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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Women Should Boycott Fermilab

I am serious about this. 

First, there's the embarrassingly shoddy way they dealt with Sherry Towers, who discovered a goddam particle, for Christ's sake.  Then, there's their willingness to exploit the unpaid labor of female physicists with children and then plaster their pictures all over their propaganda rags as if they are the #1 happy workplace for women (see the Elizabeth Freeland story). 

But now, we have The Last Straw.  Katherine Weber v. Fermilab  Thanks to Absinthe for providing that link.

Katherine Weber was a mechanical engineer at Fermilab.  Katherine had jock straps and condoms placed in her mailbox.  Yes, dear readers, condoms and jock straps.  And when she complained about it, she was told that she should "be good", "ignore it", or "make a joke out of it".  And later she was demoted, and finally she was fired.  She says it was because she complained.  Naturally, her employer says it was not.  I would just like to go on record as saying that even if she loses her case - NO WOMAN SHOULD HAVE TO GO TO WORK AND FIND JOCKSTRAPS IN HER MAILBOX.  

I am so, so very tired of writing about things like condoms and jock straps and pornographic screen savers and research assistants who get raped for years on end.  (Must be how those folks at the Southern Poverty Law Center feel when they are stuffing envelopes - you know, same old frickin' neo-Nazi racist skinhead Klan-wannabes, same old tired Aryan nations rhetoric, only the venue changes.) This week it's jockstraps in the mailboxes; last week we were simulating ejaculation in the lunchroom; next week we'll just feel her up in the instrument room.  What's the matter, can't you take a joke? Don't be so serious!  We're just kidding around!  Uptight bitch. 

The things that happen to women in science and engineering are ugly things.  They are not pleasant to talk about.  But as Audre Lorde has told us, in The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action:

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.

They'll tell you to make a joke out of it.  But you should go to the EEO officer anyway.

My silences have not protected me.  Your silence will not protect you...What are the words that you do not have?  What do you need to say?  What are the tyrannies that you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?...[O]f course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger...

We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired.  For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definitions, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.    

Women are choking to death in America's national laboratories and university research labs.  And as they drop to the floor, men around them pick up the research findings that fall from their listless hands and say, "Thank you!  This is just what I was looking for."  Then they step over the bodies and walk on.     

So, women:  Don't apply to Fermilab.  Don't accept job offers there.  Don't send your students there.  Don't actively recruit from there.  If you aren't a physicist but you live in the vicinity of Fermilab and want to do something, put a little sign in your car window that says "Women:  Boycott Fermilab".  Because we should not sell the fruits of our labor so cheaply to those so unworthy. 


9:27:47 PM    comment [] trackback []

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