For the First Time Ever

UPDATE: This issue is mentioned by Gilliard here, and others here and here. I view the assumptions of these bloggers to pile on with no evidence a little disturbing, but I think Gilliard is close to the point in a way, as I will discuss below. Even if this issue is not truly a gender issue, MIT’s record kind of makes it one by default. Also, two sentences added at end from original draft

We may shed some light on a topic. Or not. Allows us to put on our serious pants and wade into the internecine world of scientific politics. We will endeavor to teach by example how it is essentially impossible to illuminate anything in a short newspaper article. The article in question we will deal with is here. The article is from Saturday’s Boston Globe and deals with a recent dust-up at MIT concerning the attempted hiring of a new female faculty member. MIT for the last several years has been at the center of many controversies involving the hiring and support of female faculty members, probably deservedly so in some instances and by reputation only in others. We will not address those issues here.

The basics of the recent problem are as follows:

1) An MIT institute in conjunction with the Biology Dept. endeavors to recruit a young female scientist by the name of Alla Karpova. Ms. Karpova is described as budding star and has accolades to prove it, along with an interesting and cutting edge approach to the study of brain connectivity and function.

Disclaimer: I know Ms. Karpova. For the sake of my own anonymity, I will not discuss this further, save to suggest that I feel my objectivity is not compromised by this fact. I am only discussing this matter as an example.

2) MIT does not successfully recruit Ms. Karpova to a prestigious position at the McGovern Inst. for Brain Science, home to such notables as Nobel Prize winner Bob Horwitz.

3) 11 Female faculty at MIT send letter to MIT President Susan Hockfield decrying the failure in recruitment and asserting that “a powerful colleague, a Nobel laureate [Susumu Tonegawa], of interfering with the university’s efforts to hire a rising female star in neuroscience.” Dr. Tonegawa is himself the head of another Neuroscience Institute at MIT, the Picower Inst. for Learning and Memory. The Picower is home to some very accomplished scientists.

4) An additional letter was sent to Hockfield from Prof. Ben Barres at Stanford after Dr. Barres heard from Ms. Karpova during an interview at Stanford. What we do not learn from the article is that Prof. Barres is an eloquent and forceful critic of sexism in science. He happens to be both an alum of MIT, a prominent neuroscientist and a transgendered individual giving him both incredibly unique insight into the situation at hand as well as a possible agenda. I only remark upon this as something quite difficult to just slip in for the authors of the Globe piece. The third quantity on that the list would only appear to be relevant after an in depth treatment of Dr. Barres’ experience and advocacy against sexism, but such a discussion could appear to poison the well for some readers as to Dr. Barres’ motivation for writing his letter. Instead readers are left to guess as to his involvement. This is not necessarily a critique of the piece, just an example at complexity left unremarked.

5) Dr. Tonegawa is claimed to have essentially bullied Ms. Karpova as he viewed her as a competitor to his own interests and not as a colleague even though the Picower and McGovern Institutes share the same building. The article plays “he said/she said” with this accusation, and perhaps this is its only recourse. Dean of Science Robert Silbey claims diplomatically about Tonegawa:
“Is he competitive? Yes. What is he competitive for? To make Picower the best in the world. Does that get on other people’s nerves? Yes.” This is of course his job, but this statement completely glosses over the implicit power inequality between the Nobel Prize winning head of an Inst. and a new hire. Is there any doubt as to the dynamic?

6) Six faculty of the Picower also wrote a letter to Hockfield in support of Tonegawa described in this passage:

“They wrote that Karpova asked Tonegawa whether he would collaborate with her, and he said that he would not.

“We feel that Susumu is being unfairly maligned, and we wish to express our strong support of him,” they wrote. “This is not a gender issue, and to portray it as such sets back the cause of women scientists.”

The letter also says that punishing Susumu would have “far-reaching negative consequences” and would endanger future funding for the institute Tonegawa oversees.”

This is essentially misdirection from the cosigners of the letter. MITs issues with women faculty make this by default an gender issue, regardless of the specific intent. Why couldn’t MIT recruit this specific female applicant? There appeared to be a power structure in place that was not collegial, given that it Tonegawa expressed in writing that he did not desire to collaborate. The authors of the Globe piece take care to note that the supporting faculty are all members of the Institute of which Tonegawa is head. This is probably on purpose but is as far as they can go. The stance of Tonegawa’s supporters may appear to be reasonable, and perhaps would be in regards to other circumstances, however Mr. Tonegawa’s reputation, to be kind, is abominable, and as such, his statement of non-collaboration and the fact that he viewed her as a possible competitor and not a colleague can not be taken as neutral. Of course this is my opinion, but most likely the opinion of many scientists. We will not deal in rumor on this issue, but I will say that Dr. Tonegawa is a scientist who’s reputation is worse than any I know relative to his importance, and it is bad on numerous fronts. This is a difficult position for the authors as they cannot just say: “everybody in the world thinks this guy is a world class a-hole and then some.” The authors do provide the view of Tonegawa as not the best guy quotes of other scientists such as “Most people would say that he is very smart and charming and a very difficult person to deal with. He is not a team player.” In this case, without getting someone to go on record with the perfect money quote, the authors are left no chance of getting the general perception of Dr. Tonegawa across.

7) The conflicting views of the issue are summed up in this section:

Barres’s letter also said that in addition to Tonegawa, Silbey, the science dean, advised Karpova not to come to MIT. Barres also wrote that Tonegawa told her “if she came he would do his best to block her success, including blocking access to the animal facility that he claims to have control over.”

Silbey said that’s not true, and contended that he told Karpova he wanted her to come to MIT. He said the overlap of her research and Tonegawa’s would make it important for her to establish her independence in order to win tenure.

What I find interesting here is the fact that Dr. Barres letter relied solely on hearsay from Ms. Karpova. However, I would add that I find Silbey’s quote to support Barres and not Sibley’s own assertion that he was supportive of Ms. Karpova. I submit some alternate takes on “important for her to establish her independence in order to win tenure.” Sibley could have been suggesting to Karpova that collaboration with Tonegawa could have been seen as hurting her appearance as independent, something important for scientists as they climb the career ladder. I don’t think I am going out on a limb, however, to suggest that this perception of independence has most likely been used in the past to denigrate female scientists. This is neither here not there with only a single quote to think about. However, the statement could also be taken by Ms. Karpova to mean that her stated research program would not cut it at MIT, as she would already have a known competitor working in a similar area. In this case “independent” could have been read as “unique,” which Ms. Karpova could clearly not be, no matter the novelty of her approach as Dr. Tonegawa himself had defined her as a competitor.

8) Finally, as a young and powerless scientist for whom others are going to bat, or in the cynical view being used to further other’s agenda, Ms. Karpova does not really have the freedom to give her entire side of the story and does not comment extensively in the article. I think we can all accept the fact that in these cases, the whistleblowers/accusers always get the shaft from the system, as they get tossed into the “problem” pile. This is where my personal view of the situation comes in. There is no way this case is complete bullshit. Reputation alone in this case would be strong enough for me to believe something untoward had gone on with Tonegawa. If the same words and actions had come from another scientist with a different reputation, the conclusions could have been different. The same goes for Ms. Karpova. This means the article could be read anyway you want. However, my personal knowledge of Ms. Karpova, together with my understanding of Dr. Tonegawa’s behavior gives me enough evidence that something shitty has happened to her and it is right for this to blow up in MIT’s face.


47 Responses to “For the First Time Ever”

  • I am really interested in their research now. Other than that, I am staying well out of this because I recognize that I am completely incapable of adding anything meaningful to this conversation other than, don’t be such a cobag.

  • “Is he competitive? Yes. What is he competitive for? To make Picower the best in the world. Does that get on other people’s nerves? Yes.”

    I see he attended the Donald Rumsfeld Academy of Answering Only Your Own Rhetorical Questions.

  • yo06! bringin it to the table!!

  • I worked next to Tonegawa for several years. There is no doubt in my mind that the most negative behaviors attributed to him in this story are well within the range of expected behavior (do not mistake this for anything but speculation, I have no evidence that he did anything wrong here). That said, I am very doubtful that this really has anything to do with gender (except maybe the unconscious attitude that a woman would be easier to bully). Tonegawa is a ruthless competitor and would do anything to maintain his supremecy. I believe he would act just as territorially if it was a male applicant.

    In the past, when MIT was shown to have systematic gender discrimination (highest profile case was when Nancy Hopkins went around with the measuring tape), they have actually responded in very positive ways to correct it (in stark constrast to another university just down the road that shall remain nameless *cough* Harvard *cough*).

    MIT still deserves the shitstorm though…

  • I absolutely agree that Karpova does not have much freedom to comment, given her relative status to the other parties in the dispute. But I think that she did an excellent job with the statement she did make. It outlines what she values in a working environment and indicates that Tonegawa is likely to keep her from finding it at MIT, without getting into any messy, contentious, or unprofessional details:

    “I wanted very much to come to MIT,” she wrote in the e-mail. “However, the strong resistance to my recruitment by Dr. Tonegawa has convinced me that I could not develop my scientific career at MIT in the kind of a nurturing atmosphere that I and the young people joining my lab would need in order to succeed.”

    I was also happy to see that the Globe coverage portrayed her as a successful, promising scientist, as is fully appropriate for someone being recruited by MIT and Stanford for an assistant professor position, and NOT as a problem, which I agree is the general view within the academic community of anyone who complains about anything. This may be due in part to the large number of letter signers (11) on the letter of complaint– at which point it becomes more convincing that the issue is NOT a matter of “whining” from a single applicant, but a serious problem with the power structure within the relevant MIT departments.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    This is a really interesting situation. I know of a female tenured faculty member at Harvard that had also worked nearby the Tonegawa lab who encouraged a female prospective postdoc to apply to his lab. Her rationale is that while he is a sexist bastard, he prefers blondes and can be easily played the right way. What bothered me about this was the acceptance of his sexism and the lack of desire to punish that.

    Fish, I think this does have something to do with gender. It’s not just that Tonegawa refuses to play nice with his colleagues, but he has a long track-record of being sexist. His presence and prominence makes the entire neuroscience departments at MIT areas of sexual harrasment. I think Alla was right not the accept the job offer there, and I think the other faculty members were right to attempt to address this problem with the university president. I don’t think that this should have to center solely around the hiring fiasco, since there are certainly other considerations that would make Alla choose to go to another institution. But the fact that there are scientists at MIT that feel the enivornment is poor for female scientists and believe that problem relates, in part, to the reputation and past actions of Tonegawa. I think it has to be investigated wholly and fairly.

  • Here we go again with Punko! (UC, just look away because your just going to flip out again.)

    AG must first address Dr. Punko’s own blatant sexism: Dr. Karpova is in fact, a “doctor”. Not “Ms.”, as Pinko refers throughout the article. It is interesting, that the two women, yes only two women that Punko mentions in his post, are not referred to as “doctor”, (Dr. Hockfield also earned a PhD in the sciences.) Perhaps we’ll call it tie score for the latter since Robert Silbey was not bestowed with “doctor” either, just his title as Dean. Punko completes his trifecta by referring to Dr. Ben Barres, simply as “Prof.”. (He has earned both an MD and a PhD) This perhaps suggests an issue not only with women but with GLBTQ groups as well. (We’ll have to monitor Punko’s future posts more carefully before this can be confirmed or denied.)

    Now that AG has established that Punko enjoys upholding the patriarchy, let us turn to the issue at hand. MIT much like its colleagues, the blue blood, male dominated science and engineering driven schools, have had their share of discrimination and gender bias claims. And to be fair, corporate board rooms, men’s locker rooms and the golf course also join academia in gender bias and upholding the glass ceiling. Nevertheless, discrimination in the workplace is a crime in the eyes of the courts.

    As UC pointed out correctly, the facts shared with the public to date in this case suggest a case for discrimination and gender bias. However, these facts cannot be confirmed, nor denied until a formal case is brought before the accused and a review of his track record is formally issued both by MIT and the law firm that will represent the women of MIT. Unfortunately, he will be compared against so many of his colleagues, more men, who share the same antics and therefore make it even harder to establish a case of unique discrimination when the benchmark is so dramatically low to begin with.

    Furthermore, despite UC not sharing his source or confirming his attendance during the conversation between the tenured instructor and the postdoc, nor being a women (the last time AG checked) who is “a blonde”, it is correct that women frequently have narrow and often limited choices when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. As Anita Hill pointed out, you may be a lying sack of dog poop with tarantula hands, but if you are a man, you are still above both the white and of color women in the workplace. Thus, many women either have to play the game or carve out other opportunities for themselves, often at a cost to their careers.

    Fortunately, folks like Atty and Professor Ann B. and Dr. Karpova have opportunities to make waves for change. It is hoped more women scientists (and all professions) will support their sisters in their cases against their accusers. In doing so, these women can bring about change. You’ll note they should not and are not trying to uphold male power, nor are they asking for male support, like Punko is doing in writing this post. Rather AG would argue his issue isn’t with Dr. Tonegawa, it’s with the fear he’ll lose positions and power to equally and/or better qualified women.

    (Punko, be an adult this time and don’t claim your little game of “a trap”, or argue this was some esoteric taunt of AG or whatever lame excuse you will bring forward to discredit the allegation that you are and have always been, a sexist. Also, having a best friend who is Muslim and respects your need to go to church is no argument, either.)

  • AG can seriously eat it. The up and down appellations on the post were due to it being written very early in the morning.

    Dr. Karpova is a seriously f*cking awesome scientist and AG writing to score stupid points obscures the issue at hand. No disresepect meant to Dr. Karpova or Dr. Barres for my oversight.

    That being said, with Tonegawa, who is very likely to be an equal opportunity chumpstick, it is kind of irrelevant. If his behavior of being a prick, and creating an atmosphere where MIT was not able to hire this specific female, that becomes a gender issue. Given his rep, do you think that this business would stay with him? Would Dr. Karpova be able to collaborate with others at the Picower? Probably not, because why would they want to piss Tonegawa off?

    I really hope he eats it. Regardless of the possible sexisim in this case, he has the reputation for operating like a complete bastard, and if it takes a gender case to highlight it, so be it.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    I agree with Pinko. But I don’t believe that Tonegawa is an equal opporutnity chumpstick. I think if you’re male and willing to give him regular pamperings of the buttocks, you can probably find a way to work with him, but I don’t know if women ever get that opportunity. Being sexist is bad, but being a sexist bastard is what deserves to have him go down. Nice sexists don’t get into nearly as much trouble.

  • AG: 1
    Pinko Punko: 0

    UC, making comments about “nice sexists” isn’t funny or charming. It’s like the holocaust and rape jokes that you also claim can be made depending on who and in what context says them. Sorry doc, you are incorrect on those too. Offensive is offensive.

    AG: 1
    UC: 0

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    I think it’s a valid point, seeing as you have decided to label myself, PP, and pretty much any other male you’ve ever encountered as a sexist pig, almost by default. Therefore, if all males are sexist, we must then be dividing into nice or not nice sexists. Don’t you agree?

  • No, my dad isn’t a sexist and neither were two of my former boyfriends. Neither was my last medical director, to name but a few. Not all men are sexist UC, just those who expose themselves through their own words.

    Sexist is sexist. It’s like pregnancy. Either you are or you aren’t. Or as the genius marketing guys of Pennsyltuckey say in their radio spot underage drinking campaigns: 21 = 21. (It’s like biostats for dummies or something.)

    AG: 2
    UC: 0

  • I’m very alarmed by AG’s offensive remark about blondes. That of course is a stereotype which was propagated the patriarchy, proving that AG is upholding the patriarchy.

  • Cute Yosef, but hardly funny. You know it was in regards to UC’s comments above about his alleged friend who was/is/could be a blonde and able to handle the alleged sexist scientist in his comments thread.

    Now please cool it and find Gregor. G-dawg is AWOL. If he doesn’t show soon, PupH. may just become the new PupAG. Bwahhaha!

  • we don’t disavow the possibility of deserving blame as members of the patriarchy, althought that’s Dr. UC to you.

    We just wanted to provide a non-pork snorkel service to our dear readers and the thread has been destroyed by AG.

  • I am glad that I have stayed the hell out of this one.

  • I don’t want to be backed into the very unpleasant role of Tonegawa, but I do think it is important to be very careful about when it is appropriate to raise issues of gender. Tonegawa’s reputation is of being sexist and it is proably correct. But I have seen him have perfectly normal relationships with women faculty that he does not consider competitive threats and he hasn’t blocked all women hires at MIT, as far as I know, just this one. So the conclusion in my mind is that this is realted to what she does, not who she is.

    I would also argue that there is a danger for males to too quickly agree with gender bias claims. This can be as effectively patriarchical as not defending clear cases of gender bias. It is, in effect, men jumping in to “rescue” the poor, put-upon women who obviously need protection. Every instance should be argued out (good arguing, not bad arguing) and if the complaints are meritorious, they should be elevated and dealt with.

    I just don’t see clear gender issues based on the content of the Globe article (doesn’t mean it’s not there). I do see a chumphump that should be run out of science.

  • Whoops that first sentence should be “defending Tonegawa”

  • fish,

    I basically agree and that is why I mentioned that the other bloggers were jumping to conclusions based on no evidence- meaning there are so many specifics not mentioned in the short article, which is part of the reason I wrote the post in the first place.

    Thanks for the thoughts, I was hoping you would chime in with the MIT perspectivo.

  • Agreed Fish. As I stated, I would like to see the full case and both parties accurate statements before the jury decides. Also, there is much to be learned about the numbers at MIT and what MIT has done to promote women. Affirmative Action is argued on the current state of affairs, not on what we’d like or what may be someday.

    Nevertheless, many men are quite covert in their sexism. They appear perfectly normal. (Some men know today that many and the law do not share their open hatred. So they have become a bit more creative.) Men also perceive normal differntly, because women are more keen on when a man is being fresh. Unfortunately, many women have been sleazed on by enough men that they are able to decipher a bit easier whether a comment is a compliment or a come-on than a man. (We can discuss the evidence based research that supports this another time, if everyone is interested.) More tangilble of an example is Dr. Punko’s claims it was late at night and that’s why his errors occurred. This is a similar argument that is made with racism. If you ever had a chance to play the name game, you’ll understand. We are educated to think good with Caucasian and bad with African American, strong, succuessful and hard science driven with male and weak, inferior and soft science driven with female. Too often culture has ingrained these kind of messages. Just read your child Cinderella tonight and tell us tomorrow what some of the subtle messages are in the story. You may just find yourself outraged. This was AG’s point about Charles and Charge and the messages it gave to children and teenagers in the 1980s. Of course, Punko shrugged that off too like a good little sexist.

    Let us be clear, discrimination of women is discrimination. You can carve it out however you want, but one incident is enough of an argument. With all due respect to rape victims, one rape is all that it takes for Megan’s Law to argue that a rapist should be put on a the watch list to expose the rapist to the town in which he or she resides. Discrimination in the workplace is quite similar. If a male manager and his employer fails to accept an otherwise stellar and qualified female candidate for the position in which he and the organization is trying to fill, thereby awarding the position to a less qualifed male candidate, than said employee and employer are guilty of sexual discrimination. There is no three strikes and you are out rule here. It is quantified much like the example of the rapist.

    Pinko, I have called UC, “doctor” before. Even in front of his Daddy who responded by laughing and thinking it was the funniest thing AG had ever said. AG has even called UC a “kosher cobag” in an effort to find a middle ground. Nonetheless, UC made it clear then and now, he does not wish to be referred to as “doctor”. This is his choice. Should he change his mind, he can speak with AG privately about this and arrangments can be made.(Perhaps this is your anger about not being able to control another women when AG refused to be the SBFS7!) AG had made it clear it is “Princess AG, Ruler of the Universe” when she is spoken to, however, UC refuses to honor AG’s request… We don’t see you all up in arms about that.

    Finally, AG did not ruin this male bravado of pork headedness. (Don’t write, “comments?” next time if you don’t want them, genius.) Pinko is just mad because AG pointed out how subtle sexism and gender bias is in America. We all do it and he is quite quilty of it. It’s very similar to the well intentioned racist. Everybody is a little racist too. We have to ask more of ourselves and our culture to rise above this. It also takes men accepting that they are guilty of this invisible knapsack and being willing to take it off and share the contents with both there brothers and sisters.

    Chuckie, you stayed out of it because we all know AG is crazy in her AG character. However, there is one thing to be sure of, when it comes to sexism and misogny, character or not, you will get AGsmashed with crazy shock and awe. You mister call women “chicks” and think they should all ride the Chuckwagon. You know AG could swat you down like a cow swishes her tail when shit* and flies are on her hind legs on a hot summer day in the pasture.

    *Since Pinko has decided to ignore his rule and use words not used in Elton John songs on the original post, so shall AG. Equality rules supreme!

  • AG, you are one of the most anti-title people I have ever met.

    Part of my error concerning Dr. Karpova’s title is I do not ever think of my contemporaries as Dr. Especially having been his or her goddamn TA. So you can seriously eat it, with all due respect. I support the rest of your comments. Thank you for your insightful and respectful dialogue. I’m certain no one feels attacked by your reasoned discourse.

    Capt. Trollypants said something I had to censor.

  • what is this, the academic talk forum? you scientists are all so wordy(if prone to spelling errors– i mean, all do respect? wtf!!–)

  • I don’t know what you are talking about, aif.

  • It should have been doo if you are in the dog park, or dew if you are in the mountains.

  • Points 1-10 were written earlier, before the server went down. I did not see AG or PP’s final exchange until later though.

    1) Titles are annoying.

    2) All the sentences with “Ms.” Karpova alongside “Dr.” Tonegawa/Barres/Twanglepork/whoever are rather jarring. (I also found a single “Mr.” Tonegawa, not that that changes much.)

    3) Neither Hockfield’s nor Sibley’s academic backgrounds appear relevant here. Should she really be Her Scholarliness Susan Hockfield, Ph.D., President of MIT, Defender of the Realm, Prodder of Funding Sources, Ruler of All She Surveys, etc… ?

    4) FWIW, Bob Horwitz didn’t get a “Dr.” or even (I assume) a full first name.

    5) And FWIW, Pinko refers to Barres as “Dr.” more often then as “Prof.”

    6) I may be extrapolating more that is warranted, but it appears Pinko’s use of formal titles seems to correspond in general to how much familiarity he has with each individual. However, Pinko, if the person at issue were male, can you honestly say you would have written Mr. Karpov (even writing at 4am in a land without coffee)?

    7) Did I mention that titles are annoying?

    8) Does AG acknowledge that there is a difference between “has grown up in a culture pervaded by sexism, and thus, inevitably, retains traces of that environment” and “is a sexist”? Thus far, I have difficulty seeing Pinko as someone who seeks to excuse sexist behavior in himself or anyone else – which is the not the same thing as never engaging in it. To me, the troubling aspect of AG’s accusation is, as stated, it appears to accord a nearly essentialist definition to the status “is sexist”. In saying this, I am, if I may invoke the rather dodgy trope of separating form from content, addressing how AG frames her arguments on the subject of sexism, not the arguments themselves (which I usually agree with).

    Am I merely mistaking the rhetoric of real fake AG (rf-AG) for the opinions of real real AG (rr-AG)?

    9) The terminal degree in academia is not the Ph.D. but rather the S.C., or Summum Cobagum – Most Exalted of Cobags. Fortunately, and for obvious reasons, many academics do not feel required to seek this accolade – but those who do* deserve what they get.

    * Which, if the reports in this thread are true, include Tonegawa.

    10) I am obviously less sensible than Chuckles.


    New points in light of AG and PP’s final comments:

    11) The right has put a lot of effort into cloaking their discrimination and hate in enlightened language (e.g. the idea that the real racists are those who support affirmative action). So while this is true:

    many men are quite covert in their sexism. They appear perfectly normal. (Some men know today that many and the law do not share their open hatred. So they have become a bit more creative.)

    the reverse is also true: some men who are not naturally misogynist (or racist, etc.) have bought some discriminatory ideas precisely because the ideas are framed in a superficially egalitarian fashion.

    (All this is, of course, on top of the ingrained structural supports of patriarchy in culture, language, etc.)

    12) “Kosher cobag” is a straight line I seriously need to stay away from…

    13) Points 1-5, 7, and 9-10 have aged well.

    14) It appears my assumption in point 6 is somewhere near the mark. The question from that point, however, still remains. And it is intended as an honest question, not a rhetorical one.

    15) Point 8 does not strike me as terribly clear. And though I probably would have edited it before posting earlier, the idea behind it does not hold in its original form anyway, so trying to it make precise at this point seems a bit moot.

    16) AG, you’re not making it easy to contribute here. For someone who hasn’t met you, or at least for me, it is extremely difficult to know what aspects of your comments to ascribe to the AG persona. What I see looks like rr-AG using rf-AG as a weapon against Pinko, and this is troubling.
    As I said above, I have difficulty seeing Pinko as someone who seeks to excuse real sexist behavior in himself or anyone else. Do you honestly believe that he does? It appears to me that you’ve set up the game so that anything he says will likely appear defensive or self-justifying. It’s like you’re trying to squeeze a concession out of someone like ShootALiberal Sean. You’ve painted him into such a small corner, Pinko’s most sensible response may very well be the one he’s chosen: to just tell you to eat it. Does your approach really serve your intent?

    17) Anyway, there you have it: too many notes. My apologies if I’m colossally misreading anyone.

  • The real thing is that if everyone were on the Chuckwagon, there wouldn’t be any of these issues. I’m just saying.

    And my strikethroughs didn’t take. This ruined my comments. Oh well.

    Other than that, I think this situation has become a bit like Israel and Hamas.

    AG is totally committed to Pinko Punko admitting he is sexist. Pinko Punko has been an extremely, annoyingly fair to pretty much everyone except those who refuse to act in a fair and polite fashion. At this point, he is dealing with someone (AG) who is blasting him and everyone else and leaving no middle ground.

    So yes, I think you are being way too harsh on a guy that annoys me by shaking hands with dumb morons after humiliating them. I wouldn’t shake their hands, but Pinko Punko isn’t going to kick someone when they are down, but I would.

  • plover, thank you for this, I am sorry that the server was belettuced or some such.

    I can honestly say that I do not think of my contemporaries as Dr. Trollypants or Dr. UC, in fact I don’t really think of Ph.D’s I know as Drs.- they just don’t usually get that title. They get referred to by their names, with appelations like “total genius” or “f***ing cobag.”

    I did not go back and make the titles consistent because people don’t change posts after the fact, or at least it seems improper. I have apologized to Dr. K in the thread and do so again.

  • AG is committed to nothing other than the truth, Chuckles. Pinko made comments that are sexist. AG pointed them out. He claimed it was his relationship to Dr. Karpova that allowed him to call her “Ms.”. This is disputable. AG was going to leave it be in a manner of olive branch relations and not wanting the ass end of talking to by UC over dinner tonight. (Ya know, XY genes have to stick up for each other in order to further the patriarchy. Isn’t that right my little sexist first born male Jew toy?! barf, barf!) However, we trust UC will understand that AG has been spoken to by the peanut gallery and a response is needed…

    She is still “Dr.” Karpova, regardless of Pinko’s relationship to her. If he were to cut her, would she still not bleed? (We do not condone male-female or any violence for that matter, here.) (Then again, he made this argument easier by asserting his male dominace over her as “her” TA.) If he had wanted to avoid the use of titles, he would have called her “Alla”. Why use “Ms.” when you are avoiding titles? Either you use them correctly or you don’t.

    By way of example, AG doesn’t call her colleagues “Dr.” either. Not even the CEO, that the others fear and do so for that very reason. However, when addressing colleagues in front of clients, AG uses titles of “Dr.” and introductions start with the highest authority figure in the room, who is usually the female Chief Medical Officer (CMO). It isn’t Ms. Smith and Dr. Silverman. (AG is very close to the CMO and never once has called her “doctor” outside of client relations.) It’s Drs. Smith and Silverman when they are introduced together. And we aren’t too above calling our clients by “Dr.” either. This is true even when asked not to do so by the physician or scientist. Even when we are older than them (OK, AG is younger, but y’all follow.), we still use the title. Not even given that Dr. Cheungsky was one of the rotation residents that Dr. Smith mentored and inspired to become an oncologist in medical school, do we fail to call him, “Dr. Chuengsky”. She still calls him “Dr.” because that is what he is! At AG’s previous place of employment, everyone was called by their first name, including the CEO. In fact, there we refused to print any degrees on business cards or phone lists. We wanted a flat organization where everyone was equal. Note, it’s about equality. Pinko played a power male gender card in this case.

    Pinko was not backed into a corner. Pinko was called out for his actions. AG is tired of his excuses. He loves to try to play power keeper by giving reasons that one would argue were invented to save face. End of story.

    Why do you all jump in so quickly to defend him? This is one of the pivotal problems with gender issues — men who uphold their buddies on “technicalities” and women who do the world no favor by allowing this cycle of hatred and discrimination to continue. Though, women have their reasons, which is mentioned briefly below.

    AG read Dr. Barre’s most recent article that UC sent her way. He discussed in his article how women down play discrimination that goes down much like the scenario Dr. Karpova’s case suggests (note the use of the word suggest — there will be no verdict without a trial), more than men who see the same situation. Again, this is likely linked to what Pinko stated about how we blame the victim and it is easier to deny to people of authority or possible security leaks than admit what is true. Hence, women don’t want to go through what our sisters have gone through with the name calling and destruction of our careers because we call some chumpstick out for his or her heinous actions.

    P.S. Plover, nobody can be less sensible than Chuckstar. It’s not possible. Remember, he owns Helob and tries to bring it/him/her/insect over to his brother’s to eat spiders so the baby won’t. That’s not practical or sensible.

  • The thing is nobody is arguing that the post may have appeared sexist or that the mistakes could have been unconsciously sexist. What was argued was that they were not intentionally sexist. Obviously in many cases, intent is not what is important in areas of culturally defined sexism. Sexism is sexism. I think that AG’s stance and comments essentially cloud all the rest of the issues being discussed and that is her right, we don’t delete or edit comments here.

    This however allows a corner to be painted in that if AG’s stance is correct, there really is no discussion with her. Any contradiction would be downplaying sexism. This means we can’t even have a discussion. AG also carpet bombs other women by bringing up their complicity with sexism in general, implying that if they took a side differently than her in specific arguments they would be complicit in allowing sexism to flourish. She’s not really playing fair.

    This is the last we will say on this matter with AG. She is more than welcome to continue commenting on any matter to her heart’s content.

    We will be responsive to others’ comments.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    Nicely said Plover and nicely responded Pinko. For the record, rfAG=rrAG=attack chica AG. They just use different email addresses, but otherwise the same techniques. I think Plover’s point #16 is quite germane.

    However, AG killed the thread.

    I do have some new information on the case. A certain Harvard professor that is familiar to both UC and PP was given access to the emails sent to Alla, and it was very clear from those that Susumu was threatened by Alla. Sadly, we’ll probaby never know how much of that intimidation stemmed from her being female, as opposed to her raw abilities and talents.

  • I guess I am not as big a cobag as Susumu, since I like a challenge.

    Hell, if I ever meet a chick that can match me genius for genius and also wants to make out like bandits, I may just run away with her.

  • Chuckles, why do you have to throw kerosene on the kerosene flaming bomb?

  • That’s BS about “nicely responded” UC. In fact, you can f#ck off. You are just pushing the envelope because you have been called out for your gender hatred too. So now you go cry and wimper by your boyfriend. Whatevs. AG would be happy to bury both Plover and Pinko in comments, but PP has made it clear it will be erased. (Some liberal!)

    UC, did you personally see the e-mails. If not, you cannot make that claim. Also, you are not trained in judging discrimination. The only thing you are good for is killing a thread and mice. And you screw both of those tasks up regularly.

  • Go right ahead AG, you have carte blanche. I just won’t respond. Your accusations of sexism are kind of funny, considering your constant gay-baiting.

    I think your accusation of deleting comments is disingenuous. This never happens here and is our policy not to. I think you know that. I think you enjoy the escalation. Why are you so mad? Consider this my most serious, yet only slightly patronizing voice.

  • I’m going to drag one of AG’s comments over from RoD as it seems like the easiest one to construct what I want to say around, and this conversation is probably best carried on in one location rather than having it ooze about the intertubules.

    Whatevs Pinko. I called you out. You got Plover to bail you out, except she didn’t bail you out! You were inappropriate. Not only are you a sexist, but you are abusive in your angle. You have a need to control women and UC. That’s why you boss him around and ban me or tell people to ignore my comments. It’s really really sad.

    First, a general point. This comment demonstrates what I mean by not really being able to see the boundary between rf-AG rhetoric and rr-AG. Usually, I would probably just take it as ordinary rf-AG-style razzing – in other words, mocking, but meant to be viewed as intentional rhetorical excess. At the moment, it seems necessary to take it seriously.

    1) Whatevs Pinko. I called you out.

    Yes. I don’t think anyone is arguing (I know I’m not) that noting that Pinko’s use of titles followed some unfortunate patterns was not worth pointing out.

    2) You got Plover to bail you out, except she didn’t bail you out!

    It was not my intent to “bail out” Pinko, if by that you mean sweep away the language problems you brought up about the OP. My hope was that it might be possible to find a space where the original issues you sought to raise might be discussed rather than used as a rhetorical club.

    And Pinko didn’t get me to do anything. I thought some of your arguments were inappropriate for the context. For example:

    Why do you all jump in so quickly to defend him? This is one of the pivotal problems with gender issues — men who uphold their buddies on “technicalities” and women who do the world no favor by allowing this cycle of hatred and discrimination to continue.

    This is true, but is it an argument that makes sense here? Is anyone trying to defend Pinko based on tachnicalities? Is anyone, indeed, trying to defend Pinko from your original, direct, substantive point, rather than from what appear to be rather sweeping condemnations and mean rhetorical excesses?

    Is it not a meaningful feminist principle that feminist arguments should be used judiciously, so they do not lose their force?

    The response in this thread has not been patriarchal nonsense like “Oh, everybody talks like that, it’s really ok.” or “Gosh, you feminists are touchy.”, but rather, in my perception, a general agreement with your original point accompanied by a fair amount of shock at the venom with which it was expressed at someone who is theoretically a friend and who is known to support the principles behind what you were saying. And like the problems following from use of sexist language, this reaction is an outcome which is not a function of intention, which is why I asked earlier: does your approach really serve your intent?

    3) You were inappropriate.

    Pinko said:

    The thing is nobody is arguing that the post may have appeared sexist or that the mistakes could have been unconsciously sexist. What was argued was that they were not intentionally sexist. Obviously in many cases, intent is not what is important in areas of culturally defined sexism. Sexism is sexism.

    Does that sound like he disagrees?

    As has been said in many contexts, one trouble with blogging is that people write things quickly, and thus follows many of the problems with speech where people say things that are not intended, but with the added problem that non-verbal cues are lacking and the kind of corrective “Did you mean that?” “Bleh, what am I saying?” exchange is asynchronous and dependent on when people get around to looking at comments.

    My expectation would be that if someone had written a comment saying something like:

    “So, Dr. Pinko who-thinks-he’s-all-feminist-and-sensitive Punko person, what’s up with the Ms. Karpova vs Dr. Tonegawa?”

    that Pinko would have been whacking his head on the desk and would have responded by editing the original post and writing something like:

    “Oh, I have so totally eaten it!! Now I must Blame™ myself!!”

    Other people here know Pinko better than I do, does this sound inaccurate?

    4) Not only are you a sexist, but you are abusive in your angle. You have a need to control women and UC. That’s why you boss him around and ban me or tell people to ignore my comments.

    Is this supposed to be serious? Honestly, it is impossible for me to tell the border of what aspects of a statement like this you want to be treated seriously. You’ve combined points that you do care about with accusations that seem absurd on their face in a fashion that makes it very difficult to determine what you actually want to convey.

    If I were to treat something like the statement above completely seriously, I would basically have to consider it some kind of character assassination. However, I would be extremely surprised if that were your intent.

    You’ve made statements in this thread that blur the line between fanciful rhetoric and purposeful condemnation, that leave open to just what degree you consider Pinko’s behavior unacceptable beyond your original point in this thread, and that, to my eyes, risk creating some real rift between you.

    You have been insistent about not convicting Tonegawa without a full investigation, you have made points about how difficult it is to assess evidence, and yet you appear willing to trust your own sole perceptions in order to act as investigator, judge, prosecutor, and jury for Pinko, and, further, you seem to insist that all evidence can only mean what it meant to you on first impression. But again, I can only describe what I’m seeing, the impressions your comments are conveying. And I must trust that I have been emphatic enough in communicating my own confusion as to what is really going on.

    Am I taking things too seriously? It’s possible I’m just being an over-solicitous twit and reading more into what’s been said here than is warranted. However, I can say that you’ve succeeded in muddying the issue sufficently to cause me concern, and from Pinko’s responses, my perception is he’s a bit taken aback as well. If anyone thinks I’ve overstepped myself here, I hope they’ll let me know.

    Anyway, it was not my intention to write some grand exegesis of AG rhetoric, or lead some kind of insurrection against the menacing forces of AG or somesuch. I feel like my arguments are a bit extravagant. I hope I may have clarified what the interactions in this thread might look like from the outside, and I hope I may have communicated my own sadness at a fray that seems to me to have been avoidable.

  • I hereby bestow the title and degree of Ph.D. in Nailing It and renounce my thrown of nailing it to shers/hims/its/birds Royal Nailing Itness and decree that the entire world need bow before the collective gendered yet now Dr. plover and eat it in abundance for they are unworthy.

  • Tis certainly true, I was quite angry with myself for the oversight, and most certainly laid a hand on the button of Blame™ squarely bebuttoned on my very own forehead.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    I bow down to honour Dr. Plover: enemy of obfuscation, disseminator of wit and eloquence, and conquerer of chunder.

    What’s sad about the the misguided finger-pointing is that AG does have a good point, in general, about title use for men and women, and had such a weapon been utilized for the example below, its efficacy would be greatly enhanced.

    New article about the Tonegawa fiasco in today’s globe:

    From the article, is the official statement from Tonegawa:

    “I am absolutely certain that I acted entirely appropriately at all times regarding the candidacy of Ms. Karpova,” his statement said. “I did nothing to interfere with the offer she received from the McGovern Institute. Ms. Karpova asked me to serve as her mentor and to collaborate in research if she were to join the McGovern Institute faculty. Because of my responsibilities as director of the Picower Institute and other factors, I felt I could not agree to her request. ”

    Now I’m wondering whether Alla is being referred to as Ms. instead of Dr. here to specifically single out gender. If that’s the case, obviously, it means that Alla’s gender has played some function into all of this. If not, I could see it as a slight o her qualifications. I also find Tonegawa’s letter quite lacking, both in content and sincerety.

  • The reason there is so much competition is because there are labs with 40 post-docs and graduate programs with 80 students a year. Tell me where the jobs are for these people. Then, once you have a job, some aspects of science are essentially in series. TO take a field beyond point B from point A to perhaps many distinct points beyond B, you have to go through B first, and lots of people want to get beyond B. The funny thing about science is that even though it is an enterprise supported mainly by socialistic funding from the government, it is harshly capitalistic within.

    Tonegawa’s letter is full of crap. I specifically give kudos to the research tech quoted honestly, and declare a 3B fatwa against the grad student in Tonegawa’s lab for his silly quote based on his meaningless collaboration with others. Way to ride the boss’s chumpwagon. I can honestly tell you that when you are in labs such as these, you are so incredibly powerless, you tend to consume the proverbial Kool Ade in buckets.


    As far as I can tell, AG is trying to paint Pinko’s toenails. He asked for blue and she provided Cherenkov Blue. WHEN HER BRAIN WENT SUPA-CRITICAL!

  • This morning is the first time I’m reading this post and comments and I have to admit that I’m not surprised how certain people responded. I was trying to figure out how to be diplomatic in my response but honestly why should I be diplomatic when I’m offended. Let me point out that I am NOT offended by the use of Ms or Dr but offended by the quick and harsh use of calling PP a sexist. Let me explain myself before I too am quickly labled without thought. I’m all for women’s rights and the fight that those before me had so that I myself may have it relatively easy compared to previous generations. What makes me very upset and annoyed at the uber feminist is that they want it both ways. How dare you want your cake and eat it too when those before us fought to even have their cake. By having it both ways I mean, women fight for equality but also want more, to be treated better than men and the right to call men aweful names and categorze them all in one word- “sexist, dicks, a@@hole.” (pick one) I’m offended if a man were to categorize women as all “bitches” so I myself cannot make general statements about men and think it is ok because I’ve got a set of boobs and I have the right to put down men but demand they don’t do that to me.
    I can count many times when I’ve felt discriminated against in comment or actions because I’m a woman but they are far less than what those before me went through. This DOES NOT excuse those comments and actions but I can not claim I have it all bad and that men are keeping me down. In fact my grandmother had to drop out of school in the 8th grade to care for her sick Mother because she was the daughter and not her brother who in no way could drop out because he was the “man.” Or those women in the world today who are stoned and killed because they were raped- it was their fault and how dare they shame their family that way. How about the women who are property and if their husband dies they are cast to the streets with no money or possesions unless some other male relative takes pity and supports them. Those are the women who have it hard, who suffer, oh how they would laugh at the “harshness” and discrimination we American women suffer.
    THIS DOES NOT EXCUSE AMERICAN MEN FROM BEING PIGS but pick your battles AG. If you put half the energy you just put into attacking PP into raising your voice against REAL sexism then I would support you. Until then you only come across as a quick to judge, mountain out of mole hill kind of woman.

  • When I was an undergrad at MIT in the early 90s, Tonegawa was famous for threatening a scientist in his department with a sharp scalpel. It happened a few years before, but still… whoa.

    This is all about Dr. T.

  • We of course wouldn’t want Dr. T to sue us, because we have heard much worse. MIT is enabling a putative lunatic, if the scuttlebutt is halfway accurate.

  • Problem is the lunatic is the biggest rainmaker at MIT. Many scruples go out the window when the greenbacks come rolling in.

  • The Uncanny Canadian

    That’s awesome Chuckles. I’m sensing a new 3B parlour game.

  • Wow just found this page really by mistake looking for something else. You have a nice blog and some interesting information, will check back soon.

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