Tabitha Powledge and Beryl Benderly, two long-time science writers, have found a post they wrote on PLOS Blogs taken down. The removal follows an online dispute with another blogger, Emily Willingham, about the post, which covered a session on sexual harassment, The XX Question, at the recent National Association of Science Writers (NASW) meeting in Florida.
Willingham had objected to a roundup of the session by Powledge and Benderly, pointing to, among other things, what she considered to be a white-washing of the problem and a rather hegemonic reflection of the issue which trivialized the plight of women in the field and glorified the role of a few righteous XYs.
Here’s what PLoS has to say about its decision:
PLOS BLOGS has determined that the “On Science Blogs” post that had occupied this page violated one of the key principles we hold for our blog network, specifically, the following language which is included in our independent blogger contract: PLOS is interested in hosting civilized commentary and debate on matters of scientific interest. Blogger will refrain from name calling and engaging in inflammatory rhetoric.
Because, after careful review, we’ve determined that this post crossed the line delineated in this tenet, we’re taking the post down. We’ve left the comments intact.
We’re sorry for any distress that the content of this post caused to the target, Emily Willingham, and hope that discussion and debate can continue on the original and vitally important topic of sexual harassment without resorting to this level of exchange.
Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
On her blog, Willingham writes that deleting the post
was not something I had requested, but I appreciate the choice and am glad to see that the comments have been left in place.
Powledge tells us:
We believe our post was proportionate to the abusive, unprovoked, and undeserved attack on us and our writing. PLOS said it violated their blogger contract. So be it.
The incident comes barely a month after Scientific American pulled a blog post from its site in which a researcher/blogger reported having been called a “whore” by an editor. That episode led to a cascade of events in which women came forward to report troubling behavior by Scientific American‘s blog editor, Bora Zivkovic, who confirmed it and resigned. It’s likely that the timing of the NASW conference shortly thereafter meant that the previously scheduled session received even more attention.