As you may have seen in a recent post, Scienceblogs bid a fond farewell to the Intersection. When the Intersection made its big debut on Discover, they were welcomed by their bloggers. And the commenters were also welcoming. Sort of.
I'll be the first to say that Sheril is quite fetching.
Having not read any of their material, I am supremely unqualified to comment on any of their writings.
But, as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.
Oh wait, it gets better.
Okay, does anyone else think that Sheril resembles Danica McKellar (formerly of The Wonder Years, occasional correspondent on BRINK)?
Now, Sci doesn't normally blog on such topics as women in science and feminism in general. I usually leave it to those who do it much better than I. But this, is got me mad (I'm not the only one). And it butts right up against one of the reasons why Sci wishes to remain anonymous.
Exhibit A: My friend and fellow science blogger Sheril, and her co-blogger Chris. For those unable to visually judge gender, Sheril is the one on the left.
Some of you may say "well, yeah, Sheril IS hot!". To you I say, SO WHAT?! Why, on a professional science blog where some amazingly witty and well-informed people discuss the intersection between science and policy, does it MATTER whether one of the bloggers is "hot"? Does it, in any way, change what she has to say? Does it make her, or her co-blogger, any more or less informative? Absolutely not.
I remember very well the first day I met Sheril. It was my very first meetup as an official Scienceblogger (Sbling), and I was very excited, and VERY nervous. But I came away from it feeling welcomed, and with an amazing amount of gratitude. Gratitude, because I was now with a group of people who are honestly downright brilliant. And I get to talk with them. I get to work with them! And one of the best was Sheril. Talking to her for a good while, her ideas flew thick and fast, her arguments were well-informed and very well conveyed, she was passionate, and often, she was very funny. I knew I wanted this person for my friend and fellow blogger, because of the way she expressed herself. Did it have anything to do with the way she looked? Not. A. Thing.
This is where Sci comes up again and again against the issues of sexism that still remain in society, as well as in the scientific world itself. In science, you'd think that it wouldn't matter what you looked like, that academic merit, what you DO, would be the more important factor. And, in the best cases, what you do really is what defines you (though there are, unfortunately, still many exceptions). But where science communicates with the public, it seems that women in science run up against a wall. A wall made up entirely of people's perceptions on what we look like.
Not considered conventionally good looking? Well, it's obvious why YOU went into science! Considered good looking? Woo hoo! Who cares what science she does, she's HOTT!
Sci finds this disgusting. Does anyone look at these guys, or this guy, this guy, or even this guy, and say "My, that guy is very fetching"? Do people read any of these blogs because their writers are hot? Of course not. They read them for the content. These men are science bloggers, they blog about science, religion, medicine. It doesn't matter what they look like.
But then this excellent writer popped on to Scienceblogs, and one of the first comments I saw was a comment on how pretty she was. In my little bit of time here, I've seen a number of male science bloggers join up as well. Never once have I seen a comment based on their appearance.
When male science bloggers say something controversial, no one ever hesitates to blast them with criticism on their ideas, their parentage, or their sexual preferences. But no one will ever question whether they are a scientist, whether they deserve to be where they are, based on their sex. But when a female science blogger says something controversial (and often, when she doesn't), you see things like this:
Suck it up, SW. Save your whining for your husband or use it as an apology to your neglected kid
Isis, you can laugh all you want, though you know that you are full of shit whining non-stop about bias against women in science
Sheril Kirshenbaum has a nice smile.
Her bio listed here makes me uncomfortable. I don't think she is a marine biologist. She lacks a doctorate and her publications are weak with respect to marine science, from interviewing divers on the aesthetics of reefs to silliness about kissing. Sheril might be a lovely person but she strikes me more as an opportunist than someone serious about science.
This is one very good reason why Sci's not posting pictures of herself round the blog. I hope our readers come here for our science and for our opinions, not to see whether or not Sci is hot (and I get the feeling they DO come here for the science, and that's why I love my readers). It is the INFORMATION that matters, not the face presenting it. It's the information, the conversation, and the brains behind the blog, not the smile. Every single one of these bloggers puts out work that is incredible, some on policy, some on science, some on teaching, some on life as women in science. And that work has nothing to do with what they look like. Read us for our information, not for our smiles. Be impressed with our work, not with our cleavage.
But, you may say, a compliment is a compliment, right?
I'm sure both of them, like any rational human being, would appreciate a compliment. Calm down. The problem is not that Electro and I compliment Sheril's appearance. The problem is that people like you take issue with it, as if somehow that compliment is "lesser" than a compliment on someone's intelligence. Remove stick from rear end, move on. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Not at all. These comments on appearance had NOTHING to do with the announcement of a new blogger. They did not add anything to the conversation. They certainly did not discuss Sheril's skills, and her skills are the reason she is at Discover. I think this reply best sums it up:
The "compliment" is one of context. This is not a Miss America pageant, this is a scientific blogging community. I'd like to see you go to the seminar of an attractive and well-versed female scientist and tell HER during the question and answer session that you think she's purty. Appropriate? Or completely out of place and disrespectful?
And the author of the blog agrees:
The comments about Sheril's appearance are in fact out of place here. She is here on Discover as a journalist, a scientist, a writer, and someone whose intelligence and talents are what counts. In fact, women in science have been struggling mightily against sexism for, well, ever, and casual sexism not only doesn't help but actually contributes to a difficult atmosphere.
Rock on, Candid Engineer, and Bad Astronomy.
Sure, you can tell a lady she's good looking. But to do it when she's standing up giving a scientific seminar, or when she's writing a blog post on science policy? It's not just out of context, it's rude and sexist. And when we're here, blogging to you about science, respect us (or not) for what we say. Not what we look like. You'd extend any man the same courtesy.