A study conducted under the auspices of the National Academies of Science carries a great deal of weight, and for good reason. But then, that’s largely based on the “science” piece, not that it appears to have given rise to any sense of constraint this time.
The 311-page document is the national academies’ first report addressing sexual harassment, a problem that has long simmered in labs and classrooms, and some people predicted it could help spur meaningful change.
“Reports from the National Academy carry substantial weight,” said Dr. Carol Bates, associate dean for faculty affairs at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of a recent article calling for “zero tolerance for sexual harassment in academic medicine.”
It would appear that the only “science” aspect to this study is that it deals with people involved in science, whether in their jobs or education. The subjects are science-y, but the methodology of the study is about as well-grounded as a campus atmosphere survey. Is this an exaggeration?
Academic workplaces are second only to the military in the rate of sexual harassment, with 58 percent of academic employees indicating they had such experiences, according to one study cited in the report. Among the data involving students in scientific fields, the report cited a 2017 survey by the University of Texas system, which found that about 20 percent of female science students, more than 25 percent of female engineering students and more than 40 percent of female medical students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff members.
Note how the first sentence asserts a conclusion based not upon anything remotely scientific, but upon the firm foundation of an empirical study of the feelings of students at UT. How could anything be more conclusive than that? Hence, the conclusion:
The committee identified three types of sexual harassment: sexual coercion, unwanted sexual attention and gender harassment. It said gender harassment, “verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion or second-class status,” was by far the most common type women experienced.
Not physical touching. Not sexual coercion. These are objective wrongs, often criminal and, provided they’re not false and the victims address the offense committed, are things the legal system is capable of addressing. But “by far the most common” problem is the ““verbal and nonverbal behaviors that convey hostility, objectification, exclusion or second-class status.”
Do men give women the stink eye? And it’s not just the mean coworkers.
The committee said gender harassment was more pervasive in medicine than in the other sciences, partly because harassment can come from patients, as well as colleagues.
And it’s not just the poor victims of nonverbal behaviors.
It “undermines work and well-being in a whole host of ways,” triggering symptoms like depression, sleep disruption, cardiac stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder, said Lilia Cortina, a panel member and professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan. She said experiences can be worse for women of color and lesbian, bisexual or transgender women. But they also affect witnesses to the behavior, further impeding the scientific work.
Does witnessing the traumatic event of a nonverbal behavior conveying second-class status on a lesbian doctor cause PTSD? Because of the severity of this problem, and the fact that the report has to be purchased, they made a video of how horrifying and exhausting gender harassment is.
This is what purports to be science these days, and it comes not from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but the NAS. The study says don’t harass, and it’s science so it has to be true.