1. It Was Well-Written. Lordy lordy how well-written it was. Let’s all turn toward the East and say it together, loud enough to shake the walls where a certain book proposal is languishing on a certain desk. “HOPE JAHREN SURE CAN WRITE,” we bellow while choking back our collective sob. Someone should give that girl a goddam book deal.
2. It Didn’t Name Names. First Ofuck or Ofek or whoever-the-f*ck hate-spoke Danielle Lee and we were all like, String him up! How daaaaaare you! And the guys were all like, Let me at him! Then Borat or Boraz or Borehole sleazed up Monica Byrne and we were all like, Not Mr. Rogers! He’s a flesh-and-blood dude! He gave me peelings for my compost heap! He defragged my harddrive! Why universe, why? And the guys went kinda silent at that point (did you notice?). Then we looked at each other and said, Whoa this is complicated. Eventually we got to this place where we sure as hell don’t want him making decisions about women’s careers but we’d still probably perform CPR on him if we saw him lying in the street. Turns out he’s neither an angel nor a devil, just like all the other men I don’t know. Just like every sorry soul made flesh temporarily wandering this lonely dusty Earth.
3. You Needed to Read It. When we all started wringing our hands about What will happen to Dear Old Borat(^1) and Can the community afford to lose such a prophet as he and Will they repo his flatscreen, I started thinking “Why should we care more about Borat’s(^1) career than he apparently does?” Then it dawned on me that this is really about me. If you knew me better, you’d realize that most things are about me. It’s why I have so many friends and was elected Homecoming Queen for two consecutive terms in high school. I got all morose and guys-are-pigs and cancelled my subscription to Scientific American(^2). I began to dwell on how my whole life has been spent bandaging and rebandaging my sores from this kind of shit. Hell, I was sent out of the room in Kindergarten for already knowing how to read.(^3) Then I looked around and realized that, at that very moment, I was eating a papaya under a freaking rainbow. That changing the world is not supposed to be easy. That my life contains successes that my grandmother couldn’t even have dreamed of. That I am strong, and good inside(^4), and that maybe I can do something about this. Here we’ve got a guy who’s a dickhead who doesn’t even know he’s a dickhead cruising through life leaving a trail of crushed dreams and cold untouched lattés behind him. How many guys would quit doing that shit if they realized that it adds up to something really super hurtful? How many agents would clamor for my manuscript if they read a heartbreaking(^5) post on the subject? Then I took pen in hand.
4. I’m Not Going To Name Names. You probably got that vibe from my post. It’s not that I’m afraid, and it’s not that it’s not true (you got the G-rated version, dear reader). It’s that, well, apparently there’s more than a few people out there who think it’s about them. I get a HUGE KICK out of this.(^6) Send me some email and call me a c*nt. I won’t out you. Or maybe I will. I’ve got this thing next to my computer called a printer. Young folks nowadays tell me I can do this thing called a “shot-screen” or something. Ain’t technology grand?
5. The Real Message of the Piece is Still Working On Your Subconscious. We all read it. We laughed. We cried. We lived. We learned. That’s all good. But please don’t miss the point of the whole thing. Yes there’s sexual harassment in Science, and it’s sustained and it’s pernicious and it’s damaging. It didn’t drive me out of Science because sexual harassment is everywhere(^7). As if there’s some safe place you can flee to and be safe from it. I don’t mean to go all Second Wave on you(^8) but sexual harassment in Academia is symptomatic of the larger-scale dysfunctionalities between the sexes in our culture, and any address of them must be grounded in the fundamental tenets of women’s liberation. BUT (and this is a big, all-caps BUT) you can do something about this today. This “fundamental tenet” I keep gibbering on about is that Women Have Worth. You know that woman you work with or have in class who’s so smart she scares you? Who’s so good at what she does, she must already know it? The odds are that nobody has ever told her this. So why don’t you go do it? The endless stream of harassment and sexism is not what has stayed with me. It is the encouragement I got from people who didn’t have to encourage me, who could have said nothing. This is what I cling to during dark days. This is why I know I am not a c*nt for speaking out. The various monologues of inappropriate comments all ran together long ago like some tacky watercolor landscape. What I remember clearly were the people who stopped what they were doing to tell me I was special, and that they saw something important developing in me. This is what fortifies me. YOU have the power to fortify someone. Today. “You have done well, and you are good inside, and you will change the world.” I wrote you the f*cking script. What more do you want from me?
^1 Or Boraz or whoever-the-f*ck.
^2 I did indeed.
^3 Not that I’m bitter or anything.
^4 Somebody told me that once, and it stuck with me. More on that later.
^5 Your words, not mine.
^6 Remember the original disclaimer about me not being Mother Theresa?
^7 and because my Calvinist upbringing convinced me that I was predestined to be an important scientist with a beautiful lab full of magnificent beeping machines. Come see it sometime, it’ll knock your socks off.
^8 Or maybe I do.
Hope Jahren is a Full and tenured Professor at the University of Hawaii. She is on Twitter @HopeJahren. Her research page is here: www.jahrenlab.com. Her lab Twitter is @JahrenLab. She told her students she would take them to a fancy dinner on Waikiki if they got 1,000 followers.