Science communicator and Field Museum Chief Curiosity Correspondent Emily Graslie is no stranger to tackling tough subjects on camera for her web series "The Brain Scoop." Viewers can watch her to do everything from geocaching for “most of a bear” outside of Missoula to skinning an Ecuadorian anteater on a lab table, and Graslie has become one of the most influential voices in the YouTube Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) community.
A Gross-O-Meter generally appears on screen prior to Graslie's dissections, to warn viewers of what is to come, and although it didn’t appear in her most recent episode, we can safely say that it would have been off the charts.
In last Wednesday’s “Where My Ladies At,” Graslie spoke out against the abusive comments that she receives on a daily basis as a female educator on YouTube, and explained why they make it more difficult for her and other women like her to do their jobs. When asked about her motivation behind making the video, she told the Huffington Post:
YouTube EDU really showed me that this is a viable educational platform, that it can supplement in-classroom learning. But in trying to do that I’m also trying to foster the same kind of environment that you would hope to experience in an educational setting or classroom, and that kind of environment doesn’t tolerate sexism... You wouldn’t expect the curator of invertebrates to be giving a presentation and then for one of the questions at the end of her talk to be, “That was really good, Imma let you finish, but I probably would have paid attention to your fifteen minute speech about the ecosystem of the Antarctic waters if you’d been wearing a low cut shirt." You wouldn’t say that to someone in a face-to-face setting.
As Graslie points out in her video, there are only four STEM-oriented YouTube channels hosted by women with more than 160,000 subscribers, a number that pales in comparison to the 14 STEM channels hosted by men with more than 400,000 subscribers. Overall, only 20 percent of the site’s most subscribed channels are fronted by women.
In "Where My Ladies At," Graslie explained that women are more likely to give up after having been inundated with comments similar to those featured in the video. They can discourage talented creators, and work to the detriment of the medium as a whole.
Like Graslie, Rosianna Halse Rojas, creator of the YouTube-based video project "The Ladies Survey," which is aimed at addressing gender inequalities on the site, embraced the YouTube platform for its community. However, she too has dealt with inappropriate comments on her videos. “When there are negative comments towards women, a lot of them take the form of 'I hope you get attacked,' and all that sort of thing," Halse Rojas told the Huffington Post. "But it’s always body-specific, sexuality-specific in a way that I don’t think you see as much for men.”
These comments, Halse Rojas and Graslie both agree, need to be taken seriously, and Graslie believes that the video she made and the discussion that it has spurred are steps in the right direction.
“It’s not a one person battle to fight. It’s something we all have to tackle together and that we have to approach in a logical and realistic kind of way," Graslie told HuffPost.
Graslie also said that people are already reaching out to her in the wake of the video's release, from the parents of young daughters who idolize Graslie to CEOs and CFOs of major companies.
"That just goes to show me they’ve been through so much and they’ve had to fight for this, and it’s really encouraging," Graslie said.