What Womanspace Really Looks Like (And Why Nature Can Suck It)

I am sorry to have been away from you, darlings.  I have had the flu these last few days and have been sequestered.  I’ll have more to tell you about all of that soon, but in the mean time we have to talk about the shenanigans over at Nature.

I will confess, as I have in the past and as a bit of a disclaimer, that I don’t usually read Nature. It’s not a journal that I find especially useful academically as someone who is interested in science that is closer to the clinic, and the time to read through it is not worth the return.  I’ll occasionally glance through the table of contents when on the toilet – after all, I hear that’s where some of the editorial staff does its best work.

For me, finding an article that is directly applicable to my research in Nature is sort of like finding a single particular fish in the ocean.  It’s not a great use of my time, so I depend on my RSS feed to pick out the rare kernel of science that might be of use to my group.  But, events today have taught me that, not only am I clearly not missing out on a high quality journal, but there might also be some reason to actively avoid Nature all together.

In the September 29th issue Professor Ed Rybicki has an article a sort of obtuse blathering titled Womanspace.   It’s a generally awkward piece about how Rybicki and his friend are sent to a local shop to buy underpants for his daughter.  Except that, because Rybicki and his friend are such humongous dumbasses, they are unable to complete this fairly simple task. 

This article fails on so many levels, that it’s hard to come up with a single thesis that points out the failure.  Let’s, instead, make a list of all of the things we learn that point to how horribly out of touch Nature is with its female readers to think that this would be amusing….

1) It must be sort of sad to be in Professor Rybicki’s wife’s womanspace.

We learn from the comments section of this article that Rybicki’s wife is virologist Anna-Lise Williamson.  But, apparently she’s the one who holds it down around the house.  He describes her:

 She was too busy making supper to bother; these otherwise unemployed elderly men were the perfect candidates — and the prospect of not having to listen to us blather on about just where to pitch the book, and what to put in it, and which Jethro Tull albums we liked, probably tipped the balance our way.

So, we begin with the establishment of characters with stereotypical gender roles.  Reading this made me think about watching my grandparents – my grandfather sitting on the couch, only bothering to lift his legs to let my grandmother pass the vaccuum underneath. 

 In my womanspace, my husband would have been in the kitchen with me, helping me to prepare the meal.  Maybe he would have been preparing it himself. Or, if we had guests, he would be entertaining our guests within earshot so that I could participate in the conversation.  And, in my womanspace, if I was busy preparing a meal and someone needed to buy clothing for our child, my husband would volunteer. 

But, why is this imagery dangerous?  Because this is the imagery that sends the careers of some women completely tits up.  In this fabricated universe, men have the luxury of sitting around, drinking scotch, having seemingly endless conversations about science.  Women are responsible for the home.  When a highly educated couple is faced with the challenge of managing a household, which partner is more likely to feel pressured to leave science?  Or pursue a part-time career?

It’s also kind of sad that his wife shows up in the comments to defend him.  Granted, her husband may be an incompetent moron, but not all of our husbands are that way and his experiences certainly do not point to a universal truth.

2) Men and women are biologically equipped to deal with problems differently

Professor Rybicki tells us why us women are clearly from Venus

At this point I must digress, and mention, for those who are not aware, the profound differences in strategy between Men Going Shopping and Women Going Shopping. In any general shopping situation, men hunt: that is, they go into a complex environment with a few clear objectives, achieve those, and leave. Women, on the other hand, gather: such that any mission to buy just bread and milk could turn into an extended foraging expedition that also snares a to-die-for pair of discounted shoes; a useful new mop; three sorts of new cook-in sauces; and possibly a selection of frozen fish.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love a cute pair of shoes as much as the next gal.  But, in my womanspace I have the ability to enter a store and buy bread and milk without soiling myself over a pair of heels.  That’s because I am usually trying to buy that bread and milk in the 5 minutes of free time I have between leaving a meeting with my collaborators, or submitting a grant, and needing to pick my children up from daycare. 

I also don’t particularly like to shop without a purpose and I hate to meander.  I suspect there are other women like me.  Maybe we are not women enough for womenspace.

3) Only heterosexual men read Nature

Have you never had the experience of talking to your significant female other as you wend your way through the complexity of a supermarket — only to suddenly find her 20 metres away with her back to you? And then she comes back with something you’ve never seen before, and tosses it in the trolley as if nothing has happened?

 No, Dr. Rybicki.  I can’t say that I have, but that’s because I am a woman who is married to a man in what happens to be a fairly heteronormative marriage.  When would I have the opportunity to talk to my female significant other?  Some women are married to or partnered with other women.  Which of them lives in Dr. Rybicki’s womanspace?  And the men married to or partnered with each other?  Which of them chuckles knowingly, reading Dr. Rybicki’s article, about womanspace? 

And those of us who are living unpartnered?  Raising our children alone, or choosing not to raise children at all?  Do they also get access to womanspace?

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I wrote a blog post about a google image search I had performed for the word “professor”.  The results are similar to those I posted several years ago.  In the first 20 images, there is one woman and one picture of President Obama.  All the rest?  White, gray-haired dudes.  I am completely aware that society imagines academics as male and white.  I am completely aware that male academics generally imagine their colleagues as male and white.  I have little need for Nature to remind me of how frequently excluded I am by, well, excluding me.

4) Dr. Rybicki is clearly not capable of completing simple tasks.  But, it’s biology!  Really!

It was as we trudged our forlorn way back to the car that Russell said: “You know, I’m sure we’ve found them there before — at least, Lilia has.”

I said, only half-joking: “Well, women seem to be able to do that — maybe they’re getting into spaces we poor guys can’t?”

In my womanspace, I wouldn’t be married to a man who is not capable of sharing 50/50 in the care of our family by buying clothing for our child.  And, in my womanspace, there is no tolerance for any man who claims that he cannot complete a domestic task because “men just can’t.”

That was the catalyst: suddenly, we Hunters had an insight into how real Gatherers operated, sparked by our own hopelessness and some considerable acquaintance with the formidable talents of wives when it comes to finding things, and enough science (and science fiction) background to be able to appreciate that parallel universes were quite a reasonable answer to a number of important questions. Including, it seemed, supermarket shopping.

And here, faithful readers, is the crux of it all.  Science and math is manspace.  But, supermarket shopping is womanspace.  Preparing meals is womanspace.  Writing books and discussing hypotheses is manspace.

My womanspace is fluid and not defined by the notion that my biology determines what I can accomplish. And, if there are particular roles that appear purely in womanspace, it is only because society has deemed it so.  The boundaries of my womanspace do not exist because nature has placed them.  They exist because the patriarchy has tried to confine me within them. 

5) Women are uppity and must be kept in their place:

But the answer is clear: women can access parallel universes in order to find things, whether they do it consciously or not. They have probably always been able to do this, and now there is fierce speculation as to whether this constituted the evolutionary advantage we had over other primates: the presence of bulbs, grains and nuts on the table that had been retrieved from parallel universes when the hunters came home empty-handed was probably a major factor in the survival of our species.

The difference is that now they know that they can do it — and things have changed.

Because groceries aren’t all they go looking for. It turns out the next item on the shopping list is better-looking versions of us.

Those women have wised up and, if we don’t keep them under control, they’re going to start getting “ideas” about things.

But, here’s the saddest lesson we learn from all of this:

6) Not only does Nature not value its female readers, it knew that this would be offensive.

Even in my womanspace, there are a lot of clueless dudes.  Dudes who say things that make a smoking hot scientist stop, firmly plant her Naughty Monkeys, and issue a reminder that they are not the only members of the workforce.  And, while there are some real sexist cockmonkeys, many of those dudes are merely clueless.  Not all of them operate with willfull disregard for their female colleagues.  But, Nature does.    This is evidenced by this comment from Senior Editor Henry Gee:

I’m amazed we haven’t had any outraged comments about this story.

It’s transparent that Henry Gee knew that some of Nature’s female readership would find this offensive, as he lamented the lack of uppity females. Henry Gee who, as a senior editor, has some influence over the content of the Nature journals.  It’s distressing to observe the comments between Gee and Rybicki and to see them appear almost disappointed that more folks were not offended.  As I commented at the time, I wasn’t outraged earlier because I don’t find Nature relevant enough to read it regularly.  I only caught the piece because a reader sent it to me.  I am, apparently not the only one realizing that Nature has offered a gigantic “fuck you” to its female readership.  Anne Jefferson also noted Henry Gee’s comment. And, the author himself realized that this was a load of misogynist bullshit when, as Anne points to, he tweeted, “I WILL catch flak for this.”  I can’t imagine why, if someone knows that they have written something that will offend a portion of their professional colleagues, they would attempt to publish it.

 That saddens me the most.  That Nature knowingly published something that belittles a large portion of its readership.   Maybe this is the direction they’re trying to take the journal?  If so, I have something they might consider for their next issue:  They could tuck it in right next to this joke:

 A university professor is in the habit of starting his lectures with rude sexist jokes. All the females in the class have had enough and decide that they are all going to walk out when the professor starts his next rude joke. But the professor discovers their plan and is one step ahead. The following lecture the professor begins: “Did you know that in China they are so short of whores that they’re importing them by the ship load?” At that all the female students rise and begin walking out. The Professor shouts, “There’s no rush ladies, the boat only leaves tomorrow!”

Anyone else have anything we could submit to Nature?

89 responses to “What Womanspace Really Looks Like (And Why Nature Can Suck It)

  1. Wait, didn’t Andy Rooney die? What’s he doing publishing things in Nature?

    In addition to being repulsive in pretty much every way, it wasn’t even marginally funny or insightful.

  2. I have nothing to add about the disgraceful piece that you haven’t already said better. I just want to mention that like you, I know Nature and Science are extremely prestigious, very competitive and a true honour to appear in. But neither is particularly relevant for finding papers that are useful for my actual day-to-day work.

    They seem mostly good for keeping tabs on what’s happening in other fields, not your own (“oh look, they found another planet!”). But lately, blogs, Google+ and so on have become much better ways for that than some weekly magazine. For your own field, you’re better off looking at field-specific journals, Arxiv and other more relevant sources. Even when a relevant article appears in NatureScience the group usually has a better, longer, more detailed paper in a specialized journal as well.

  3. Maybe he would have done better publishing it in Nature AND Science: http://www.sciencepub.net/nature/ – you know, the journal that published that amazing “An easy experiment for dark matter” paper. It’s as insightful and useful as that article, while also being loads more offensive. Genius.

    P.S. Hi Janne – didn’t know you had such good taste in blogs!

  4. notscarlettohara

    I’m really hoping this is sort of a generational thing – I remember when I was about to start professional school a few years ago, and announced that my boyfriend of many years was coming with me and we were going to live together. I come from a rural area in the SE US, and I expected my family to react badly, but when I heard their reasons, I was absolutely flabbergasted: My mother, grandmother, and several aunts all agreed that after all the time I put in going to class and studying, I would be too exhausted to cook dinner and clean up after him.

    I’m still flabbergasted. Why in the world would I date a man who is too stupid to figure out how to press the button on the dishwasher that turns it on? Why would anyone?

  5. 1. Why didn’t the child go with Daddy to choose her own underpants? Even as a small child, I would NOT have wanted either parent to choose outer clothes or underclothes without my being there to decide what I wanted.

    2. What was SO urgent that the purchase of these items needed to be done right then and there, before dinner was served? Underpants are not like bread and milk, they don’t usually disappear or get outgrown JUST LIKE THAT in a couple of minutes.

    Seems to me the whole article is a spoof. In extremely bad taste.

    p.s. I’m with you Isis, hate shopping and never wander around aimlessly looking for things I don’t need. My husband does, though, buying gadgets to repair things and plant things …. always comes home with extras, always. And often disappears when I’m with him, has his back to me, and then throws things in the trolley that I’ve never seen before and sometimes never get to find out what they actually do or why we need them.


  6. Hahaha, Henry Gee is at it again with his adolescent antics? Imagine my surprise.

    It is sad that his rather clumsy trolling for attention directed towards his corporate flagship “journal” cannot be ignored. That, of course, would have been the best option. There place in the scientific publishing world unfortunately requires a response. No matter how pathetically transparent their trolling was.

  7. Per the sadness of his wife’s showing up in the comments to defend him and the potential suckitude of being in her womanspace (and ONLY per those things), is is, etiquettally speaking, none of our damn business how they choose to manage their household.

  8. Pingback: Sexist nonsense at Nature Publishing Group’s Laddie Magazine | DrugMonkey

  9. You counter a first person puff piece on the collective unconscious and the science fiction notion of parallel universes with a grotesquely misogynistic cartoon?!? And if that were not enough you also add a misogynistic joke!!! If I didn’t know any better “Dr. Isis” is a man trolling as a woman for the purposes of attacking a journal, which I assume has rejected your submissions in the past. The blatant ad hominem diatribe and a failure to provide a link to the actual article is most telling. For your readers, here is article for your readers to judge which is more misogynistic: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v477/n7366/full/477626a.html

  10. Firstly, sorry to hear you had the flu. I had a bad bout a number of years ago (in bed for 2 days, sick for 3 whole weeks, lost 9kg bodyweight). I hope you recover soon and that Mr Isis, Little Isis and Tiny Diva aren’t going to catch it off you.
    Secondly, Professor Rybicki’s article comes across as an attempt at humour. It fails utterly.
    Thirdly, as an adult male living on my own, Rybicki’s article is a load of crap. I’ve frequently wandered around Eastgate Shopping Centre on my own. Also, I do all my own cooking, cleaning and laundry. I have to. When I was still living with my parents, it was my job to feed the pets and to load and switch on the dishwasher.
    My mother had a comment about men who refused to do “Women’s Work”. She said, “If doing Women’s Work degrades you as a man, then you weren’t much of a man to begin with.”

  11. Isis the Scientist

    Don’t be a dumb fuck, Stein. The article is linked to in the 4th paragraph, and always has been.

    As for my suggestions for future Nature submissions? I consider them appropriate considering the direction that journal is going. I imagine the editorial staff will have a good tee-hee over them.

    As a disclosure, I have never submitted anything to Nature. Nor do I intend to.

  12. @drbubbles
    If it’s none of our damn business, then why are they sharing it with us? If they want to keep it none of our business then they shouldn’t be publishing it in widely read journals as if that’s the way things are for everyone. People lose their right to privacy when they decide to write about what they do as social commentary on everybody. No different than the Kardashians, only more offensive. And it is definitely sad.

  13. I look forward to telling Nature to go stuff themselves next time

  14. Urgh sneezed and hit send button too soon. Damn flu here also. That should be ‘next time they ask me to review for them’.

  15. http://realhoboscrotum.wordpress.com/author/isisthescientist/
    Is this you too “Ms. Isis”? We should now adjust our priors to reflect the case of a dirty little boy out there in cyberspace with an overactive anima. I congratulate you on the abundance of time you seem to have on your hands.

  16. Isis the Scientist

    Yup, Mz Steinz! You totes got me! You have revealed to us all through your amazing powerz of Google Fu that I find society’s obsession with genitalia humorous. Thanks for saving all the poor fucks who waste their time readng this blog from……shit they already know. May I interest you in my other work?

    (There’s a link there. I realize Web2.0 can be a challenge.)

  17. Stein, You are bang-on target old chap! Dirty little boy-minded indeed. And that ” real hobo…” juvenility is co-authored by her obnoxious, postdoc-exploiting partner in crime Drugmonkey…which should tell you all you need to know about that. These people specialize in brewing up tempests in teapots about nothing. Besmirching the excellent reputations of Nature, the finest journal in science, and the intellectual heavyweight they cannot hope to emulate, Henry Gee. I encourage all of you to read his fine weblog for yourselves.

  18. Fuck me, we’ve got a supersleuth on our hands. How did N Stein manage to track down “Isis the Scientist” and link her to “Isis the Scientist”, thus cutting through the web of lies and revealing the truth – that they are the same person?

    I can’t tell how he did it, but I’m glad he did. Given the lengths to which “Isis the Scientist” took to avoid being identified as “Isis the Scientist”, this has got to be important.

  19. Apologies if a variation on this comment shows up 3 times — I tried twice to post from my stupid tablet and as far as I can tell it didn’t work.

    Nature Publishing Group is evil — and so is Elsevier.

    As a scientist in industry without access to many journal subscriptions (academic libraries pay millions of dollars per year for those) I personally would be grateful if everyone would support open-access publishing models, or at least the multitude of journals published by not-for-profit scientific societies. This kind of crap is just one more reason to boycott Nature, for me.

  20. wow, looks like someone successfully navigated the exceedingly difficult trail of clues beginning with “they go by the same name” – whew, watch out for that one!

  21. @nicoleandmaggie

    Firstly, it turns out that “they” didn’t share it with us. Rydecki was a houseguest and described some of his hosts’ domestic arrangements. Readers then took it upon themselves to criticize his hosts’ domestic arrangements. So, yes, none of our damn business.

    As for extrapolating to social commentary, the article is purely anecdotal and on that basis alone has little merit. Then again, I don’t think it was meant to have any merit anyway (parallel universes? really?).

    Secondly, on what basis “definitely sad”? Did Rydecki provide us with a representative view of his hosts’ domestic arrangements? How do we know? And if he didn’t, where do we get off deploring them?

    But let’s suppose that he did: if Ms. Host is content with the arrangements of her own household, is she to be pitied because they aren’t sufficiently progressive? Do we know the reasons their domestic arrangements are what they are? No, we don’t. Therefore we outsiders have no basis for criticizing that specific household’s specific arrangements other than our own values; and since it’s not our household, our values are irrelevant.

    Thirdly, who gives a crap about the Kardashians anyway?

  22. Since (based on the tone I’m seeing) some folks here may not be aware, the Nature article is part of their science fiction column, “Futures,” hence the end part about parallel universes, observations, etc. That’s not to say that its flaws can be written off as “creative license.” The fundamental assumptions remain the same.

    At first I found the story humorous in a quaint, old-fashioned way. But then, and particularly aggravated by the responses from the author and his supporters, it seemed more dangerous than funny.

    What gets my goat is this:
    “…we talked to everyone we knew (well, male, obviously) who could be relied on to observe such phenomena…”
    The message I hear is “Women can’t be relied on to make observations (i.e. do science).” Well now. Maybe I’m too pretty to do math, too.

  23. I will admit to reading some parts of each issue of Nature over the past 6 months, because they gave me a free subscription in return for filling out some occasional surveys. What I have learned from this endeavor is as follows: 1) The News components of the publication are informative. 2) Like Isis, I find that the Research Articles and Letters are generally far from my area of interest/expertise and I almost never read any of them. 3) The “Futures” article that appears as the last page of every issue is always a piece of fiction / science fiction that does not belong in a supposedly prestigious scientific journal; hence, I don’t even bother to look at that page — much less read it. Guess where the Womanspace article appeared.

  24. @drbubbles
    I am confused here. I thought the story was fiction, in which case, why should the fictional couple care what anybody thinks. They’re not *real*.

    I find the author and his wife’s situation to be sad, and her comment to be sad. I guess not everybody can be married to someone who isn’t a douche. And they are putting themselves forward.


  25. Obviously, Ed Rybicki is legitimately upset that he is barred from “cluespace” where one may “gather” funny stories. Really, one would imagine it is high time that anyone may enter “cluespace”, and not be barred based solely on the objectionable contents of his knickers, but obviously the world is not as enlightened as all that.

  26. Rybicki’s article would have been fine if, say, Dave Barry wrote it. Ed Rybicki confesses to being a clueless househusband who is vaguely aware of some short people living in his home. Whatever, ha ha. But in Nature? Are they running some kind of experiment on how touchy their readers are? Because I can see no other reason to put sexist fluff in one of our most respected scientific journals.

  27. Personally, I am more offended by the poor writing and general lack of creativity or humor than I am by the (relatively) mild sexism. A man could just as easily be offended by the seeming stance that men are incapable of completing basic tasks or even comprehending the day-to-day behavior or women.

  28. Brilliant, Isis. Thanks so much for writing this. I am furious about the situation and am so glad you, Anne, and several others have stepped up and written such intelligent, scathing critiques.

  29. @Laurie. That’s how I felt!! I mean guys come out looking like douches and the gals have this awesome superpower that lets them pop in and out of parallel universes (hmmm sounds like the plot line from Pullman’s Subtle Knife). It’s obviously supposed to be farcical sci-fi, and whatever sexism it contains is only the mildest misandry (is that a word?)!

    And as to all the comments as to my own super-power, investigative unmasking, I wasn’t trying to prove X=X, I was trying to whisper my uncanny suspicion that X=Y!

  30. I went over to Nature and read the article. Wow. The undercurrents of sexist bias abound. As a parent in a dual scientist household, I have no problem letting my husband cook and shop for food, while I manage activities, clean and schedule this crazy life.

    I agree that there was very little imagination in this story. In my family, my husband knows exactly where to find anything in the grocery store. I can hunt and peck my way through. We can both find our way around Target and the only big male-female joke we have in our house is that he has trouble remembering which clothes goes with which child, a very difficult task given our children are almost the exact same size!

    We can remove the overt biases in our societies, but when do we find a way to remove the subconscious ones?

  31. So, is “Chebag” an actual person — in which case, wow, be a sycophant much? — or a sock puppet for Nature/Henry Gee?:) [“most prestigious”, “intellectual heavyweight,” blah blah blah….]

    Congrats to Isis for a fine addition to the growing collection of insightful commentary on why that piece was so insulting — as well as poorly written and profoundly Not Funny.

    Clearly I am a man married to a woman, since the Time Lord is far more likely than I to meander about shopping and come home with unexpected items. This is the problem with broad generalizations, as Isis pointed out: they are intrinsically limiting and exclusionary. Nature should have known better, even if the author and editor behind the obvious trolling did not.

  32. I appreciate N. Stein finally revealing what has been troubling me about my marriage to Dr. Isis for nigh on the last 7+ years. All this time, she was a DOOD.* She did an especially good job of hiding it, given that she apparently faked two pregnancies and used the bottom half of another woman (like when magicians saw their assistants in half) to bring forth what I had originally assumed to be our children from what I thought was her vagina. Well played, Dr. Isis. I see now that your long scientific and blogging career has been solely building up to the point where you could use your assumed identity to finally get back at Nature when they published something that a) was clearly sexist and b) had no business appearing in what at one point was a preeminent scientific journal. Thanks for doing that on the backs of our family. Obviously, we’ll stay together for the sakes of Little Isis and Tiny Diva, but from now on you can make your own damn coffee in the morning.

    Seriously though, Stein? Get bent.

    *Not that this is a problem as a concept, but just as a straight-identified DOOD, I was expecting something completely different. Ah well, no one expects The Spanish Inquisition.

  33. Dear Ms. Ouellette:

    Why is it sycophantic to recognize that compared with his hysterical detractors, Henry Gee is a demonstrated intellectual light? Have you read his deep thinking blog posts? It reflects a man utterly unafraid to examine his own beliefs, unlike the slavering hordes who are dogpiling on the Futures story. “Story”. As in “fiction”. Which is not to everyone’s taste. Personally, I find that sci-fi genre to be full of inane pseudo-intellectualizing about the “state of man” in the crudest and most obvious of terms. But to each his own. It is fiction. If Mr. Gee thought it was appropriate, then I’m not going to gainsay his decisions. As you all note, Nature is a high profile and respected journal….perhaps they know something you do not?

  34. Pingback: Nature tells women they’re “special” | Prof-Like Substance

  35. “the gals have this awesome superpower that lets them pop in and out of parallel universes”


    This awesome superpower… to do mundane domestic chores? So when you were a kid and you had those conversations where you got to choose which superpower you would have if you were in the X-men, you chose Instant Washing-Up? Or maybe Telekinetic Laundry? You must have been such fun.

    Srsly, there are people out here who don’t get that even framing the joke such that the women are the tough ones and the men are useless is still sexist???

  36. After getting completely agitated reading this and the original article I’ve decided to do nothing. The point of the article was to get a rise out of women scientists perhaps to show and laugh about it with other male colleagues at Nature. I, for one, hope the editor loses his job over the article and there is a retraction. Nature needs to send a clear message to its readership: sexism of any kind will not be tolerated in science. Perhaps Science should jump on the opportunity to lambaste Nature publicly?

  37. OK, so I am new here, but WTF? That is, WTF is up with some of the douchebags that come here just to rant? I didn’t agree with everything Isis put forth; however, I at no time felt the need to attack her… repeatedly as some “Stein”; moreover, to find out that this is a repeating pattern by some of the douchebags is just sad! I mean, get a fucking life will ya! If you don’t like what she writes in her own blog then why do you insist on coming back? Is your life really that miserable?

    I am a former single father who successfully raised my first daughter by myself. I did not need help finding underpants or cooking dinner(I kick ass in the kitchen actually😉 and yes, I found the article to be demeaning to both sexes really. My daughter is a 21 year old Graduate student going into Virology and pulling a 4.02 GPA. She can cook, clean, cuss, shoot, fight and is a ROCK STAR in the laboratory and she didn’t get that way by her father being a sexist dumbass.

    I am currently a newly wed to an AMAZING woman, Smart, Funny, Sexy and my best friend. I couldn’t even imagine saying or even thinking so poorly of her as Professor Rybicki does of his wife…or himself for that matter.

    My one point of contention for Isis is that not every task needs to be a 50/50 split. My wife buys most of our daughters clothing, but I do most of the cooking. I don’t clean the bathroom much, she doesn’t work on the car and rarely has to clean the kitchen. We find our own equilibrium and yes we both believe that overall its a 50/50 split and couldn’t be happier. Overall I applaud Isis because as a father and husband I want to pop Professor Rybicki right in the teeth for propagating this kind of trash that acts as a barrier for women in the sciences…FOR SHAME!!!

  38. A simple google search shows that Henry Gee went on quite a non-PC, “male sexism” bent years before having published this article. My guess, he has some personal vendetta about women and sexism that he is trying to hash out using Nature readers as test subjects.

    Also, some key quotes:
    “It’s not the guilt, I’m talking about, it’s the fact that it’s now okay to be sexist about men on a primetime TV advert, whereas if the roles had been reversed, there would have been an outcry (and rightly so). And that’s hypocrisy.”

    ” I am fed up, I mean, truly fed up, of opinions like yours. It is the job of writers to entertain, not to be constrained by political correctness….
    Practically, I am not going to write back to an author of a piece like this – nor, indeed, any piece – and say things like ‘yes, OK, lets have some female space-corps members, perhaps some titillating girl-on-girl action, and make sure we have the requisite quota of people with disabilities and who come from ethnic minorities’….As an editor I think that such deliberate tampering with pieces to make them look more PC are woefully insincere, and are easily seen as the blatant social engineering they are. Any author who received such an edict would tell me to get lost, and quite right too.

    Me? I stand for the sunshine and blue skies of self-expression, and against the dismal fog of political or social censorship.”


    “Now is the time for Nature to go downmarket. After all, something has to be done to maintain sales figures in this recessionary age. Therefore I humbly suggest a Page 3 Scientist. Sharon (26) works on high-temperature superconductors. She raises our temperature anytime. Geddit?

    Perhaps not.”

    There is much, much more out there. Hopefully this is enough evidence for Nature to demonstrate Henry Gee is in fact sexist and need to be fired promptly.

  39. Pingback: #womanspace. You Trollin’, Nature? | Neurotic Physiology

  40. Off topic

    After reading Mr Isis’ post, I fancy him a little (ok, more than a little) bit!

  41. Pingback: Womanspace: Responses to Rybicki’s display of male privilege on NPG « The Contemplative Mammoth

  42. What ThaGerm said.

    Thoroughly agree.


  43. And I ‘heart’ Mr Isis too – mostly because he is a Monty Python fan.


  44. It was almost worth it for the offensive story to have been published just so that we can read another example of Isis’s rapier-like wit — and how cool to have a comment from Mr. Isis!

  45. I am completely intrigued by the hypothesis that women can navigate parallel universes! When we locate missing gloves is it because we know how to peer into the 4th dimension?

    My previous hypothesis was that estrogen was somehow necessary to recover lost objects. The only experimental data I have to support it consists of a dinner table conversation with my husband, father, and 3 brothers. Someone said “Where do you think XXXX is?” and FIVE men simultaneously turned to look inquiringly at me. Really boys, I know as much about where your tools are as you know about where my knitting needles are. Go to the garage and look yourselves.

  46. “our priors”

    Is there any d00d on earth who has ever used the word “prior” as a noun who doesn’t deserve a massive fucken punch in the dicke?

  47. Juniper Shoemaker

    I’m very sorry you’ve had the flu. I hope you’re recovering speedily.

    and whatever sexism it contains is only the mildest misandry (is that a word?)!

    Yes, “misandry” is a definitely a word. I do not know why you think a statement can’t be simultaneously misandrist and misogynist, though. Douchebaggery knoweth no bounds.

  48. Nature should be shopping for a new editor. It’s completely inappropriate for Gee to openly declare himself a sexist in this way and have him remain in power over what gets published at Nature. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of a call for a boycott of manuscript review for NPG. I certainly would decline to referee their manuscripts until NPG bags Gee.

  49. Pingback: Even more Googled questions « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured

  50. Oh dear lord. Just looking at what Henry Gee has to say about writers and editors (thanks Perhaps for finding that choice quote):

    “As an editor I think that such deliberate tampering with pieces to make them look more PC are woefully insincere, and are easily seen as the blatant social engineering they are. Any author who received such an edict would tell me to get lost, and quite right too”

    I agree with this. It is not for an editor to change the elements of the story, and any author has the absolute right to tell the story they want to tell.

    But Mr Gee, that doesn’t mean you have to PUBLISH the damn thing! As an editor, your obligation is to both the audience and the author. And if your audience is going to be insulted by the story you pass on the story. An author is free to write a sexist/racist/homphobic etc story. That’s an absolute right. But they don’t have the right to publish it in someone else’s magazine. That’s for the editor to decide. And if an editor says yes then they are vouching for the quality of that piece, and that they believe their audience will appreciate the story.

    Clearly, Mr Gee has badly misjudged his audience.

    And for the love of writing, if you aren’t going to edit for reasons of “social engineering”, could you at least make editorial interventions so that the damn thing is well written and entertaining?

    PS: “yes, OK, lets have some female space-corps members, perhaps some titillating girl-on-girl action” – it would appear that Henry Gee considers this to be showing sensitive awareness of issues of gender and homosexuality….

  51. Pingback: Shaunagm.net » Nature vs Nurture

  52. Pingback: Sharing the love « The Lady Garden

  53. Pingback: Link Love « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured

  54. “1) It must be sort of sad to be in Professor Rybicki’s wife’s womanspace.
    We learn from the comments section of this article that Rybicki’s wife is virologist Anna-Lise Williamson. But, apparently she’s the one who holds it down around the house. He describes her:

    She was too busy making supper to bother; …”

    So, we begin with the establishment of characters with stereotypical gender roles….”

    Really? First, you find it necessary to make a personal comment about a relationship with (I assume) no knowledge whatsoever of the people involved; second, you assume the “wife” – later described as an astrophysicist – is “virologist Anna-Lise Williamson”? Did you actually read the story all the way through, or just the commentary? And you realise your piece is longer than the story in question?

    As for traditional gender roles: your husband isn’t ever too busy cooking to go shopping sometimes? The assumptions are breathtaking!

  55. Pingback: Pratspace « Short and Spiky

  56. So… just out of curiosity… how many of the jerky commenters above are actually just sock puppets of Ed Rybicki?


    It’s a little hard to stay angry over all the pity I feel for this obvious loser… and yet, he’s doing actual harm to an entire group of people… so feeling sorry for the jerk just isn’t going to cut it. Of course he’s only the author. The editor is really the person responsible.

  57. The only harm done by his story is that it showed which people do understand the text they are reading and which not. Isis is clearly the latter. I pity you.

  58. Ah the same old canard. “Wow, you women are so AMAZING and WONDERFUL and I simply don’t know how you ladies manage to keep up the house adn all these children and still look so fragile and feminine and beautiful, dumb of fuck worthless men like me could NEVER do that.. therefore in the interest of keeping life BEAUTIFUL and SPIRITUAL and WONDERFUL, it’s like, rpactically your DUTY to keep on doing it, because you know,if you did the SELFISH thing and stopped, the WHOLE WORLD WOULD FALL APART. Because YOU ROCK AND WE SUCK.
    Now go MAKE ME A SAMMICH.”

    Mmm hmm. Not sexist toward women at all! See, it’s a man demeaning himself! Right.

  59. (sorry for typoes, I have no glasses on for some bizarre reason)

  60. I wrote to the department head at Prof. Rybicki’s fine institution (and coped Prof. Rybicki, as well.) I’m sure I’ll get a disappointing response, but whatevs.

    Prof. Coyne,

    I admit I don’t know much about your institution, but I am dismayed to find that you will keep on staff such blatant sexists as Prof. Rybicki. It may be that he produces exceptional work or is an excellent funding recruiter, but views such as his are an impediment to science by discouraging would-be scientists to enter technical fields. I wish you could know how much similar disresepct I have to put up with every day in my work. Prof. Rybicki would find it humorous for certain, but that is because he has never been passed over for a promotion because of his gender, or told that his aggression for his research is perceived as “bossiness,” or that it is his job to “keep these guys in line.” He was probably never hired at a salary less than his counterparts (even though he had the same education and vastly more experience) because of his gender. He was probably never asked in interviews whether he planned to have children, because they didn’t want him out on leave as soon as they hired him. It is unlikely that his work has to far exceed the quality of his peers to receive the same recognition or compensation.

    I know his piece in Nature was intended as satire, but this is the same kind of humor that’s found in jokes that begin “I’m not racist, but…” It perpetuates the bias that makes it so hard for people like me to do my job. It perpetuates known myths that gender plays a role in our abilities or predispositions.

    I urge you to have an earnest chat with Prof. Rybicki. Perhaps you feel that his other work speaks for itself, but I would point out that I’d never heard of Prof. Rybicki before now, and that my only knowledge of your institution is in the framework of his piece in Nature. He may think his piece was published in fun, or in an attempt to raise an eyebrow or two, but certainly this type of work is only damaging the reputation of your institution.

  61. oh, i didn’t realize how he has suffered. poor prof. rybicki and all of the patriarchy that has had to endure this trial.

    the email response i received, which i quote:

    “From a person at Nature:
    Ed—sorry this is such a trial. The story was fun, and none of us who read it beforehand expected it to kick a hornet’s nest. I hope you won’t be discouraged from submitting to Futures in future; publishing a piece there is usually a happy experience.

    Tim xxxxx

    Sent from Ed Rybicki’s iPad”

  62. I see the trolls have been here too, but I am delighted that something positive has come out of all this: I have found a new blog with even more profanity in it than mine.

    Something to read during the long dark evenings, better than the telly any day.

  63. just an engineer

    wow, may i thank you so much for your analysis and thoughts
    Dr. Isis
    (what i simply couldn’t believe that this *womanspace aka rectal haberdashery was published in a soc. future-edition (!) of nature.
    btw “action is easy folks” : vote with your money vis-a-vis NPG as well. i will)
    for soc. self-enlightenment :
    (pls feel free to delete the link in case i missed it already posted here)

    and as @anarchic teapot i am delighted to have found your blog for further reading (although i don’t blog)

    greetz & cheers

  64. I don’t know, I thought this was funny:”Have you never had the experience of talking to your significant female other as you wend your way through the complexity of a supermarket — only to suddenly find her 20 metres away with her back to you?” Apparently his significant other has developed an effective coping strategy if it happens he should talk. And let’s face it, the entire episode was a ruse; dinner was in the slow cooker and Lilia simply wanted a little quiet time and perhaps a glass of wine while she steeled herself for what was certain to be fascinating dinner conversation – he writes ” the prospect of not having to listen to us blather on about just where to pitch the book, and what to put in it, and which Jethro Tull albums we liked, probably tipped the balance our way.” Sure, even I get that one. Go out and get, um, knickers. It’s really, really important.
    But Dr., the wife now – marriage is difficult, and we each have so many faults that we cannot long endure without some impossible amount of compassion for each other. Good for them, and her.

  65. @saidnow “Apparently his significant other has developed an effective coping strategy if it happens he should talk.”
    I think my take on it was more accurate. I also think it’s a symptom of a rocky relationship..

  66. @girlvslaser
    “The story was fun, and none of us who read it beforehand expected it to kick a hornet’s nest. ”
    …except for Henry Gee. I did feel sorry for Ed Rybicki since Gee seems to have used his naivite to garner attention, but his subsequent behavior (childishly ‘ignoring’ all constructive criticism) is quickly evaporating my remaining sympathy.

  67. Nice overview and response. I think you only left out that it was not that well written.

    Anyway, in reaction to Womanspace, I give you Manspace.

    (A reaction … not a response. I could no possibly do better than the response in the OP.)

  68. Rybicki has posted a response to criticisms about his Womanspace piece – he offers a host of evolutionary psychology arguments that modern shopping behaviors are evolved behaviors.


    In other words, he isn’t saying it’s so absurd that nobody could take it seriously – he’s saying it’s funny because it’s true.

  69. Pingback: On Why Ed Rybicki is No Better Than Henry Gee: Lessons from #Womanpace | On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess

  70. Pingback: Pratspace » Disjointed Ramblings

  71. Phyllis Stein

    You must be extremely unattractive, and or Jewish.

  72. Just a regular laundry-doing, dish-washing guy

    Ah, send him off to the couch with a beer and have him watch ESPN.

    Any man who can’t manage the purchase of kids underpants is a total loser. His friend is a loser, too, because Real Men(tm) have better stuff to do than follow another loser around while he proves his loser-ness.

    His wife, the virologist, deserves better. Well, let’s be honest, if I had a dollar for every woman in the USA who deserves better, I’d have people to write my blog replies for me.

  73. Pingback: Nature Needs to Apologize for Sexist Fiction Article » Gocnhin Archive

  74. One of the commenters at nature nailed it:


    “since Nature seems not to be discriminating about what fiction it publishes, I have three stories of my own you might wish to consider publishing in future issues of Nature:

    Gayspace (a hilarious tale of how gay people access parallel dimensions to look fabulous)
    Blackspace (a hilarious tale of how black people access parallel dimensions to be fast sprinters)
    Jewspace (a hilarious tale of how Jewish people access parallel dimensions to save money)

    Or maybe you’d have the sense not to publish these. Because they are offensive, and based on stereotypes. And you’d be right.”

    Gee and Rybicki are arguing that it’s OK to be offensive to women in a way they would probably (hopefully!) never offend others, by reinforcing ignorant stereotypes.

  75. Pingback: Why Did This Top Science Journal Editor Expose A Blogger’s Pen Name? | endlessness

  76. Pingback: Why Did This Top Science Journal Editor Expose A Blogger’s Pen Name?

  77. Pingback: Why Did This Top Science Journal Editor Expose A Blogger's Pen Name? - The Headlines Now - Live News India, World, Business, Technology, Sports, Fashion, LifeStyle & Entertainment

  78. Pingback: Macrotweet 5: Pseudonymat des blogueurs scientifiques | Matières Vivantes

  79. Pingback: Why Did This Top Science Journal Editor Expose A Blogger’s Pen Name? | Lineware Entertainment Blog

  80. Pingback: On power and powerlessness in anonymity. | Sarah Hillenbrand

  81. Pingback: O/T: “Dr. Isis” may have been “naked for a day” — but Henry Gee ought to be “naked for eternity. Let us all eviscerate him — in prose.” | New Merck, Reviewed

  82. Pingback: Dr Isis gets outed. I get hits. Life goes on. | Ed Rybicki's Blog

  83. Pingback: Norms, Rules, and Protecting Scholarly Associations | Will Opines

  84. Pingback: What Does it Mean to Do the Right Thing? Time to #OccupyNPG | Kathryn B. H. Clancy, PhD

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  87. Pingback: #womanspace. You Trollin', Nature? | Neurotic Physiology

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