I’ll preface this post by saying that the real life Dr. Isis is pretty spectacular. My kids are cute. My research is hilarious. The online Dr. Isis is pretty fucking disenfranchised. I am over feminism and I am over the online academeratti. Mostly, because I realize that although they seem to have a lot of opinions about how I should do things, we don’t share the same core, fundamental values and I fear that we never will.
As readers of this blog will no doubt be aware, my latest round of disenfranchisement began when Michael Eisen called me a hypocrite for seeking to publish a paper in a high impact factor journal. I wrote about the shenanigans here. Now, admittedly Michael offered his apologies. I decided to take the low road, reject said apology, and tell the #OpenAccess movement to go fuck itself.
Even though Michael probably truly believes he has been sincere, it’s the emptiest of apologies. Why the rudeness and incivility from La Dra. Isis?
Because no one learned shit for dick from this interaction and it infuriates me. Let me share with you the inside baseball about how these interactions go down, beginning with the pivotal moment in which Michael Eisen calls your beloved blog hostess a hypocrite. I respond with…
Because, as you all know, I took great offense at being told what my priorities and moral obligations should be. The part that you likely didn’t see is the shit that followed.
My response to Michael Eisen came from a particular place. Was influenced by a particular world view and my identification with a particular group. Not long after the initial tweeting between Michael and I, the junior scientists of Twitter (assistant professors and postdocs) joined in. I feel their support, and I am so thankful for it (see Proflike for a particularly good post on the matter), but my core point about how it is particularly problematic to ask minority scientists to be risk takers was dominated by a new narrative about how important it is for all junior faculty to get tenure. How “we all” gotta keep our jobs. And we got to hear about how Ethan Perlstein is a special little snowflake and how we should all leave the game and join him. This was my reaction to that hot bag of fuck. Per the usual, the whole conversation quickly got white washed.
What happened next was particularly problematic, but typical and endemic to this culture.
The minority scientists picked up their drinks and moved to the back room to keep talking where they could be heard.
I got phone calls from my hermanos who vented to me about the changing rules of the system and how minorities are always expected to know how to play the game, but never find out the rules until it’s too late. And, they’re excluded from the circles that make the rules in the first place. I got emails from folks with hilarious subject lines like “Preach it, Vato” (which was my personal favorite). I got text messages from people who said things like “I have your back in this, but I don’t feel powerful enough to join you [paraphrased a la Isis].”
There was a whole conversation that happened that most people didn’t see because the mainstream culture we exist in refuses to do one simple, basic thing.
It refuses to ask questions and it refuses to listen before it speaks.
Mainstream culture counters conflict by offering its own seemingly (to them) universal experiences. It offers these experiences until it is blue in the face and until they feel truthy for all, never noticing that they’ve talked over the original point. Then they get to problem solving. And then comes the most infuriating step in the process…
It tells you that it can empathize.
No you can’t, motherfucker! The mainstream culture doesn’t understand dick and won’t in the forseeable future because no one at any point in these discussions stops to really ask about the experiences of the others. They create experiences and solutions that make them feel good – like they’re making strides toward increasing the number of diverse voices – but they never actually listen. If there’s any doubt in your mind, sit in one of these discussions and count the relative number of “I” statements and the relative number of questioning statements.
And Drugmonkey and Miko hit the nail on the head as to why the Open Access movement is the most troubling representative of this culture. Michael Eisen and others in the movement treat junior scientists as the infantry men, sent out to accept the machine gun spray for the greater cultural good. Minority scientists are the ones most likely to take the bullet. The deck is already stacked against them. They’ve got no body armor. In my culture, community is a core value and I can see my brothers and sisters being persuaded to take the bullet because its proposed as the “moral” thing to do. Yet, I was reminded in a conversation yesterday that one of the biggest bits of outreach an underrepresented scientist can do, is to move to the next level. Get a PhD. Get a faculty job. Get tenure. Every time you open a door ahead, you leave five open behind you and that is important to our community.
So, I leave the conversation today with a newly found peace of mind. A sense of what feels right to me. I can get behind the idea of open access as an abstract concept. But as far as the general “community?”
If only I could give fewer than zero fucks.
(My sincerest thanks to the incomparable Dr. Rubidium for the amazing GIFs. She is truly a genius of indignant hilarity and role model to us all. I aspire to be more like her.)