"Urban whore" sexism train wrecks Scientific American's holiday weekend


#1

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#2

Why is her skin color relevant in this discussion?


#3

"Urban whore" is a racist and gendered slur, in context. http://gawker.com/5895216/stop-calling-black-people-urban


#4


#5

Unfortunately, we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove the post.

What "facts" need to be verified? How are they supposed to be verified? Why didn't Scientific American attempt to verify them before pulling the post?


#6

"ofek@biology-online.org" should change his name to "gofek". And his middle name to "yourself".


#7

Unless the same racism is present in refering to oneself as an "Urban Scientist", I wouldn't read more into the insult than is already clearly present. Rather, I'd merely assume it's just a bit of (stupid) wordplay on the structure of "Urban ___" in order to be insulting.

The Gawker article you link to is pretty bizarre. It cites absolutely nothing of substance, with the whole of its editorial based entirely on a single email which doesn't even do what Nolan accuses it of doing. As far as I've ever personally observed, people don't go around calling black people "Urban" as a racial epithet - they go around calling people of any color who express certain fashions and exhibit certain behaviors "Urban" as a cultural epithet - one actively used within that same subculture.

Now, with that said, was the author of Nolan's anonymous email racist? Possibly, although without further citation of the email in question it's impossible to tell. With the small excerpt we have, all we can assume with any certainty is that the emailer probably equates the "urban" subculture with deviancy, criminality, or some other vices, and that he or she probably was invoking this as some sort of defense of, or excuse for, the actions of Zimmerman. Whether this logical fallacy originates from racist thinking or merely from lazy or politicized thinking remains to be seen.

In either event, the real issue here is with the behavior of Biology Online's editor. It's quite bad enough that they felt entitled to behave so crudely, unprofessionally, and indecently while being an ostensible representative of science. We don't need to drag supposed racism into the discussion when we already have clear cut misogyny and non sequitor vitriol.

If there was greater evidence for your claims of racial motivations? I'd readily defend your inclusion of Dr. Lee's ethnicity, as it would be obviously pertinent. But as it stands, I find your current evidence lacking and your argument unsubstantiated in this case. Both scientific and journalistic standards suggest your suppostion to be relatively indefensible at this point with the evidence available.


#8

As Richard Lewontin points out in his Massey Lectures, science is a social institution. Anyone who attempts to deny this tangible fact through recourse to the ideal of the model of the scientific method, is surely attempting to evade having to respond to an actual, real event. Scientific American seems to have provided yet another illustration that such behaviour is, if not rife, then at least common in the social structures of science.

Regarding the race thing, it seems that the editor's phrasing was 'slippery' enough that they could feel secure in wildly denying any such accusations. A typical tactic for certain personalities.


#9

Why do people do this? What are your motivations?

I just don't get it. There's always someone who wants to insist that obvious sexism and racism are in fact just misunderstandings, or misinterpretations. This guy chose, of all the words in the English language, to call a black woman an "urban whore". It's pretty unlikely he didn't know how loaded the word "urban" is. She was using it one way, he was obviously using it another way.

But seriously: Why?


#10

Such a dumb violation of one of the most basic rules:

The funny part is, that's a direct quote from.. wait for it.. the stormfront.org forum guidelines. Go look if you don't believe me.


#12

(accidentally posted this as a reply to my prior post instead of yours, fixing that now)

It might baffle you, but what you seem to think of as obvious other people hold to a greater degree of scrutiny.

Beschizza might be right, this might actually be what he believes it is. I haven't yet seen enough, or unquestionable enough, evidence to believe it is, but that doesn't mean such evidence doesn't exist. And as any good scientist should be, I am prepared to reevaluate my position based on the presentation of additional evidence.

Please don't take it personally, or be offended. Some people just doubt things - even things that have the best intentions, or that from certain vantage points seem obvious.


#13

It might baffle me? Yeah, I guess it does baffle little old me. I'm no scientist, just a girl with a "certain vantage point". I don't see why there's a need to scrutinize just how offensive the man was trying to be when he was clearly trying to be offensive.

Go ahead and give the sexist guy the benefit of the doubt, though. And thanks for mansplaining how science works. Ouch, my head!


#14

So I'm at fault for assuming someone is innocent until proven guilty?

Part of being fair means that you apply your values equally to all situations. You are not allowed to judge one person more harshly than another simply because of your personal feelings. That is irrational, and ultimately destructive. Just because the editor appears sexist doesn't necessarily mean they are also racist, and until I see reasonable evidence of such (which I would be quite happy to receive), I withhold any condemnation on that front.

I don't brook bigotry of any kind, nor those who perpetrate and perpetuate it, but I require reasonable proof of any accusation before I accept a condemnation. Anything else is heresay. I'm interested in facts, not faith.

Furthermore, I resent your assumptions and insinuations regarding my intentions, opinions, and even gender. I have done nothing except disagree with you from a rational standpoint. I have made no value judgements and expressed no opinions on anything other than the strength of Mr. Beschizza's evidence and argumentation. My logical rigor was entirely analytical and impassive, and has no connections whatsoever to the behaviors you allege I have displayed, and which I have in demonstrable fact not displayed.


#15

Maybe you're just placing too much importance on your own judgement, buddy. Time to let someone else talk.


#16

SciAm is (at least now) yet another magazine of nothing but political sensationalism. It has about as much to do with the "social structures of science" (whatever those are) as does Wired.


#17

He changed "scientist" to "whore." It's easy to believe he did this without any consideration of race at all.

And despite that, it is still just as clear that he was trying to be offensive, as you point out. I don't see the point of jacking up the charges like an overzealous prosecutor. It's not enough, I guess, that he's merely being a sexist jackass, you just need to get that racism in there for more … what, exactly?


#18

Unverifiable pissing contests between third parties? If I were the editor of Scientific American, you bet I'd throw that one out the back door and let the critters have it. If it was a sensationalist rag, sure, run with it.

You have to apply at least the basics of journalism, (is it verifiable? Do I have more than one source?) or it's just the Inquirer. (or Boingboing, lately). That first ammendment does come with responsibilities, although all too many are racing to eliminate those. (believe what we tell you, or you're a horrible little person.)


#19

Do you realize you're being irrational? You're passing judgement without evidence, you're extrapolating wildly, you're making personal attacks and insults, and you're even trying to silence opposing viewpoints.

We are all entitled to our own opinions. I believe I presented mine neutrally and logically. You appear to have presented yours biasedly and emotionally. I have tried (and perhaps in some areas failed to some extent) to rely purely on logical analysis in reaching my conclusions. You appear to have relied upon gut feeling and assumption in reaching yours. I have done my best to speak civilly and without judgement. You appear to have based your responses entirely upon insult and condemnation.

If I am guilty of any flaw in my proceedings thus far (aside from unrealized logical fallacies, which we are all prey to), I can only imagine it must be that of emotional detachment - being too "cold". Please be aware, there was no intention of offense in this coldness. I have no reason to wish you ill. We simply happen to disagree about this matter, and I apologize for inadvertantly upsetting you with my mode of communication. Please take the time to consider what I've said fairly and rationally, and I hope you will see that I am, and have been, speaking entirely honestly, if somewhat too coldly for some tastes.


#20

"Unless the same racism is present in refering to oneself as an "Urban Scientist", I wouldn't read more into the insult than is already clearly present."

You're one of those people that thinks it's okay to call someone the 'n-word,' because "Well they use that word all the time to refer to themselves, which totally makes it all right, right?" aren't you?


#21

And what the fuck might those be?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Not seeing any "responsibilities" listed there. Well, okay "peaceably to assemble" precludes riots, but that's probably not what you were referring to.