"As a man who was ambitious at the time and didn't know how to intervene, it was a weird place to be because these are my friends. We spent time in the field so you can't build friendships anywhere else and I was unable to, or paralyzed for fear that my dissertation would be shut down. I relied on the site and access would be shut down, my career would have been shut down, if I was going to stand up to this guy."In fact, fear of retribution, and in some cases, stories of retribution for speaking up, were common among witnesses and victims. Characterization of interpersonal relationships. Many respondents observed that there were gender disparities in the assignment of tasks, like cooking, cleaning and shopping, but also that there were disparities in terms of access to resources. In some cases only men were allowed the more enjoyable or lucrative assignments, or only men had access to certain specimens. Another observation that was common was that having women in power helped reduce inappropriate or sexist comments, unfair conditions, and harassment. This wasn't a universal, because women were perpetrators too, but when men were the perpetrators, the presence of women in leadership positions changed their behavior. Sometimes field site directors want to be supportive, but privilege the data being collected over the safety of their students. One female respondent described an assault and attempted rape by a fellow field site worker that she fought off and reported to her field site director.
"So I talked to the director that night and he was asking me what I should do... because he has known this guy for ten years... He was like, 'in different cultures that's not abnormal.' But I was like this is a violation.... "He did talk to the guy he just said that he needed to stay away from me and... I don't know how much it worked.... Because at night we'd have a fire... and he'd still find his way to come and sit next to me and sit there and try to pet my arm and I'd have to tell him to stop, but I think I put the director in a weird position... especially since this was sort of our liaison to this community... if you piss him off and he stopped cooperating, then we could have real problems with what we were doing."Even as this respondent identifies her assault and attempted rape as a "violation," she places blame on herself for putting her director in the position of having to decide what to do and risk the research project. Overall climate. This quote also identifies a broad issue that cuts across many field sites, related to how one adapts to or handles cultural differences. Male and female respondents noticed how men often benefitted from being at a field site in a culture more patriarchal than the one where they had grown up, and that some men gladly adopted those cultural norms while in the field. Others described the constant tension of dealing with these cultural differences in what they perceived was their professional space. Several respondents also noted explicit, sometimes constant, comments about different capabilities of women and men in the field. Finally, a number of female respondents articulated a real sadness for the way they felt they were being, or in some cases had already been, pushed out of biological anthropology. Perhaps the most poignant response came from the interview of a current female graduate student:
"It's not like someone specifically says, 'You're not welcome here anymore.' It's just a constant, subtle attitude that makes you feel like you don't want to be there anymore. And that made me really mad, too, that the idea that someone could take something that I thought would be great, and sort of take it away from me and say, 'Yeah, this isn't for you. You're not welcome here.'"The question is: do we want to impoverish our discipline and push out bright, motivated young students, by continuing to allow abuse and harassment? Conclusions: "It's all about who's watching" We heard many reports of women not being allowed to do certain kinds of field work, being driven or warned away from particular field sites, and being denied access to research materials that were freely given to men (and men who were given access were the ones telling us these things). Ultimately, not being able to go to certain field sites, having to change field sites, or not being able to access research materials means women are denied the opportunity to ask certain research questions in our field. This has the potential to limit the CVs of women and given them permanently lesser research trajectories. This can lead to not getting jobs, or getting lower-tier jobs. It also means certain research questions may get primarily asked by one gender, and reducing the diversity of people doing research has been shown to reduce the diversity and quality of the work. The culture at these problematic field sites isn't going to change just because we will it. Those of us in power need to implement policies that will protect individuals most at risk, and help create field site conditions that minimize risk altogether. We need human subjects approval, animal research approval, data management plans, lab safety plans, postdoc mentoring plans in order to conduct research. It's time to require some sort of code of conduct for researchers at field sites, with clear mechanisms to make it easy for people to report harassment. Too many of us, the authors of this study included, have told ourselves and others that we just need to "suck it up," just endure one more day, to keep our heads down and power through. Survival in field-based academic science can't just be about who can put up with or witness abuse the longest - that is not an appropriate metric to measure who is the best at their science. From here on out, let's commit to opening up conversations about these issues, rather than avoiding or talking around them. Let's continue to be the progressive field that interrogates gender disparities, and lead the way for the rest of the field-based sciences.
"I had no power to say 'that's not okay:'" Reports of harassment and abuse in the field from Kate ClancyNext steps Fill out the survey, it doesn't matter if you experiences were good or bad, we want them all! Share far and wide: http://bit.ly/fieldexp13 Follow #safe13 on Twitter! A few quick answers for those with questions... Q: How can you tell the prevalence of harassment and assault from these data? A: We can't. This survey wasn't intended to assess prevalence, and we don't believe there is a feasible study design that would make this possible. However we are renewing our recruitment efforts to try and get a more diverse, even larger sample over the next month for our more thorough analysis for the paper. Q: Isn't there selection bias in a study of this kind? A: Probably yes. We are guessing that it is more likely that people with strong or especially notable experiences would take a survey like this. This is why we cannot say that our statistics match some kind of overall prevalence in the field of harassment or assault. Instead, this project allows us to get at least some sense of the scope of the problem. And to our mind, one single case of harassment or assault is too many, because as a feminist science we think anthropology should be intolerant of that kind of behavior. It impoverishes the field because it reduces the diversity of the sample of people who could ask exciting questions and do groundbreaking research. Q: Didn't you hear about any good field experiences? A: Absolutely! We heard many accounts of respectful, engaging, fun field experiences that made people happy and made them decide to be anthropologists. For the preliminary results and only a 15 minute talk, we focused on the bad experiences because these are the ones we urgently need to change. But in our paper we hope to more thoroughly analyze good and bad experiences to determine what factors seem to lead more to one type or the other at a given field site. Q: What are your future directions with this research? A: In addition to upping our sample and rerunning existing analyses, we have question types in our survey we were unable to analyze for our preliminary results. We still have a number of field site demographics that need to be analyzed: group size and composition, leadership gender, as well as participant-reported traits for good and bad field site directors. We also plan even more rigorous thematic analyses with non-anthropologist auditors for the existing and second-round interviews.