Truth against Humanity

Posted By Pamela on Nov 6, 2013 | 106 comments

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.


  1. This is absolutely heartbreaking.

    I don’t know what to say other than you’re one of my heroes. I know you do many amazing things, but AstronomyCast in particular has had huge impact on me and my family. I taught a high school astronomy class using your podcasts as the base materials and it was wildly successful. My oldest daughter and I came to a pizza meetup with you and several other astronomers in Seattle a few years ago and I can’t thank you enough for the opportunity you gave my daughter to learn from a role model like you. Because of you all four of my children have love for science that they would not otherwise have.

    There are so many things I’d like to say but coming from a stranger they’d just be platitudes. So I’ll settle for this: you make a difference in the world. A huge difference. You do good things. And while there are many ways in which you can be cruelly attacked and limited and and kept from realizing the full potential of your career, they can never take away the basic fact of who you are. You are an asset to this world and one of the most admirable people I know. Thank you for everything.

  2. I am to very heartbroken to read this. I can tolerate my own pain, but I feel the suffering like yours to my very core. I admire you and consider you a paragon of humanity regardless of either of our genders, station, or situation. Be well.

  3. You did nothing wrong. Nothing. You were never supposed to have to have this fight. You’re supposed to be able to work to do good things. And you’ve done that, so much of that I look at you sometimes in awe.

    You have my admiration, lady.

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

    No. Don’t hate yourself. The truth is, speaking out against that violation would have been interpreted and dismissed as “raising a fuss,” and that would have been simply another blow to your sense of self worth. You did nothing wrong. You have the right to protect yourself.

    For what it’s worth, you have my respect and support. And cyber-hugs if you want ’em.

  5. Your talk at TAM 2012 brought tears to my eyes, but not as many as this. Yeah, this shit is fucked up.

    I want to leave this world less fucked up for my grandchildren. Since it looks like I won’t be able to climb the mountains on my bucket list, I think it’s time to figure out how I can make un-fucking-up the society my retirement project. I doubt it’ll all be done before I die, but that’s good. It’ll keep me out of mischief.

  6. Thank you for sharing this. As a man I can’t directly relate but I can certainly sympathize. My wife had an issue at her work where “the guys” she worked (past tense mind you) with were openly sexist all the time. Grabbing asses, affairs with underlings, commenting on how women in the office look, etc. It was like something out of _Mad Men_.

    She did speak out though. And boy did the situation become complicated real fast. HR comes in, asks for proof, she provides anecdote, all of a sudden she has zero allies from other coworkers (including women who were also victims), etc. She got hung out to dry and eventually let go from a job she otherwise loved. Her lament is “I should have just sucked it up. Why couldn’t I just let these things go?” Just the opposite of yours. I’m fairly certain she was damned either way.

    I hope your story will help her feel less alone. And maybe hers will help you to feel less alone?

  7. Greetings from India – your TAM talk was fantastic and I’ve been following your blog ever since. I just wanted to chime in to offer my appreciation and support, for what it’s worth. What he (and others like him) did is inexcusable.

  8. Hugs to you, Pamela.

    Please don’t beat yourself up for not speaking out earlier. It’s not an easy thing to do.

  9. Hugs to you, Pamela.

    Please don’t beat yourself up for not speaking out earlier. Instead, I hope you concentrate that energy on continuing to be amazing. You were part of my inspiration to go back to school and get a Master’s in CS — I can never thank you enough for that.

    It’s never an easy thing to know when to speak out. I struggle with it myself, and wish I didn’t have to. But I thank every person who speaks out publicly like you now have, because it helps make everyone aware that the problem is real and that the situation is fucked up.

    Thank you.

  10. Pamela – so sorry to hear you’ve been having to face this… outrage. There are no words. Thank you for speaking out.

  11. I’ve been sitting here trying to process and come up with words that are appropriate and I can find none. I just want you to know that you and Astronomy Cast have been an inspiration for me and my 15 year old son. Listening to the entire series has been a bonding experience for us and I believe that this has contributed to his future aspirations in science. Please don’t loose heart. The good you do if far too important. So while I am struggling to find anything of comfort to write, I would just like to say thank you for all that you do.

  12. Who needs to feel the shame and pain are the low-lifes who cause pain to other people just so they can do inappropriate behavior that they want to do.

    Who needs to feel embarrassed are the people in authority who could do something easily to handle these issues when they come to their attention but don’t.

    Who needs to modify their attitude are the guys in position of power and privilege who dismiss the pain of others just because THEY don’t think it’s a big deal. The operative words on the last sentence is “they don’t think”, it’s time for them to sit up and think about other people and do the right thing.

  13. You speak truth to power.

  14. I admire you so much, Pamela.

    I was there too, in those shoes, when a man who was respected in the community stuck his hands up my skirt and everyone laughed it off.

    It’s all too common, these assaults, and the culture around us seems to laugh them off, excuse them, and then turns to us and ask us why we are so upset.

    We have been told, repeatedly, not to rock the boat, to let it go, that we will be punished if we speak up, that we will suffer if we speak the truth. Is it any wonder, then, that it has taken even the strongest of us so long to speak up?

    I support you. I believe you.

  15. Pamela,
    I’ve long thought that you were one of the most amazing, inspiring women I’ve ever met. I am very proud to call you friend, and proud that my daughter can have such a real person, not a fictional character, as a role model in her life as well.

    What you’ve been through was horrible and difficult, but you wanted to keep doing what you love, so you made the decisions necessary to do that. You did nothing wrong – ever. You just had to make the best selection for you from bad choices.

    Academia and business – they both make it ridiculous for anyone to report and have support. And these situations are ugly, no matter how they’re handled.

    It’s up to all of us in the world to make sure that everyone has better choices from now on. And in the meantime, we should all teach our sons and daughters how to respect other people and treat them properly. No matter their ages (the children AND the other people).

    Final thoughts:
    You do good work. Your efforts inspire a lot of people, young and old, all over the globe. No one should be allowed to prevent you from doing that – you were born to do this! Keep doing what you are doing – we’ll find a way to help you, even if the powers that be won’t.

    And virtual hugs and chocolate are available here, anytime you need them!

  16. Oh lordy this is indeed heartbreaking. You did NOTHING wrong. Your talk at TAM 2012 was wonderful…I’m appalled to learn that colleagues wanted to punish you for it.

  17. Pamela, we’ve got your back.

  18. I’ve been following you online ever since Slacker Astronomy. I’m so sorry that you’ve been brought to this awful place. Thank you so much for having the bravery to speak out. You really are an inspiration to me and many other people.

  19. Thanks for writing this. It takes a lot of courage to put your honest truth out there.

  20. I love you, Pamela. Wishing you peace and comfort.

  21. I hate that you’ve experienced this. You do good work, and that is the only criteria you should be judged by, in a professional context.

    I’m going to raise the ironically unpopular counterpoint, though, and argue that calling this a gender problem is a failure to properly generalize the issue. Voicing *any* opinion which is outside of the social narrative can have these kind of consequences regardless of gender, and the landmine which you have observed is part of that set.

    Anecdotally, as an autistic person, I have been driven to simply say as little as possible, especially in my professional life, but realistically even to close friends and family, because rational observations have very little bearing on social interaction.

  22. I’ve worked in science for over 25 years and since college have faced similar events. I do work in more isolation and that glass ceiling in the corporate/academic scientific environment is partially why. I have only recently come to understand where I was too passive as well. You did just right and I am sorry for the pain and injustice of it all.

  23. You are a brave and wonderful person. Thank you for sharing your story.

  24. Pamela,

    Thank you for sharing this. I know how hard it is to open up about assault and abuse. I believe you. I support you. I truly hope you can continue to do good things. You coming out and being honest will help more women, women like me, who have dealt with this and are afraid we’re alone.

    Thank you. I wish you nothing but the best going forward.

  25. Can we start naming names and not let these people be camouflaged behind terms like “a drunk ass” or “some asshole”? As a person with a penis and testicles, it sickens and enrages me that there are people in this world who think that grabbing at or slapping someone sexually is behavior that is acceptable or at least tolerated “because I was drunk”.

    Not putting a face to the aggressor brings about a vague air of “nameless men are assholes” and that frankly is bullshit. There are fuckers on this planet who need to have their world view adjusted and it needs to be done publicly.

  26. Eric Lee totally captured my thoughts Pamela. When we discussed this face-to-face I was appalled and dismayed to hear or your experiences, and wished I could take it all back on behalf of those people with whom I share a gender. All I can do is promise not to accept shit like this if I see it, and to call out these behaviours when I do.

    The comments below overwhelmingly show love and support for you. Thank you for being the person you are. xox

  27. I’ve only been reading atheist/skeptical blogs for about two years. I’m also an academic scientist, so my first response to the community was that being a part of it was kind of like hanging out with my colleagues after work, a practice I find myself engaging in increasingly rarely. Then DJ Grothe blamed women for the decline in women’s registration for the 2012 TAM, and I saw the ugliness emerge. Perhaps it was only an echo of the ugliness that followed “Guys, don’t do that,” or perhaps it was worse. I don’t know, as I wasn’t around for that round.

    It confirmed my sense, unarticulated at the time, but only just, that the behavior we see in the skeptic community is pretty much what a good fraction of my colleagues in science would behave like if they could be anonymous at work. This time, the ugliness was so clear that a man of good conscience without the ability to delude himself entirely could not ignore it. It was there, it was not relegated to a small community of imagined losers still living in their parents’ basement. These misogynistic attitudes were held by a significant minority of this community, overlapping significantly with the community of professional scientists.

    I can live with the misogynists. It’s the so-called good guys who feel free to ignore them, who tell you you’re imagining things, who ask that you not tell them your stories who tear at my soul. Lucky you, I want to rage– you can ignore all this. You are not carrying this extra weight and you are free to imagine that your successes have nothing to do with its absence. Unfortunately, this group is not a minority. It is the overwhelming majority of men in science, and as we all know, it includes a significant minority of women, too. Most of them have been unable to understand our anger, and so we simply stop talking to them about it. And slowly, about other things as well, thus missing out on an important part of the informal interactions that lead to collaborative projects.

    That’s pernicious enough, but what you’ve faced is far worse than anything I’ve faced. I’ve seen it, though. Seen young graduate students forced out of their programs due to the behavior of their superiors while the administration looks out only for itself. I’ve seen the slowness to condemn even a disliked colleague for egregious behavior.

    The reaction you’ve experienced fulfills an extremely useful function for those who do not wish their behavior to be questioned: it keeps us from sharing our stories with one another, from seeing just how bad it really is. This cycle was recently exposed in my department, and all of us women were shocked at how many horrible stories one of us knew, but that the rest did not. It was the aggregate of the stories that made it impossible for us not to act. It’s not clear to me how much better things are now, but I hope life is better for the students, at least.

    My hope is that the underbelly of misogyny has been exposed so clearly by its proponents in the skeptical and atheist communities that a critical mass of people have begun to understand. If nothing else, we have more places in which to share our stories than we did two years ago. As awful as the anti-feminist backlash has been in the atheist blogosphere, it has also led to much more self-examination on the part of men than I have ever witnessed in feminist conversations. The institutions have not always proved capable of responding, but people have, in a way that is building. I hope.

    Your talk at TAM was magnificent, and I remember thinking how brave you were to give that talk in that environment– and how utterly impressive. What has happened to you in the aftermath is heart-wrenching. Please, please know that your courage is inspiring. I am angry that you have to be so courageous to state the obvious, and that you have suffered so much for the ability to do so with such grace.

    But that makes me all the more thankful to you for doing so.

    Please, please take care of yourself.

  28. Pamela, thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

  29. Thank you for posting this, about both discrimination and harassment. Everyone likes to believe that their community is “safe” even if others have issues. Everyone likes to believe that the colleagues they know, or the senior members of the community that they respect, “couldn’t have done” something discriminatory or inappropriate or terrible to another member of the community. It’s unbelievable what people will say and do in the face of accusations – of themselves and others. I’ve watched the attempts to ruin and shame people in the skeptic community bleed over into tech and game development and science. No community is “safe,” especially when people want to believe in that false safety so hard that it actively hurts the community and its members.

    You’re not the “worst kind of survivor.” You’re a survivor, and your first responsibility is to take care of yourself and to make the best decisions that you can in the face of a rotten situation.

    You know, I don’t really miss attending AAS conferences. When I started attending them, at 24 or 25, I would joke to my best friend about my “AAS boyfriends” – the two or three guys who would sit next to me at every session, join me without an invitation at meals, want to dance with me at the unofficial-but-traditional party. Nothing ever happened beyond a lot of awkward creepiness, but that alone was actually pretty unwelcome and uncomfortable. No other conference I attended had this situation for me, but no other conference was so overwhelmingly male-dominated, either.

    I was at one of those unofficial parties one year and there was a bachelorette party at the same bar that night. I ended up chatting with a couple of the attendees when we were getting drinks, and they were getting ready to leave because they found some of the party attendees “creepy.” I explained that this was a group of astronomers here from a conference and all of a sudden things were fine – “oh, they’re not creepy, they’re just astronomers!” This has troubled me for years, as if members of any specific group are automatically safe.

  30. Reading this, I wish I could do something for you, even though I don’t otherwise know you. I concur with many other commenters that this isn’t your fault. When you have only shitty options and you pick a shitty one, could you honestly blame yourself? If you were to accept it’s your responsibility to keep this from happening to you, it’s also easy to believe something else (whatever it is) could, no, would have saved you, being hopeful of what could have been. Most likely not!

    The real issue is that this attitude towards women is normalized. Women and men alike won’t dare speak out against the status quo. It’s stupid because it could easily have been the other way. It’s just not what it is now, and what it is now is something that’s hard to challenge. We need an ‘insider’ view that this is something you just don’t do. I urge any readers to try and push things in that direction.

  31. You are brave, you are wonderful.
    And you are not guilty in any sense of the word for having reacted the way you did at any point.
    You were the victim, you did what was best for you in those situations.

  32. Because it continues to be one of the best, most concise illustrations of the “you can’t win, you can’t break even, and you can’t even quit the game” nature of Sexual Harrassment Theater:

  33. Shit, I’m in tears all over again.

    Faced with a no-win situation, you did the right thing. Now it’s up to the rest of us to change the culture and get rid of these no-win situations. You’ve got my support, and my admiration for your bravery.

  34. Thanks for sharing this, and thanks for all that you do.

  35. I remember your talk at TAM and the discussion we had in the del Mar that evening. I was honored to get the chance to listen and talk to someone that had the strength to say what you said. To hear about the backlash it caused is terribly disappointing, but strangely, not all that surprising. Keep fighting the good fight. History shows that this does produce change.

    Hope to see you again soon,

  36. THanks for sharing this. I think you are not giving yourself enough credit. The very fact that you’ve just posted this is proof that there’s a lot of courage in you. It’s a first step and an important one. I congratulate you for it. I wish there was a way for me to undo what other men did… it’s frustrating and infuriating. For whatever it’s worth to you, you have my support and admiration.

  37. Pamela,

    I don’t have anything to add to what others have said, but I remain outraged at how you have been treated, and I have admired your determination to “get work done” through all of this. I am honored to be one of your collaborators, and I could have not found a better person to work with on our show.

  38. 1: I am so sorry you went through this, and are going through it.

    2: You are not a bad person for dealing with it the way you did. It is a terrible situation, in which you are doubly victimized — victimized the first time, and victimized again for being put in a position where literally nothing you do will be seen as right.

    3: The mere fact that you have continued to work, and are willing to speak about this at all, attests to your character.

    4: If there is anything at all that any of us can do to help, please don’t hesitate to say so.

    5: I am so sorry you went through this, and are going through it.

  39. You have, once again, brought me to tears and to my feet. Another standing ovation for you, Pamela. You amaze me. Thank you for your talk at TAM and thank you for writing this.

  40. Pamela,
    Like so many folks above, I heard you speak at TAM 2012 and was deeply moved. I felt (and still feel) it was one of the best and most honest talks I’ve ever been privileged to have heard at a skeptic meeting. I’m appalled to learn that you had any push back in your professional life–let alone to this extent. I respect and admire you, and always have enjoyed your company when I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with you and your wonderful crew. The Cosmoquest Meetup at The Freakin’ Frog after that particular TAM was especially memorable! I look forward to seeing you again in the real world–I hope before too long–and wish you the best in life, professional and personal. You rock!!

  41. So sorry this has happened to you. It really looks as if both science and skepticism have a problem here, and it isn’t being properly addressed. None of us make optimal responses all the time, we just do the best we can. So don’t torture yourself with retrospectives. I wish I knew what to do about this.

  42. Pamela, you are an amazing person and I am very happy to have met you and talked with you from time to time over the years. You are very strong and brave and wonderful for saying what you did in 2012 and today.

    I wish you all the best.


  43. Opened Feedly. Yay, a post by Pamela. Settled down to read.

    Started reading and my heart sank. By the end I was back to remembering why I have mostly walked away from the skeptical community and academia in general.

    Its all too easy to cut people slack and blame the booze, but in the end, its just plain bullying.

    We all need to find a way of removing these torags from a community that claims to be ‘rational’. There should be zero tolerance of inappropriate behaviour and any time that we witness such bullying it is our responsibility to step in and stop it.

    Pamela, you are an inspiration to us all.

  44. TAM 2012 was the last one of 11 that I attended (including spending a lot of money to go to both UK TAM). I probably won’t go again. I’m sick of the way women like you have been treated. I’m not a scientist, I’m a chemical engineer in the oil business, which combines a highly technical, mostly male industry with a cowboy wild-chatter mentality. Nearly all the women I started with are gone. It’s such a small sub-set that we know each other. When I was younger and had more overtly aggressive harassment, a VP at BP told me “there is no discrimination at this company” so I dealt with it myself. I believe he was daring me to make a fuss.

    Now I’m in a position where no one would dare harrass me, but I look around and see that there are no womem in positions like mine. You shouldn’t have to fear for your job, your career, your reputation, for speaking up.

    I found a good shove and threat to break his goddamn fingers worked once though.

  45. Pamela, I’ve been a fan of your work and a follower of your speeches for a long time. Please do know that there are people out there who still admire you and what you’re trying to do. Who hold you up as an example of what it means to be a positive influence in Science and an inspiring voice for Astronomy.

    This story, difficult and tragic and anger-inspiring as it is, doesn’t change that for me at all.

  46. I can’t add anything to what others have said, but I can add my voice to those who support you and stand by anyone suffering such unfair treatment.

  47. Pamela – a post you wrote in 2009 You must have Power to Stop Discrimination empowered me to speak up and get a colleague to stop discriminating against people in our community.

    This #ripplesofdoubt post makes my head and heart ache. And I thank you for that. I only hope I can find strength like yours to act when I need to.


  48. Pamela,

    I have met you a few times and have listened to Astronomy Cast for several years. You don’t do good work – you do incredible work. You were one of my major inspirations to finally go to college (many years late) and study science.

    I am a survivor of sexual assault. I have been in situations in which I did not report and which I did report. Neither outcome was what I would have wanted, but reporting to the police was definitely the most painful and destructive to me. I can’t imagine coming forward in a public way like this.

    I have enormous respect for other survivors no matter how they choose to handle it, but I am especially impressed by those who publicly come forward in the way that you have here. There is nothing wrong with staying silent if that is what is right for any given person. As you have seen, the consequences for speaking out can be horrific. I hope they get better for you.

    I am staying in the skeptical movement (though nowhere near TAM or anything JREF is involved with) less because I desire the sense of community and far more because I believe that my presence can make a difference. I want to be there to tell other guys that this is not okay. When I am in my college and eventually my career I want to be a man who stands up against this corrosive force of misogyny and supports women and trans* people and men who are survivors like us.

    I believe you, Pamela. I support you in any way you think will help. And I stand firmly against those who would knock us down or ignore this problem.

  49. I have always admired your strength and intelligence. I have always had great respect for you and am honored to be able to call you my friend. I didn’t think it was possible, but I have even more respect for you today. Thank you for what you said at TAM that day and thank you again for speaking up here. I’m here if you need me.


  1. Cut open with a rusty blade » Butterflies and Wheels - […] Gay posted a wrenching, heartbreaking, infuriating post early today about her struggles as a woman in science and […]

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