The pseudoscience of everyday sexism

“When it comes to the crunch, it’s best to leave your notes at home and just be real” Emily Sidonie Grossman

Dr Emily Grossman is an extremely intelligent, multi-talented expert in a number of diverse fields.  She graduated from Cambridge with a Double First in Natural Sciences, has a PhD in cancer research, subsequently trained and worked as an actress and has now combined both passions to great effect in her current career as a science communicator, teacher and broadcaster.

She also happens to be a passionate advocate for gender equality in science and sadly, is now in the unenviable position of emerging as one of the nation’s foremost experts in an extremely dark and unpleasant communication strategy that seems to be blossoming in the age of the internet and new media.

Dr Grossman recently gave a fascinating and incredibly insightful talk about her experience of online sexism and misogyny which hopefully will generate further discussion and encourage others to talk more openly about their own personal perspectives on this issue.

EYE will consider her experience in a moment but, for the uninitiated, if you haven’t already seen it, I recommend you first watch Dr Grossman’s appearance on SKY News which prompted the torrent of online abuse in the first instance.

Although slightly shaken by the experience, poor Emily consoled herself with the logic that surely every right minded person who had been watching would think that every word that came out of the mouth of her opponent was utter nonsense….wouldn’t they?

For hopefully obvious reasons, this wasn’t quite how things ended up working out and by the end of the day she found herself reeling from what she described as ‘a backlash of online misogyny and #everydaysexism’.

Wow indeed. Remarkably, not everyone took her completely at her word.  Acknowledging that it might appear a tad ‘mean-spirited’ to fact-check when a woman claims she feels attacked, Mr Yiannopoulos was troubled enough by the implied guilt by association that he decided to do exactly that.

His conclusion was that Grossman had essentially cooked up the abuse narrative to deflect focus from her own disastrous performance and whilst there was ‘plenty of criticism’, ‘boisterous comments’, ‘a little trolling and some slight meanness’ he did not identify any instances of outright misogyny.

One of the most frustrating things about debating feminists and feminist academics is how readily they reach for words such as “abuse,” “harassment” and “safety” – particularly, it seems, when they are losing the argument. Milo Yiannopoulos 

In fairness, and no matter what you think of her debating partner’s unique style, you have to admit that it was devastatingly bad performance from Grossman.  She later admitted that she didn’t have time to do any research before her appearance and that when she went on air she didn’t actually know if Tim Hunt’s comments were meant to be a joke or not.

Despite this she happily condemned him, as someone ‘in a position of responsibility’, for making such irresponsible comments ‘in an environment where there is such a strong gender imbalance in the sciences’.  Confusingly, she went on to entirely concur with his (hardly earth shattering) observation that women do often cry in stressful situations and even went as far as actually doing the thing that Hunt had been (wrongly) accused of doing in the first place, by arguing that, in her experience, women preform better in segregated environments.

Her position was so ill thought out that, as soon as her opponent began mercilessly picking it apart with actual facts, for large parts of the segment all she could do was sit there with the sort of busted bake you’d expect to see from a homophobic taxi driver being given a lecture on morality.

She just made women look pathetic.  Women stop letting these idiots talk on your behalf. If she is to believed then women cannot achieve anything on merit, they have to be coddled and wrapped in cotton wool.  Her comments were orders of magnitude worse than anything Tim Hunt said.  You Tube User

Ordinarily it would be quite difficult to determine exactly who’s assessment of the alleged ‘barrage of abuse’ most connected with the most popular perception of reality but then a few months later, in the ‘safe space’ of the Feminism in London Conference, Dr Grossman walked onto the stage and gave a twenty minute analysis of the abuse, helpfully even breaking the comments down into the different tropes and manifestations of sexism she had experienced.

I’ve included the presentation at the bottom of this post so you can make your own mind up but, in my humble subjective opinion, EYE think it offers a quite remarkable insight into the modern social media phenomenon that is fainting couch feminism.  At this point I should also add a trigger warning because it is possibly even more cringe worthy viewing than her original live television mauling.

As one wise philosopher once observed, opinions are like assholes in so far as everyone has one and naturally we will all have our own personal (genuine) and professional (contextual) ‘offence’ thresholds.  Personally EYE don’t entirely agree with Milo’s assessment that there was no evidence of misogyny, certainly some comments could reasonably be perceived by some as sexist.  That said, even if one commentor indulged in a fantasy about ‘slapping her with [his]cock’, based on her own evidence, Grossman’s claims about a barrage of abuse are stunningly wide of the mark.

nettle

Here is a sample of ‘sexist and misogynistic’ comments categorised according to the type of misogynist trope she perceived to be used.

  • Aggressive & Humiliating Language: She looked like a bull dog that had just licked piss off a nettle.
  • Women being weak or pathetic for showing emotions or lacking in confidence: Women want to compete but they don’t know what that word actually means she wants special emotional accommodation for woman, she’s a doctor who got mocked by a journalist in a simple debate.
  • There’s no room in science for feelings: She calls herself a scientist but it’s clear she has a deep avergance to objective facts, it’s the opposite of scientific principle.
  • Women (with feelings) need to change to be more like men: If you’re a woman in STEM who is not advancing you don’t belong in STEM, it’s not because of sexism.
  • Teaching and communication (feminine) are inferior to real scientists: No wonder she became a teacher rather than an actual scientist.  Let me guess she teaches playschool students, she must do because a journalist knew more about her own profession than she did.
  • Anti-Semitism: After seeing this video I’m ashamed to be Jewish.
  • Feminists hate men and have a political agenda to destroy them: Do you want a pound of flesh for your political moral crusade, talk about doing more harm than good.

Her personal use and interpretation of language is also extremely revealing, not to mention highly hypocritical. For instance she claims that Milo (and ‘the rest of the internet‘) ‘silenced her for over a fortnight, first by setting his critical blood hounds (i.e followers) on her by tweeting the sky news footage and then by essentially convincing her that she was indeed over reacting and that if she wanted a career in the public spotlight she should learn to take some criticism.

cake

She also specifically accuses him of the dastardly misogynistic act of ‘twisting her words to make her (a woman) look bad’ which again is more than a bit rich.  To say that Dr Grossman wants her cake and eat it is, of course, to state the obvious.  A reality underlined by the fact that no matter how much reasonable or opportunistic offence can be taken by any or all of the comments on Grossman’s powerpoint, from the perspective of the average person on the Clapham Omnibus, I imagine the ‘silencing tactic’ proposed by one of her audience would be considered as offensive, at the very least.

For me the most genuinely offensive moment in Grossman’s ‘lecture’ was when she happily laughed along when one audience member suggested that next time she should just ‘bring a gun’.  Not because I genuinely believe that she or any of her six thousand odd twitter followers might actually follow through but because Grossman is clearly an intelligent woman and must on some level know that she has significantly contributed to the current political climate. Let’s face it, if the shoe were on the other foot, public figures would be calling for the police to waste public money demonising and proscecuting men for saying anything remotely similar.

gunbag

Yvette Cooper recently highlighted Grossman’s experience when launching her thinly veiled censorship campaign to ‘reclaim the internet’ and turn it into a safe space for women.  In yet another example of what Yiannopoulous describes as quantum-superstate-feminism, Dr Emily Grossman takes a star turn as schrodinger’s feminist.

The uncritical PC state of modern journalism may allow Dr Grossman’s perception of reality to briefly manifest itself in this dimension long enough for cynical politicians to exploit them for their own ends but ultimately it’s credibility crumbles as soon as any rational opposing thought is allowed to enter the discussion.

The most remarkable thing about entire presentation is that it is largely cogged from the article that ultimately convinced her that she was a genuine victim of misogyny and abuse, even when her friends and family weren’t.

Whether she will ever admit it to herself or not, Emily gleefully jumped on board the hashtag hate campaign that ultimately lead to two esteemed scientists leaving the country  and now she’s quite literally dining out on the fact that quite a lot of people dared to criticise her.

EYE reached out to Milo to ask what he thought of her latest media appearance. His response:

I can’t believe Grossman doubled down on that garbage after I showed up what a big fibber she is.  Shameless. Milo Yiannopoulos 

Absolutely shameless.  Sorry if she thinks it’s sexist or misogynistic to say so but, in my humble subjective opinion, even if she really is an ‘expert in cancer research’, she’s never going to find the cure or win a Nobel Prize for trying while she’s hanging out in television studios undermining proper scientists.

 
science: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
pseudoscience: a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.
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Gender Mereology

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