flame dousing

Larry Hunter hunter at work.nlm.nih.gov
Tue Feb 2 14:18:09 EST 1993

Kate McCain writes:

  I would like to note -- at the risk of raised heat -- that some of my
  _personal_ correspondents (not all of the same opinion, I might add) were
  male.  Several expressed the opinion that, while they would like to
  participate in a more general discussion, that they felt unwelcome -- in
  at least one case because he had been thoroughly trashed (for apparent
  gender-attributed sins) when expressing an opinion.

  So let me offer a new (or retreaded?) topic -- which some of us who are
  old enough will recall as a basic issue in the early days of the feminist
  movement -- what IS the status of male participation on this list?

I am a male, and primarily a lurker on this list.  I made one posting, a
call for participation in organizing a computational biology conference,
explicitly asking for help in increasing participation of women in this
process (which, incidentally, I did not get).  I feel moved to speak on this
issue, though.

Whether we like it or not, men come to science (and many other pursuits)
with a legacy of oppression to account for.  It has long been the case that
men dominated scientific communication -- from all-male editorial boards to
the apparently male tendency to interrupt others in conversation.  Although
there is some (slow) improvement in these areas, there are plenty of still
present manifestations of this, e.g., I find that points introduced by women
in discussion are often ignored until some man makes the same point.

Our legacy, regardless of the "good" behavior of particular men (I like to
count myself among them), imposes a responsibility on all of us (males) to
make room for women's voices, in science and elsewhere.

There are many ways men can help create that space, both personally and
professionally.  I would suggest that one of them is to refrain from posting
to women-in-bio unless there is a compelling reason to do so.  I have been
somewhat chagrined to see the large percentage of postings on this list come
from men (and from certain men repeatedly).  If you do post, and get
"thoroughly trashed for apparent gender-attributed sins," you might try
seeing her point, rather than spend a lot of effort defending yourself
(particularly if you feel the "sins" are attributable to many other men, but
not you).  I would also suggest that the other men on this list let the
women take the lead, especially in highly charged conversations, like the
recent one on the use of gendered pronouns. Even though it is
counterintuitive for us, let me suggest to my fellow fellows that it can be
pretty interesting just to listen for a while.


Lawrence Hunter, PhD.
National Library of Medicine
Bldg. 38A, MS-54
Bethesda. MD 20894 USA
tel: +1 (301) 496-9300
fax: +1 (301) 496-0673 
internet: hunter at nlm.nih.gov
encryption: PGP 2.1 public key via "finger hunter at work.nlm.nih.gov"

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