• SciAm Apologizes To Blogger For Deleting Her Post After Being Called A ‘Whore’

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    Danielle N. Lee

    Dr. Danielle N. Lee is a postdoctoral fellow in zoology at Oklahoma State University, and a blogger who goes by The Urban Scientist on Scientific American’s website. Last week, she received an offer to write for another science website called Biology-Online. However, after failing to agree on commitment time and payment details, she turned down the opportunity. Dr. Lee had no idea that her decline would turn into a nasty conversation.

    “Thank you very much for your reply. But I will have to decline your offer. Have a great day,” Lee wrote to a Biology-Online editor who goes by Ofek.

    “Because we don’t pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?” Ofek replied.

    WHAT?!

    Since Lee uses her Scientific American blog to discuss issues of sexism and racism in scientific fields, she posted her response to the “whore” comment in a video.

    I do need you to recognize that how you behave matters. It matters. Not just to me, but to a lot of people, because it sets the tone… Recognize that folks are professional. Not just in how you interact with them, but their time and their energy is worth something. And that’s the really important part I want scholars out there — particularly if you come from these backgrounds that are underrepresented, it’s important that you recognize your professionalism and your worth, and that you be compensated in some sort of way that’s commensurate for you, and then you can negotiate more and more and more… For far too long, the presumption has been that if you’re a woman, a person of color, or from a lower socioeconomic status, that folks think they can get you, your talent, you expertise and your energy for free. That’s not available.

    It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation?

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    To Dr. Lee’s surprise, again, the editors of Scientific American deemed her post inappropriate and removed it without notification or warning. Editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina tweeted that the post was “not appropriate” for their publication and “was therefore removed.”

    After an outcry on social media, including an on-going #standingwithdnlee hashtag, DiChristina responded with an apology letter on behalf of Scientific American.

    “Unfortunately, we could not quickly verify the facts of the blog post and consequently for legal reasons we had to remove the post,” she wrote. “We take very seriously the issues that are faced by women in science and women of color in science.”

    “We deeply regret that we were not able to communicate our decision to Dr. Lee before removing the post on a late Friday afternoon before a long weekend. We recognize that it would have been better to fully explain our position before its removal, but the circumstances were such that we could not make that happen in a timely way,” DiChristina added. “As a woman who has worked in science publishing for more than 20 years, I can add that we intend to discuss how we can better investigate and publicize such problems in general and search for solutions with Dr. Lee and with the wider scientific community.”

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    After hearing this explanation, Dr. Lee said she doesn’t know if she’ll continue to blog for Scientfic American. “It hurt, that was my initial reaction to it being taken down,” she told ABC News. “I had written about personal things before, and I thought I had a good case for why it did apply to science, so my feelings were hurt. I’m still very shocked.

    “We have always been a part of the STEM experience, so I’ve been about magnifying those voices and experiences to attract more people from those underrepresented communities,” Lee said. “What I hope folks get out of is an important conversation about whose voices are heard.”

    According to reports, the editor who called Dr. Lee an “urban whore” has since been fired.

    Watch the video below and leave your thoughts on this bizarre story in the comment section.


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