Civility on the net

DK dkat at
Mon Jun 17 16:57:33 EST 1996

The censoriial  response I received to what I thought was a rather
innocuous post that  was replying to  Grad Students not realizing they
should have to be able to move in order to get a Post Doc has left me
chewing on the issue of civility on the Net.

 What I said and the way I said it was not any different from how I
would speak to friends or acquaintances. Yes, when you take the words
stupid, bitch, and "grow up" out of context they can be imagined to be
quite harsh.  For stupid I could have used niave, rube, ignorant, etc.
The term was not applied to the person but the viewpoint.  Bitch was
applied toward myself and I certainly cannot understand anyone's
objection to that and it is a term I think I would use here but not
most other places.  "Grow up" was certainly critical.  It is hard to
put myself back to the age of 26 but I can imagine someone justifiably
telling me the same thing at that age. I would probably be indignant
and angry at the time but might look back and say, "gee, maybe they
were right."     However, what I said was not meant to be abusive or
insulting.  In context of most of the post you read on other groups it
was not even negative.  Was I wrong to say it?  I believe in a
constrained, civil and old-fashion discussion, I was. Is that type of
group normal on the Net?  In my opinion, no.  In fact it is contrary
to the nature of the Net.  So the question comes down to why is this
group so different with such different criterion and is it a group
that a "non-member" would want to be part of?

I think part of the answer to  why this group is so different from
most groups on the net is that this group is in general a rather
closed community where the individuals are likely to know one another
or to meet in some future time and yet are not necessarily close
friends.  This tends to set the atmosphere of professional people
meeting for the first time and putting their best face forward
(whether it truly represents them or not).  There is a facade of
civility that speaks towards superiority. This would be true
regardless of the sex or profession. I do not believe this is a
quality of being "female" or that men in general are less civil. There
are certainly fields where the males or females are less socially
adept (computer science, programmers, etc. seems to flash before me).
I program and yet stopped reading the programmers group because they
were always so critical.  I may rethink that  after this experience
(perhaps I was being too thin skinned)..  The environment group on the
other hand is almost always contentious and I thoroughly enjoy it.  It
allows me to rant and rave; clarify my thoughts; talk with pleasant
people; and learn things I want to know.  What  I had  hoped to find
in this group was common ground with females in science.   When I ask
myself why I want this I cannot come up with an answer. 

 In this age the difficulties that women come up against are much the
same as those men have to face.  Most professional women are married
to professional men.  Although many women still do most of the
housework and childcare it does not have to be that way.  It is a
choice.  Most professionals hire help in those two areas and many
chose not to have children until they can afford such help  When our
children were young it put much of the same burden on my husband as it
did on me yet when he was being compared to a women in the field for
his advancement from assistant to associate Professor he was
handicapped because he was male and supposedly did not have the burden
of family that a "female" had even though the female he was compared
to was not married and had no children.   Since I see little
difference between men's and women's issues professionally,  why do I
have a need to speak specifically with women on  issues at all?  The
old term that comes to mind is to let my hair down.  One of the
wonderful aspects of the Net is the faceless quality or the
anonyminity of it.  The freedom to say what comes to mind and not fear
social ostracism.  Yes, you risk being flamed but it is the nature of
the beast and you can flame back.  It does not matter what bridges you
burn because there is no consequence to the act.  In ways the Net is
like a confessional.  It unburdens the soul.  This group does not seem
to have that freedom.  You can't say "Joan, you stupid slut!"  because
you may well be face to face with "Joan" at the next conference you go
to.  I am only marginally connected to the bio field and I feel the
inhabitions clicking in.  Still I feel that it is a valuable group for
any woman in science.  Where else can I tell the story of being in
Junior High, having a math teacher tear up my paper for cheating
because I could not possible do so well on a test if I was not doing
my homework since I was only a girl and feel I was speakiing to an ear
that could hear.  As I said earlier, I do not believe I would feel
comfortable elsewhere saying that I take some satisfaction in being a
bitch (because in my younger years I would do anything I could to make
everyone else happy and being a bitch frees me from that destructive
behaviour)  I suppose I would prefer it if this group was
something.women-in-science and personal identities were not publically
flashed as badges of identiy.

A note on the original issue.

Within academia or other upper middle to upper class societies I often
see parents bring children to social occasions and expect them to be
given the privileges of adults and yet they do not expect the children
to act as adults.  Many who go into academia are from upper middle
class or academia. I have expectations of adults that I do not of
children.  An adult must actively seek out information and take
responsibilily  for one's choices.  High School students expect to
move away from home to go to college.  College graduates expect to
have to move when they go to Graduate School.  The process continues
and the option of being in academia and remaining in a given place
does not occur until one has tenure.  Why do you need a female
"mentor" to tell you this?  Perhaps there is something about the bio
field that I am not aware of.  If you simply want to teach, should you
not be going to a school of education?  If you choose to have children
before you are settled in your career, is that not your own choice
with it's own consequences?  If you choose to marry a man or a woman
that will not or cannot move to where you have to move, again is that
not  a choice made with it's own consequences?  These are adult
choices.  My posting that anyone not aware of such things should grow
up was not "grown up" behavior.  Again though, what I value of the net
is the ability to be childish and throw away inhabitions.  DK

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