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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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Hippielady
Hippielady
3 years ago

Fuck them. That is all.

Bakunin
Bakunin
3 years ago

I’m so glad the couple dudes I still have on my facebook for some reason haven’t started in on this.

Victorious Parasol
Victorious Parasol
3 years ago

Twonkbrains.

Lucrece
Lucrece
3 years ago

Dr Bouman is my new hero. These guys aren’t worthy of even being in the same universe as her. We need to go and flood whatever social media channels we can with messages of support and admiration for her work – make the positives outweigh the negatives!

Rabid Rabbit
Rabid Rabbit
3 years ago

Remember when that male scientist got in trouble for wearing a stupid shirt, and these people lost their shit at SJWs attacking him for his shirt instead of basking in the glory of his scientific achievements?

I’m utterly shocked that they’re not just sitting back and basking in the glory of hers.

amy
amy
3 years ago

sigh

amt
amt
3 years ago

They are so utterly terrified that maybe one day they’ll be treated the way they treat others. I’ve noticed people who say abusive things generally accuse others of what they’ve done or are doing. It’s illuminating on the characters of the men who are so shit scared of sinking in the background while a woman recieves recognition.

weirwoodtreehugger: chief manatee

It’s so depressingly predictable. The minute Bouman’s image started going viral, I knew it would unleash a wave of misogyny. Maybe they’ll get distracted by the misandric horrors of the new Star Wars trailer.

Aaron
Aaron
3 years ago

It’s only a matter of time before Braincels finds itself banned. Whichever mods were keeping the community in line seem to have retired or given up, and it’s quickly (and predictably) turning into a clone of the old, banned Incels subreddit.

Viscaria
Viscaria
3 years ago

I really hate that she has to deal with this shit when she should be celebrating this incredible achievement the way I’m sure the rest of her team is doing. I hope the memories won’t be tainted for her.

Steven I Dutch
Steven I Dutch
3 years ago

So I see she speaks five languages, as opposed to the haters who marginally speak English. What drives these people is they have nothing to show for their lives and they resent anyone who accomplishes anything.

Eloo
Eloo
3 years ago

Leaving aside the utterly predictable misogyny showing up because a woman did something really cool, I am bothered by the assumption that lines of code written is a metric for work contributed. Developing an algorithm and writing code are certainly intimately related activities, but they aren’t the same thing. Nobody sits down in front of a computer and just starts writing code to solve a brand new math problem. You need a plan of where you’re going first.

When I worked in aircraft, we had one group who actually coded the flight control system, but a bunch of groups who gave them the algorithms for their systems. Because it’s more efficient that way. The experts on any given system write out how they want the system to work, one group of coding experts makes them all fit together, and overall you get more skill set redundancy with fewer people, avoiding bottlenecks in a project because the one person on your team who can code gets sick or something.

All these dudes are inventing incoherent metrics (and then lying about them!) in order to diminish Dr. Bouman’s work.

amy
amy
3 years ago

I accidently signed as amt… no, it’s me. I’m just tired and not into double checking things apparently. Hahaha distracted by the star wars trailer hahaha.

Phaos
3 years ago

So the whole thing with ‘lines of code’ turned out to be a bunch of backend stuff that isn’t code at all submitted by script to the repo (which is the majority of the repo to begin with).

The big thing is that her colleague pointed out something that, if they confronted it, would shake their belief that women have never contributed anything in science. She’s getting this level of credit because she’s the PI, and while everything is in reality a team effort people will generally describe it as the PI’s work first and foremost. They don’t want to think about all the women who were instrumental in the science they believe was done entirely by men because it has a man’s name attached to it so they have to attack, attack, attack.

Chris Oakley
Chris Oakley
3 years ago

@Hippielady: Who would want to?

@Aaron: I tend to agree. If I had $1 million and there was a line on it in Vegas, I’d bet 10-1 odds Braincels goes out of business within weeks if not days.

contrapangloss
3 years ago

Also, as far as lines of code go, when I was using R and Matlab a ton for math stuff…

I could write a 40 line script file to do a thing OR I could do the same task in 6 lines with well placed loops.

Total line count is meaningless, because there’s no knowing how many lines are the super efficient lines and how many are just the coder thinking things through the long way.

Dr. Bouman has been nothing but humble and gracious, and her team did awesome work.

Anonymous
Anonymous
3 years ago

She might have photographed a black hole trillions of miles away, but did she call of duty on the hardest level? See? Women are inferior.

Scanisaurus
Scanisaurus
3 years ago

While I do think there is a problem with how western society tends to reduce scientific advancement to the work of a single genius instead of it being multiple people building on the works of their predecessors, the way these pundits immediatly treat Bouman as a malicious fraud happily stealing the work from the men working with her really says it all on their views on women.

A huge problem is that in almost all media, whenever someone illustrates an article on science they use stock images of male scientists, and almost all inventors highlihghted in popular discourse are men, and a lot of the efforts to get women into stem, like having girl books specifically dedicated to women in science or Barbie dolls in labcoats, while good intentioned, still unintentionally reinforces the idea that women doesn’t actually like science and trying to get them into it is just a silly “girl power” project.

What I think the world actually needs is way more reports featuring women as a natural and unquestion part of sicence teams and faculties, as opposed to people going “Look, she did this despite being a woman!” any time a woman neats an acievement.

Kevin
Kevin
3 years ago

@ David

Visions of those guys howling into a specific ‘void’ come to mind – the black hole itself.

Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
Kat, ambassador of the feminist government in exile
3 years ago

Manospherians have fucked up their own lives. To fix this, they’ve decided to fuck up women’s lives.

Alan Robertshaw
3 years ago

Sort of related; but if you want to know anything about black holes, or astrophysics in general, then I heartily recommend “Dr Becky” on YouTube.

She’s so good at explaining stuff even I understand it.

(For a certain value of ‘understand’)

User
User
3 years ago

Investigate Russian possible role in this shit.
Kremlin made structures that intentionally try to harm any social progress. Including any success of women in science.
Most of reddit scum are just “useful idiots”, but there probably is a Russian bearded troll behind it.

Moggie
Moggie
3 years ago

@Phaos:

She’s getting this level of credit because she’s the PI, and while everything is in reality a team effort people will generally describe it as the PI’s work first and foremost.

And these idiots will have read countless reports in the past where the mainstream media has put the PI front and centre. But they never complain that the PI is hogging the credit when he’s a man.

bluecat
bluecat
3 years ago

Oh lordie… and while that’s going on, rape threat tweeter and You Tube troll Sargon of Akkad is apparently standing as MEP for UKIP.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/sargon-of-akkad-ukip-mep-european-election-candidate-carl-benjamin-a8867986.html

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
3 years ago

Oddly enough, whenever a man achieves something creative and notable, nobody dogpiles on them insisting #whataboutalltheothermenontheteam. Elon Musk doesn’t have an angry mob scrutinizing how many lines of code he personally contributed to putting a car in space. Wonder why that could be?

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