These things are related.

Exhibit A. At Boing Boing, Maggie Koerth-Baker publishes an article talking about her disenchantment with Richard Feynman after learning that he was a gigantic womanizing creeper. Matthew Francis follows up with more information about Feyman’s inexcusable behavior. Armies of Feyman supporters rush to his defense, arguing that we should judge him as a product of his times or that he was a great physicist, so we should just ignore the fact that he was a misogynistic creep that, as a faculty member, pretended to be an undergraduate to pick up students. Janet Stemwedel has more.

Exhibit B. Vanderbilt University is being sued by a former grad student for sexual harassment. The claim states that her male supervisor “… required the female graduate students to attend a boat party where the male professors became intoxicated and were allowed to make romantic and sexual advances on the students” and “would routinely call her ugly, fat and … a stupid in front of other students” and told her he wished she “would start drinking again because she would be more fun,” and “… she would be less stressed out if she had more sex.”

Exhibit C. A paper published today in PLOS One, reveals that, in a survey of 658 of researchers primarily in anthropology, archaeology, geology and other scientific disciplines, 64% reported being sexually harassed during field research (71% of female researchers) and 20% reported that they were victims of sexual assault in the course of field work. From Kate Clancy, lead author of the study “I hope it validates a lot of women who have been talking about this for a long time and not being heard. We’re standing on a lot of shoulders of women who have been talking about this for a long time.”

Exhibit D. The cover of this week’s Science Magazine, one of the world’s leading scientific journals:



If for some reason you must see the cover, you can find it here.

So, to reiterate, in the last week, we’ve been asked to ignore the profoundly misogynistic behavior of one long-departed scientist because his contributions to the field are too important; a graduate student is suing her former university for what appears to be systematic sexual harassment by her superiors; 1 in 5 researchers in the field report being victims of sexual assault; and one of the leading scientific journals thinks is perfectly appropriate to feature a dehumanizing image of sex workers on their cover.

This bullshit doesn’t happen in a vacuum. These things are related.

Do better.


  1. tonimoore1 · July 17, 2014

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! You did a great job of tying these incidents together and showing that they ARE related. Problems don’t just go away when they are ignored. Scientists need to think about their behavior and how it affects other people in their field and the field itself.

  2. David Kerstetter · July 17, 2014

    Over half of the graduate students in my research lab are female. It’s really not that hard to be a decent human being and not take advantage of the power disparity between advisor and student.

  3. imjusthereforthe · July 17, 2014

    Also, philosophy professor Colin McGinn, who was forced resign his tenured position due to sexual harassment accusations, is a keynote speaker at the Conference on Humane Philosophy this weekend.

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