Guest post: It has been a very long wait

Originally a comment by Maureen Brian on The allegations that convinced him are not public.

I am glad that Jerry Coyne got there because, as Ophelia notes, he has been both dismissive and pretty rude to people many a time in the past. So I’ll modify that: I am glad Jerry Coyne got there at last.

It is interesting to think of the interplay here between incident and pattern. We all have examples, either personal or told to us first hand, of describing an event only to be dismissed. We are told that it is minor, that we are making too much of nothing, that we should be flattered by Big Guy’s interest but whichever of those it is we should just shut up and go away.

Start from the other end, then. We describe a pattern of behaviour – I think here of @docfreeride – involving one person, involving many, which disparages us, puts us at a disadvantage, leaves us struggling to restore our own credibility as a functioning human, opting out of activities which we could do perfectly well and might even enjoy.

Remember Rebecca Watson’s video? The take-away message from that was not that she met a gormless oik in an elevator – we meet so many that the tale would not be interesting. It was supposed to be, “Guys, don’t do that.” A general and mildly expressed admonition, except that 50% of the brains on the planet had already blown a fuse. I now think that some of those fuses were blown quite deliberately to avoid addressing the issue, only to be followed by armies of bandwagon jumpers most of whom had no idea who Rebecca is let alone bothering to see the video. It was, though, actively encouraged by the great thinkers who are now coming to the realisation if a little late.

So, when wearing our “scientist” hats, we can argue that this interplay between incident and pattern is what counts. It doesn’t matter in tackling it whether the “incident” is sexual or simply obstructive, though the sexual ones can be truly nasty and will need a different response. Even Darwin, in a quite different era, realised this. He had his theory in the 1830s, remember, and did decades of research to back it up. He soon realised that where he saw repeats or correspondences, that was where he should be asking why. A point lost on one of his more famous devotees!

So we are in limbo. The men insist that the women fail to understand their own experience. I have been told that in so many words though not, of course, on this blog. What, all 75 years of it? Meanwhile, the women have given up on all but the best of men.

Then along comes Harvey Weinstein. Everybody knew but there was nowhere to go. Now suddenly the whole of Hollywood rises up against him.

Now, suddenly it becomes possible to say that people, both men and women, are capable of behaving badly. If they get away with whatever it is, they will probably do it again. I’ve seen it less with women but I do know that men carve those notches on their metaphorical bed heads and that men mimic each other. The question becomes not whether doing such-and-such is a good idea in itself but whether they can get away with it.

Well, now they can’t and it is good to see some of them asking themselves whether all the “rumour” they have so readily dismissed might be telling them something. It has, though, been a very long wait.

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