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The BIG Reason

Music, opinions, and portfolio of Mark Eagleton, musician and web developer in Northern CA.

Pamela Gay at TAM

Pamela Gay spoke at TAM this year. Here presentation has been published to YouTube and lots of people are talking about it.

I love astronomy. I’m very new to it, but nothing has inspired me as intensely as this since I discovered music in my preadolescents.

Astronomy can be hard! There are billions of amazing things right up there above your head if you just look, but sometimes knowing when and where to look, or what it is you’re looking at requires some crazy math or a rudimentary understanding of theoretical physics. This makes people like Dr. Pamela Gay so important. They make big time professional astronomy accessible to us n00bz.

When Pamela Gay speaks, I listen. A video of her presentation at TAM has been making the rounds, and getting some very well deserved accolades. But not for the reasons I expected. Reasons that broke my heart.

There have always been major misogyny issues in male dominated fields of interest like technology, programming, astronomy and many of the other sciences (don’t get me started on music). Now, it’s even popping up in the most unlikely of places: the skeptic community.

I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, but when Pamela Gay—one of the nicest, most patient, brilliant, charmingly nerdy, and innovative voices in astronomy is moved to publicly call attention to how she is sexually harassed at conferences and discriminated against at work, things are seriously broken.

There is a big rift in the circles in which I run. Some are calling for the leaders in these movements to voice their opposition to the way women are being treated. Others are downplaying or even threatening more rape and violence.

As no one of consequence in the skeptic/free thought/arm-chair science movements, I want to make it very clear that if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.

My best friend is a woman. Together we are raising two daughters (and a son). For them to live in constant fear of sexual assault or to be perceived as lesser people because of their gender is something I will not tolerate. Further, intentionally hindering the contributions that half of our species are able to make to our society is incredibly destructive and not sane behavior. Do not do it. Do not tolerate it. Change it.

Dr. Pamela Gay creates incredible things like CosmoQuest that allow me, a very green amateur astronomer, to participate in NASA missions, contribute to real science projects, and take part in star parties with major, big name astronomers. I don’t want to hear my heros talk about being sexually harassed. Who are you to ridicule her personhood like this? Who are you to insult half of the world population like this? Grow some perspective.