power of influence. That’s the power of silence. We have enough crap to deal with in our professional lives. We work our butts off to bring science to everyone. Who needs to waste time on this?
Well, apparently, we do. It’s not a waste of time. Unfortunately, it took for someone to go on a KILLING SPREE for the daily misogyny all women face to suddenly make headlines. That’s the ultimate price of apathy. Of silence.
I have no idea how this is going to play out, whether the guilty parties will be named or our university (the relevant employer) brought into the fray. I don’t know how I’d handle it if I was in her position.
But I do know that enough of us are sick and tired of this, and we won’t go away. Did #YesAllWomen make you uncomfortable? Good. Because we won’t stop now. We’re arming ourselves with education and there is no going back.
UPDATE (15:48 EDT): I highly recommend you also read Dan’s take on this situation at School of Doubt titled “Tenure and the Culture of Silence.”