Today I had a rather unpleasant experience when a friend of mine (who considers himself politically right-on, I might add) publicly (and to some acclaim) tweeted something I had said to him only five minutes before in a private message. It was a comment about a political controversy at a university where I used to work. It was not the most insightful thing I had ever said, but those words were mine and he tweeted them as though he had thought it up all by himself.
Am I overreacting? was the first thing I asked myself. No one likes someone else stealing our jokes. But I had said it just five minutes before. If the shoe had been on the other foot, I would certainly have credited him. Is the logical leap, then, that he did this because I am a woman and he is a man, and he therefore respects me less? Not necessarily. But this isn’t the only song like this that I know the tune of.
When this happened, I spoke to a few of my closest friends. Should I confront him publicly and point out that these were my words? They were full of stories of colleagues who had talked with them over tea breaks, then used their ideas without comment or citation in talks or research. Colleagues outside of Academia, claiming information given freely in conversation as their own. As it happens, in all of these cases the perpetrators were male.
I know well enough that correlation does not equal causation (just take a good look at the spurious correlations website), but those who are entitled in one way or another often fail to credit what they have taken from those who they consider (consciously or subconsciously) less worthy.
In the end, I claimed those words as my own. It was a minor fracas, and the attitude in response was that I was over-reacting because the friend in question had ‘paraphrased’ me rather than repeating my hastily-typed typo-laden DM verbatim. I let it slide. I’d won the war.