You’ve expressed confusion and disappointment over the uproar created by your Futures piece in Nature. You cite women who have no problem with the gender roles you spoke about with “tongue in cheek”. You insist that us female scientists are being too sensitive. And while numerous bloggers have tried to put this into context for you, I wonder if taking things out of context for a moment might help. Consider this recent post from the NY Times Motherlode Blog, regarding Gymboree’s recalled line of *sexist* onesies:
We get that Gymboree didn’t set out to make a statement about smart men and pretty women. And science teachers don’t wake up in the morning and think, “You know, I think boys are just better at this stuff, so I’m going to call on them more.” Kindergarten teachers don’t consciously say, “Girls like to draw and boys like to build, so I’ll have the girls draw the poster while the boys build a giant pyramid for the Egypt fair.” Those things just happen, the way these shirts just happened. We don’t think about them, and we should. Letting the little sexist choices slide suggests that we think the Western world has changed about as far as it’s going to go, and we should be grateful for that, accept the compliment — Moms are Pretty! — and move on. I don’t think so. Do you?
Maybe your short story isn’t the biggest issue out there concerning sexism, but it’s the little issues that are frequently the most dangerous. Little slights, which appear innocent enough on the surface, permeate our thoughts and actions without our conscious permission and ultimately DO have consequences, whether we intend for them to or not. What may have begun as an innocent, “tongue-in-cheek” piece about gender roles and knickers was given a huge stage when published in Nature, from which the underlying sexist message could pervade the entire scientific community. When brought to our attention, many smart, confident female scientists were offended. We know all too well the result of ignoring these “little issues”, and we made the decision to stand together and refuse to be marginalized. I’m sorry if that offends you, but maybe you shouldn’t take it so personally.