Blogger’s Post About Being Called A “Whore” Is Deleted By Scientific American

“Frankly, I still don’t understand,” Dr. Danielle N. Lee told BuzzFeed.

1. Biologist Danielle N. Lee has been a blogger for the Scientific American website for more than two years. According to her bio, she “draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups.”

3. Lee’s posts for her blog, The Urban Scientist, are conversational and casual, and grounded in her life experiences.

5. So it wasn’t unusual when she wrote a post on an uncomfortable exchange she had when the editor of Biology-Online.org allegedly asked her to freelance for them for free.

Danielle Lee

7. When she politely declined, the editor allegedly replied: “Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?”

Danielle Lee

I told Biology-online no thanks (invite to guest blog - no compensation offered) in return they called me a Whore. nice.

— DNLee (@DNLee5)

DNLee

@DNLee5

I told Biology-online no thanks (invite to guest blog - no compensation offered) in return they called me a Whore. nice.

/ Via

10. The interaction inspired Lee to write a post for her Scientific American blog on the heated exchange.

It wasn’t just that he called me a whore – he juxtaposed it against my professional being: Are you urban scientist or an urban whore? Completely dismissing me as a scientist, a science communicator (whom he sought for my particular expertise), and someone who could offer something meaningful to his brand.What? Now, I’m so immoral and wrong to inquire about compensation? Plus, it was obvious me that I was supposed to be honored by the request.

11. She also took to YouTube to address the Biology Online editor and defend freelancers.

“For far too long the assumption has been that if you’re a woman, or a person of color, or from a lower socio-economic status, that folks think they can get you, your talent, your expertise, and your energy for free,” she said.

13. But adding insult to injury, the editors at Scientific American deemed the post inappropriate and took it down. (It has been reprinted here.)

15. Lee told BuzzFeed she originally thought that it was a tech issue that made the post disappear. That’s when she saw the tweet from Scientific American Editor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina. “My feelings were hurt. I was upset and confused,” DNLee said.

16. DiChristina issued a statement to BuzzFeed on why the article was pulled, claiming that the post went beyond science and “verged into the personal.”

“I’d like to elaborate on the original brief statement on Twitter that this blog fell outside Scientific American’s mission to communicate science. While we interpret that mission with a lot of latitude, Dr. Lee’s post went beyond and verged into the personal, and that’s why it was taken down. Dr. Lee’s post is out extensively in the blogosphere, which is appropriate. Dr. Lee is a valued member of the Scientific American blog network. In a related matter, Biology Online has an ad network relationship, and not an editorial one. Obviously, Scientific American does not want to be associated with activities that are detrimental to the productive communication of science. We are pursuing next steps.”

17. Many protested Scientific American’s decision, some tweeting with the hashtag #standingwithDNLee and #BoycottSciAm

.@sciam, you tried to make @DNLee5, and the wrongs she faced, invisible through censorship. Indefensible #standingwithDNLee

— Brian Switek (@Laelaps)

Brian Switek

@Laelaps

.@sciam, you tried to make @DNLee5, and the wrongs she faced, invisible through censorship. Indefensible #standingwithDNLee

/ Via

Let's be clear, not only will I not read @sciam, I won't use it as in class material and I will actively discourage my students from citing.

— Dr. Isis (@drisis)

Dr. Isis

@drisis

Let’s be clear, not only will I not read @sciam, I won’t use it as in class material and I will actively discourage my students from citing.

/ Via

Regardless of intent, @mdichristinaਊnd @sciam need to understand impact of their decision is sexism, racism, silencing of a black woman.

— Kate Clancy (@KateClancy)

Kate Clancy

@KateClancy

Regardless of intent, @mdichristinaਊnd @sciam need to understand impact of their decision is sexism, racism, silencing of a black woman.

/ Via

@mdichristina I've been a big fan of @DNLee5's work. Count me as another lost reader, @sciam. Hope someone else recruits her.

— Sally Strange (@SallyStrange)

Sally Strange

@SallyStrange

@mdichristina I’ve been a big fan of @DNLee5’s work. Count me as another lost reader, @sciam. Hope someone else recruits her.

/ Via

@mdichristina @sciam Part of what @DNLee5 has always done is blogging abt the job/life of scientist in sci com. This is part of that.

— Maggie Koerth-Baker (@maggiekb1)

Maggie Koerth-Baker

@maggiekb1

@mdichristina @sciam Part of what @DNLee5 has always done is blogging abt the job/life of scientist in sci com. This is part of that.

/ Via

Proper @mdichristina @sciam response "we have tremendous respect for our writers, we are horrified to learn an affiliate called one a whore"

— Jeff Terry (@nuclear94)

Jeff Terry

@nuclear94

Proper @mdichristina @sciam response “we have tremendous respect for our writers, we are horrified to learn an affiliate called one a whore”

/ Via

@mdichristina @sciam I had a great deal of respect and affection for Scientific American. You are making a mistake.

— Rebecca Weinberg (@sciliz)

Rebecca Weinberg

@sciliz

@mdichristina @sciam I had a great deal of respect and affection for Scientific American. You are making a mistake.

/ Via

25. And on her own Scientific American blog, writer Dr. Kate Clancy stood up for Lee:

I almost never write about discovering science, and in fact write frequently about oppression and privilege. But when a black woman writes about an oppressive experience, it is grounds for removal. Folks, this is Ally Work 101: it doesn’t matter your intent, what matters is the impact. Silencing a black woman who just got called an “urban whore” is sexist, racist, silencing behavior. It is wrong, and it is shameful.

27. Though she’s grateful for the support, Lee said she wishes the attention was geared toward one of her already existing missions in the science community, like increasing diversity.

“If that many people were going to come out in support of me, I’d rather it be in support of one of the missions that’s going to make me redundant. I am trying to make myself redundant, truth be told. It is a lonely place to constantly be the only one like you in science,” she said.

28. A representative for Biology Online declined a request for comment, saying that the editor was a new employee and that they are looking into the matter.

29. Updated Oct. 13, 2:15 p.m.: Scientific American posted a statement from editor Mariette DiChristina, saying that the post had to be taken down “for legal reasons” since they couldn’t verify the veracity of Lee’s post.

31. “We take very seriously the issues that are faced by women in science and women of color in science,” DiChristina wrote.

Although we regret that this was necessary, a publisher must be able to protect its interests and Scientific American bloggers are informed that we may remove their blog posts at any time when they agree to blog for us. In removing the post, we were in no way commenting upon the substance of the post, but reflecting that the underlying facts were not confirmed, she said in the statement.

DiChristina added that she regrets trying to tackle the issue with a tweet while “[j]uggling holiday-weekend commitments with family, lack of signal and a dying phone,” but added that they plan to “discuss how we can better investigate and publicize such problems in general and search for solutions with Dr. Lee and with the wider scientific community.”

“With the help of Dr. Lee as an author, Scientific American plans to provide a thoroughly reported feature article about the current issues facing women in science and the related research in the coming weeks,” she said.

32. Update Oct. 14, 10:15 a.m.: Alan Weisleder, a partner at Keebali.com, who owns Biology-Online, told BuzzFeed that Ofek has since been fired, and shared an email apology he sent to Dr. Lee:

Hi Danielle,

My name is Alan and I am a partner at Keebali - the company that owns Biology-Online. I’ve just now been made aware of your correspondence with Ofek and I’ve got to tell you that I was totally shocked!!! Ofek was recently hired to grow biology-online’s relationships with bloggers and scientists in the biology arena. We obviously made the wrong hire! The way he corresponded with you is completely unthinkable and unacceptable - I am speechless!! What was he thinking??

Please accept my apology on behalf of biology-online. Ofek has been terminated effective immediately. We are terribly sorry about this situation and hope the future will offer us an opportunity to establish a new and fruitful relationship.

Thanks and Regards,

Alan

33. Weisleder said that Ofek, who had worked at Biology-Online for about three months, “thought I was overreacting by firing him and he was surprised we weren’t willing to give him a chance to fix the situation.”

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