Claire Berlinski (who we almost got to have coffee with in Paris a year ago), on #MeToo and if it’s gone too far:
If you are reading this, it means I have found an outlet that has not just fired an editor for sexual harassment. This article circulated from publication to publication, like old-fashioned samizdat, and was rejected repeatedly with a sotto voce, “Don’t tell anyone. I agree with you. But no.” Friends have urged me not to publish it under my own name, vividly describing the mob that will tear me from limb to limb and leave the dingoes to pick over my flesh. It says something, doesn’t it, that I’ve been more hesitant to speak about this than I’ve been of getting on the wrong side of the mafia, al-Qaeda, or the Kremlin?
But speak I must. It now takes only one accusation to destroy a man’s life. Just one for him to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion, overnight costing him his livelihood and social respectability. We are on a frenzied extrajudicial warlock hunt that does not pause to parse the difference between rape and stupidity. The punishment for sexual harassment is so grave that clearly this crime—like any other serious crime—requires an unambiguous definition. We have nothing of the sort.
…In recent weeks, I’ve acquired new powers. I have cast my mind over the ways I could use them. I could now, on a whim, destroy the career of an Oxford don who at a drunken Christmas party danced with me, grabbed a handful of my bum, and slurred, “I’ve been dying to do this to Berlinski all term!” That is precisely what happened. I am telling the truth. I will be believed—as I should be.
But here is the thing. I did not freeze, nor was I terrified. I was amused and flattered and thought little of it. I knew full well he’d been dying to do that. Our tutorials—which took place one-on-one, with no chaperones—were livelier intellectually for that sublimated undercurrent. He was an Oxford don and so had power over me, sensu strictu. I was a 20-year-old undergraduate. But I also had power over him—power sufficient to cause a venerable don to make a perfect fool of himself at a Christmas party. Unsurprisingly, I loved having that power. But now I have too much power. I have the power to destroy someone whose tutorials were invaluable to me and shaped my entire intellectual life much for the better. This is a power I do not want and should not have.
Yup. Read the whole thing.
[Update a while later]
The wandering eye is just part of the human anatomy.
Yup. We can control our behavior and fidelity, but it’s really hard not to look.
Plus, the up side of office flirtation.
And so far, so good for Claire.
Are women really victims?
Feminists of my mother’s generation resisted furiously the claims that women were too timid, too fragile, too neurotic and too easily upset to function in the public sphere. They won this battle. Sisters began doing it for themselves. Women took their places alongside men in boardrooms and political arenas, on lecture hall podiums and in operating theatres, in courts of law and in armies.
This is currently under threat from a cultural shift within feminism which has shifted the aim from female empowerment to status-by-victimhood. It threatens to undo the progress made for women, valorise fragility, discourage resilience, weaponise victimhood and fatally undermine gender relations. It’s not good for women to be treated as fragile victims rather than competent actors in the public sphere. It’s not good for either sex for men to become afraid that talking to women, complimenting women, criticising women, flirting with women or touching women in friendly greeting could destroy their careers and reputations.
You don’t say. One of the women who tells their story is my friend Amy Alkon.
[Update a few minutes later]
Judith Curry relates her own experiences in the context of the climate debate:
If you see ‘misogyny’ everywhere (even from other females!), then perhaps you need to step back and reflect. What is being objected to is not your gender but your behavior: your attempt to gain fame and build a career based on ‘victim’ status, your unfounded attacks on serious and responsible scientists in your field, and your irrational statements and general intolerance of anyone who is not in your ‘club’. This negative reaction to your behavior is not sexual harassment (or any kind of harassment) or discrimination.
Climate science has developed a perverse incentive structure that seems to reward this kind of unethical, bullying behavior — and I’m seeing more and more female scientists taking full advantage of this.
Unfortunately true. There are a lot of women in space and tech that I follow on Twitter, but I avoid getting into political discussions with them.
Sarah Hoyt: The sexual-harassment frenzy is madness, and must stop.
Can we be honest about women?