(Hastily written on tube journeys – forgive typos)
This morning I’m full of conflicting emotions. So excited -so excited – that ESA managed to pull off the incredible feat of landing Philae on comet 67P, but also sad. I’m sad, truly disappointed, upset about that shirt.
The shirt I’m referring to of course, is that worn by Rosetta lead project scientist Matt Taylor during the coverage of this historic landing. He took it off at some point, either waking up to the fact it was hugely offensive to many people, or because he was advised to by someone in the press team, but the damage was already done.
Following the landing on Twitter, with friends all round the world, I didn’t want to be distracted from the mission. When I first saw tweets and small auto-loaded images that mentioned the shirt, I thought they were referring to it’s garish colours. It was certainly um, “eye-catching”. But then I looked closer, and saw it was covered in images of semi-naked women. Er, what? My first thought was that it should never have been made, let alone bought, let alone worn – never mind the fact the eyes of the world were on this coverage.
At work, and only able to sneak glimpses of the landing coverage via Twitter, I didn’t think too much about it. I sort of figured this was some quirky scientist attempting to have their moment of fame by emulating Curiosity landing’s “Mohawk guy”, wearing something bright so they could be picked out in a crowd.
It was only later that I realised this wasn’t just anyone, this was one of the lead scientists of the mission – one of “the faces and voices” of the mission. Ah, this is the guy who had the landing tattooed on his leg, before it happened, so confident (or hopeful) that it would happen. I thought that was cool. It showed real passion and dedication and love of his work. Showing that scientists aren’t just the stereotype of old, serious, white male in a lab coat.
So what went wrong? How could this happen?
I’m going to give Matt Taylor the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he just didn’t think about his choice of shirt in that way and didn’t realise that it might upset people. Let’s just imagine he wanted something bright and “non-lab coat”. Let’s imagine that he wanted to do something positive by wearing something bright and showing that science can be fun.
My question is how could anyone at ESA have allowed him to wear it on screen? I know they were all busy, so busy, I know they had other things on their mind, I know you might think “get over it Kate, it’s just a shirt”, but this has really bothered me. Here we are, making history, making great leaps forward, and yet the historical record will show just how backward we were. Here was a chance, with the whole world watching, to show a new generation of potential scientists that this stuff is cool, it’s exciting, and it’s for them – and yet with one bad clothing choice we’ve potentially alienated half the audience.
I’m cross. I’ve campaigned previously to keep sexism out of space. These things might seem small, but the effect is toxic. I’m sad. So sad, that at this great moment, this never-to-be-repeated galactic first, that no-one stepped in and said “mate, what are you thinking, take that off!”.
I’m sad that no member of the press and PR team, no member of management, no team member or journalist said “take that off before you represent the leading edge of human achievement”.
There was some uproar on Twitter, but actually this wasn’t just a “Twitterstorm” for the sake of it – in fact I was really impressed at the way Erin Ryan gave it a more positive angle by highlighting some of the female scientists and engineers that were part of the team, noting for each of them that #shedeservesbetter.
The shirt disappeared later in the day, but by then press interviews had been done, and as I watched the BBC Ten o’clock News, there it was again. That shirt.
It might not have been quite such a big problem if it was confined to the live coverage on the ESA stream – lots of people were watching, yes, and lots of them could feel disappointed by it, sure, but the fact it made it into the mainstream media coverage, that’s a really big problem. Now we have many thousands of people, the audiences that space and science might not always reach, exactly the sort of people we need to excite – and this is the glimpse they get of the space family.
Not good enough.
I’m sad that the journalists interviewing him didn’t stop and suggest he take the shirt off, point out that it might detract from his message about great science. I’m just so sad that this could happen.
Since I started writing this post I know there have been several others posting on the topic, I saw Matt Taylor on the front of the Evening Standard yesterday with an interview from his family saying that he is super smart but can lack common sense (I didn’t see a reference to the shirt) and I’ve even seen horrible abuse aimed at people on Twitter who (rightly) called him out on it.
I’ve been asked whether my love of space exploration trumps the issue of objectifying women. My answer is a clear no. They are different things. Yes, I’m totally thrilled that we landed on a comet and we did that no matter what people were wearing, but do I think the coverage has been marred by “shirtgate”? Yes. Without a doubt. Here was the most fantastic opportunity to show that space is for everyone, and yet that stupid shirt sent out an entirely different message, consciously or not.
In fact maybe that is the issue here, that we’re so used to this sort of thing that it doesn’t register with people as being sexist or damaging. Well we shouldn’t be, and we certainly shouldn’t be raising the next generation to just accept it either.
I’m sad that I’m writing this post and not just raving about the super coolness of landing on a comet, but you know I think that’s amazing, and I know that story is being told elsewhere, so I think it’s important that I add my voice to the others, in expressing my disappointment at this – at best a missed opportunity, at worst a damaging step backwards.
I know people working in media at ESA. They are good people. They work hard. They probably realise that this is an issue too. This is not about blaming anyone, but making the point that this wasn’t okay. We simultaneously took one giant leap for humankind, and one giant leap backwards.
So what now? I would like to hear from Matt Taylor – to find out what he really thinks. An apology and a strong statement that gives the women on the Rosetta team the respect that they deserve. As for ESA? A concerted effort to highlight all the great and inclusive things that they do – all the brilliant women that made this mission possible – and all the opportunities for the next generation of female engineers and scientists to be part of this incredible international partnership.
Matt Taylor made a heartfelt apology for the offence he caused during an ESA hangout today where scientists were updating us about the status of Philae. It was genuine and I thank him for it. I still question why those around him didn’t do something which could have avoided this situation, but I’m confident that a lesson has been learnt and people will be more careful in future. It is important that we learn from mistakes, and acknowledging it was a mistake is a good first step. Thank you Matt. Now let’s get back to rooting for Philae and hoping there’s enough power for the next communication window later tonight.
I do moderate comments on my blog, to stop spam, but I’ve approved all the comments that have come in today, precisely because they illustrate some of the issues that we face. It’s not about men vs women, it’s about the level of vitriol in comments on what I had hoped was quite a balanced post. It’s like people haven’t read what I actually said, or just prefer to attack rather than think about whether there might really be a problem. Perhaps it’s easier to attack rather than calmly engage, and therein lies a problem. It shows there is still work to be done, and although I don’t expect my voice alone will make a difference, I hope it will help other realise that it is okay to speak out about things that matter to them. It’s the only way things will ever change.
Just a shirt. Please don’t add to the nonsense.
I bet a lot of these people complaining were in favour of those students at LSE wearing the Jesus / Mohammed shirt…. now a shirt contains SEMI-naked women (not even fully naked)….and by the way, CARTOON representations of sci-fi women, and people are losing their minds rather than enjoying the awesomeness of the Rosetta mission.
Some people just try too hard to be offended. Is Star Wars sexist? What about when Kirk kissed a semi-naked green woman?
No, of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. They aren’t even real naked women on the shirt. They are illustrations. Sheesh.
You ask for an apology from Matt Taylor, does the women who designed the shirt for him (Elly Prizeman designed and gave the shirt to him as a gift) also need to apologize? Does the fact he wowore the shirt as an honor to her have any bearing on your conclusion. If not, what is the level of her responsibility in this matter?
Those are points that he could explain in a post, with an apology for offence caused. As I said, I don’t think that he had any intention of offending people, heck this was a super exciting day for him and all the team, it would be weird if that was his intention. My point is that people watching don’t have the background on it and he (and certainly the media people around him) should have taken that into account. Intention and effect are different things.
@Curious and @Garfeeld:
Elly did not design it. She sewed the shirt for him from an existing pattern/fabric. You can buy these shirts online, in fact:
Just mentioning this for clarification, not an endorsement, etc.
Plenty of female designers in the rockabilly sub-culture. But I take your point.
Apparently you can’t edit posts. Please forgive the typos. Misspelled words should be *woman and *wore.
Well done to all the rabid feminists totally hijacking one of the greatest achievements in human history to make a very childish point about a shirt! Grow up all of you
Most of us can track multiple items over the course of a day. The shirt was a problem and provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how men can unwittingly create an uncomfortable environment for women. This did not take away from the fascination we all felt for the Rosetta mission. On the other hand, attention drawn to the situation – and Matt’s remorse and apology over the incident – might help us all to do better and be more aware of our actions in the future.
Thank you. I really appreciate this comment.
Eloquent endorsement of an eloquent post – well said both!
Sarkeesian threatened with violence = a good cause for feminism to defend.
Egyptian women sexually harassed = please feminists, stand with your sisters on this.
Guy wears a shirt, designed by a female designer = WTF? Have you seriously not got anything better to do? Well done for making Matt feel like crap for wearing a sci-fi themed shirt. I guess he will do more to curb his individuality next time.
Up next on “When Feminists Attack”…….”DON’T YOU TELL ME WHAT TO WEAR”.
feminism exists because there’s a need to defend the universal rights of women… across the board. everywhere.
and while encroaching on people’s comfort level, perhaps effecting their contribution in the workplace, is completely different from a physical attack (which happens *everywhere*), they’re at different ends of the same rights spectrum.
i have yet to see anyone fault Dr Taylor outright. including within this post. if you are a public figure, you need to pay attention to how half of your audience might respond to what you say or how you behave. this point is underlined if you are leading a group in the work place.
Do you work at ESA?
How do you know that the extremely intelligent women who work in spacecraft ops had their performance impeded by a shirt?
I think that is very disrespectful to the women who train for DECADES to work in this position, to suggest that a shirt could distract them from a mission which they have been training for many years.
Did you read my words? I didn’t say the shirt would distract any scientist from doing their good work. In fact I even hinted that because the work is so important to them it may not have even crossed Matt’s mind that the shirt was inappropriate. I don’t want a witch hunt, I don’t want a blame game, I just want to point out that this was an inappropriate choice of shirt for this occasion and someone should have realised that. I feel like some of the commenters here could really do with some unconscious bias training. That was another of my points, that there is an unconscious bias at play and it’s about time we recognised it and called it out. I was pretty sure Matt meant no offence, and having seen how emotional he was when apologising on the ESA hangout just now I am certain there was no malicious intent. The fact is, intentional or not, it has caused some issues, and that is sad.
You seem to think that if people disagree with you then they automatically didn’t read your post.
Please don’t talk to people of bias, when you are clearly guilty of it yourself.
It seems that you are incapable of understanding opinions and points of view which do not agree with your own.
Did you not read Tristam’s words? He categorically stated that the shirt could prevent women from doing their job.
Apologies, been reading a lot of the comments one the move and didn’t see that yours was a response to Tristam not me. I don’t automatically think that if people disagree then didn’t read it, it’s those people saying that I have hounded Matt (I haven’t) that I have blamed him (I didn’t) or that because of this I’m incapable of enjoying the science and the achievement (I am) that I disagree with.
“Matt should issue an apology to EVERYBODY.”
Translation : “I am offended. Apologize to me for hurting my feelings”.
If you’re going to use quote marks as though you are actually quoting me, please quote the words I used, rather than making stuff up so that you can argue with it.
duhhhhh, it is only a SHIRT!!!!
@Garfeeld: Also, it’s a WWII-inspired “Girl Gunners” pin-up shirt (please note PT boat depicted), not a sci-fi themed shirt.
Sorry, it looked like one of those 1950s sci-fi Buck Rogers / Barbarella type affairs (which were also inspired by WW2 aircraft imagery)…. I should have paused it and zoomed in really far to find something to be offended at.
^ Yes, but this “shirt” represents the phallocentric nature of STEM and the repression of WIMMIN folk…..
And apparently, it is the one thing that stops women from wanting to enter STEM subjects. Never mind the opinions of the flight controllers who are female, or the actual women who work for ESA…… let’s all jump on this guy and cut his balls off because we are upset.
I mean, we WIMMIN could lead by example and break the patriarchy by actually learning STEM subjects in school and by avoiding gender roles which are imprinted on us by society at a very early age…. but that sounds too difficult.
LET’S BURN THE SHIRT. And let’s make this guy who has worked for over a decade to help advance human understanding feel really bad about his choice in clothing.
Great post, Kate. I am so disappointed at the rest of the comments here. They don’t even realize they are part of the problem! It is not just the shirt- it is the mindset that would make such a statement without a thought to how it might come across.
What the other commenters here fail to realize is that this issue offends more than just women. In fact, the majority of the articles and posts I have seen condemning the shirt have been from men, who don’t appreciate the sexist message or the fact that this scientist shifted the media focus of the mission to himself through his poor clothing choice. I saw them use terms such as “grandstanding” and worse. A male member of his team expressed deep embarrassment over the issue and feels that the shirt was damaging to the work he personally does in his free time to get young girls interested in science.
It is so easy for men to say, “It’s just a shirt.” They’ve never had to work in an environment where their car tires were slashed or co-workers said crude things about them, or framed them for things, just for being a woman. They’ve never had to endure the daily abuse of working for a manager who hated women and drove every single one out of his department. They have no room to talk.
A lot of the comments in the media are disappointing for sure.
For starters. it’s very easy to state that the shirt “offends MORE than women” when it doesn’t offend all women. Although if you read The Guardian today, you would think that it is an affront to ALL women.
I can tell you that not one of the females in my Biology PhD class were in the slightest bit offended, and as a feminist (and STEM teacher) I can say that more than a handful of my cohort are embarrassed by the way that the media is jumping on this guy.
Also, I’m not sure if you can equate wearing a shirt with having your tires slashed. And I’m pretty sure that this behavior doesn’t go on at ESA.
Does the above poster work at ESA, or is she just speaking on behalf of ALL women in EVERY profession ever?
Because my department totally disagrees with this whole embarrassing charade.
Jen Scheer: You are absolutely spot on.
Men have no room to talk. Heaven forbid a man ever have an opinion on what is supposedly a female issue (despite the fact that it is a guy that is being criticised here).
It’s much along the lines where no white person should ever dare have an opinion on race or racism. They have no room to talk, after all.
I mean, it’s not as though, being free-thinking entities, with the capacity for logic, reasoning, and empathy, we could not see things from another person’s point of view, and formulate a valid opinion. That would just be silly, wouldn’t it?
“It’s much along the lines where no white person should ever dare have an opinion on race or racism. They have no room to talk, after all.”
Except he was wearing a shirt, not a Klan Robe. Or an SS Uniform.
Tell me something…. considering that his shirt only depicted SEMI-CLAD women (as opposed to FULL nudes), at what percentage of clothing would the depicted women have to be for you people to stop shouting SEXIST (and now, apparently invoking the shadow of racism)?
Is 50% clothed OK? What if he wore a shirt with women who are 70% clothed, but who are flashing a bit of leg?
I am making a very serious point here. He wasn’t wearing a shirt covered in Page 3 nudes….. They were “scantily clad”. And they were cartoonish.
At what point is he allowed to wear clothes depicting women? What if they were wearing parkas? What if they were fully clothed but had visibly large breasts?
Who sets the standard? Is it YOU people, and is the standard based on your readiness to take offense?
I seriously hope not, for the sake of humanity.
Bex, re-read RM’s comment. It’s clearly sarcasm.
I’d say the issue is not that men cannot have opinions on the subject, but men should not think our opinions are fully informed. I have my own thoughts about the shirt, but I’m not a woman in STEM. Whatever my opinions may be, I have not “walked a mile in their shoes”. And while it is true that not all women were offended, quite a few were and it is worth considering why they were offended and whether they might just have a point. It doesn’t matter that the shirt didn’t offend everyone, it matters that it did offend many, and it’s worth learning from those offended to see how we can do better in the future.
It didn’t offend many. It offended a few.
A vocal minority .
There you go. He publically apologized because all of you people felt offended.
Happy now? You have hurt someone who has spent most of his whole life training for this one event.
I seriously hope you can sleep at night knowing that you have struck a blow for “whatever it was” you were complaining about. It sure as hell wasn’t for “feminism”.
Nothing like an apology DRAGGED out of a good man to sooth your frail egos though, right?
What’s the bet that this post will get moderated out of existence?
Myself, my daughter and my large female family will all sleep a lot safer knowing that you lot are prepared to take offence on their behalf.
I think you are quite justified in raising the issues here; that’s what blogging should be about. The fact is some people are genuinely offended by this and if there’s a chance, even a small one, that it might discourage women from entering science then it should be called out. Gender barriers still exist and there is still much work to be done in making science and particularly physics a more welcoming environment for women.
However, I personally believe that background and class, especially in the UK, is a FAR big barrier to this profession than gender. As the son of a bricklayer, and with his distinctive appearance, he will have no doubt have caught the attention of disadvantaged school kids – boys and girls – possibly traveling on the tube reading the Evening Standard (he was on the front page yesterday). Seeing him and reading his story, they might think ‘maybe, just maybe I could do something like that.’
But does that slightly edgy image have to come in a what appears to be a sexist wrapper, no of course not.
The last paragraph of Jan’s post has shocked me. How are we going to wipe out sexism of any kind (and it exists against both women and men), if we think that men ‘have no room to talk’?! Women want to eradicate sexism (and rightly so) not only in the workplace but across all aspects of life, but how can we do that if we come across as sexist towards men by writing comments like that?! I bet they’ve are many men who have suffered at work because of their gender…I’ve seen many a ‘naked fireman/Marine/etc’ calender splashed all over office walls….where men work. The level of sexism displayed towards men may not be seen as abusive as it is towards women, but it exists all the same. Assuming men have never had to work in such an environment makes you part of the problem too.
Sexism…it affects everyone. It’s NOT just a problem for women.
Apologies, I’ve not got my glasses on and read your name as Jan, when I should have written Jen.
Bex: you have failed to identify sarcasm, but then again, it was so well done, that Jen will probably think I was agreeing with her.
Wow. Matt Taylor has, for a large part, been the public face of the project for the last few days, certainly if you’ve been watching the BBC coverage. He’s been eloquent, amusing, engaging and incredibly enthusiastic about the whole event. Right now, what with the latest news, he’s probably feeling pretty devastated that the project is likely to come to a close in the next 12 hours or less. It’s the culmination of his professional career, and it’s not quite gone to plan.
And then you decide to write a lengthy piece about his shirt. A shirt with cartoony space imagery on it. Never mind the incredible work he’s done on this project, in your eyes he’s undone it all over a shirt.
I know that sexism is a massive issue, and as a guy I can’t ever really understand the impact of it because it’ll never really affect me directly, but “the coverage has been marred”? It’s a “giant step backwards”? I don’t ever want to trivialise the issue, but really, seriously? With the best will in the world I do genuinely think that this is a massive overreaction, and does the cause of equality no good at all, as seen by some of the disappointing comments above and (predictably) on Twitter.
No, I DO NOT believe his work has been undone by his shirt. Don’t even try to strawman me. I have not said that, I do not think that, and I have acknowledged his passion and the whole team’s hard work. It is incredible to me that people assume that because I believe the shirt was an error of judgement and a real shame, that I don’t think the project has been an incredible success. I’ve been following and supporting Rosetta for years. I’m as pleased as punch that it landed. I keep reminding people of all the mission’s successes even before a landing took place and I will continue to even if the power runs out before it was hoped. Landing the thing is incredible. I have not forgotten that, and if you think that me expressing an opinion on a shirt takes away from it, then I would suggest it’s not me that has the problem. I’ll agree my title for the piece could be improved (I’m happy to take suggestions), but I will not apologise for having an opinion or for challenging this.
Well, as long as YOUR little feelings are OK, then that’s the main thing. And as your Tweets make abundantly clear, this IS about YOU.
But well done. You bunch have reduced a man to near-tears on TV just so you could get an apology. Do you feel good about yourself now?
I hope this haunts you for a long time to come.
I wonder how people would have reacted if it were a female scientist wore a shirt with half naked men on it. I’m sure there would be more outrage.
Men and women experience inequality on a daily basis, unfortunately women get it must worse, it’s irrelevant how small or insignificant it may appear to others. No woman or man should have to experience it ever.
Our greatest achievements should be accomplished through the best of our qualities. Whether you are a woman or a man shouldn’t come in to it.
I had a similar thought. I wouldn’t be comfortable if a woman co-worker or superior decorated herself with shirtless firefighters. In the discussion over his shirt I saw other women on twitter talk about men with everything from bikini babes to soft core porn on the walls of their office. I wouldn’t be very happy having to spend time in a room decorated with male models, yet women are supposed to endure something similar without saying a word?
I doubt very much that Matt had a hint of misogynistic intent with his shirt, it just didn’t occur to him how his shirt might make the women around him feel. But that is part of the problem: we aren’t aware of the effect our actions have. That’s the good I see coming out of this incident: Matt is clearly remorseful, and it serves as a strong message to any men paying attention that we need to be sure we are not creating an uncomfortable environment for women.
You need to man up then, son.
Get over it. It’s just a firefighter.
“You need to man up then, son.”
Not sure what you mean.
“I wonder how people would have reacted if it were a female scientist wore a shirt with half naked men on it. I’m sure there would be more outrage.”
I’ve seen multiple versions of this straw man trotted in most comments sections dealing with “Shirtgate.” Sorry, who are these men who would take offense at a woman’s shirt with scantily clad men on it? That’s a ridiculous notion.
His apology seemed genuine, if brief. But I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what he and his friend were thinking. The art reminds me of what I’ve seen of fictional heroines in video games; and I wonder if the hypersexualization of women characters in genres of that kind, which have normalized that representation of women in those contexts- to the degree that in Taylor’s mind, this was just the action hero costume and no different than if he had worn a WonderWoman shirt (ok even 70s WW was sexualized but not to the same degree) . Which would link this incident to the whole GamerGate mindset. Obviously I don’t actually know what he was thinking.. but I think understanding it matters for the conversation that I clearly still needs to have with some of my male colleagues
Well I’m sorry that his apology wasn’t long enough to satisfy your need for blood. Maybe you can ask Kate to hound him a little bit more on Twitter?
Let’s see if we can REALLY break him this time.
At what point have I ever “hounded him on Twitter”? I thanked him for an apology, I’ve congratulated him (and the whole team) on their excellent work. I have never wanted to “break” anyone and I (thought I) made it clear that this wasn’t about blaming anyone in particular, more about making things better in future. I don’t think any of this as malicious in intent, I’m just aware of it feeding into an already troubling perception that science is a male field. I’m not here to argue, but I’m afraid I do like facts.
The FACT is that actual feminists are distancing themselves from this embarrassing little tantrum. Good on them.
And in a bad couple of weeks for space in the media, when the industry has been under intense media scrutiny (and a lot of opinion masquerading as fact) , the industry should have been displaying a united front.
You have absolutely NOT made anything better for the future. You have helped to make a cool guy feel really crap on a day he has waited for more than a decade to see.
And maybe you have generated a nice warm feeling inside yourself. Good for you. But that is ALL you have accomplished here. You can pretend otherwise if you wish.
“Actual feminists”? Lol. Just because a bunch of people care about equality doesn’t mean they all have to agree on everything. I’d dearly love to know what makes someone an “actual feminist” in your mind. (I’m only half being sarcastic there, I’m genuinely a bit intrigued and I do like to understand.)
I totally agree we’ve had a tough few weeks in space. In fact I wrote on that very subject, and it appears that we agree that it is time to come together. http://spacekate.com/2014/a-bad-week-for-commercial-space/ I’m ready, are you?
This type of hysterical outrage over trivial issues damages a cause, not strengthens it.
BTW Kate,the comments only become vitriolic when YOU disagree with them. Please don’t play that card.
There are many people who simply think that you are an overreacting bully. You can ignore that and claim that you are waving the flag for feminism if you like.
I can’t personally see any vitriol here. This isn’t gamergate (although I bet you wish it was, just so you could actually have something real to complain about)….
It’s just a bunch of people disagreeing with your view. Yes, there may be some sarcasm here and there. But given your behavior on this matter, it is far less than you deserve.
Consider yourself lucky. You basically spearheaded a campaign to get a man to cry on television. I hope you can sleep.
Suggesting I’m a bully and then saying there is no vitriol? Erm…
The vitriol started the second after I posted this, with someone swearing at me on Twitter for even daring to have and share an opinion.
Before I replied to a single comment, there were many here attacking me, and with much more aggression than anything I had ever said about the shirt. I wrote a balanced piece expressing concerns that no-one did anything about the shirt, specifically not attacking Matt actually, and for that I’ve had to put up with lots of anger aimed at me. Once again, I think that shows how much work there still is to be done. Your last comment sounds pretty threatening at times “far less than I deserve”? Really? I’m not entirely sure what you think I deserve for having an opinion (and I really think that I would rather not know), but I find that deeply concerning. Matt apologised, he realised people were offended and he had the guts to take that on board and apologise for that. He realised it wasn’t about the intention, but about the effect it had and he took responsibility. I respect that.
“Threatening”? HAHAHA, such a typical overreaction.
No, I just meant that I’m surprised that more people haven’t called you a “c*nt”.
It’s hilarious that you are trying to turn this into some sort of gamergate thing.
The difference is, that Sarkeesian is being actually threatened with violence and hate speech for actually having a valid opinion, and you have a blog which basically has no foul language (or vitriol), and on the whole is populated by opinions which are calm in tone.
But whatever. Play the victim as much as you like. Anybody with a brain can see that Matt is the victim here.
And that includes Richard Dawkins who has tweeted:
“Do not blame feminism for the pompous idiots whining about a Rosetta scientist’s shirt. True feminism is bigger and better than that.”
But just keep telling yourself that you are in the right. Whatever helps you sleep.
Your fake outrage has been exposed for what it truly is.
A gimmick. Just like your little campaign against Lynx in which you claimed sexism in their ad campaign (I would agree that it was sexist) while begging for votes in their contest.
Your principles basically only exist to promote yourself. Goodbye.
This article reminds me of the scene in Anchorman 2 where Ron Burgundy says “I don’t know why we need to tell people what they need to hear. Why can’t we just tell them what they want to hear?”
What people needed to hear was ‘Rosetta’. What they want to hear (now, thanks to you) is ‘that shirt’.
So, congratulations for distracting attention from decades of hard work by men, and yes women too.
This shirt was a non-story but it was effectively made into a story by arse-crack-generation (i.e. talentless/attention seeking) journalists and the worst thing is, by claiming to be offended, you and others have made yourself into a laughing stock. Now, most men who support equal rights for women will take anything you say regarding women’s rights with a pinch of salt. It’s what happens when you cry wolf, fabricate issues that are not worth discussing and then gloat over making the guy apologise over a non-issue.
Oh, and by the way, Matt Taylor’s shirt isn’t as important as Julien Blanc. The latter is a real problem for sexism and women’s rights because the latter promotes rape. The former is nothing short of Anime. Time to get your priorities right.
Errr… what Chris Roberts & AstroDave said.
I feel sorry for Matt Taylor, who clearly didn’t mean to offend anybody, and is carrying the can for largely institutional/societal issues. But it was a faux pas, and all the folk at Rosetta/ESA who are involved in press management should really have spotted the potential problem. Suspect if I’d known Taylor, & seen him on the day, I’d have said:
“Interviewed? On telly? Hmm. Think I’d go with palm trees.”
But no-one did, clearly. Their press set up should be asking why.
Having read the post here, I can’t see that the author has slagged off Dr Taylor. She’s questioned his wearing the thing, in this specific context. She is entitled to her opinion, and makes some pertinent points. What I find disappointing is some of the flaming that that has earned her, often from people who barely seem to have read what she posted. Sadly, it is a feature of the net that people go to DefCon One in about 3 nanoseconds, and respond to ‘what I via my filters decide you said/meant’ rather than ‘what you thought you said/meant’.
Anyway, It is this wider hostile backlash that I find worrying. No-one should get flamed for expressing a view. And beyond question that happens disproportionately, and in far more personal terms, to women. Which, in context, should give people pause.
The backlash in the comments here speaks volumes about the problem. Angry male (as far as I can see) shouting and intimidation when a woman voices a moderately phrased concern about something that is negatively affecting women; a problem that many men don’t seem to even notice, let alone consider valid.
The sexually crude, often violent misogyny that permeates the world of video games, comic strips, sci fi and science in general, is one of the reasons we have trouble getting girls to be interested in these things – to the great detriment of industry, when these girls grow up and choose not to enter engineering, gaming, computer science etc and take their talents elsewhere.
It was only a shirt. Well it was an offensive shirt, and the guy that wore it didn’t notice/realise it was offensive and neither did anyone around. So that’s a problem. Golliwogs – anyone here old enough to remember them? – were only cute, cuddly stuffed toys, and some people continued to protest that long after they were taken off the shelves. But they are so offensive now that I hesitate even to type the word. The fact is, society changes, and depictions of people that were once accepted as normal become not acceptable. Men need to realise they can no longer wear sexually suggestive pictures of women on their clothing and not cause offence. It’s really a shame that this poor guy, who is doubtless a great bloke at heart, was put in this situation, and a shame that his scientific achievements have been overshadowed by his and his advisers’ social ineptitude – but on the other hand it’s bringing to the fore a conversation we need to have. It’s time sexually graphic images became as unacceptable as Golliwogs, and consigned to the bins of history, and it’s time science as a profession woke up to how unwelcomingly it is still perceived by half the population.
Good post Kate, as usual. Well balanced argumentation, yet with a very strong point that you know I wholeheartedly support. Please keep ‘em coming!
Kate – I agree with everything you have said here with the exception of the post title. I see the consciousness-raising happening from the #shirtstorm over #shirtgate as at least a little hop forward for equality.
It seems to me that this brouhaha stopped being about Mat Taylor the scientist as soon as he became objectified by those who take issue with the graphics on his shirt, and certainly by the time Jess Zimmermann (strong feminist voice, non-scientist) weighed in on the topic. It took me less than 5 minutes of digging to find that the shirt was a birthday gift, a one-of-a-kind piece of art made for him by a female friend, in fact the woman who did his tattoos. She is deeply humiliated by this negative reaction to her art, as humiliated as Taylor himself was. I’m going to bet that none of the women on Taylor’s work team ever complain that his choice of shirts created a hostile environment.
That said, the wider context of unconscious, casual sexism the shirt could be considered an emblem of is a problem, and I’m hopeful that the more we discuss it the less of a problem it will be (knee-jerk trolls be damned). It is my hope that as a consequence of this ongoing discussion my daughter and her daughters will have to face less of it than my wife and female friends have had to.
But I want to switch gears to point something else out here regarding the position you have taken.
I’m not going to space. I never was. I was always smart and fit enough, but I’m too old now, and I was always too tall. But most of all I have always been too prickly, too outspoken. Not enough of a team player. Among all the other criteria, space crews are rigorously selected for their ability to get along and work together. I would never have passed the psych. But if I had been 12cm shorter I might have at least made it to the psych evaluation, because back in the day there was not a trail of my writing out there on the Internet.
I’d venture to guess that Sam Cristoforetti may or may not have an opinion on #shirtgate, but I’m more than reasonably certain that if someone stuck a mic in her face and asked her about it she would decline to express it For better or for worse, you have deprived yourself of that option.
You know, previously there was an almost universal consensus that sexism and lack of inconclusiveness was a problem in the technical and scientific communities and almost everyone wanted to help to improve the situation. That consensus is starting to break down. The hypersensitive political correctness and frankly rabid joylessness of some is starting to alienate a significant portion of the scientific community. The whole pointing fingers and screaming misogynist act is not helping you. It is sort of like when Bush went into Iraq to get rid of terrorists. They weren’t there before…
You can see this emerging trend in blog comments and some recently published op eds. But the most important effects won’t be carried out in the media on the public stage. most scientists and administrators aren’t going to make any comments in public about this. Why would they want to plunge themselves into a shirtstorm? But that doesn’t mean they don’t have opinions or preferences about the kind of person they want to work with. It is very difficult to deny someone a job or opportunity because you think they are an agenda pusher who would be miserable to work with. On the other hand it’s very easy to come up with some kind of legal, valid sounding reason. Talking with friends in the scientific community I can almost feel the wind of closing doors blowing through my hair.
He deserves what he gets….anybody wearing that shirt is just asking for it. He should pay more attention to what he wears on TV, or in public if he doesn’t want to be hassled.
Even if he didn’t mean to be offensive and sexist, you can see how that shirt sends mixed signals….
I also notice that he is, at least in the picture provided, gesturing with his left hand.
Clearly, this is an offensive against many asian engineers, as some asian cultures descripe the left hand as “dirty” or “unclean”. In many Muslim countries, the left hand is traditionally used to *ahem* clean oneself after defecating. He is waving that smelly, dirty, unclean hand and using it to shame use in thinking that science is for the unclean and dirty amongst us.
Now, I’m sure that this man was not inentionally alienating and offending over half the population, but my question is with the team of media analysts around him, monitoring his every movement. The people overseeing this must have known that left handedness was offensive to people, and had a duty to stop Taylor from further sullying the image of science.
I mean, it’s not like anything stressful was happening to distract them.
360 million miles away an object the size of a washing machine lands on a lump of rock speeding at 86,000 miles per hour and beams back pictures and data about its surroundings. Anyone who focuses on the shirt is myopic.
Well it’s a good job that the majority of people who first expressed a view the shirt was inappropriate always kept the science as their main focus then isn’t it? The science is awesome. I’ve been saying that for years and will continue to say that. There are people able to think about more than one thing at once. I pride myself as one of them.
Its just a bloody shirt.
..and this is just my opinion that it was inappropriate in this context.
Good to see this very careful and balanced piece by the Royal Astronomical Society about this topic. I think it fully concurs with Kate: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2538-ras-statement-on-shirtgate-shirtstorm
Well, we know scientists don’t get out much- sorry but THAT shirt looks like kid’s pyjamas and quite girly , well literally so, but very silly, can one take him seriously??
isn’t this the guy with arms covered in tattoos and are those tattoos as silly as his shirt? You say he took the shirt off at some point, was this to show off more tattoos? Sorry but the guy looks a joke and nobody can feel offended by him, just to pity his taste.