Science Reporter Emily Graslie Reads Her Sexist Hate Mail

Meet Emily Graslie, the Chief Curiosity Officer of the Field Museum in Chicago. (Now that’s a job title I’d like to have!) She’s also the host of a YouTube series called The Brain Scoop which investigates cool scientific topics like how octopi have sex and the differences between moths and butterflies.  Emily is one of the few women to host a STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) YouTube series, which is not entirely surprising, because those industries are all dominated by men.

In Graslie’s most recent Brain Scoop video, Emily asks why that might be. While she personally feels completely supported by her employers and colleagues, she pointed out how there is a larger culture that is unsupportive of women in STEM fields. So she illustrated this in the starkest way possible: by reading sexist comments.

From suggestions that she and a fellow female science geek make lesbian porn to comments like “She just needs sexier glasses” and “Perhaps you might consider wearing slightly racier clothing,” the comments are completely gross. Some folks seem a lot more interested in what Graslie looks like instead of what she has to say about natural history.

And every time another woman or girl sees those sexist comments, some surely decide they wouldn’t want to deal with it.  It’s a rational reaction, to be sure: no wonder more women don’t put themselves out there on the Internet when this is how you can expect to be treated. “We have a fear of the feedback from our subscribers and commenters because we’re afraid the audience is more focused on our appearance than the quality of our content,” Graslie explained.  Thus, the number of women doing STEM YouTube videos (and in the STEM fields, period) make incremental progress.

Graslie also spoke about another factor, which those of us who aren’t sexist asshats can change: the minimizing that takes place when these sexist (and creepy) comments occur. People will try to say it’s not such a big deal because it’s just some idiots on YouTube, but that doesn’t change the fact that comments about her body, clothes, and glasses are intensely personal.  Other men will acknowledge to her that the comments are gross, she said, but it’s not helpful to assume that by ignoring sexist bullshittery it will go away. “We can’t idly sit by an tolerate Internet bullying in any form,” she said. “Because that’s what this is. This is Internet bullying.”

Damn right it is. I think Emily Graslie is my new Internet-friend-in-my-head and I’m totally subscribing to The Brain Scoop.  You can watch older videos from The Brain Scoop here and check out a list of other YouTube videos about math, biology, tech, engineering, and other miscellaneous science fields at this link.

[YouTube via NPR]

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