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Black Hole of Misogyny: Reddit trolls just can’t stop attacking Dr. Katie Bouman for her crime of doing nothing wrong

Katie Bouman and her critics

By David Futrelle

Reddit’s worst misogynists just can’t stop attacking Katie Bouman, the 29-year-old MIT researcher who has inadvertently become their newest Woman to Hate on the Internet.

Her crime? Literally nothing beyond having her picture taken at a happy moment in her life.

She was one of the researchers who worked on developing the algorithms used to capture the first ever image of a black hole, and a photo of her reacting with delight to her team’s success circulated alongside the actual image of the black hole earlier this week. The photo of her inspired a brief burst of coverage about her role in the project, with some in the media crediting her as the person who’d written the code that enabled her team to generate the black hole image.

And that’s when the misogynists lost their shit, on Reddit and elsewhere, blaming her for stealing credit from the men on her team.

On Reddit, a thread in the UnpopularOpinions subreddit declaring that Katie Bouman should not be getting credit for the picture if [sic] the black hole turned out to be not-so-unpopular after all, garnering more than twelve thousand upvotes and generating nearly four thousand comments.

Countless other threads popped up in vast array of other subreddits, ranging from r/space to r/dankmemes, many of them contrasting her supposedly paltry work on the project with that of the man who allegedly “contributed 850,000 out of 900,000 lines of code” used to generate the image of the black hole.

Never mind that she never tried to take credit for anyone else’s work and in a Facebook post noted that “no one algorithm or person made this image, it required the amazing talent of a team of scientists from around the globe and years of hard work.”

Never mind that Andrew Chael, the guy the misogynists credited with doing the lion’s share of the work, quickly went on Twitter to denounce their attacks on Bouman and note that the algorithm they ultimately used “would have never worked without her contributions.” (He added that no, he had not in fact written nearly a million lines of code.)

Yet the misogynists just can’t stop talking shit about her, a woman who literally did nothing to them or the world other than doing her job well.

On Reddit’s worst hives of misogyny the reaction has been extreme, even by Reddit’s-worst-hives-of-misogyny standards.

On the Braincels subreddit, Reddit’s main forum for incels, I found more than thirty separate topics devoted to denouncing Bouman, with titles ranging from “Katie Bouman is a FRAUD: WOMAN TAKES CREDIT FOR BLACK HOLEALGORITHM” to “Fuck this women [sic].” She was described, variously, as a “bitch,” “the black hole c*nt” and simply as “a hole.”

After Chael stood up to defend her, Reddit’s incels were quick to denounce him as a “cuck” and a “numale” buttering her up in a desperate attempt to get laid. (In fact, as he pointed out in the very Twitter thread defending her, he’s gay.)

Over on the Men Going Their Own Way subreddit, the men who like to loudly insist that they simply don’t care about women at all any more also devoted something like thirty topics to the “black hole chick,” (I may not have found them all) including “Hi my name is Katie Bouman and I’m a fraud,” and “A woman wanting sole credit for the work of over 200.” And yes, they also denounced Chael as a “beta simp” and “probably a cuck virgin hoping that if he’s nice enough Katie will touch his pee pee” after he defended her on Twitter.

Normally for a post like this I would go through at least some of these threads in detail and extract some of the most revealing comments. But today, I just don’t have the patience. It’s Friday. Fuck it. I’ve browsed through a bunch of the threads and, well, it’s more or less the same old bullshit you’d expect from these reactionary assholes, only a lot more of it this time. Let them yell into the void this time. I’m fucking done right now.

And people wonder why women are reluctant to go into STEM fields.

EDITED TO ADD: There are so many topics on l’affaire Bouman in the Braincels and MGTOW subreddits alone that, well, here’s one browser window’s worth of the tabs I opened up for this piece, minus a bunch I’ve already closed. I have a bunch more tabs related to this post opened up in several other windows as well.

FWIW. I have nine separate windows open in Chrome right now and most of them have nearly this many tabs open in them. Even with most of the tabs suspended by a browser extension, I’m using 86% of my memory and went over 90% several times doing this post. I have a little bit of a tab problem.

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Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
3 years ago

That Dr Becky, whom I like, has now put up something about this (the importance to astrophysics more than the politics)

https://youtu.be/28PEgYQ1O0Q

numerobis
numerobis
3 years ago

Awesome video, thanks!

She speculated a bunch about why not Sgr A*, but everything I’ve seen is that it’s because Sgr A* rotates too fast. It’s critical that the earth have time to rotate in order to fill in the gaps. With more telescopes they don’t need the earth to rotate as much to get equally good data, so they get better temporal resolution, but they didn’t have many in 2017.

Better safe than sorry
Better safe than sorry
3 years ago

My goodness, so many remarks to my post. Ah well.
@MDavis: Bouer or Bouman, who cares, you know whom I was talking about.
@Laini. Why don’t you just leave it up to me to decide what to do? Bye!
@Numerosis. Interesting article indeed!

I remain of the opinion that it was more of a team effort than one single person who has done the brunt of the work. I am absolutely certain that if it was a male who has done most of the work, for sure it would not have gained the same attention. But since SHE has written the algorithm, gender was put into focus here. If you fail to recognize that, fine. I am sticking with my opinion and I am glad I am not alone in that. Thank you.

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

@Better safe than sorry

Because sugar, you apparently decided to come onto a feminist space and shit on the carpet. Go your own way if you don’t want anything to do with women. It’s not that hard.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

“we females were also contributing. Hello, do you see me? Hello, females are here, attention please!”.

This is definitely an accurate representation of how we feeemales talk.

Why do reactionaries never understand how parody (or satire or any other kind of humor) works? If you’re going to do an exaggerated version of how feminists talk, you need to understand how we talk, imitate it, and add hyperbole. What you did was just talk like a misogynistic man talking about women.

It just doesn’t work.

Do better at humor please.

Lainy
Lainy
3 years ago

@weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

Because their dumb. That’s the basic of it. They interact with women so little, that they only have a made up version of what a woman is. So then they try to make an exaggeration from their already fantasy version of a woman. Then they end up sounding like one of Lewis Binford’s papers, which by the way is gonna make me drink myself into an early grave.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
3 years ago

@ numerobis

it’s because Sgr A* rotates too fast.

Hmm, now you’ve reminded me of something. There was that gas cloud/(broken up star?) orbiting our black hole, that was predicted could be accreted any time soon. Do you know if anything came of that?

Also, speaking of spinning
fast and astronomy; it’s not uncommon for people to ask why Hubble isn’t used for earth observation. There’s a bunch of reasons; but primarily it’s because the earth rotates too quickly, relatively speaking. To the extent that they use the blur to calibrate the white balance.

But I found out, just this year, that the KH-11 keyhole spy satellites are just Hubble telescopes, but pointing down.

So the better question, I think, is why not the use those to look outwards. There’s plenty of opportunity for that when there’s no operational necessity for surveillance; and imagine the resolution possibilities if you synched a few of them up!

John Thompson
John Thompson
3 years ago

I believe you are making a fatal assumption that the vast majority of the trolls aren’t bots. Predominately Russian bots. They are effective at riling up a country’s emotions against each other, not just the US. When a country’s peoples’ opinions are ‘balkanized’, they are distracted and unable to coalesce into a functional power. Emotionalized people (who are coming from their lizard brain) are the easiest to manipulate. Our online world is becoming ever more bot polluted, but we are not realizing it. They are not being stopped by the media corps nor the government. The bigger picture in our face is the healthy demand to evolve our functioning heart wisdom over our emotional stress brain reactions. Beware our reactions. Beware balkanization manipulations. Do we rank and demonize, or do we get effective at sharing our core values and know how to move to harmonize with each other?

Hippodameia
Hippodameia
3 years ago

Cornychips pointed out on another thread that BSTS is a sock for a troll who was banned a few months ago. He got his ass kicked from Lake Bikal all the way to Vladivostok and apparently thinks things will go differently this time.

I’ve forgotten his name, but he had an inflatable wife and kept nattering on about how he’d only leave if MR FUTRELLE told him to – which David did.

Do we rank and demonize, or do we get effective at sharing our core values and know how to move to harmonize with each other?

Take your concern trolling elsewhere, asshat.

contrapangloss
contrapangloss
3 years ago

Hippodameia, that sounds like Desperate Ambrose!

I remember him! All verbose and kinda snooty until he got called out and then BAM: “You Harpies!”

And his weird insistence on only talking to/engaging with commenters he assumed were male. Other than the “You rude witches don’t own this blog, Mr. Futrelle does!”

That bannhammer moment was kind of cathartic. 🙂

I’m not sure that BSTS is an Ambrose sock, to be honest. But he might have been, maybe.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

Some trolls are indeed professional trolls from Russia or a bot. Some aren’t. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push back against what they say. They’re effective because they’re saying what a lot of people are really thinking. I can’t know right away whether a specific troll is a bot or a misogynist for hire or whatever, but what I do know is that “ignore the trolls” has been spectacularly ineffective in combating them. Until social media platforms make a real effort to ban trolls (and for that matter, actual Nazis), the only thing we can do is show why they’re wrong.

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