Women working in Antarctica say they were left to fend for themselves against sexual harassers

by Madison Thomas
Antarctica Workplace Harassment

Women working in Antarctica have revealed a distressing environment of sexual harassment and assault, exacerbated by the isolated setting and a prevailing macho culture. Mechanic Liz Monahon, stationed at McMurdo Station, resorted to carrying a hammer to defend herself against a man she believed would harm her, as she felt unsupported by those in charge. The National Science Foundation (NSF) reported that 59% of women in Antarctica had experienced harassment or assault, with 72% acknowledging a problem with such behavior. Further investigations revealed that many women’s complaints were downplayed by employers, putting them in greater danger. The culture of harassment extends beyond the NSF’s report, with incidents such as colleague Stephen Bieneman pinning a woman down and choking her resulting in a misdemeanor assault charge. These revelations have prompted a Congressional investigation and calls for improved safety measures in Antarctica.

The isolated nature of Antarctica makes it an ideal location for scientific research, but the prevalence of harassment and assault within the US Antarctic Program has tarnished its reputation. The NSF’s report led to revelations of mishandled cases and a lack of support for victims. The predominantly male population, subcontractors, and contractors, including Leidos and PAE, are implicated in perpetuating this culture, with allegations of harassment often attributed to alcohol consumption. Despite steps taken by the NSF to address the issue, the overarching problem persists, with cases of harassment frequently downplayed and victims left without proper recourse. Women have sought to form support groups and draw attention to these issues, hoping to force change within the institutions that govern Antarctica.

While there have been isolated efforts to address the problem, such as installing peepholes on dorm room doors and establishing helplines, the broader issue of culture and accountability remains unresolved. The testimony of women like Liz Monahon highlights the need for substantial changes to create a safe and supportive environment for everyone working in Antarctica. The challenge ahead lies in holding both individuals and institutions accountable, demanding transparency, and establishing a culture that prioritizes the safety and well-being of all employees in this unique and challenging setting.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Antarctica Workplace Harassment

What is the main issue discussed in this text?

The main issue discussed in this text is the pervasive problem of sexual harassment and assault faced by women working in the isolated research environment of Antarctica.

What is the prevalence of harassment and assault among women in Antarctica?

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF) report, 59% of women in Antarctica reported experiencing harassment or assault, with 72% acknowledging that such behavior was a problem in the region.

How did women react to the culture of harassment?

In response to the culture of harassment, many women formed support groups, such as “Ice Allies,” to provide solidarity and advocate for better systems for handling sexual assaults.

What challenges do women face in reporting harassment and assault?

Women in Antarctica often face challenges when reporting harassment, including cases where their claims were minimized by their employers, putting them in further danger. Instances of harassment were sometimes attributed to alcohol consumption.

What steps have been taken to address the issue?

The NSF has taken some steps to address the issue, such as installing peepholes on dorm room doors, establishing helplines, and creating a confidential victim’s advocate. However, the overarching problem of a culture of harassment and institutional negligence persists.

How have institutions and contractors responded to allegations?

Institutions like Leidos and PAE, as well as contractors in Antarctica, have faced allegations of mishandling cases and failing to properly address victims’ concerns. In some instances, cases of harassment were downplayed, and victims received insufficient support.

What is the broader impact of the issue?

The prevalence of harassment and assault in Antarctica’s research environment not only endangers the well-being of women but also tarnishes the reputation of the US Antarctic Program. It highlights the need for substantial changes to create a safe and supportive environment for all employees.

What is the ultimate goal?

The ultimate goal is to hold individuals and institutions accountable, demand transparency, and establish a culture that prioritizes the safety and well-being of all individuals working in Antarctica, thereby eradicating the culture of harassment and assault.

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Alex August 28, 2023 - 1:09 am

this is sooo not cool! women deserve respect n safety evrywhere, even in places like antarctica. its cray cray how some ppl still dont get it smh

Sarah91 August 28, 2023 - 7:44 am

omg i cant even believe this is happenin!! like wth, cant ppl just behave?!? women work hard 2, y they gotta go thru all this mess?

Jen_investigates August 28, 2023 - 10:07 am

serious issues here! hats off 2 brave women speakin out. thx for exposin the harsh reality n hopin 4 big change in antarctica n beyond.


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