This happened.

UPDATE, 10/14/13: The man is Bora Zivkovic, Blogs Editor for Scientific American. There’s no reason for me anymore not to name him publicly, which I’d long wanted to do anyway. Reading about this incident is what reminded me (independent of whether or not he had anything to do with that post’s original deletion, which I don’t know).

~

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle this issue in a way that’ll both serve other women and, at the same time, honor my own needs. I decided to post without naming names for two reasons: (1) to report an incident of sexual harassment publicly, on principle, to demonstrate what it looks like, how it causes harm, and how even a woman as “aware” as I am didn’t recognize it and tried to excuse it at first; and (2) to ask whether anyone has experienced something similar with a man who fits the below description, and if so, to get in touch with me, in case you’d like me to report it to his superiors along with my own account.

A month ago I met with a prominent science editor and blogger. He’d friended me on Facebook, and given his high profile, I was delighted, thinking he was interested in my writing. I sent him a link to my latest piece in the Independent Weekly and invited him to coffee. We met at a cafe in Chapel Hill, where I gave him another clip, this one about science and playwriting.

From the beginning, it was a difficult interaction on my end. Thinking this was a business meeting, I tried to tell him about my background and interests, but he seemed mainly interested in telling me about himself, and my input was mostly reduced to reactive responses like “wow” and “that’s so cool” and “that’s so neat.” I managed to mention that I used to write a column for The MIT Tech called “I Did It For Science,” where I did weird activities like getting my tarot read, visiting a strip club on a Tuesday afternoon, and doing MRIs for the neuroscience department. He began describing his own experience of going to a strip club. Then he described himself as “a very sexual person.” Then he told me about his wife’s sexual and mental health history. Then he began telling me about his dissatisfaction with his current sex life with his wife. Then he reminded me that he was “a very sexual person.” Then he told me, in an awful lot of detail, about how he almost had an affair with a younger woman he’d been seeing at conferences—how they’d met, how it escalated, how “close they’d come.”

None of these topics were invited by me. I tried to listen politely and nod when he paused, but otherwise not engage or encourage him. He seemed not to notice how uncomfortable I was. I was trying to mitigate the situation as it was unfolding—which I later read is a common immediate response to trauma, trying to minimize it or pretend it didn’t happen. In my head, I told myself that I could still write for him, as long as I didn’t meet with him in person ever again. At the end of the meeting, I hugged him, which may seem bizarre; but earlier he’d identified himself as a “hugging person” and so do I, generally, and I was still in shock and trying to smooth over the incident.

Later that day, I received a casual message from him on Facebook, saying that it’d been “great” to meet me and that he had “no idea how the convo veered into sex, but heck, why not.” This made me furious. The conversation had gone that way because he’d very deliberately led it there, and kept it there, despite my non-response. Still on autopilot, I sent him some of my old clips, still thinking I should pretend nothing was wrong and salvage the working relationship. But over the course of the next week, after talking to friends, I realized how upset the incident had made me. So instead of pitching him, I wrote him the following letter:

Hi [ ], 

I hope you’re well! I see that you’re on a plane to New York, and I hope you have a good time there.

Since meeting, I’ve felt a lot of reluctance about pitching to you, and I wanted to let you know why. I felt very uncomfortable during our meeting last week. The talk veered towards sex because you led it there—first describing yourself as a “very sexual person,” and then going on to describe your wife’s sexual history (which I can’t imagine she’d want me to know), the state of your present sex life, and the near-affair you had with a younger woman. I thought all of these topics were incredibly inappropriate to discuss with someone you’d just met, especially one who was interested in working together in a professional capacity and had initiated the meeting as such. Why didn’t I say anything in the moment? Because I wanted to write for [redacted], and you held power insofar as whether or not that would happen (and still do). I was particularly upset that, despite other indications that you’re aware of the difficulties women face in terms of harassment, that you didn’t seem to be aware that your behavior towards me was part of that same problem. So I’m letting you know. 

Thank you for reading.
Monica Byrne

I waited four days and received no reply. So I sent another message:

Hi [ ],

I know you’ve been at a conference this week, but I’d appreciate it if you could at least indicate that you intend to respond to this.

Best,
Monica

Seven days after that, I received a note of apology. I didn’t ask his permission to post it, so I’ll just paraphrase: he said he’d been very busy recently, but that he was very sorry, and that he’d been in the midst of a “personal crisis” at the time, which was now “happily resolved.”

I did appreciate the note, to some degree. Especially the clear admission that he did something wrong.

But, surprise, this is far from the first time I’ve been on the receiving end of sexual harassment from an older man in a position of power, and in my experience, offenders are often serial offenders. Apparently abject apologies, and claims that “you’re the only one,” “these are special circumstances” or “this is the only time this has happened,” have often proven hollow after further investigation. Recently there’ve been blowups in the spec lit community, the atheist community, and now the theatre community over behavior like this. In many cases, it seems clear that the harasser in question is a known serial harasser, long tolerated by his community because of his status or reputation.

In this case, I honestly don’t know whether this was an isolated incident or not. I’ve decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, which is why I’m not naming him publicly at this time; but as I said before, I would like to hear from anyone who’s experienced something similar to what I’ve described above with someone who fits the above description: a high-profile science blogger and editor. I did report the incident to his superiors, turning over the above text and all relevant communication, and they were wonderfully responsive and supportive. They’re taking steps to ensure his behavior doesn’t continue.

Career-wise, I’m all right, as science journalism isn’t my principal interest by far. But I thought it was important to speak up for those for whom it is. And for all women who might have been put in this position by this guy—or ever are, by any guy. This is what sexual harassment looks like. If it happens to you, and you’re in a position to speak up, speak up. The more we speak up, the stronger we get.

As for the incident itself, I’m not interested in discussing the topic beyond this post. This is my account. It’s enough. As for the court of public opinion, if responses to this post run along the lines of questioning my character, integrity, motives, history, body, looks, or making blacklist threats or death threats or rape threats, well, have fun. I won’t be reading or responding, because I have a truly wonderful life to get back to. Truth hath a quiet breast.

Thanks for reading.


143 Comments on “This happened.”

  1. shaunlybee says:

    Something uncomfortably similar to this just happened to me with someone I respected greatly. Someone I’d hoped I could learn from. He’s a fairly high profile director, I’m an actress. He suggested we meet for breakfast to discuss theatre and some projects I could work on. The subject kept going to sex no matter how many times I tried to keep it on theatre. Finally, he started getting physical and my first thought sadly was not to put him in his place, but to keep his hands and slimy conversation off of me in a way that didn’t piss him off. I finally excused myself and left, feeling fairly crummy for a few days. He invited me to assist him again and I declined, never saying why. What is this odd dynamic between the sexes and why are men so often condition to initiate this while women seem so often conditioned to endure it?

    • I am so sorry that happened. It’s especially disappointing when the person is someone you respect and admire. And it doesn’t seem like this is the first time he’s done this. Is there anyone you can report this incident to?–privately, and/or in a way that takes care of yourself? Get in touch if you’d like to discuss it more. I want these people OUT of my community.

      • Mish says:

        I wanted to tell you that what you have done is incredibly important. We need to help others find a way to speak out about these violences – because that’s exactly what they are – and find support in the process.

        If ever a person makes you uncomfortable in this way, you absolutely have the right to tell him (or her) that the behaviour is thoroughly inappropriate. If you don’t get the job (or whatever), you have saved yourself a lot of grief and you can always still report the matter to the relevant superiors.

        Thanks for taking this on, Monica.

    • peskyfacts says:

      That’s called Patriarchy.

  2. Christina says:

    It took me a long time to realize this kind of event occurring regularly in my life – not necessarily with someone of a higher position that I admired – but with boys/men of various positions in my life. There was one particular incident with a professor that was extremely uncomfortable and very much like what you experienced. I wish I had your notion to stand up for myself, but instead, I ignored it. I avoided him and put myself on alert. It made for an extremely difficult semester – especially because I worked with his wife. I had no idea how to handle the situation and tried to pretend it didn’t happen. I came extremely close to changing careers within months of graduating.

    I am glad you took the appropriate steps to bring his behavior to light. It isn’t easy to do that. I had done that at one point during my teenage years – not actually on purpose – had it not been for a friend, I probably would have ignored it. But the aftermath was difficult as well. I wasn’t treated as much like a victim as you would think. The person in charge of counseling me made a mess of the messages he/she was sending me and I ended up feeling very bad about myself for a long time.

    If any of these experiences would help you with your writing, let me know. There are so many facets to these situations – the before, the during, the after. The emotions of dealing with it appropriately and those of not actually dealing with it at all.

    I am sorry you ran into a jackass in cool-person clothing.

    • Thank you so much, Christina. And I’m so sorry those things happened.

      I actually feel incredibly supported by everyone who’s important to me (counselor included!), for which I feel very grateful. (And anyone who doesn’t support me in this is de facto not important to me. Funny how that works.) That’s why I feel like I’m in a good position to speak up and demonstrate what it looks like. This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME, and it has profound effects on the victims’ lives that are almost always invisible to the abuser, and often to the victim, too, until years later.

      * hug *

  3. I feel sad, too, for the wife who now knows her husband is discussing her in public.

  4. Eileen says:

    Bleh :( :( This makes me unhappy. I’m sorry this happened to you :(

    I’ve experienced this kind of stuff on a smaller scale. As a newbie lawyer in private practice, your superiors really hammer getting yourself out there, networking, making business contacts, etc. so you can eventually start building your own book of business. I’ve tried to do this whenever I go to events where other lawyers will be. Unfortunately, I have 0 legitimate male contacts. This is because ALL of the male lawyers who have taken my card and shown interest in staying in contact have veered toward sex in some way or other, even though my interactions with them had been purely business with the intent to keep things along a friendly/professional track. Long story short, there was one that ended up sending me this email that made me want to vomit (describing some kind of fictional scenario about him following me around Target and how he’s SO not into my body type but there was something about me that caught his eye and blah blah blah) (how many levels of wtf is that?)…… never spoke to him again, despite numerous apology emails that he sent me for months afterward…… There was another that I was trying to set up work lunches with because he is general counsel for a branch of a very large company and could potential send work to my law firm…… but when I tried to set up lunch meetings he’d be like, “Sure, if you wear those hottt boots.” I remember making some comment to try to shut that line of thinking down, and when we met next (yes, ‘cos for some reason I still met with him (hey business is business :( )) I deliberately wore the least “hottt” shoes I owned. And it went nowhere. Now he’s GC for TWO departments of this very large company, and texts me from time to time but it’s clear he doesn’t see me as a professional. He’s not interested in normal lunches or meeting in other business settings like professional people do, but he’s “open to other ideas” and wants me to be “creative.”

    The gross email was years ago, and the GC hasn’t done anything that would really do me any good to report, but it just sucks. The primary offense isn’t that he texted me to wear my hottt boots, it’s that for whatever reason (and not because I flirted or did anything to suggest I wanted an unprofessional relationship with him), he doesn’t see me as a lawyer, but rather a young piece of ass. What can I do about that? He might just as easily not be professionally interested in some young male lawyer, but he probably wouldn’t tell that guy to wear his cute loafers and strip him of his business persona. I feel like I’ll never know if I could have crossed that hurdle into legitimate-lawyer-land if he didn’t see me as Hottt Boots first.

    • Uggghhhh! Eileen, I’m so sorry about that. And I wouldn’t call it “a smaller scale”—I’d call that flat-out legitimate sexual harassment, in both cases. I don’t understand what they think they’re going to get out of it. What would it cost them to simply NOT say those things?

      I wish we could report every incident. There are so many more I could report, off the top of my head, and I’m beginning to feel like every time I don’t report, it’s enabling the behavior to continue, both in the individual and in society at large. That’s a lot of pressure to put on myself, and on women in general, as it’s not our damn fault in the first place.

  5. [...] summarize it for you, but instead I’ll just take a big chunk of words from her post, which you really should read in full here: A month ago I met with a prominent science editor and blogger. He’d friended me on Facebook, and [...]

    • Anita says:

      Yup, I’ve been there too. Soon after I graduated from college, I stage managed for a high school theater director (who had taught me when I was in high school). The director would often ask me to stay and chat after rehearsals, giving me career advice, and contacts for future jobs. He was encouraging and responsive, and I took that as a testament to my work. Oh, silly young me. Within two weeks, he asked me to drive with him around town to buy set pieces from furniture warehouses (why he wanted a skinny, spindly armed girl along to help lift enormous furniture pieces, I wasn’t sure, but I went). This errand that I shouldn’t even have had to be on became an 8-hour date, which I finally ended by turning down his offer to buy me dinner and asking him to please take me home. While he was driving me to my parents’ house, he told me all about his failed marriage, his lacking sex life, and that he was “very attracted to me,” and that he has been ever since he taught me back in high school. I was terrified and disgusted, and murmured something noncommittal as I stared out the window, trying to squeeze myself as far away from him as possible and wondering how badly injured I’d get if I jumped out of a truck going 70mph. He did bring me home without touching me, thank god, and I lied and told him my parents were in the house, then bolted. I felt like shit. Until it happens to you, you don’t understand why people make such a big deal out of sexual harassment, but when you’re on the receiving end, it’s very clear why. You feel powerless and dirty. You feel like you handled it badly, however you handled it. You feel like you sent some signals that caused him to say those things to you, that you “asked for it.” You feel like an idiot for thinking that anyone could think you’re good at your job, of course they just want to fuck you, and any success you have will be because you’re eye candy to the guy hiring you. My mom’s reaction didn’t help…when I told her, she said “Yeah, when you got the job I thought that might have been what he was after.” Like it couldn’t possibly be that I was smart, or worked hard, or knew my stuff.

      I thought about quitting the job, but I liked the kids a lot, and needed the money, so I went back to rehearsal the next day. After rehearsal I went into his office and told him “What you said in the car was inappropriate, and it made me incredibly uncomfortable. If I’m going to continue to work here, I need you to agree to never speak to me in a sexual way ever again, and I will not be staying after rehearsals or meeting with you outside rehearsals for any reason. If you don’t adhere to those requests, I’ll call the administration of this school and the parents of every student in this production and tell them what you said to me.” He apologized.

      At the time I thought it was a pretty good response to the situation. Now, I think I should have reported it to the administration regardless of his apology and promise to leave me alone. This behavior is unacceptable, and it’s important to send that message loud and clear, all the way to the top of the institutions that hire these people.

      • Oh wow, Anita. I’m so sorry.

        And yeah, have compassion for your past self—it WAS a good response to the situation, even if you’d do something different now. And I sympathize, too, with needing the money. As a freelancer, now, I’m in the position of needing money and that being a part of the equation. Interesting waters we’re navigating.

        Thank you for sharing this story.

  6. BT says:

    I remember a long time ago when I first got into the workforce during high school (fast food restaurant). I worked the evening shift under a male manager with a few other men and women on the crew. One night, as we were cleaning up after close, one of the other women and I got into a conversation about sex. She was talking about things with the voice of authority, and I made the comment that I no experience in which to discuss the subject. Understand, I had no problem with the conversation, even when a few of the guys (including the manager) joined in with some comments. We were all (almost) adults and were just being frank with each other. I went home that night not thinking anything about it.

    A few nights (or weeks) later, my manager’s car broke down and his girlfriend couldn’t come pick him up, so he asked me for a right back to his apartment. I said sure and drove him home. As I pulled into the parking lot, he proceed to inform me that he and his girlfriend had an open relationship and if I wanted to be “educated” he’d be more than willing to “assist”. He didn’t touch me, but he made it very clear he wanted to have sex with me. At the time, I was under eighteen and he was in his early twenties. I don’t remember how I replied, but I’m pretty sure it was some non-committal nonsense to get him out of my car.

    After that, I felt very uncomfortable being within five feet of him anytime we worked together. A few months later, I quit. I told myself that it was because I kept not getting the promotion I wanted. But an older and wiser me looks back on that situation and recognizes it for what it was. Not just harassment, but totally inappropriate behavior on behalf of a supervisor towards an subordinate. I wish I knew then what I knew now and had thought to report him … I was so embarrassed by the incident, I never even told my parents.

    This is still a bit of a sore subject for me and the first time I’ve ever addressed it in a public forum, so forgive me for retaining a little bit of autonomy by changing my name on this comment.

    • No forgiveness necessary. Thank you so much for sharing this story. And I’m really sorry that it happened.

      Yeah, after reading all these stories, I’m retroactively examining past work relationships that I “let go,” and exactly why I did so. Sometimes it’s because of a sexual comment that I even recognized as outrageous at the time, but then sublimated. But, like all things we sublimate…they come out anyhow.

  7. AH says:

    I have had a few experiences with sexual harassment that I should have done something about early in my career coming out of Wellesley. Both were at institutions of higher education. I was kind of confused as to what I should do. So, I did nothing and I brushed it off and tried to not think about it. I wish there was something I could have spoke with about this or even this kind of blog to help explain what was happening so I could better understand how to defend myself and react.

    • Yeah, I hear you. I wonder whether Wellesley (and other colleges, but it seems like women’s colleges should be on top of this) should provide training on how to react to these kinds of situations. If only training had been provided to the men, long ago, never to put young women in them in the first place…

  8. […] I’ve done a lot of reading and listening and thinking about women in the workplace in the last year. One thing I discovered was that women are a lot less likely to report sexual harassment than they think they are. That is, every 83 of 100 women who read my blog and thought “I’d totally report that guy!” probably wouldn’t have in reality – for a lot of good reasons. (But my hat’s off to those who have!) […]

  9. This is all just completely horrendous, if unsurprising. We’re all subject to our biology and our fortunes wax and wane in relationships as in everything else, but it’s really, really simple: don’t bring it to work. There’s no excuse for it. It’s always an abuse of some kind of power and shows a complete lack of empathy, which is a big worry. Personally I’d be appalled to have such a distorted world view. Workplace relationships do happen, but the one-sided scenarios above simply illustrate the pathetic fantasy world such people maintain in their heads to rationalise their dysfunction and their failure to meet their own expectations of life as a wildly successful business mogul and sex god (for which blame can be spread wide, but no matter how you got your cold, you sneeze into a tissue, not all over everyone else). At least the web, as ever a very mixed bag, allows such stories to be shared, perhaps stiffening the resolve of victims to expose their abusers when possible. Welcome to the 21st Century — we’re all people now.

  10. Reblogged this on Allison Grant Rambles and commented:
    Read the whole post. It’s important that we listen to and support victims of harassment. If they chose to voice their harassment, we should chose to listen and act accordingly, with support, compassion and a determination to change things for the better.

  11. Isis the Scientist says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    I mean, Jeezus fuck…

  12. Likewise says:

    This is almost exactly what happened to me, with Bora — same power dynamic, same sob story, same coffee-leading-to-proposition arc — so you can add one more to the tally. I am not ready to become involved by name, because I am not personally convinced yet that he needs to be publicly ruined. My thought when the whole thing happened was that he is a lonely man looking for an affair, but also, a nice person who is not actually my boss. So I was both creeped out and willing to forgive and forget. We later maintained a friendly relationship. I still see him around occasionally when he’s in town. My takeaway was, eh, I’m an adult. Adult women have to deal with shit like this. Adult men have to deal with other shit.

    After being sent this post by a friend who knew my story, I have quite a different perspective on the whole thing. But I’m still not quite sure what to think. The number of women he has propositioned in this way is the most telling factor, showing to what extent he was abusing his position of authority. If it was just a few women, then it really could be the case that each of the times he just did genuinely think there was chemistry and is desperate and didn’t think about the power dynamics of the situation. And he didn’t hold my rejection of him against me professionally in any way, continuing to be friendly and supportive. But if there have been a lot of women, then he should be fired. So add one to the count. What does that bring it to?

  13. Another Lady Sci Writer says:

    I know this guy. He’s a predator. I would have recognized him without your revealing the name. My friend is one of his victims (she may even be the one you mention that he “almost had an affair with”) but sadly she seems not to realize it, and like you once thought, she thinks he has a lot to offer her professionally. Look at this guy’s pictures on Facebook. You would think his only friends were females under the age of 30. Look at the proportion of young women he features in his “incubator” compared to men. You were smart and brave to reveal his name. I applaud and congratulate you for that. I imagine that must have been scary. Now, perhaps some of his victims who don’t realize that this is sexual harassment will think again. Thank you.

    • Another Lady Sci Writer says:

      Oh, just saw BZ’s “apology.” The “It is not behavior that I have engaged in before or since” is obviously completely untrue. I was present when my friend met him in the fall of 2010. That particular harassment has been going strong ever since. So, there’s your “before AND since.”

  14. Sunny Street says:

    Add another one .

  15. Woman science writer says:

    I’ve read Zivkovic’s apology (http://blog.coturnix.org/2013/10/15/this-happenned), but an apology just won’t cut it here. He acknowledges setting up a meeting with a writer as an opportunity to proposition her. And all indications are that he has tried this multiple times.

    Put plainly, this creates a hostile work environment for any up-and-coming female writer who wants to pitch to the SciAm blogs. This isn’t just a matter of “Adult women have to deal with shit like this”. It’s harassment.

    SciAm needs to act quickly on this before they lose what little credibility they have left among the scicomm community.

    And another thing: I’m a writer and I’m posting anonymously because Zivkovic could well keep his job and his position of power in the scicomm community. If I’m on the record against him, what kind of backlash could I face? I don’t want to find out.

    Do the right thing, SciAm.

    • Another Femme Writer says:

      Hear, hear!

      How Zivkovic even came into that position of power in the scicomm community is beyond me. He seemed to arrive on the scene with some mysterious authority that came from where exactly, the Twitterverse?

      Sexual harassment can not be tolerated by a professional organization like SciAm. This incident should be treated *no differently* than if the Editor-in-Chief were harassing male interns in the NYC office.

    • Am I the only one to wonder why Bora’s apology was posted on his own website, and not his blog at SciAm?

  16. Sad/Mad Postdoc says:

    I’m very sorry for what happened to you (and apparently to others). Following the recent crap in the science writing community has really made me sad, mad and disillusioned. I know everyone makes mistakes, but it’s so disheartening when you add more people to the list of those who repeatedly treat others with such disrespect. Again, I’m very sorry. Thank you for sharing this experience, even if it’s difficult to do so in a public forum.

  17. […] Update 15 October Perhaps I don’t get the news in chronological order, but this apology from Bora Zivkovic, editor at Scientific American didn’t make sense in terms of how DN Lee was treated, but it is put into context by this post. […]

  18. not quite a fourth says:

    Huh. This has me looking back differently on a conversation I had with Bora that veered a bit farther into his personal life than I was expecting. In this particular instance I think it was OK – there wasn’t a professional power differential (ok, his blog had more traffic than mine, but this was several years ago before he was in a position to take pitches), it was clearly a social occasion, and I didn’t get the sense that he was deliberately leading the conversation. I shared a few things about my life, too, and it’s hardly the only personal chat I’ve had that took a mildly awkward turn for the TMI. The setting offered plenty of graceful exits from the conversation, so I wandered off for the proverbial bean dip and that was the end of things.

    But it does indicate that “I am dissatisfied with my sex life” might be a narrative he’s had on speed dial for some time. And talking about your sex life in the same habitual way that you always end up telling that one story about how you widgeted a heffalump… is a super bad habit to get into.

  19. […] last night, I learned of playwright and writer Monica Byrne’s post on an encounter  with the editor of Scientific American’s blog network, Bora Zivkovic, that […]

  20. […] last night, I learned of playwright and writer Monica Byrne’s post on an encounter  with the editor of Scientific American’s blog network, Bora Zivkovic, that […]

  21. Ughhh says:

    My initial “let’s not ruin a guy until we know more” impulse is slowly starting to fade. Monica, I probably wouldn’t have advised you to post Bora’s name. It would appear that you were right to do so. As a man, I believe there can be NO ROOM for this kind of behavior.

  22. Pieter Kuiper says:

    When I first saw this, I felt like Andrew Maynard in his email to you. After the additional comments and a look at those 3000+ Facebook friends, I understand that you exposed a pattern. Sad thing is that it probably won’t change much. Too many people of both sexes tolerate it.

  23. PalMD says:

    As a quick point, Bora didn’t just pop out of the twitterverse. This is important because he is not a marginal figure, but a leader for a number of reasons. If he were some peripheral easy-to-dismiss Ofek, the meaning of the actions would be a bit different.

    Bora has been active in the science blogging community essentially from the beginning and has been a mentor to many, many bloggers. He has proved himself an able organizer and communicator. This makes these reports more disturbing.

  24. […] this, from last year: This happened, by Monica […]

  25. […] proximate cause for my writing this post is that writer and playwright Monica Byrne described her own experience of being harassed and named an influential member of the online […]

  26. Phenomena like that makes me feel weird around most heterossexual males, I can’t even remotely self-identify with them. The whole concept of male sexuality sustained by our culture is just messed up. It’s like females have to just “get along” and try to accept their part as being mere “recipients” of male sexuality, like male sexuality is some sort of key that always unlocks the “sex door” for the male ‘conquistador’. That’s why some men think street harrasment is “normal” and now this. They don’t think that this sort of behavior is a variation of being treated as a sexual object because in their heads they’re being polite or romantic or friendly. Being sexually atracted to someone doesn’t justify this sort of behavior. It reeks of privilege and sexism.

  27. Tiny Tim says:

    I don’t offer this is any kind of defense, but it is pretty typical of “Nice Guys” who end up acting like assholes in their attempt to be “Nice Guys.” Instead of taking a direct approach (which someone can take or leave) they assume the pretzel pose in hopes that their target will respond to their aggressive passive-aggressiveness. He’s probably not evil, and doesn’t want to think of himself as evil, but is conflicted about his desires.

    Again, not a defense.

    • Larry says:

      I think the “pretzel pose” is a good and accurate description, however, the Nice Guy pretzel poser is not in the least conflicted about what he wants. The unconfident sneaky coward just tries to hide it.

      Here are two reasons for pretzel posing:
      A) He’s scared you’ll reject and report him and hopes his pretzel pose gives him deniability.
      B) He’s scared you’ll reject and report him unless he insinuates himself into your life and/or mind with a hardship story or with faux gender egalitarianism, long enough for the familiarity to give him cover for the more direct come-ons, or until you’re worn down and give in just to make him shut up about it already.

      Another pose is the As-Sincere-As-Possible ‘feminist’ male, who like his 1960s patriarchal hippie ‘brother-in-revolution’ predecessor, professes a good game but is just another twist of the same pretzel, but again insidious and lame. “Chill, (wo)man, like I’m on your side!”

      I know of a man who did a form of ‘B)’ and then raped two women I knew. He worked as a small-gauge train driver on a city park children’s train ride (Austin, Texas’ Zilker Park Zephyr in the early 1980s) and conned young unattached women with children. He also recited Pablo Neruda poetry from memory. The first sex was in both cases consensual and extremely physical. The second times were violent rape. I’ve been wanting to out him for years but don’t remember his name and lost touch with my friends. He moved out of town relatively soon after the attacks.

    • Sargasso Sink says:

      Hi Tim — it’s pretty clear to me that most women would find the “direct approach” no better, and would probably find it worse. The one benefit of the “direct approach” would be that the victim would be more directly insulted and less likely to let it slide as “Not Quite a Fourth” may have done, for example, so the “indirect” harasser may get away with the behavior for a longer period of time.

      In either the “direct” or “indirect” approach, the victim is free to “take or leave” the harassment; the objection is that they are being objectified and their professional identity is being discounted or ignored (not to mention that their time is being wasted).

      But being a guy, that’s just my impression. I don’t agree with Pieter’s viewpoint above that this won’t change anything — I think that all of the discussion about these intersecting topics is educational; I’m sure I am not the only man who is being further sensitized to these issues, so I think it is making a difference.

      **Not like anyone needed male validation, of course.

      But to Tim’s point, I agree that most people don’t want to think of themselves as evil — or as creepy. So it’s always good to let men know what is creepy. However, in the instant case, there is a pretty strong indication that at least the OP let the harasser know he was being creepy, but despite his apparent contrition, it doesn’t appear that he changed his behavior. It does appear that the harasser in this case is a very unhappy person.

      Disclaimer: I do not want to have coffee with any person for any reason.

  28. Michael says:

    Dear Ms. Byrne,
    I just wanted to say that I am so sorry for what happened to you, and that, on top of this indignity, you had to endure Dr. Maynard’s rather unlettered attempt to guilt you for daring to seek accountability for a man who was using his social position to try to coerce women into having sex with him. I believe your experience, and your willingness to share it with the public, has brought to the scientific community an awareness that our profession has a horrible track record of protecting women from this kind of nonsense, and that is unacceptable.
    I am a graduate student in biology, and I am fortunate enough to be allowed to teach a few courses as a way to pay for my studies. Learning of this story has convinced me that a culture change is desperately needed in the scientific community, and the cultural community at large. That being the case, I am going to have a brief conversation with all students in my science classes in the future about this real problem- men need to be taught that we are accountable for our actions, and that women’s dignity and humanity will be respected, or there will be consequences. Women need to be encouraged to step forward and give voice to this behavior, and, more importantly, institutions need to be developed to protect women who make these accusations from reprisals from the accused party.

  29. […] I awoke this am with intention of also reblogging Dr.Lees post even if I was late to the party. I wanted to support my fellow scientist but I was distracted by this happened: […]

  30. I’ve met Bora on only one occasion, at a conference in Dublin a year or so ago. The “I hugged Bora” meme was still in full flow, and he was soliciting hugs from women left, right and centre. Also showing us pictures on his phone of previous hugs. This had followed on from events like Science Online, and looking back it’s easy to find tweets like this one, about Science Online 2011, in which Bora – a key organiser – sets up his stall with the aim to hug 300 people in a day. https://twitter.com/davidkroll/status/25630881171378176

    But it was fine, because that was Bora. Nobody seemed visibly put out by it. I found it a little creepy when I met him, but I dismissed it as just his harmlessly eccentric persona – one that was accepted and loved by the community. In hindsight, I feel like an idiot. I wonder how many others are looking back today and feeling the same way.

  31. Friend of the Father says:

    That priest couldn’t possibly be a pedophile! He was so kind to the children in the choir and he really helped advance their singing careers. Someone so friendly, solicitous, and thoughtful could never have selfish ulterior motives or misuse his position. Parishioners, make your judgment based on how charming he was to you.
    And you children, leave the poor Father alone. If he paid you unwanted attention, it was only because you were so needy. Always remember that you never could have succeeded in the choir without his support and guidance.

  32. FCS says:

    “And another thing: I’m a writer and I’m posting anonymously because Zivkovic could well keep his job and his position of power in the scicomm community. If I’m on the record against him, what kind of backlash could I face? I don’t want to find out. ”

    Why are we granting this guy so much power? Regardless of his position he’s still just a person – no different from the bagger at the grocery store, the bank teller, or Marie Curie.

    For all of you, remember: your science is awesome, and you can write about it elsewhere. Bora does not control anyone’s career. And if he is in such a strong position of power that he could curtail someone’s career for speaking out against him for sexually harassing people, then something is seriously, seriously broken in our community.

  33. […] This kind of behavior, which women (including me) experience all the time, should be added to the list of […]

  34. Ms Byrne,
    I wouldn’t know how the hell I would have reacted in your position. The whole experience must feel like a bad dream and very disappointing. Why wasn’t Bora more embarrassed at the time and when would any of that been appropriate, ever!? I’m sure you’ve posed these questions many times already.
    It’s too late now for him to undo what he did and said, and I think he should be let go and resign from SciAm as he was acting as a representative of that company. That would be the decent thing to do.
    AS a woman in science I am very lucky to have been surrounded by nice men and women in the workplace and at conferences and haven’t ever been inappropriately confronted. I haven’t ever felt like my sex has been an issue but that doesn’t mean to say I shouldn’t take notice of experiences such as yours. So I take delight when I see women careering ahead in science and doing well but there is still an imbalance, and when I hear of such decorum from senior members in science I am shocked and upset.

    The treatment of everyone in the professional science workplace should be equal no matter what your gender, and the older generations should be leading by example. Women shouldn’t have to act like men to get ahead in their career and men shouldn’t think they need be more feminine to give us women a break. Just be a decent human and treat everyone with respect. WE all just want to get on with our science, or passion, we all just want to be scientists, what does gender have to do with it when we work together?

    Keep fighting the fight, you’re not on your own.

  35. So hate that you had to suffer the indignity first of going through this and, further, of having your word questioned. In my view, the latter’s what really SUCKS. So here’s me, on record – a real young woman who shares your experiences (boy oh boy do I.) Standing Os to you for speaking out.

    Frances
    New York, NY
    http://imdb.me/francesuku

    PS. You’re also Writer-in-Residence at my friend Dana’s theatre company. This alone makes you deserving of acclaim and (non-creepy) hugs.

  36. […] he did something that hurt someone. Possibly other someones as well. And my support has to go to the person who was hurt first. […]

  37. […] then yesterday morning, it came to light that SA’s blog editor Bora Zivkovic has sexually harassed a woman named Monica Byrne (and, […]

  38. becca says:

    Thank you for writing about this. It’s not easy to wrap my brain around, but I think SciAm and the science blogging community at large need to consider ways to spread out some of the editorial power. Bora’s brought a great deal of great science writing to my attention. But if no one ever felt they needed to go through him in particular to get attention for their work, it would probably be to the good.
    Of course, there’s also the hope for reforming his behavior directly, for which I still hold a deal of hope. But maybe no one person should ever be seen as so key to getting a spotlight on your work.

  39. […] conversation with her, all but propositioning her on the spot. Byrne’s account is here, Zivkovic’s apology […]

  40. Blysse Burnerchic says:

    I reported an Exec VP at a company I worked for for sexual harassment 20 years back. He was doing the same thing, the creepy, inappropriate sexual talk, the reaching and groping. It turned out to really poison the waters there at that company for me. What I learned from the experience was to handle these situations myself and not report upwards, not if I valued my role in that organization. Maybe things have changed since then, but I don’t think so. It certainly helped professionally to develop a bit of a sharp, b**l-buster persona for myself when interacting with men in the work place. Then again, sometimes that brought another kind of unprofessional attention. Meh.

    The kicker to this story? About 6 months after I left the company for a new job somewhere else, the creepy Exec VP called me and asked me on a date. It was really lovely to be able to laugh at him and say “No, Mr. ****, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Ever.” Sometimes, those little victories are all you get.

  41. Pamela says:

    Been there. I met a person through an online dating service. Spent 6 months just corresponding, then decided to visit him over spring break. Everything was fine though I had a BAD cold during my visit. Then I decided to move to where he lived and further develop the relationship. The yelling started almost immediately. After 5 days I was worried that I would soon get hit, the verbal abuse had become so over the top. So I came back home. Did I see the early signs of this? Yes. But I minimized it. In several ways. Once home did I get angry? You bet. But I still haven’t gotten angry in front of him, instead keeping a certain amount of decorum if he calls me. But, if I had my way, I would pin his ears back and throw darts laced with poison at him. By the way, I have three degrees, am a professional described as being well read and even tempered, and am considered to be highly intelligent. Guess what my family and friends say? That I somehow deserved it for being foolish or minimizing his early behavior. The worst of your feedback will come from those you love. It will be the strangers like me you hear from who would readily give you the pins, poisons and darts to throw at him.

  42. […] this incident continue to multiply.  Motivated the role of Bora Zivkovic in the Sci Am incident, Monica Byrne relates a sexual harassment incident involving Bora […]

  43. […] his own, non-SciAm blog, Bora corroborates the incident from the TOTALLY BELIEVABLE IN EVERY WAY Monica (conveniently, he didn't link to her post). AFAIK he has not addressed the other allegations that […]

  44. […] away from that incident, it also came to light that This Happened. Long story short again: a writer and playwright, Monica Byrne tells about a meeting she had with a […]

  45. michaelchwe says:

    It’s so important that people talk about sexual harassment openly. Only by sharing info can patterns in a person’s behavior be detected. There’s an interesting paper by Ian Ayres and Cait Unkovic proposing “information escrows”. A person who reports sexual harassment reports to an information escrow with the understanding that the report will remain sealed until (say) two other reports are received about the same perpetrator. Once three reports are received, then all three reports are opened and given to authorities. This way, no single person has to worry about starting an investigation based on what seems like weak evidence. Also, for people (rightly) worried about repercussions from reporting, this way no individual has the sole responsibility for starting an investigation.

    The paper is at
    http://www.michiganlawreview.org/assets/pdfs/111/2/Ayres___Unkovic.pdf

    • dsks says:

      Bam! This. Awesome link. I think something along those lines is definitely the way forward. You could go further and allow complaints to be rated on a scale, and tweak the number of complaints required to trigger an investigation based on the seriousness of the complaints. This would overcome the fear many women have of reporting borderline trivial instances for fear that they might have simply misinterpreted the man’s actions. They can rest assured that no action will be taken unless, say, ten additional low level instances involving that same man are reported, in which case the man’s activities start to look consistent and systematic, and less easy to dismiss as mere accidents.

      Scientific societies should seriously consider setting up some prototype reporting mechanism along these lines and start the process of troubleshooting and refinement. I’m all for it.

  46. […] issue that the DNLee incident brought to light – a year-old allegation of sexual harassment levelled at Zivkovic by writer and playwright Monica Byrne. Dismayed by the DNLee affair, Byrne this week outed Zivkovic […]

  47. […] @monicabyrne13 disclosed her harasser as @BoraZ, @2020Science wrote When to name and shame on Social Media, and when to […]

  48. ex-biologist says:

    Monica, I’m so sorry that this happened to you. But I’m also very glad that you chose to name the person responsible. Based on comments here and on a steadily growing number of sites, Bora appears to be a serial offender, and there are unfortunately too many others like him. I’m a lapsed researcher in the biological sciences, partly because I had neither the stomach nor the skills to handle situations like these. Did you have any idea that when you updated this post it would move mountains?

    “Bora Zivkovic has voluntarily resigned from the ScienceOnline Board of Directors.”

    http://scienceonline.com/2013/10/16/scienceonline-board-statement-10162013/

  49. […] the last few days, several women have come forward with stories of being harassed and made uncomfortable in their interactions with […]

  50. Professor says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, but I applaud you for speaking up. I am a very successful scientist, and these sorts of experiences have plagued me my entire life. Unfortunately academia, in my experience, is not set up to protect the victims.

    One example was when I was defending my Ph.D. and taking my comprehensive exams. Part of them were oral. I went into my professor’s office to turn in my written exam. He got up and closed the door, which I thought was odd, but just assumed that he wanted to talk about something important. I handed him my written exam and reminded him when and where the oral exam had been scheduled. He stepped away from his desk, unzipped his pants, pulled out his dick and told me that I could take my oral exam here and he could guarantee that I’d pass.

    OMG.

    I was scared out of my mind and couldn’t think how I could get out of this situation. There was the very blatant threat that if I didn’t do this, then I wouldn’t pass, and the last 10 years of college would be wasted (4 yrs BS, 2 yrs MS, 4 yrs PhD). Luckily I was a quick thinker, and I laughed him off as if the whole thing was a funny joke. I then left the office.

    Here’s the really sad part: I told 2 other professors (male). One told me that I couldn’t report it because the university had no language to support students in this situation and I would be ruined. It occurred behind closed doors. No one would work with me for fear that I would cry ‘rape’. (I am in a Very male-dominated field). In hindsight, his advice was spot on.

    The second professor that I confided in said that I was lying. He was my advisor, whom I previously admired and respected, and who’s job it was to protect me. so that was unbelievably hurtful. This was just a taste of what I would experience if I reported it. So I couldn’t report it, and I went on to experience more harassment from this person, but i passed my exam with flying colors despite enduring a record length exam. Due to some luck, I was able to land a tenure track job without his knowing I applied (he threatened me with that too).

    However, I felt and still feel, particularly bad for those students who, unlike me, didn’t have the strength to say no.

    This is but one example of what I have endured to be a scientist in academia. I am not alone. And don’t make the mistake thinking that this only occurs with the old men. Some of my worst experiences were from the youngest male professors. I do my best to make things different for the students I teach, but when I can’t help myself, I have very little power to help them. For example, as a tenured professor, I have reported instances to the administration. Not once was I taken seriously, and in fact speaking up just made me more of a target for further abuse and bullying.

    Our entire society needs a lot more education on this subject. I have watched very good people that I know and like, say and do stupid things because they are utterly unaware that they are actually behaving in a sexist manner – but that is another story, and this post is about sexual harassment.

  51. […] that was not all. Monica Byrne recounted her story. This Happened by Monica Byrne. The apparently well respected (in some circles) Bora Zivkovic,  Blogs Editor […]

  52. […] two woman, Monica Byrne and Hannah Waters, revealed that they had been the victims of sexual harassment by Bora Zivkovic, […]

  53. […] Additionally, a victim may wish to wait for some time before naming an abuser, as was the case with Monica Bryne.  Despite how uncomfortable, frustrating and difficult it is to remain ‘quietly supportive’ of […]

  54. […] is speaking out now because earlier this week another writer, Monica Byrne, accused the same person, Bora Zivkovic, editor of Scientific American’s blog network, of harassment. […]

  55. […] the recent Tweets and blog posts about harassment by a not so well known biology-online editor or prominent blog editor, this event crossed my mind again. I’m going to actively participate in the prevention of […]

  56. Andy P. says:

    I am a physician and a scientist. I have seen this behaviour over and over during my education and my professional life. I suspect the latter has often been easier for me, a male, than many of my equally or more qualified female colleagues for reasons well outlined in the thread. This is not just about the personal harm done to those victimized by the inappropriate mixing of authority and sexual pursuit, but the loss of value to all when talented individuals are not empowered to reach their full potential as professional and scientific contributors because of the perverse behaviour of others who hold sway over their opportunities and future career and recognition. I work in an industry that is essentially run predominantly by women and increasingly so, over time. That fact is irrelevant except in the observation that those women, who I respect immmemsly, thrive and provide phenomenal value when their talent and creativity is released and not tied in some nefarious way to their sexual identity.

    It is a real shame that the many women on this thread have been forced to spend their effort and time in describing and correcting the behaviour of men who, by nature of their position of power, have attempted to advance their own sexual interests at the expense of a deserving iindividual’s professional career advancement. I would prefer these talented women could spend their time focusing on their own goals and their contribution to social value, and I would sincerely ask all my male colleagues to support all their colleagues male or female, honestly and objectively, and further not to embarrass themselves and their families by trying to make their issues someone else’s. failing that they should simply get out of the way so we can all benefit from the contributions of this enormous pool of talent.

  57. Berynn says:

    I am very sorry you (and a great many other women have) experienced this. Monica. It is well you have spoken out about it, and the consideration you gave to your decision to do so seems just to me. It is also good to see the support you have received in the comments here from men and women and that people have shared their experiences. I have not witnessed this kind of behaviour in my various workplaces, but I have no doubt it is as prevalent as it is noxious. Thank you – all – for raising my awareness.

  58. V. C. PhD says:

    I chose to leave an Ivy league school where I had a full scholarship (for my Ph.D.) due to harassment by my immediate supervisor. He showed me nude photos, and then some. The fact that I reported it to our mutual superior, who took his side, has only further damaged my academic career. Soon every Professor on my committee, all of whom had been extraordinarily supportive, were all about me finishing my M.Sc. and moving on, away. Further the Ivy League University at question defended the harasser. I felt suicidal and worthless. Although I had legal grounds for a lawsuit, I avoided this and went to Europe to complete my Ph.D. with a Professor who instead was a pure gentleman. The process made me lose 3 years of progress, but I suppose that I am all the stronger for it now. Despite any wrongs against me, I pray for forgiveness of all those who have done wrong and hope we all learned lessons.

  59. River Mud says:

    I am a 39 year old male working in applied ecology and environmental management. I enjoy mentoring young men and women with the hope that they will one day be able to boldly tackle problems (and impossible people) that our generation won’t get to in the next 30 years. I’ve lived through the anti-young scientist thing….but as a man….and I know – for a fact – that women get it worse. But until reading this and “related events” recently in social media, I had no idea – no concept – that this level of predatory behavior is happening in science. It is really disgusting and basically, really gross. Our female colleagues are not supposed to serve as our personal psychologists and certainly not as sexual conquests. C’mon guys. We can do better. And here’s one male biologist who will call you out on your behavior – in public.

  60. […] 2: Uppmärksamheten kring denna historia ledde till att en annan bloggare trädde fram och vittnade om sexuella trakasserier. Dessa hade utförts av ingen mindre än […]

  61. Grant says:

    I have two points to make.

    First: About 30 years ago I learned of an experience (from a female co-worker) which was not sexual harrassment, but was sexism. I went back to my office and called NOW — the National Organization for Women. They put me in touch with a lawyer. She informed me that the law prohibited the policy which my employer claimed was in effect. Not long after (at my next review) I was expecting kudos due to my successful and timely completion of a difficult project, but instead was put on “probation.” I took the opportunity to say “Take this job and shove it.”

    My point is that there is already an organization to help with this problem. Part of the reason NOW exists is to help women who have been the victim of sexism. They have resources, they have unity, and even the male members (like me) really “get it.” Clearly the problem of sexual harrassment in academia, and in fact in every field, is so pervasive that we need that unity and those resources. And we need to be able to share experiences with, and seek help from, those who get it.

    So to every woman who has posted here, to every one who has been a victim, I urge you to consider joining NOW. Even if you don’t want to join, know that they’re there to help. If you do join, not only will you have access to help with your own problem, you can help others too.

    Second: by and large sexual harrassment is a problem for women, but by and large it is a problem *of men*. It’s not enough to teach young women how to deal with it and how to get help. In addition to toughness, coping skills, and even self-defense training for women, we need sensitivity training for men. We have to teach young men the limits of ethical behavior, and how to avoid breaching those ethics. We have to teach them that when their turn comes, when a grad student confides in them about misconduct by another professor, the only honorable course of action is to ferret out the truth and champion the cause of gender equality. Otherwise, it’ll be *your* sister or *your* daughter picking up the pieces.

    As for those males (or females for that matter) who are still tempted to use positions of authority to court sexual favors, let’s make them afraid. Very afraid.

  62. […] to not have experienced any much overt sexism, or had harrassment or assault directed at me, unlike these ladies (and many more). What I have experienced in the last year, though, is the ignorance of […]

  63. […] no reason for me anymore not to name him publicly, which I’d long wanted to do anyway,” Monica Byrne wrote on her blog. “Reading about this incident [regarding Lee] is what reminded […]

  64. […] no reason for me anymore not to name him publicly, which I’d long wanted to do anyway,” Monica Byrne wrote on her blog. “Reading about this incident [regarding Lee] is what reminded […]

  65. […] no reason for me anymore not to name him publicly, which I’d long wanted to do anyway,” Monica Byrne wrote on her blog. “Reading about this incident [regarding Lee] is what reminded […]

  66. […] no reason for me anymore not to name him publicly, which I’d long wanted to do anyway,” Monica Byrne wrote on her blog. “Reading about this incident [regarding Lee] is what reminded […]

  67. […] writer named Monica Byrne named Bora Zivkovic in a story about sexual harassment in which she recounts how they met in what she believed to be a business meeting about her […]

  68. […] Monica Byrne and Hannah Waters knew, after incidents in 2012 and 2010 respectively. […]

  69. […] DNLee a postdoc, and prominent blogger, called a whore for saying no to a guest blog request, A writer approached a prominent scientific blogger about work and received a creepifying interaction for her troubles, a scientist from the ecology/evolution neck of the woods talks poignantly about […]

  70. […] Zivkovic has been a skeevy, predatory harasser of women. He was accused in online public and confessed. Subsequent revelations from other women who were similarly preyed upon follow a […]

  71. wildwomyn says:

    This type of sexual harassment happens in all places there are men. I once worked at a place where one of the managers said racist remarks in an open meeting with an HR person present, but also regaled me once with his father’s adventures with his (father’s) “Mr. Happy”. Unfortunately, I was a consultant and not an employee so I couldn’t go to HR, but given HR’s response to racist remarks in an open meeting, I wouldn’t expect much positive response to a sexual harassment complaint. Fortunately, I was a consultant and had my agency quickly find me another assignment, which happened within the week.

    We don’t say anything because we don’t want to ruin our own careers when men sexually harass us, because that is what happens. Rarely does a harasser suffer any consequences from their behavior.

    So we should do what we feel we should in the circumstances, including just getting out of the situation safely up to calling them on it.

    • Marcy says:

      I’m a consultant, too, and had no problem reporting sexual harassment to HR at a client site–a law firm. I presented it as, “I can handle this, but you’re leaving yourself wide open to a lawsuit if this behavior is allowed to continue. The next consultant might not be as willing to ignore this or let it slide.” The offending parties were reprimanded and put on notice and a firm-wide memo re-clarifying what constituted sexual harassment was sent out.

  72. […] to rub my shoulders. Dr. A told me he was a “touchy guy” (which now sounds so much like Bora’s explanation the he is ” a very sexual person”), and that he would miss having me around for a week. I informed him that I was not a touchy gal, […]

  73. […] back one year ago. Monica Byrne, a writer and playwrite, posted on her blog about an incident of sexual harassment she had experienced from an older male mentor that left her […]

  74. […] hesitant reaction to the negative attention from the situation convinced writer Monica Byrne to publicly name Bora Zivkovic, SciAm‘s blog editor and a cornerstone of the online science writing realm, as someone who […]

  75. […] SciAm’s blunders with the Ofek situation, Monica Byrnes, a writer and playwright, updated a year-old blog post about a sexual harassment experience; she altered it to name her assailant – none other than […]

  76. […] the time in 2012 she didn’t name him but, this year, on Oct. 14, 2013, after reading about DN Lee’s treatment at SciAm blogs, she reposted the piece naming Bora […]

  77. anon says:

    Thank you. “They” wonder why there aren’t more women in science, more women in politics, more women in engineering. But this happens all the time. I feel so much guilt that I didn’t speak up when it happened to me, when it happens to me. You described so perfectly that paralysis, the deny, laugh (ha, ha, ha) change the subject, this-isn’t-happening thing that happens. Uggg. I’m too afraid to speak up about it. Too afraid even to leave my name on this blog post. Please forgive me.

  78. Erinma says:

    I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be men around the world in laboratories and offices who have sexually harassed women at work. These predators need to be named & shamed so they know its unacceptable and they cannot get away with it. I reported a slimebag who had been cosying up to young female scientists at Pfizer, UK when I was on a placement under his supervision. On one occasion, visiting my lab in Manchester, which turned out on that day to be empty, he pathetically ran around the room trying to kiss me as I was doing a western blot. I managed to run out of the room and never went back to Pfizer after reporting his actions. I don’t know if this did anything to stop his ways. To Bora, Mark Treherne http://www.ithaka.co.uk/the-team/dr-mark-treherne-consultant.aspx and any others out there (and we know there are thousands) …’it’s not okay to abuse your position of power and we won’t stand for it’. Thank you to Monica, Hannah and everyone else – lets wash these stains out of our collective hair.

  79. […] the wake of that, writer Monica Byrne accused Bora Zivkovic, a leading figure in the science blogging community, of harassment. He […]

  80. […] if SciAm didn’t have enough to deal with (poor babies) ((#sarcasm)) another female blogger came forward at this time naming the man who had made her very uncomfortable by his veering of what was a […]

  81. […] Danielle Lee and her terrible treatment by an editor at biology online, and the second around playwright and author Monica Byrne and some downright shameful behaviour on the part of Bora Zivkovic, blogs editor at Scientific […]

  82. […] scientists and science writers were horrified by the initial victim-doubting that met blogger Monica Byrne’s claims (which were quickly substantiated by both Zivkovic and other women who reported even more egregious […]

  83. Krissie says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. I stumbled across this by accident, and it resonated with me.

    I recently went through a bout of the same thing. However it wasn’t a mentor type, it was a peer. I work in healthcare, and a fellow from another dept. has been making weird/inappropriate comments to me. At first he was just friendly and would chat with me about very neutral common interests (video games, comics.)
    The turning point was we/he had the awkward marital (his marriage, not mine) discussion about all the things that make him unhappy in his marriage (including his wife sleeping around with his apparent permission) at some point he even casually mentioned his penis size. All the while I am doing the non-verbal nodding thing, wonder how I ended up in this conversation anyway, and how I could extract myself from it. Then felt guilty cause “He’s kinda my friend/He just needs someone to talk to/ I shouldn’t be judgmental/maybe he doesn’t have anyone else to talk to.” or “Maybe I am mistaking what he is doing/He’s just naturally flirtatious….” All the pings of self-doubt that we (women) have when we fundamentally know a situation is FUBAR.The he starts saying things along the nature of “with your pigtails, all you need is a school girl outfit to complete my fantasy.” I part my hair in the middle and twist it all back in a sort of faux pigtail-ish fashion. (I have waist long hair) He has made these remarks on numerous occasions. He is constantly saying things, like “Hey good-looking” and trying to give me pet names that my husband would earn a look of scorn for uttering.
    To compound the awkwardness he often says this stuff in front of other male staff members, and occasionally male doctors, who I respect and work with frequently. I have talked to him on multiple occasions, about this stuff being inappropriate/unprofessional/awkward, and generally uncomfortable for me. At one point I even stated “This is inappropriate. You can’t say things like that to me,. It implies something is happening that isn’t.” He would just laugh it off. To list all the incidents would take up more time and energy than I want to devote at the moment.

    This has been going on for a couple years.

    I finally reported it a couple months ago. My breaking point was yet another pig tail comment,in front of my 64 year old male colleague, 2 male doctors, a few misc nurses, and some scribes (In teh ER no less).
    That convo was something like this.
    *me walking past the doctors station where he was, with a large piece of equipment, and my colleague.
    Him: That should be illegal.
    Me: What? *confused look*
    Him: The pigtails, shouldn’t be legal. *winks*
    Me: That is your fetish not mine, keep it to yourself. *walk away quickly.*
    After the last incident, I was having panic attacks driving to work. I haven’t had an anxiety attack since I was in my teens,(now 32) even then it was more teen angst then full blown panic. But it was hard to report since most of it was kinda vague. My boss is awesome fortunately, and his boss was even more awesome. Hopefully it’s resolved, but I still avoid being near him, if at all possible. Including taking alternate, and indirect routes around the hospital if he’s nearby.

  84. Do not doubt yourselves that you might be overreacting or that these men are somehow not predators. The fact that all of these harassments happened behind closed doors or in a car and while it was just the two of you shows he knows exactly what he is doing–it is calculated predatory behavior, not a misunderstanding, not anything innocuous.

  85. […] sexually harassed a number of women: of those who named Zivkovic and identified themselves, we know Monica Byrne, Hannah Waters, and Kathleen Raven. The circle of twitter I occupy has veritably exploded with the […]

  86. […] to the discussion of experiencing sexual harassment by Hannah Waters and Monica Byrne, Laura Helmuth makes a couple good […]

  87. […] he was horrible, horrible, to others. And it was chilling, and nauseating, to read. I met Bora like all of them […]

  88. Well done ladies. Speaking up is very important. There is no need to tolerate this nonsense! I stand by all the ladies who have seen in person the dark sides of men in science and faced these traumatic experiences courageously.

  89. […] for Dr Lee, another writer and playwright Monica Byrne, outraged by Zivkovic’s response, “outed” him as having sexually harassed her during a business meeting by making inappropriate comments, […]

  90. […] to contact her, but the incidents of inappropriate behaviour she described took place face-to-face. Byrne used the powers of digital media to chronicle and publicise her reaction to repeated sexualised encounters that had made her deeply […]

  91. […] Ms. Byrne’s satisfaction. But, when Dr. Lee wrote about her episode, Ms. Byrne decided it was time to name Zivkovic, and that gave other women the desire to come forward. When others came forward, Zivkovic resigned […]

  92. […] women began blogging about similar treatment. Monica Byrne weighed in with an important update to an earlier blog entry about protracted sexual harassment that she’d originally posted without naming names. In […]

  93. […] Monica Byrne write on her blog about being sexually harassed by the blogs editor of Scientific American, Bora Zivkovic.  Initially, she did not disclose his […]

  94. Siri Nadler says:

    I have a similar story that I tell in my blog when I was faculty at Towson University.
    Like you, I have no idea how to handle a situation like this. I did everything I thought was appropriate and still the outcome was no action.

    http://openingwindow2013.blogspot.com/

  95. Alan Ireland says:

    I was 18 and seeking a job at a company in the north-east of England.The manager had a prospectus, or something similar, that he was keen to show me – so keen that he brought the publication round to my side of his desk. He stood beside me, placed the publication on the desk in front of us, and started flicking through the pages. Naturally, I leaned over slightly to get a better view of what he was showing me. That was when I noticed that his left hand was inching closer and closer to a certain part of my body. I backed away as discreetly as I could. Again, the hand came closer. Again, I “casually” retreated. Crabwise, we moved across his office, while he continued, in a perfectly normal manner, to explain the operations of the company. I ended up behind a leather armchair, at which point he abandoned the “pursuit”. I think he realized that chasing me around the chair would have become so patently ridiculous he wouldn’t have been able to maintain his professional discourse. The whole incident was weird, as nothing was said that would have in any way suggested he was trying to seduce me. He eventually returned to his chair behind his desk, and I left his office. The interview was over.

  96. Roz Warren says:

    Thanks for posting this. The more women who post about this kind of thing, the better off we’ll all be. I applaud and admire you for doing it — it could not have been easy.

  97. […] position of power to flirt inappropriately with people trying to engage professionally with him. This is a blog by the whistle-blower, and there are a number of comments and other posts that offer […]

  98. Alaina Mabaso says:

    What a rotten situation. The fact that you persevered in trying to make a professional connection despite his appalling behavior speaks volumes about how we’re all conditioned to minimize this kind of behavior and let it slide. I wrote recently on my own blog about my experience of sexual harassment from a much older male editor. I’ll bet you can relate: http://alainamabaso.com/2013/08/01/i-was-sexually-harassed-and-im-responsible/

  99. Women are still the outsiders in science; when you write about your personal experience, you remind the larger community that what has been done so far is not enough. I believe this is part of the major issue that is going on on Wikipedia and on other web sites, also. Men own, and they don’t want to or intend to share other than with their sexual prey.

    Thank you for writing this.

  100. Reblogged this on en.wiki bad science and commented:
    I sincerely believe this is an insurmountable problem in any community run by 91%, mostly white, and highly privileged men, as en.Wikipedia is. The techno nerd white male editors clearly feel who is an outsider and keep them away from contributing by creating a hostile and violent workspace for women. Sexual harassment in the sciences keeps women out of the sciences as effectively as the hostile atmosphere towards non-insiders keeps newbies off of en.Wikipedia. And, the newbies being kept off are women, experts, people with lives and knowledge in their professions, the type of lives that keep them from becoming techno-geek insiders to the hostile male social network that en.Wikipedia is.

    • Larry says:

      Maybe a wikifem science, skeptic, et al, universe needs to be created, while chauvinism and misogyny experience their (hopefully) steady and gradual declines in academics, etc. Of course, it would need a legion of full-time editors to delete the trolls.

  101. Laura J says:

    Hi Monica,

    I stumbled upon this and recognized your name from Wellesley Wintersession in Morocco in 2002. I’m glad you spoke up about this man, and I hope he experiences the consequences of his actions. I am a software developer (180 degrees from what I studied at Wellesley, but that’s another story). While I am very lucky to work in a progressive company with great coworkers, I know from the blogosphere that many men in IT have shockingly sexist and hostile attitudes towards women in IT. The more women who speak up, the more men will understand that this behavior is unacceptable.

    Congratulations on the book deal, by the way, I’m looking forward to reading it :-)

  102. DrBeckie says:

    This has brought memories flooding back. In 2001 I attended my first international conference. My presentation was listed in the press pack as a conference highlight, I was contacted by a journalistic who wanted to write an article, obviously as a young PhD student I was delighted. It was horrendous, he kept putting his hands on my thigh and I kept removing it whilst resolutely continuing to talk science. He told me he had the power to make my career, I made my excuses and ran away. When I go back I told my supervisor and said I was going to contact the journal to inform them of the inappropriate behaviour of their employee. My very uncomfortable male supervisor said no the complaint should come from him, it was never sent.

    I am ashamed I didn’t ask what the hell he thought he was doing at the time, I am ashamed I didn’t push harder to have the complaints sent or send it myself, the memory of this 12 yrs later still makes me nauseas

  103. […] had called her “an urban whore” when she refused to blog for free.  Just shortly after that, Monica Byrne, Hannah Waters, and Kathleen Raven courageously stepped forward to document how the prolific […]

  104. […] the third week of October, three woman—first, Monica Byrne, followed by Hannah Waters and Kathleen Raven—came forward to reveal that Bora Zivkovic had […]

  105. […] encouraging them to take note and act.  And, it can dismantle the cloak of silence; it can shift victims’ silent suffering to the public shaming of perpetrators of discrimination and […]

  106. Industrial Copywriter says:

    I am SO glad that you wrote this post. I have been struggling with this myself a lot this year. I’m a freelancer in a male-dominated industry, and most of my business comes from attending expos and networking.

    I spent a lot of time this year laughing it off, ignoring or avoiding the attempts (knowing that this is not helping to solve the overall problem). I’d love to say that I immediately run when I detect flirting, but in truth, I’m in the process of getting my business off the ground, so it’s hard to dismiss prospects when I look at my bank account (I don’t flirt back). It’s especially hard when an “otherwise great” client – with interesting work, who pays on time – hits on me from across the country.

    Being a freelancer, there is no HR to speak to, and often these men are the owners of their companies so there’s no “going over their head.”

    I guess this is just venting on my end, but I’ve been pretty disgusted with some of the things said to me. There’ve been offers of dinners to “discuss work,” (just me and him), Cirque de Soleil tickets, motorcycle rides (eww), etc. I’ve gotten texts ranging from “I’m the lucky guy who controls the money,” to naked pictures to the passive-but-still gross “I’m trying to figure out a way I can use you.”

    At times I’ve wondered if these men just deserve to be played – ignore their attempts at flirting until I get the project I want and never, ever give them what they want. But reading your post and the comments helps give me motivation to shut them down every chance that I get, because if I have a daughter, I don’t want her dealing with this.

    I might even write to the expo coordinators that they should post anti-harassment reminders before the event.

    Thank you for posting!!!!!

  107. […] As for the two women involved in the sex scandals, both as whistle blowers, The Urban Scientist, DN Lee continues to write on her blog on the Scientific American (SA) website (her incident involved a posting she wrote about a sexist and racist incident with an editor from Biology Online [who subsequently lost their job] that was removed by the SA editors and, eventually, reinstated) while Monica Byrne continues to write on her personal blog although I don’t know if she has done any science writing since she blew the whistle on Bora. You may want to read Byrne’s account of events here […]

  108. […] As the above was all going on, playwright Monica Byrne expanded upon her earlier personal account of sexual harassment, one where a male editor repeatedly brought […]

  109. […] drawn into gawking at another twitter-mediated scandal as Bora Zivkovic (AKA @BoraZ) was publicly accused of (more than once), and then publicly admitted to, sexual harassment. For those that don’t know, […]

  110. […] same month that Bora told Kathleen Raven that he wanted to have sex with her, a few weeks before he told Monica Byrne that he was a ‘very sexual person’, and two years after he began his pursuit of Hannah […]

  111. […] editor at Biology Online, known only as “Ofek”. It also saw former Sci Am blog editor Bora Zivkovic named for sexual harassment towards Monica Byrne (and, evidently, others too). Now an editor at Nature, Henry Gee, is calling […]

  112. […] días después, la escritora Monica Byrne, actualizó un post que había publicado hace un año. El post relataba cómo en una cita profesional, un “conocido editor y bloguero”, le había […]

  113. […] días después, la escritora Monica Byrne, actualizó un post que había publicado hace un año. El post relataba cómo en una cita profesional, un “conocido editor y bloguero”, le había […]

  114. […] because they fundamentally disagree with your research question? And of course, in science writing and in science we have stories of outright harassment and sexual […]

  115. […] boss and leader of the Science Online community, turns out to be a serial sexual harasser. As the first harassment story was breaking, some of us who were Zivkovic’s friends contacted him privately asking for an […]

  116. […] blog, Urban Biologist. And, Monica Bryne, a writer and playwright, wrote on her blog about being sexually harassed by the editor of Scientific American, Bora Zivckovic.  Other women subsequently came forward about […]

  117. […] allegations of sexual harassment were made against him by a young science writer, Monica Byrne. She claimed during a meeting with Zivkovic that he made her uncomfortable by discussing the sexual history of […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers