EYEuse open source journalist techniques to examine Dr Emily Grossman’s claims of online misogynistic abuse after appearing on a SKY News debate about sexism in science.
Emily Grossman, received so many hostile tweets when she talked about sexism in her profession that she had to take a break from social media. Stella Creasy MP
In my humble subjective opinion, Dr Grossman’s experience and account of online sexism and misogyny provides the most comprehensive and definitive evidence currently available that some people genuinely do exaggerate their experience of online abuse.
This is not to say that Dr Grossman is definitively guilty of conscious exaggeration herself but if Yvette Cooper and Stella Creasy have considered this incident in any reasonable level of detail then they should be ashamed of themselves for the disservice they do to genuine victims of online sexism by giving this incident so much prominence.
Hostile: Showing or feeling opposition or dislike; unfriendly (e.g. people are very hostile to the idea).
EYEdo believe it is fair to say that Dr Grossman did receive many hostile tweets in the immediate aftermath of her Sky News debate.
You can judge for yourself by conducting your own analysis of tweets to DrEmilyGrossman 2015-06-10 to 2015-06-11 but you can also save yourself some time by considering the results of the three very detailed studies already available.
The first was commissioned by the journalist she debated on SKY News, in part because he was troubled by the potential “guilt by association” reputational damage that Grossman’s claims could potentially deliver to his doorstep.
It seemed highly unlikely to me that someone as distinguished as Grossman would simply concoct allegations for sympathy on social media because she felt unhappy about the way the debate had gone. I messaged Grossman, asking her for examples of misogynistic tweets so I could name and shame the perpetrators. She declined to provide any.
This is particularly weird because Grossman claims she retweeted the worst of the abuse. Yet an inspection of her Twitter feed reveals little in the way of hateful invective. Milo Yiannopoulos
Yiannopoulos’ analysis found that there was evidence of a little trolling, some slight meanness and some obliging comments about her beauty but no instances of outright misogyny. Ultimately his conclusion was that she cooked up the abuse narrative to deflect focus from her own disastrous performance.
Conversely, the second study conducted by EOM: End Online Misogyny found plenty of evidence of outright misogyny, as did the third conducted and presented by Grossman herself.
Remarkably, and (again) in my humble subjective opinion, despite their eyebrow raising claims, the latter two studies actually present plenty of evidence to support the conclusion established by the first and the suggestion from various tweeters that Grossman was mostly conflating fair criticism with unreasonable (and possibly even illegal) abuse.
If you’re unfamiliar with the background to this incident EYEhave written about it previously when considering Grossman’s personal perspective, but suffice it to say that there is more to the story than someone experiencing hostility simply for daring to talk about sexism in her (arguably former) profession.
Emily’s personal mantra is to ‘say yes, panic later‘, which may go some way to explain why she agreed to go on live television and condemn a noble laureate and (arguably) fellow cancer research scientist without even knowing the exceedingly dodgy facts of the matter available at the point that she entered stage left.
Of course the truth of the Tim Hunt Kerfuffle is a whole other sad, sorry story about how by the summer of 2015 the media were depressingly tightly primed to spring at any sexism in science story, no matter how extraordinary and unlikely it might be.
Dr Grossman is on record admitting that she didn’t have time to do any research before her appearance and that when she went on air she didn’t know if Tim Hunt’s comments were meant to be a joke or not.
Even so, she ‘liked’ the above tweet before going on air which EYEguess says something about something.
And no matter what you think of her debating partner’s unique style, it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t a devastatingly bad performance from Grossman.
Remarkably, during the debate she even actually did the thing that Tim Hunt had been widely reported as doing (even though he didn’t) when she started arguing that, in her experience, women preform better in segregated environments.
Different people will have different offence thresholds and EYEaccept that some comments in Grossman’s twitter timeline could reasonably be perceived by some as misogynistic or sexist.
The most overt example I spotted was one comment where the tweeter stated he’d never tire of ‘slapping her with [his] cock’, but based on her own evidence, Grossman’s claims about ‘a barrage of misogynistic abuse’ are stunningly wide of the mark.
It is worth mentioning that there were plenty of disobliging comments in her feed about her gentleman opponent. Yianopolous was described as (amongst other things) a complete wazzock, utter nob, pathetic excuse of a man, giant inflated prick and one person even wanted to throttle him after 10 seconds [of watching].
Interestingly while her presentation to an exclusively feminist audience suggests Grossman has an extremely low offence threshold in general, she still manages to find it hilarious when someone suggests that the next time she debates Yianopolous she should just ‘bring a gun‘.
By way of comparison here’s a sample of ‘sexist and misogynistic’ comments aimed at Grossman, as 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.
Feminist Scholar Christina Hoff Summers very wisely acknowledges that ‘political correctness’ has it’s place in society and can be an important way of flagging up expressions that we don’t realize can be genuinely hurtful to some people with backgrounds or beliefs that are different to our own.
She goes on to caution that while ‘political correctness’ can be about etiquette and politeness, increasingly it can also be weaponized in an effort to impose a political agenda on others by shutting down dissent or debate.
Hoff Summers is a veteran of the feminist movement that came to prominence in the 1970’s. Ironically, the tough battles that her generation had to fight (and largely win) have in part inevitably led to to the type of politically correct environment that seems to have resulted in Oxbridge educated women like Grossman who appear to genuinely believe that it’s acceptable to brand people sexist with such certainty simply because they don’t agree with every word they say.
It is perhaps an inevitable or even necessary outcome of the many genuine injustices that women have and sometimes still face but like all phenomenon it will inevitably run it’s course.
And one day Dr Grossman may have to reevaluate her perception and experience of imposter syndrome.