Guest Post: Responding to No Name Life Science Blog Editor Who Called Me Out of my Name

Earlier today, Dr. Rubidium posted about @DNLee5, a biologist who was called a “whore” by a blog editor for wanting to be paid for her work. DNLee5 wrote a response over on her blog at Urban Scientist, but the post was removed. (EDIT: Scientific American apparently removed it because it’s not about “discovering science.” Additionally, it appears as though the blog network in question is a partner of Scientific American, which may or may not be relevant.) She has kindly allowed us to reproduce her post in full here so that her voice can be heard.

wacjemshe hao hao kwangu mtapoa

I got this wrap cloth from Tanzania. It’s a khanga. It was the first khanga I purchased while I was in Africa for my nearly 3 month stay for field research last year. Everyone giggled when they saw me wear it and then gave a nod to suggest, “Well, okay”. I later learned that it translates to “Give trouble to others, but not me”. I laughed, thinking how appropriate it was. I was never a trouble-starter as a kid and I’m no fan of drama, but I always took this 21st century ghetto proverb most seriously:

Don’t start none. Won’t be none.

For those not familiar with inner city anthropology – it is simply a variation of the Golden Rule. Be nice and respectful to me and I will do the same. Everyone doesn’t live by the Golden Rule it seems.

The Blog editor of Biology-Online dot org asked me if I would like to blog for them. I asked the conditions. He explained. I said no. He then called me out of my name.

My initial reaction was not civil, I can assure you. I’m far from rah-rah, but the inner South Memphis in me was spoiling for a fight after this unprovoked insult. I felt like Hollywood Cole, pulling my A-line T-shirt off over my head, walking wide leg from corner to corner yelling, “Aww hell nawl!” In my gut I felt so passionately:”Ofek, don’t let me catch you on these streets, homie!”

This is my official response:

It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request..

Are you Effing kidding me?

After all, Dr. Important Person does it for free so what’s my problem? Listen, I ain’t him and he ain’t me. Folks have reasons – finances, time, energy, aligned missions, whatever – for doing or not doing things. Seriously, all anger aside…this rationalization of working for free and you’ll get exposure is wrong-headed. This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story. Even if I decide to do it pro bono (because I support your mission or I know you, whatevs) – it is still worth something. I’m simply choosing to waive that fee. But the fact is I told ol’ boy No; and he got all up in his feelings. So, go sit on a soft internet cushion, Ofek, ’cause you are obviously all butt-hurt over my rejection. And take heed of the advice on my khanga.

You don't want none of this DNLee

Thanks to everyone who helped me focus my righteous anger on these less-celebrated equines. I appreciate your support, words of encouragement, and offers to ride down on his *$$.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. “But the fact is I told ol’ boy No; and he got all up in his feelings. So, go sit on a soft internet cushion, Ofek, ’cause you are obviously all butt-hurt over my rejection.”

    Holy shit I love this.

  2. Yup, found out the hard way regarding writing on occasion myself. While sometimes you may have to work for free, or choose to do so, never let anyone ever tell you that you don’t deserve to paid for you work.

    “This is work. I am a professional. Professionals get paid. End of story.” Can’t agree enough.

  3. – has a nearly 70% bounce rate – with visitors who stay about 2 minutes on average – looking at a little under two pages …according to Alexa… – So of the 10K who visit per day (generously assuming the visitors are human) 50 are there to read for more than 2 minutes at best…. I’d say not a whole lot of people you would be reaching if you decided to spend your precious life force contributing….. to a project for a (I am thinking Australian dude) who decided to call a potential colleague – a whore.

    I’d say you dodged a bullet.

  4. Multiple layers of wrongness here. She has to work for free or get insulted. She is not allowed to say no. She’s called a whore for enquiring about compensation. I will give him this: He managed to pack in so much sexism, racism and ruling class attitude in so few words. He’s efficient.

  5. I’m really interested by the fact that this dude’s go-to insult for someone who wants to be paid for work was “whore.” There’s sexism in that, but there’s also a (related) bias against sex workers in there that I’ve never liked, not a bit.

  6. DNLee, one little thing you said that I disagree with, you said “you’re not obligated to be nice to me.” I think if someone approaches a complete stranger and asks them for a favor or to enter into some sort of on-going agreement, they are obligated to be nice. By “nice”, I don’t just mean polite words (the Mafia is often very polite when offering someone something, like protection: “Nice blog you have here, it would be a shame it was to catch fire and burn down”), but respectful and willing to answer any questions, not pressure the person for an immediate answer, be willing to negotiate in good faith, and. most importantly, accept “No” as an answer graciously and without whining, badgering, making snide comments or threats.

    If this is how he acts when trying to recruit writers for his blog, imagine what it must be like to work for him!

    All the best and keep on being awesome.

    1. I don’t know if “respectful” and “nice” are necessarily the same things, anyway. I think it’s okay to be firm but respectful, if not exactly nice.

      1. I think if someone claims to be “nice” without being respectful, then they are not really being nice. Also, I’m not sure where firmness fits in to this situation (except DNLee’s firmly saying “NO”, of course.) … Oh, in case I wasn’t clear, I was talking about the Biology-Online guys obligation to be nice (and respectful) to DNLee, not the other way around.

  7. I didn’t realize that this blog was associated with Scientific American. This is unacceptable for a representative of an associated organization to treat anyone that way. If Scientific American can’t enforce minimum levels of respectable behavior by editors of affiliated organizations, then Scientific American should terminate the relationship.

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