Truth against Humanity

This rambling essay attempts to give voice to my struggles with #RipplesOfDoubt, and with the realities I’ve faced as a woman in science and skepticism. This is a piece written with too much honesty and not a lot of poetry. It is written because there are men out their throwing around phrases like, “I can’t be a misogynist – look how I intervened when that guy was about to grab that chicks boobs! Sure, I didn’t report it or anything, but I stopped it, and that is enough.”

No, it’s not enough.

I used to think it was. I used to have among my closest male friends people who thought it was enough to tell me, “Don’t feel bad about how that good thing X didn’t happen. It wasn’t that you weren’t good enough, it was just that you are a girl.” I used to think that’s what it meant for a man to be a good mentor or advocate for women – all he had to do was help her understand where the glass ceiling was and make sure its crushing weight wasn’t misidentified as actual failings of competency. I thought that was enough. But it wasn’t.

How many of us women comfort ourselves with this form of “it’s enough” over and over and over?

If you’ve ever played Cards Against Humanity, you know that sometimes the cards really need trigger warning. With cards like “Overpowering your father” and “Coat Hanger Abortions”, this game leaves no line uncrossed, and I’m not sure I’ve gotten through a game without at least once saying, “I am a terrible human being,” because of the totally over-the-top sentence I had just constructed. But sometimes… there is truth hidden in the cards. While playing with several friends on Saturday, I got the black card “Why don’t I sleep at night?” As a joke I said, “I wonder if any of you will come up with the truth?” 6 white cards came slamming down, and after a bit of shuffling I got ready to giggle.

But there was no laughter.

Black card:
Why don’t I sleep at night?

White card 1:
The Glass Ceiling.

Suddenly it stopped being Cards Against Humanity, and became truth against humanity.

Nicole hugged me. I didn’t read the rest of the white cards, I’d found that truth in 1 flip. We quickly shuffled around to the next round and moved on.

With ever increasing difficulty I’ve been dealing with issues of gender related to my career. Right now, I am struggling with hearing that an event I categorized as “A drunk ass  tried to grab my boobs,” is now being discussed by witnesses as, “He tried to sexually assault her in a bar while intoxicated.” I had created a euphemism for myself, and having that euphemism striped away is making me realize that I have been hiding from myself the true degree to which I have been harmed.

I have previously tried to confront and to give voice to the harm that sexual harassment and gender discrimination can do. I don’t think I’ve ever allowed myself to be totally vulnerable in my words, but during my July 2012 talk at The Amazing Meeting (script I vaguely followed and video here) I came close. My goal was to focus on inspiring people to do good, but I briefly addressed many of the issues that hold women like me back: Issues of being inappropriately touched, issues of hearing workplace banter about our boobs, and the effects all this and more has on our self-esteem. I made the following point as clearly as I could: “I know as I say this that it sounds unbelievable – and how can we report the unbelievable and expect to be believed?

I did not give this talk lightly. I suspected I’d experience backlash for daring to admit that I too am one of those women who has been touched, who has been held back, who has suffered self-doubt related to my gender. What shocked me was the form and degree of backlash. As a result of this talk I faced threat of professional reprimand. Let me state this more clearly, because I admitted that gender related comments hurt my self esteem, there were authority figures who demanded I be punished. While my direct supervisor and the dean we report to have always made me feel respected and have supported me, there were others within my profession who demanded I publicly apologize; that I be formally punished for what I said. I was asked to justify my speech and name names in confidential written documents. For one nearly fatal moment, I believed that if the people in authority knew the truth, perhaps people in power would undertake meaningful actions to make my profession better for women. And I did name names and I did use specifics … and my words were distributed widely enough that word of what was happening got back to me nearly a dozen timezones away. When I learned what was happening, I spontaneously (and thankfully silently) burst into tears. I hid behind long hair as I exited the audience of the conference session I was attending, and I hid in a foreign bathroom thinking my career was over. Three people wrote documents against me, and they named a forth complainant. No one else came forward to back me up in writing, even though for years there were those who felt fine telling me it was my gender that held me back and that when they had power they’d help me. I felt I had to get a lawyer in order to make sure my career wouldn’t be ruined – someone to find ways to use the existing guidelines to protect me. I exhausted my (admittedly small) savings. I started working more and more in isolation. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I tried to hide in my work, and that alone may have kept me going.

More than 300 days after this entire mess started, I received notice that I should be allowed to tell what happened to me without fear of reprimand, but that I have no legal case. Here I’d like to note that the statute of limitations on the relevant laws is 300 days, so it is literally true that I had no case at the time of this decision.

But it was a decision.

After almost a year, I though all the fallout from the talk I gave was over. I thought I could move on. I started moving out of isolation, and I started trying to return to my prior output levels. I went on a mini sabbatical-like trip to the EU to work with collaborators. I submitted a paper to CAPJournal and applied for two grants.

And then last week, the fading scars of what happened were cut open with a rusty blade.

I learned that a witnesses to an event that occurred in 2008 is discussing that event and naming names. During the event in question, a man in power who I’d previously never met made a lunge at my breasts. This is one of the events that weighed on me when I wrote my TAM talk. It weighed on me when I said, “As an astronomer, at conferences, I’ve randomly had my tits and ass grabbed and slapped by men in positions of power and by creeps who drank too much. This is part of what it means to be a woman in science and skepticism.”

I’ve been warned this may all hit the internet. I’ve been warned the social media maybe about to explode. I’ve been warned this could be devastating to my career. Let me put this more clearly: Because someone witnessed a man in power attempt to grab my boobs, I have been warned that I need to worry about my career being actively destroyed by others.

And that is fucked up. I run a program that works to spread science education, to generate science results – we are doing good – and I have to be worried that my ability to do good is going to be limited because I have boobs someone thought would be fun to grab at.

And then that man with power – the one who staggered at my breasts at the moment of our introduction – emailed me out of the blue on Halloween, denying anything happened between us because he’s never done anything like that, and if he has never… then he never did with me. He went on to ask why I never confronted him later, why I never did many things, and I found myself explaining, “There is absolutely no way for a woman to walk up to any man, let alone a prominent man they don’t really know, and say, ‘Pardon me, while you seemed to be drunk, you did this inappropriate thing.’ Inappropriate physical contact is so common at these events as to be just part of being a woman in science and skepticism. People drink. Inappropriate things happen, remembered or not, and for the most part we just move on as though it had never happened because otherwise we could never work.”  I told him he should get help, and I dug out my own prescription for dealing with the PTSD that had me shaking. He promised he would share with no one our communications and I told him I didn’t want to communicate with him at all.

This exchange left me broken – it broke me on my favorite holiday of the year.

I am still broken.

And I hate myself for wishing this would all just go away, instead of wishing that there could be justice. But I guess I fear that justice has a price I don’t have the life blood to pay for.

Over and over, I have made the choice, “what happened isn’t worth raising a stink about. Don’t ruin everyone’s [fun/con/career]”. Over and over, I’ve made the choice, “Yeah, that guy (but he was drunk!) slapped my butt in passing, but he is a leader at what he does, so I need to just get over myself and work with him.”

I hate myself for this.

I hate myself because I made the choice that not raising a fuss was more important than my self worth.

Read that again. It’s fucked up. But it’s who I am, … and when I read the hashtag #RipplesOfDoubt a few weeks ago, I realized how often we women make that decision. I’m fucked up, but I’m not alone. Too many of us fill our heads with euphemisms and excuses. It’s so much easier to think, “It’s a drunk guy being a drunk ass.” It hurts so much more to say, “I had someone try and sexually assault me.”

I am a survivor. And I am the worst kind of survivor – I am someone who never really fought back, and who never demanded justice. All I ever asked was to be allowed to try and do good things.

It’s going to take me a while to come to terms with all of this, and I’d ask your patience and support.

And I’d ask you all to teach your kids this: be honest, keep your hands to yourself, don’t create drama, and leave the world better than you found it.

I am a survivor. And I just want to be allowed to try and do good things.

111 Comments

  1. Emily Lakdawalla November 6, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    I don’t know what to say. You told me about this stuff a while ago and I didn’t know what to say then and I don’t know what to say now. I like to be able to fix things. Failing that, I like to be able to write something insightful. I can’t do either one of those things for you in a situation like this. I guess all there is to say is that you, Pamela, make this world a better place by doing what you do. It sucks that crap like this is preventing you from doing more. But you’re succeeding anyway, and I admire you for what you accomplish, and admire you more for doing it in the face of assholes actively trying to ruin you.

    You are good, and you are successful at what you do, and you are making a difference.

  2. Catherine November 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    Hi Pamela,

    I met you for a few moments at TAM Sydney, and asked if you had any room for an additional postdoc in your group. Because with your speech there, you’d inspired me, and I realised that I wanted to be you when I “grew up”. You do amazing science, and the way you mix that real science with public outreach is wonderful. I’ve gotten a pure science job since, but I’m working on ways to increase our outreach profile. And I’m keeping an eye on the job register, as you suggested, so I can send you an application closer to the end of this postdoc.

    I am so sorry that you have had to get through this. It sucks that even without naming names, we can’t talk about these things in public without backlash. I want to say thank you, for being as brave as you have, for being as kind as you are, for inspiring people and making us stronger. You were very kind to me, at a time when my self-esteem was at an all time low, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Let us know if there is ever anything we can do to return the favour.

  3. Jennifer Phillips November 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    I am as sorry as I can be that you have had to endure this, but very grateful to you for being brave enough to share your story. You’ve already made a big impact on the world with all the wonderful things you’ve done in your career. Now, by speaking out about this rotten core of our community, you are continuing to change the world for the better. Thank you, sincerely.

  4. Bob November 6, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    I wish my sympathy would have any positive impact on what is clearly an awful situation.
    For what it’s worth, I am raising my two sons on a few simple rules. One of the most important is “always be a gentleman.” If they have two sons and so on, perhaps in a few generations, we will breed these disgusting creeps out of the species.
    Sincerely, some random guy on the internet.

  5. Nathan Hevenstone November 7, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    Please don’t blame yourself, Pamela. Please. You did nothing wrong. You have done absolutely nothing wrong. You are an inspiration. You are an incredible, powerful person. In every way possible you are amazing.

    I’m so, so sorry you’re going through this.

    But please… don’t blame yourself. Don’t hate yourself. There is nothing to hate.

  6. A Hermit November 7, 2013 at 1:09 am #

    Your TAM talk was one of the things that convinced me I had to speak up whenever the opportunity arises. I haven’t got a loud voice or a prominent platform but that can’t be an excuse for staying silent.

  7. Amelie Frank November 7, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    I’m sorry, Pamela. Been there. Too many of us have been there. Every time you speak up, you make it easier for the next woman to speak up and the next man to say that it is inexcusable for men to behave this way. Keep speaking, because young people are catching on about sexism and rape culture, and they are the ones who will be inspired by you to dismantle this poisonous paradigm.

  8. Richard Drumm November 7, 2013 at 1:54 am #

    At the moment I’m shaking with anger and can’t think straight. You didn’t deserve this at all. The academicians who are victimizing you are worse (if that’s even possible) than the original drunk. This is just so fucked up. Rest assured that the whole 365 Days of Astronomy team is standing behind you 100%. You are the nicest person on the planet and don’t deserve this one frigging bit!

  9. xyz November 7, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    Dear Dr. Gay, this situation sounds so devastating. To survive and continue your work in the face of such a hostile environment is proof of a very great strength. I wish you all the best.

  10. Paul Stewart November 7, 2013 at 4:06 am #

    Hang in there Pamela and keep being awesome!!

  11. John Hayes November 7, 2013 at 4:30 am #

    I only know you through your writing & Astronomy Cast, but it strikes me that you have an extraordinary enthusiasm for your science & are also able to communicate that enthusiasm remarkably well. It’s appalling that you’ve had to face this, & it makes me sad to read of your struggles; it’s also appalling & infuriating that such behavior is so prevalent & that talented women are oppressed by the glass ceiling, not to mention the even more visceral oppression of this sort of harassment–which no one should face, ever, & for which men should be held to account no matter their status within any community. I truly hope that you’ll find a way to prevail & move through this. You have an important & unique voice–& perhaps now more important than ever–& I wish you all the best in overcoming this situation.

  12. playonwords November 7, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    I can only say you are not at fault and you are not a bad person for feeling as you do. The persons at fault are those who have acted in these insupportable ways and lack the self awareness to see the damage they have done.

  13. Mike November 7, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    It was heartbreaking to read your blog post. As the father of two young women just starting out on their careers I worry that they will be held back from reaching their potential by glass ceilings and mysogeny. I hope I have brought them up strong enough to deal with the issues they will face in life and am proudly stepping back to play a supporting role as they find their feet.

    Why is this relevant? Because you Pamela are a role model and a pioneer. There are many still alive that grew up in a time when a woman’s place was in the home and the attitudes from that era will persist for decades. It’s not that long ago that the ‘old guard’ criticized Carl Sagan for being a science communicator either. You are both a science communicator and a woman, that’s probably quite a challenge to the old types!

    Attitudes and barriers will change but they need people like you as leaders and for more young women to follow. The rest of us need to check our own values and attitudes and support the cause. In my 30 year career I have seen the gender demographics of some fields change even here at the southern tip of Africa. Science may be a tough one but change will happen.

    You are one of the people that I have pointed out as a role model to my daughters. You may not feel like one at the moment, but you will get through this patch and rebuild yourself, it’s hard wired into us.

    There are a lot of us out here in the world that have got to know you through the wonderful work you have done and would be sad to see that love, passion and energy for your work diminish. I hope that this message of support along with the many others helps you feel better and realize that there is a huge support base out here that could help in many ways including financially if needed. At worst we’ll fill up your blog, twitter account and inbox with messages of support.

    You are an amazing person and we look forward to hearing more from you.

  14. Nick Gotts November 7, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Just to voice my support, and to say: there are many of us out there, of all genders, who have been inspired by the actions of courageous survivors like you, to speak up against, and when necessary act against, sexual assault, sexual harassment, misogynistic “jokes”, the operation of the glass ceiling…

  15. oolon November 7, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    Thanks for speaking out. Very inspiring and I hope my daughter will have a better time if she decides to go into STEM. If she does it will be because of people like you.

  16. Pat Durrell November 7, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    I share (with the many others posting here) the outrage of what you have gone through. You certainly have my strongest support as you move forward, and my continued appreciation for all of the (many) good things you have already done, and continue to do.

  17. =8)-DX November 7, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Unconditional support. As a man I feel speechless and unable to say much relevant, except that I’ll try to more closely guard my behaviour in the future and also try to apply good parenting so my daughter is better prepared for such experiences.

    Thanks for confiding and you are right: what happened to you and happens to other women is absolutely disgusting.

    =8)-DX

  18. Stacey C. November 7, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    I just wanted to write to express my deep sadness and anger over what you’ve experienced and to add another voice to the message that you are believed and supported.

  19. Trebuchet November 7, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    As an older, upper-middle-class retired professional male, I’ve got to say you’ve left me trembling. It astounds me that guys think this kind of stuff is ok. And it astounds me even more that you get the hateful reactions, even though I’ve been reading about them for years since “elevatorgate”.

    Although I followed a link here from FreeThought Blogs, I’m also a regular at the CQ forum. Thank you for writing this, and hang in there.

  20. another victim November 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I have PTSD too and have found EMDR very helpful in addition to regular talk therapy. I hope you give it a shot if you haven’t already. Hang in there.

  21. Jim November 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

    You are obviously not only an attractive woman, which is hard for a lot of immature men to handle, especially when drunk or drinking, but you are also gifted, accomplished and sensitive. Those are all fine qualities, but not without their problems. That not only applies to women, but also men. Getting ahead is not easy, and many roadblocks will be thrown up as you move forward. My God, just look at the crazy stuff that President Obama has had to deal with! If I was in his shoes, I would have lost it long ago. But he is focused on a goal, and determined to move forward. Refresh your goals that got you this far. Put the past behind you, and move forward. And good luck.
    PS…When publishing, spend time on it…carelessness, like “their” instead of “there”, and spelling errors do not lend to a positive impression. Presentation is really important in your profession.

    Jim

  22. Allison G. November 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

    It’s irritating to read these kind of posts. Mostly because I’ve been there as far as a sexual assault victim. And I’ve been on the receiving end of ‘blame the victim’ mentality. Hell I’ve had someone tell me that they KNEW my attacker was likely a sexual pervert/offender on one day, and then the VERY NEXT day turn around and not only deny they said that but then deny that anything happened to me.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to not have it affect my job, but it has obviously affected me and my family.

    I’ve seen a real increase in posts like yours. I identify deeply with them as a woman, survivor, and professional. But nothing changes. True we find other survivors and get support from them. We hear from friends of survivors [i.e. decent men/women] who want change. But when push comes to shove and things get messy, all that support seems to boil away. At times like that it’s hard not to call everyone else a liar. I mean if they were there when we needed them [public support] and not just random posters, things WOULD change. Right?

    It’s easy to get down, to feel like the world is against you when that happens. It is easy to forget that change comes from a small core group. Not a massive group. And it’s posts from influential survivors like you that make that possible.

    Chin up. You’ve got this. ((hugs))

  23. Eric Lee November 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

    Now see, Jim’s post from 11/7/2013 2:52 pm is a perfect example of how it’s easy for us to say we’re ready to stand up and do what’s required to put a stop to all of this, but when the actual situations arise they’re always complicated and sometimes is hard to know which is the best choice.

    I’ve watched the steady outpouring of support and encouragement in these comments and I don’t want to ruin that by starting a flamewar. Maybe Jim meant well but just didn’t know how to choose his words. Maybe he’s a troll and responding to him would just be playing into his hand. Even if I respond, he most likely won’t ever read it. If I butt in, it’s just going to make me look like a weirdo too because I don’t even know Pamela in real life. I don’t know.

    But in the interest of making sure I do enough, I’ll say – Jim, your comment was inappropriate. Don’t do that again. It’s not appropriate to respond to an intensely personal post about sexual harassment by leading with an assessment of the writer’s personal appearance. It’s not appropriate to vaguely imply that it’s her fault for being “hard for men to handle”. It’s not appropriate to veer onto political tangents. And it’s not appropriate to critique in a *terribly patronizing* way the spelling errors of someone who writes and speaks for a living, has a doctoral degree, is almost certainly way smarter than you, and is posting from a place of extreme stress at the moment.

    Just stop it. That kind of attitude, intentional or not, is what generates the kind of anguish that we see in so many #ripplesofdoubt stories. Realize that you’re part of the problem with that attitude and instead become part of the solution.

  24. Chris Albright November 7, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    Keep it up Dr Gay. I am appalled that in the one discipline that prides itself on reason and thoughtfulness– this has happened to you (or to anyone for that matter). Your generation of female scientists is still in that group of pioneers– I am surprised that this is yet another Good Ole Boys Club– but then again– maybe I am not so shocked. I applaud you and am sure that you can get through this as a stronger person. You have many supporters. I can offer the promise that I have two very strong willed science-bent daughters- I am discussing your story with them and asking they understand what has happened, why it shouldn’t have and why it can never be acceptable.

  25. Data Jack November 7, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Pamela – I’m so very sorry that this happened to you. You are such a terrific person, and make the world a much better place. There are jerks in our community, to be sure. But there are also lots of us that admire you, respect you, and care about you, too.

  26. John Santos November 7, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Pamela, your talk was far and away the most worthwhile and memorable session at TAM last year.

    I want to say it’s unbelievable that people in authority would criticize you and threaten your career because of it, but unfortunately, it’s all too common a reaction. I sincerely hope you not merely survive but prevail.

  27. Hazelwood November 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

    I’m so sorry for what has happened to you. I am actually very slowly working my way through the MSci in astronomy via Swinburne because of your podcast. I often wonder if I would have been inspired to do that if I had been listening to two male astronomers and I don’t think I would have. Your work really makes such a difference.

  28. Jorge A. November 7, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Dr. Gay, it saddens me greatly that you have had to go through those many experiences because of the fact that you are female. You are an inspirational person to me because of your intellect and because of your contributions to the public’s knowledge of science. The world desperately needs more science advocates like you.

    I don’t really know you except as a public figure, but from your writings I know that you hold many of my values. Be strong for all of us, but also take strength from those of us who wish positive things for you.

    Please be well.

  29. Lucas Randall November 7, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

    Eric, thanks for that. I was somewhat agog when I read Jim’s comment too.

  30. Laura Ross November 8, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    Hi, you may not remember me, but I’ve worked the podcasting track at Dragon Con for the past few years. You’ve always inspired me.

    I hate that this happened to you. I really hate it. Gah, what is WRONG with people?

  31. Tony Thompson November 8, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    Pamela,
    I am sorry this has happened to you.
    I was once one of those people drifting through life, blissfully unaware of the sexism that permeates society. I have since had my illusions shattered. That was done, in large part, by reading stories like yours.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

  32. Karl November 8, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    It seems there are a lot of people who should simply avoid alcohol altogether. If you can’t control yourself under its influence, then it’s your responsibility not to get influenced.

    Please keep doing what you’re doing, Pamela. Your work is both important and entertaining.

  33. Karen K. November 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    This is fucked up. So terrible that we have to go through this and then that the people in power who should be helping just want to cover it all up and pretend that it doesn’t happen. 🙁

    gah!

  34. Kyle November 8, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Dear Dr. Gay,
    I’ve tried to respond with eloquence and with rage but I think the simple response will be best.

    For whats its worth you have and always will have my support. I thank you for what you’ve done for science and skepticism. I abhor what you and others have gone through. I hope that one day people will be past this behavior and I will do my best to get rid of it!

    Best wishes, Kyle

  35. Janelle November 9, 2013 at 4:34 am #

    Pamela,
    You are so brave for bringing this into the light and sharing such a horrible personal experience. You are an amazing and inspiring scientist who has brought the universe to life for so many through your work. It breaks my heart that you were hurt while carrying out this wonderful work. Thank you for all that you do and know that there are many people out here who are rooting for you.

  36. Dave Cochran November 9, 2013 at 5:25 am #

    I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through. Please do not hate yourself. You do amazing, inspiring work. The fact that some asshole made a lunge at your chest does not place obligations on *you*.

    My daughter wants to be a scientist when she grows up – I just hope things have changed by the time she starts going to conferences 🙁

    You are an inspiration! Stay strong!

  37. David November 9, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Just wanted to voice my support, have been enjoying your work on AC & CQ for some years now, the world needs more people like you.

    Thank you Pamela.

  38. Robin Hilliard November 9, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    Dear Pamela – I’m so sorry you have to put up with this. You are already achieving so much: remember that like the sun, your work is having subtle effects at vast distances and in all directions.

    My 13 year old daughter is a regular Astronomy Cast and SGU listener. Last week she came second in a maths test last week (to her friend, another girl). She does not seem to consider this being at all exceptional. Of course we’ve tried to encourage this, but I honestly believe she wouldn’t have allowed herself to enjoy and succeed at maths if you weren’t out there busily defining a new normal for her and many, many other women.

    I know the new normal can’t come soon enough for you, but in the meantime I have set up a regular donation to Cosmoquest and I encourage others reading this who want to support your excellent work in a meaningful way to do the same.

    Best wishes,
    Robin ( the Higgs Boson song chorus singer)

  39. shilo rives November 9, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    Solidarity, sister!

  40. ullrich fischer November 9, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    As father of a 30-something daughter, I found your story very disturbing. I can fully understand why you don’t want to pursue this incident further than you have given the intensity of the vitriol against women who dare to object to such “harmless” assaults. IMHO there needs to be some kind of clearing house site for incidents like this where stories like yours can be compiled and the perpetrators are at the very least named and shamed. As long as the paradigm stands that these men are doing so much good for the world that we should give them a pass for such “minor infractions of political correctness”, women will never be on a level playing field and their potential contributions to human progress will be limited.

  41. Sarah November 9, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    Pamela, I too am a woman in a male dominated profession. How I see it is that we are still in the middle of a revolutionary change to society, and sometimes that change really hurts. We have to speak up, keep going, and hang in there. All power to you.

  42. Andrew November 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    How can we help you if we are not in the professional or academic organizations? Who can we contact to support you?

  43. pamela November 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    There is actually no way to express support. That is the frustration. The only support that is useful in these cases is to have a witness step forward and say in writing what happened, and then make it clear through their actions that the people in involved (and the witness who had power and still refused to step forward) shouldn’t be celebrated for their actions. This both means closing doors for advancement on those who act out against women, and making it clear that those who have authority to help but select not too shouldn’t be in those positions of authority unless they seriously change their actions. There are two crimes at play – both the harassment, discrimination, and basic bullying, as well as being the person who has authority to either stop the problem or at least prevent the problem person from having further opportunities to harass / discriminate / bully.

    In this case, you weren’t a witness. If you ever are, and you have the authority to help, step forward?

  44. Andrew November 10, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    Understood. Thank you for the reply. Thank you for your work. Thank you for your courage.

  45. Bill Hunsicker November 11, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Dr. Gay:

    Since discovering the Astronomy Cast podcast about two months ago I have been mainlining early episodes at a pace of at least 1 episode a day while listening to current episodes as they come out. Therefore, I can say that I have gotten to know you vicariously in the past few months. You are a wonderful giving person who should be supported and protected – not ignored and criticized and threatened for something someone else did.

    It is easy to pretend that these kind of things no longer happen in our our modern “enlightened” society but the truth is that not everyone agrees that we are all conscious human beings first and men or women or etc. second. There is no excuse for the behavior you have had to endure and no excuse for your employers to put the burden of proof on you to prove what has happened.

    Until this changes wonderful people like you will be held back and injured while horrible subhumans who do not deserve to be called persons prosper under a blanket of unearned protection. Intimidation and ridicule are wrong no matter what the situation is or the people involved.

    Be assured that most of the people who have commented on this post which is as difficult to read as I am sure it was to write support you and do not blame you for what has happened. Their reactions to you (non-support and intimidation and ridicule) is out of fear. Because you are so wonderful and talented and giving you are a threat to them.

    Even though it is hard not to you should not hate yourself for your actions in this situation (not even in not speaking up initially). When someone loves something they are doing they make sacrifices in order to keep doing it. It is horrible that in our society those sacrifices often involve denying oneself.

    I will continue to support everything you do as a listener and fan.

  46. Bill Hunsicker November 11, 2013 at 8:58 pm #

    In my fourth paragraph I did not separate those who are supporting Dr. Gay from those who are trying to threaten and intimidate her. I wanted to correct that so there would be no misunderstanding.

  47. Evan November 12, 2013 at 1:04 am #

    Dr. Gay,

    You and Mr. Cain rekindled a love of astronomy that was lost in my childhood. The Astronomy Podcast got me through many solitary hours as a truck-driver, and introduced me to concepts that I had never imagined. I’m so sorry you have had to go through this. I’m glad to see that in your work you found some solace. You will always have my respect and admiration for your accomplishments and your ability to share them in a way that is accessible to those who haven’t followed the same path. I’m sorry that my gratitude is all that I can offer, because it seems very inadequate.

    Thank you.

  48. Lance INTJ November 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Good Doctor,

    To say that I have nothing but the greatest and utmost respect for you as a scientist and as a thinker is perhaps the greatest understatement I have ever made. This is because I don’t have to words to describe how much of an impact your commitment to science (especially astronomy) has had upon me. You and a few others have freed me to rekindle my passion for all things science.

    It is because of this that what you had to write hurts. I’m sorry to hear that you had to endure this kind of treatment. People like yourself should be held up as a as a shining light of how to love science, and how to excel at it. No one, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or creed should ever have to be marginalized because of it.

    I know it took a great deal of courage to come forward with a matter that is so personal. None the less, I think it is important that you know that even though there are some people who are (in my opinion) not worthy of the title of “human being” and have treated you with disrespect, there are many of us who have the greatest esteem of you as a scientist and educator.

    If anything, I implore you “don’t let the bastards win”. Never give up. Never bow. Stay steadfast in your pursuits even if it is by taking a different road. Never, ever let those who refuse to give you their respect take away your self respect. I know for a fact that there are plenty of people who do respect you. I count myself as one of them.

    Keep your head up Dr.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. For My Daughter | Patrick F. Clarkin, Ph.D. - November 7, 2013

    […] Unfortunately, we will one day have to prepare our daughter for some things that her brothers likely will not have to encounter. She is perfect now (at least in our eyes), and although we can’t see the future she will probably end up inheriting her mother’s beauty (at least in my eyes). We want her to be valued for more than her appearance. And we want her to know that there are things that men are not allowed to do, particularly in professional settings.  […]

  2. Why? | Atheism, Music, and More… - November 7, 2013

    […] Read the rest. FUCKING READ IT!!!!!!!!! READ IT AND THINK LONG AND HARD ABOUT WHERE WE’RE GOIN… […]

Leave a Reply