*Female scientists

Fri Jul 30 17:05:17 EST 1993

After the public response, and several private responses by email to me
personally (all supportive, and all from women), I feel a need to respond to at
least some of the comments.  I meant my brief self-description to provide some
abstract evidence that my motives were proper.  However, the point regarding
"sinning in my heart" is well taken, and besides, this is not the place for
discussing the concept of "abstain(ing) from the very appearance of evil."  In
fact, I am more than willing to accept the verbal beating that I deserve if
there is consensus that my behavior was indeeed less than meritorious, but I
think that this would seriously miss the point.

I realize that semantics and ambiguities will always result in stories
with fewer details than may be necessary for objective conclusions to be drawn,
but the purpose of my posting was emphatically not to seek judgement on my
colleague for her "immature" or somehow "unenlightened" responses, nor in some
vain way to justify my own actions.  In fact, if she felt that I "lead her on,"
I allow her that.  It is an entirely abstract and subjective feeling based on
three days of verbal and non-verbal communication, and as a participant in
that communication, I cannot be without some blame for the apparent mis-
communication.  So, for the purpose of accurate discussion (not in an effort to
absolve myself), I will repeat and/or emphasize a few salient points.

1.  We were never *alone* together.  There was always a mixed group involved.
2.  The jacuzzi incident was as follows:  a group of ten of us took a 3-hour
bike ride involving a climb of over 3000 feet in less than 5 miles, and as we
were all staying at different places, with mine being the only one to
have a jacuzzi, all of the group were invited for the purpose of relaxing our
very sore and sweaty selves.  Only this colleague and her roommate took me up
on the offer.
3.  The jacuzzi was outdoors in a common courtyard in plain view of a well-
traveled street.
4.  It was in the late afternoon in full daylight.
5.  *WE* did *NOT* shower *TOGETHER*.  They used my shower, behind a closed and
locked bathroom door, only because it was more convenient than returning to
their place before dinner.
6.  This particular meeting (without giving away enough details as to be
incriminating) was one in which socialization among the students was encouraged
and supported as part of the program almost as much as the scientific aspects.

I would hope that a forum designed for the advancement of women in the bio
sciences would not be limited to the sexual/sociopolitical category of feminist
lesbians, as Mr. Modena seems to suggest.  That would not only be narrowminded,
but counterproductive.  Also, I strongly object to the prospect that I should
assume that all women at scientific meetings are "prostitutes or lesbians"
inasmuch as I object to the idea that women should treat all men at meetings as
being lecherous hounds, to be avoided like the plague.

I realize that there will probably always be some undercurrent of sexual
attraction (distraction?).  But I also want to believe that equality among the
sexes is not limited to the professional realm.  In fact, I would consider it a
grave loss for women to gain status equal to men in their occupations without a
concomitant increase in social status, which is the crux of my previous
posting--  that is:
are we too early in our social evolution regarding equality to accept the fact
that men and women can interact in every way the same as in intrasexual
(female/female or male/male) interactions?  After all, would there have been
real allegations or suspicions of improper homosexual conduct if a similar
weekend of socialization had involved a male colleague?

I hope that neither scientists, nor their beloved meetings, are so boring as to
limit their interactions to ones involving only presentation and discussion of
data, especially when they seem to select wonderful places to visit.  In all
three meetings that I have attended (I am still, obviously, rather "green") I
have been very sorry that I was not able to share the experience with my wife,
and she has exhorted me to "have fun and don't work too hard."  However, I have
every intention of avoiding hurting someone in such a situation again.  Are we
really so lacking in our sexist mindsets that such interactions are too risky
and  should be avoided?  If not, then my only advice to both men and women on
this forum regarding meetings is to be *profoundly* honest with whomever you
interact.  There is no substitute for good communication, nor salve for poor

Disappointed, maybe naive, but surely undaunted in the pursuit of equality,

D. Lee
Microbiology Department
mbidle at lluvm

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