[personal profile] asterroc
Trigger warning: sexual harassment, sexual assault

Got to emailing with my father about the Geoff Marcy case, and decided to share here.

You read those trigger warnings right?

Here's my email to my dad, summarizing the whole thing. One thing potentially worth mentioning is that I don't usually curse in front of my father, only when something's really important or I'm really worked up about something. Here it was in an email, so I had ample time to decide to censor myself, and deliberately chose not to.

The whole Marcy thing was an absolute fucking shitstorm, from what he did, to how he was punished. To give you some context, Marcy's about as famous within astronomy as Stephen Hawking or Einstein, and some people had him pegged for a Nobel Prize in Physics within the next few years. At the same time he had a reputation of being someone that you shouldn't be alone in a room with.

As for what he did, they're calling it 10 years of sexual harassment, but to me something described as "Marcy placed his hand on her leg, slid his hand up her thigh and grabbed her crotch" isn't just words, that's assault. It then came out in Oct that Berkeley had secretly investigated him that summer and secretly gave him a slap on the wrist, saying don't do it again or we'll have to punish you. Buzzfeed broke the story, and this is the first that anyone else at Berkeley (faculty, students, his own damned department where he was serially assaulting the women undergraduates and grads) heard about it.

When the story broke, Marcy wrote a non-apology including the phrase "my behavior was unwelcomed by some women" - which is the equivalent of punching someone in the face and then saying "I'm sorry you're such a crybaby." Then in response to the non-response of the Berkeley administration, the astronomy graduate students wrote a letter condemning his actions. So did the astronomy postdocs. And so did the astronomy faculty. In the end he voluntarily resigned, probably as a result of the faculty letter, but I'm sure he's going to find another job elsewhere, or he's going to just keep doing research under soft money (that is, grants based only).

So yeah, this's the biggest fucking deal in astronomy scandals, like ever. And here's the thing to keep in mind: Marcy is just one perpetrator. There's dozens of them in astronomy, more in physics, more in other STEM fields, and heck, a few probably live on the same block as either you or me, we probably interact with more dickwads like this on a daily basis and just don't realize it. Marcy's just one of the really rare ones who got dragged into the light.



If you want to read more about it, here's the original Buzzfeed article breaking the news (yes, Buzzfeed was the first news outlet to get ahold of this, and they have thus risen immensely in my esteem), and their coverage of the denoument. There was also a public letter calling for his resignation, signed by around 2,500 astronomers. Which is really amazing, I mean, you can't even get 2,500 astronomers to agree whether Pluto's a planet or not, and yet 2,500 astronomers said Marcy's a piece of shit.


Edit: I mean seriously, I've known professors to get fired over talking about condoms in class. This creep PUT HIS HAND ON A STUDENT'S CROTCH and was told "don't do it again." And then the school covered it up, and I still don't know how Buzzfeed got ahold of this info to make it public. I'm hoping some reasonable person involved in the coverup leaked it to Buzzfeed. Seriously, that Buzzfeed writer, Azeen Ghorayshi, should get a Pulitzer for this, this article raised Buzzfeed's status in my head to be on par with the NY Times, and I'm not shitting you.

Originally posted on Dreamwidth. comment count unavailable comments there. Comment here or there.

Date: 2015-11-05 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennekirby.livejournal.com
Yeah, Buzzfeed has definitely done an interesting job of embracing the high-paying viral stuff so they can spend $ on the low-paying serious journalism.

I've been following this story and it's both sickening and 100% unsurprising to me, as a woman with a graduate degree in the physical sciences.

Date: 2015-11-05 10:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zandperl.livejournal.com
Marcy's actions are unsurprising.

I want Berkeley's lack of response to be surprising but it isn't.

The amazing outpouring of support from the astronomy community - the 2,500 signatures, the Berkeley astro grad student letter, the Berkeley astro postdoc letter, the Berkeley astro faculty letter, the many blog posts, the many tweets, and so on - all of that, now THAT is surprising to me, and in the best possible way.

Edit: And FWIW the author, Ghorayshi, did a biology degree at Berkeley, I think a Master's? So maybe she had connections in the astronomy department, in HR, or involved with EEO stuff who clued her in. Clearly she was able to track down at least one of the still-unnamed complainants though, as well as getting interviews w/ people in or previously in that department.
Edited Date: 2015-11-05 10:22 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-11-05 10:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] q10.livejournal.com
'As for what he did, they're calling it 10 years of sexual harassment, but to me something described as "Marcy placed his hand on her leg, slid his hand up her thigh and grabbed her crotch" isn't just words, that's assault.'

THIS. I think it's tremendously important not to downplay the evils of verbal sexual harassment, or the real danger and individual and societal harm it can represent, but calling incidents like the one described in quotes 'harassment' without further explanation is obscuring some pretty seriously big-deal-ish parts of the picture.

Date: 2015-11-05 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zandperl.livejournal.com
Just occurred to me, sexual harassment usually refers to a pattern of behavior, while sexual assault can be a single incident but requires touching. I was thinking that calling that incident harassment was downplaying it, but I'm wondering if it would also be reasonable to say that calling it an isolated assault would be downplaying the systematic nature of Marcy's actions. It's kinda like there's two axes of badness here, systematic repetition of events, and severity of individual events, and this one's bad on both axes.

And meanwhile, Marcy's response to the specific accusation of grabbing this woman student's crotch of "I would never touch someone I didn't know" is even more problematic in many ways. Implies that the only thing wrong with this is that he didn't know this particular woman before he grabbed her crotch. So it'd be perfectly okay if it was a woman faculty member in his department who didn't want him doing it, or if it was a woman student of his who did want him doing it.

(Reminds me of the time a student responded to the accusation of "I didn't buy this paper online; I paid my friend to write it, and they must've bought it online!")

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