I first came to JMIH in 2014. The reason was my daughter had gotten a prebaccalaureate grant to attend the conference, and travel costs were minimal since it was in our region. She was in heaven. She got to meet people who she “knew” from books and journal articles, and got to hear about reaearch firsthand. She also discovered, as did I, that the social events were definitely adult focused, not a place for a herp-crazy kid. We spent the evenings with the younger “accompanying persons”, who were enjoying Chattanooga TN while a parent attended the conference.
And I am also very aware, as a mom with a daughter who loves snakes, that there is a definite “men’s club” in the Herp world. Unfortunately, that spans all areas. I was having to explain off color jokes from her first Repticon at age 5. I have also been in academia long enough to know that greater degrees just means that the off color jokes might have a little more intellectual ring to them. I did not expect JMIH to be immune, or to be a “kiddy pool”.
We have since attended the JMIH 4x, as well as the SSAR meeting in 2015. We have also attended quite a few regional and state conferences. I’m her silent partner there, and her mostly silent partner on social media accounts that I made so she could both do her outreach and communicate with the Herp world, while hopefully keeping her safe. A vast majority of the people, talks and 1-1 discussions have been wonderful. This is what makes JMIH part of our family travel, and why I, as a early childhood music teacher by profession and training, have a “professional” membership to SSAR.
And yes, we have heard Dick Vogt speak, both at JMIH18 and in prior years. As a mom, there have been moments in every single talk of his that something has been said that I hoped she didn’t “get”. Something that makes the audience kind of giggle nervously, and females in the audience glance around uncomfortably. Something that gets left out of live tweeting the talk. All talks tend to involve people in field gear. Which, yes, might include swimwear. But only in Vogt’s talks do you see women who look like they have touched up their makeup and hair, and then posed with a sea turtle in the style normally seen in car magazines. We have attended talks on courtship behavior with no innuendo, yet Vogt manages to fit it in when talking about communications between turtles before hatching. And while the various mentors and awesome folks who have supported and encouraged my daughter have introduced her to many meritorious Herpetologists, they have, across the board, skipped Vogt. I suspect I know the reason.
So. when the whole kerfuffle started, I handled it by keeping a close eye on twitter and largely keeping my daughter, now a high school/dual college student out of the social situations, because that was the primary topic of conversation. I was gratified to see the immediate response from many awesome people in leadership, and the HL’s quick response at their meeting.
And I watched my teen girl realize that the positive experience she has had at JMIH is largely due to the awesome people she knows protecting her from more than hearing an off color comment, but many of those same folks have not been so lucky, which in turn makes her question whether the herpetology world is for her. Part of her doubts is that she is getting older, and discovering there is a lot out there, but part of it is seeing women she respects talk about moving out of herpetology into other areas because they have found the Herp world uncomfortable. She has already filtered her xollege hunt based on “doing interesting work” and “will talk to the little kid”. She’s now, now that she’s not a little kid who stands out due to size, adding things like “female students seem happy in the lab and recommend it,” and “lab is diverse”.
As of right now, she wants to go back to JMIH. She feels that the good experiences she has outweigh the negatives. But I have to say, only the fact that I know that a majority of the leadership of ASIH, SSAR, AES, and yes, HL, do NOT agree with Ken Dodd that makes me willing to consider it.