Global war on women: in science and in the US Forest Service

Aside from the NFL’s current mess, I was startled and not happy to see two articles in the Times last week. One, an opinion piece by a botanist,

I AM a scientist who studies plants. I like plants. I think about plants almost every hour of the day, and several hours of the night as well. I respect plants and I know there’s more to them than meets the eye, because I’ve been measuring their responses for 20 years. But it is rocks that were my first love and that continue to hold my heart captive. I love rocks with the unconditional love that you lavish upon a newborn baby.

I was a promising graduate student. I landed a position as a professor before I even started to write my dissertation. While I prepared to start my new job, I decided that I would begin by studying the brine that bleeds sideways within the rocks that underlie the inner Aegean region of Turkey. I dreamed of an ocean of hot water underneath Denizli Province, an ocean that occasionally sloshes out onto the surface to form ice-blue thermal springs. I had seen photographs, but I wanted to be there, to take samples and make measurements, to make it “my” field site. I was trying to find an intellectual home.

She continues to describe how she was sexually assaulted by a stranger when she was on a field trip. Then, she continues:

My story is not unique. In July, Kathryn B. H. Clancy and her co-authors Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford and Katie Hinde published a survey of 666 field-based scientists in the journal PLoS One and reported that 26 percent of the female scientists surveyed had been sexually assaulted during fieldwork.

I sat back hard in my chair. (She notes that most field work sexual assault came from male colleagues.)

Here’s the entire opinion piece: Science’s Sexual Assault Problem –

And then came an article about the sexual assault of women in the U.S. Forest Service: Women Allege Harassment and Abuse on Forest Service Firefighting Crews – It begins:


Alicia Dabney, in Sequoia National Forest in 2010, said she was fired after reporting harassment.  Credit Reneh Agha/The Porterville Recorder

WASHINGTON — Current and former female firefighters of the United States Forest Service have filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture alleging that they suffered job discrimination, harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of male co-workers and that top agency officials failed to stop it.

The women said the complaint, the first step in a potential class-action lawsuit, was filed late last month on behalf of hundreds of women who worked in the Forest Service’s Region 5, which encompasses more than 20 million acres in 18 national forests in California. The seven women who are the lead complainants said they faced retaliation when they reported the offenses to superiors.

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