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November 11, 2010 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Founded by former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader Darlene Cavalier, Science Cheerleaders is a squad of cheerleaders from professional sports teams who have gone on to have careers in science-related fields. Now they break out the pom-poms to cheerlead for science and challenge the stereotypical image of female scientists.

Ms. Cavalier is a writer and advisor for Discover Magazine. She also runs the site Science for Citizens, which attempts to connect ordinary people with scientific researchers. (via, oblique previously)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker (49 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Clearly this is a good deed that Cavalier is perpetrating. Get the girls where some of them live, right? Subvert from within, yeah? But then I clicked through to this and I got irritated all over again. Scientist Barbie is still Barbie.
posted by scratch at 8:09 PM on November 11, 2010


But then I clicked through to this and I got irritated all over again. Scientist Barbie is still Barbie.

Wait, what? Women who are smart aren't also allowed to dress sexy, or something?

Or you see those photos as somehow creating an unrealistic version of womanhood in young women, even though they're all actually real people and not molded plastic of unreal proportions?

I don't see what the problem is. If someone is able to pull off a look like those women are, they should be allowed to express themselves that way. I'd even bet a lot of that is a look they've put on for the cameras.
posted by hippybear at 8:16 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Scientist Barbie is still Barbie.

I have the same reaction about Danica Patrick and auto racing. If she's good, she'll win, if she's not, she won't, but cheesecake photo shoots? Come on. Like this FPP's science deal, it ends up sending the message "It's okay to be smart/talented -- so long as you're also hot, and willing to objectify yourself." Yeah, that's a great message.
posted by davejay at 8:16 PM on November 11, 2010 [11 favorites]


What's the stereotypical view of a female scientist? Mine is yumm yumm.
posted by mannequito at 8:19 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curious, hippybear -- suppose you saw a picture of a guy, topless in a muscle magazine, flexing oiled muscles, and were told he was also a scientist. Would you think he was a serious scientist, a legitimate, respectable one? Or would you think he was a hot guy who is a lab technician somewhere, more interested in posing in muscle magazines than in doing real science? Just sayin'.
posted by davejay at 8:19 PM on November 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


I saw the cheerleaders when I went to the Science Festival in DC. I had assumed they were wrangled in by the city government or a university. It didn't occur to me that the cheerleaders themselves would be interested in science. Well, good for them. But that still leaves the question, why would smart women be interested in cheerleading?

On a somewhat related note, here's an interesting blog post from a woman who gave up her subscription to Wired magazine after one too many sexist covers. I doubt she'll miss it much after it's gone.
posted by Loudmax at 8:22 PM on November 11, 2010


Davejay neatly expressed what I was trying to say.

Wait, what? Women who are smart aren't also allowed to dress sexy, or something?

Cheerleaders are required to wear sexy costumes. And typical cheerleader uniforms are stereotypically "sexy" just like mainstream porn is "sexy." It's a very, very narrow portion of the spectrum.

The source of my irritation is, well, reality. I see the logic of drawing more girls into science by "reassuring" them that they can still be "hot." The problem is that this approach still encourages girls to place an unnecessarily high value on "hotness." One step forward, two steps back?
posted by scratch at 8:25 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Have you read that article recently, Loudmax? There are updates that are relevant.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:26 PM on November 11, 2010


We deserve... ugly! scientists! <fester>
posted by boo_radley at 8:29 PM on November 11, 2010


Scientist or not, dress in a cheerleading costume and you're performing for the sexual gratification of men. At least the stereotype for the female scientist is respectable.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 8:35 PM on November 11, 2010


I'd really rather they challenge the stereotypical image of female cheerleaders.

I happen to like men and women who are a little bit off kilter and obsessive.
posted by poe at 8:38 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was expecting a lot more science in the "cheerlead for science" link. Where was the actual science at?
posted by salvia at 8:39 PM on November 11, 2010


Agreed, 0x, but I think that's the point of the Science Cheerleaders. You don't involve more girls in science by promising them respectability--they want to be HOT.
posted by scratch at 8:41 PM on November 11, 2010


I read the post about Wired this morning, before Chris Anderson posted. I'm glad he did, but Cindy Royal's point still stands. As a high profile magazine, Wired should do a better job of presenting science and tech culture as something that women would want to be a part of. I'm not convinced cheerleading for science is the way to do it either.
posted by Loudmax at 8:43 PM on November 11, 2010


I'd really rather they challenge the stereotypical image of female cheerleaders.

How are they not?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:45 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Curious, hippybear -- suppose you saw a picture of a guy, topless in a muscle magazine, flexing oiled muscles, and were told he was also a scientist. Would you think he was a serious scientist, a legitimate, respectable one? Or would you think he was a hot guy who is a lab technician somewhere, more interested in posing in muscle magazines than in doing real science? Just sayin'.

Well, I don't know about "scientist", but I grew up with a father who was a chemistry professor, and certainly saw plenty of people in the department, both in and out of their professional capacity. Some of them were attractive people, others weren't.

I guess I don't carry around the same baggage when it comes to people's looks and the professions they may have and what the idea that they may be gymrats who take a good photo may say about their abilities in their day jobs. I mean, a photo shoot for a magazine... that's one afternoon out of a life? Why should doing that in one's off-time imply anything about what an individual can accomplish in their career?

Maybe this is more of a Rorschach test about cultural expectations about appearance and ability to perform well in jobs that require a science degree than anything else.
posted by hippybear at 8:47 PM on November 11, 2010


People are looking at this from the perspective of "you can be a scientist and be hot" but my initial reaction was from the other perspective "you can be hot and still be smart". There is as much social pressure on pretty girls to downgrade their intelligence as there is on smart girls to upgrade their looks.
posted by Danila at 9:00 PM on November 11, 2010 [19 favorites]


Some of them were attractive people, others weren't.

Genuine question, not snark: how many of the attractive ones went out of their way to show off their attractiveness as their primary asset/reason for earning respect of their peers, rather than their brains?
posted by davejay at 9:28 PM on November 11, 2010


suppose you saw a picture of a guy, topless in a muscle magazine, flexing oiled muscles, and were told he was also a scientist. Would you think he was a serious scientist, a legitimate, respectable one? Or would you think he was a hot guy who is a lab technician somewhere...

Confession. A lot of those pictures, I looked at the woman, looked at the job description, and my first thought was to devalue the status of what she "really" did. For instance one of the woman was listed as an occupational therapist. My first thought was, "Oh, really. So she majored in P.E. and when she got injured or put on weight, she had to quit cheerleading and go be an occupational therapist..." As opposed to respecting occupational therapy as a career. A career in the sciences. A career I am in no way qualified for. Same for the women who were listed as nurses. Even though I know quite a few nurses, and it's a challenging job which is not easy to complete a degree in.

And I'm a feminist. So yeah. It is really hard to look at a photograph of a woman who meets societies outrageous standards and not immediately try to devalue her intelligence and abilities. Even when a man, or an average looking woman, would be considered highly competent.
posted by Sara C. at 9:29 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why wouldn't a smart person of either sex be interested in cheerleading? As a competitive activity, cheerleading is pretty tough, requiring coordination, flexibility, gynmastic skils, etc. I think the steterotypes discussed in this thread are pretty broad.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:46 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have the same reaction about Danica Patrick and auto racing. If she's good, she'll win, if she's not, she won't, but cheesecake photo shoots? Come on. Like this FPP's science deal, it ends up sending the message "It's okay to be smart/talented -- so long as you're also hot, and willing to objectify yourself." Yeah, that's a great message.

I had the complete opposite first impression.

I took it to mean society finally beginning to cheer our scientist heros. Totally missed the sexism angle you claim.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:00 PM on November 11, 2010


To be specific, I was thinking of the Gary Larson comic where a scientist dude's got his flow awn, penning some formulas on a blackboard, and some scientist dudes are behind him loudly chanting encouragement.

I'm lead to believe Gary Larson hates his comics to be linked for free on the web.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:08 PM on November 11, 2010


My reaction is similar to Davejay's. I sort of get where Danila is coming from, but that's not the reaction I had; when I used to take the time to look feminine and attractive my problem was that people would automatically assume I'm stupid. Looking more attractive makes that worse, not better. The solution to people thinking attractive women aren't smart enough to be scientists isn't to prove that, no, seriously, they're really hot -- a person's appearance is their most immediately obvious feature -- it's to keep showing that they're really smart. Cheerleading doesn't do anything to enforce the idea that they're smart (not to imply that it has no positives), it just reinforces the idea that it's important to be attractive.

There is the flipside stereotype that smart women are physically unattractive, but it's always seemed much less pervasive to me, and much easier for people to get over, and it doesn't require women to do anything they wouldn't otherwise; instead of cheerleading, the smart, attractive woman just keeps doing her job while she happens to look attractive. Better yet, it doesn't reinforce any harmful ideals that women must be attractive.
posted by Nattie at 10:08 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why wouldn't a smart person of either sex be interested in cheerleading?

I am interested in cheerleading.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:09 PM on November 11, 2010


The solution to people thinking attractive women aren't smart enough to be scientists isn't to prove that, no, seriously, they're really hot -- a person's appearance is their most immediately obvious feature -- it's to keep showing that they're really smart.

Exactly. I heard the Valley Girl lilt and thought "bet she has a hard time getting taken seriously by the other engineers." That was why I wanted more actual science in their interviews, not "I'm, like, a doctor, tee hee!"

I think boys believe they can become doctors because of seeing men act like real doctors using actual medical words, not because of something like Surf for Science, "dude, I'm like totally a doctor, bro. Peace out!"

Do any of the links have them actually sounding like a doctor or engineer? (Either with or without the "ditzy" verbal tics would be fine, depending on how much stereotype breaking they want to do.)
posted by salvia at 10:24 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Genuine question, not snark: how many of the attractive ones went out of their way to show off their attractiveness as their primary asset/reason for earning respect of their peers, rather than their brains?

I'm not entirely sure of your meaning with this question, but I'll try to answer it as best I can based on my memories.

Some of the attractive people in the chemistry department were very snappy dressers. A couple of the women wore nice clothing and did hair and makeup rituals every day. Even when encountering them during lab time or research (when they usually wore lab coats), they looked great. Some of the men certainly dressed to accent their athletic build, with shirts a tad too small, or obviously tanning to get bronze. One man I remember in particular, a very handsome German, wore very expensive tailored suits daily.

Were they showing off their attractiveness? Probably not any more than anyone who can pull it off does. Did they do this as a way to earn respect of their peers? I have no idea. I didn't get the idea when growing up that the department was run based on looks, but rather on quality of teaching and ability to publish. I never really interviewed any of them about any of this, and so can only base my current answer on what I saw, rather than any conversation.

Which does bring up the question -- are the women in this FPP doing this cheerleading thing in order to gain respect of their peers? I think they're more trying to make the statement that you don't have to be a bimbo in order to be beautiful, and that smart women don't have to dumb themselves down if they have physical beauty in order to fit into society's pre-cast roles for cheerleader-type women. The message isn't aimed at their peers. It's aimed at students in high school and college, maybe even down into the middle school / junior high level. And possibly at people who aren't in a scientific profession who carry around stereotypes about beauty and brains and whether they ever exist in the same body or not.

Would Bill Nye (Science Guy) have been more or less successful and credible if he were beefcake? If your answer is "less", that's more a reflection on the sad state of our cultural expectations and prejudices than anything else surrounding this topic.
posted by hippybear at 10:26 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it's a tricky issue -- I've had extensive discussions over the Girls of Think Atheist calendar over at that site (the fact that a corresponding calendar for men has been added makes it all the more interesting) and I'm still undecided.

My inclination is to say that if women choose to do this for their own edification, and not out of a feeling of needing to make themselves sexual objects for men for their professional success, then "We shouldn't do that" sounds a lot like "You don't know that you're just feeding into misogyny, baby." I grant I'm the ideal person to answer this, though.

For the record, and despite my reservations offering an opinion at all: as a hetero man, it's the intelligence of scientific women that makes them so ... exothermic to me.
posted by quarantine at 12:27 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curious, hippybear -- suppose you saw a picture of a guy, topless in a muscle magazine, flexing oiled muscles, and were told he was also a scientist. Would you think he was a serious scientist, a legitimate, respectable one? Or would you think he was a hot guy who is a lab technician somewhere, more interested in posing in muscle magazines than in doing real science? Just sayin'.

What...are you talking about Dr. Paul Sereno doing another calendar? Those fucking paleontologists at the Univ of Chicago...always taking their shirts off.

Oh yeah, he's a real scientist. More real than Jurassic Park.

I want smart people to have more power...even if its in the form of attractiveness. I'd rather a good smart person wield it, than a charismatic puppet.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:23 AM on November 12, 2010


Oh...and this.

Here's some crazy ass italian oncologists (read: DOCTORS) who are stripping for a calendar.

Am I thinking they aren't bright...no.

Oh...and they're male.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:34 AM on November 12, 2010


So. This discussion hits a little close to home, for various reasons, and it’s hard for me not be angry about some of the comments that have been posted here. I’ll try to stay calm in my response even though I’m seeing a little red.

First, I’d like to put this out there – although things are improving, have improved, a lot, there are still a lot more men than women in a lot of scientific fields, especially the “hard” sciences (as opposed to soft, not as opposed to easy.) There are, of course, a lot of reasons for this, but I can tell you one of the major ones is this:

Many girls are told, every day, with reinforcements both subtle and overt, that girls LIKE THEM cannot be scientists. Will never be scientists. Could not possibly be scientists. Scientist girls? That nerdy girl over in the corner, she can be a scientist. (That girl is told there are other things she *can’t* be, of course, and that’s a related problem.)

But you? The cheerleader? The goth with piercings? The fashion plate? The barefoot hippy girl? Scientists don’t look like you. SCIENTISTS NEVER LOOK LIKE YOU.

This is a problem. It’s not less of a problem because it’s also true for some men, which it is:

“... suppose you saw a picture of a guy, topless in a muscle magazine ... Would you think he was a serious scientist, a legitimate, respectable one? Or would you think he was a hot guy who is a lab technician somewhere ... ?”

Does that mean he shouldn’t? Does that mean it’s OK to think that way? Does that mean the guy who reads the muscle magazines never gets to think he can be a scientist?

“I think boys believe they can become doctors because of seeing men act like real doctors using actual medical words, not because of something like Surf for Science, ‘dude, I'm like totally a doctor, bro. Peace out!’”

You’re incorrect, or only partially correct. Men who are brought up to think they might someday be doctors become doctors because of seeing men act like real doctors using actual medical words. But some surfer dude? He’s never been exposed to the possibility. He has no role models. A surfer dude saying, “Dude, I’m like totally a doctor, bro,” lets him know that someone who talks like him can still be a doctor.

It really does.

Now. Back to the women. Here’s another quote from this thread:

“I looked at the woman, looked at the job description, and my first thought was to devalue the status of what she ‘really’ did.”

And why is that? Let’s look at some of the other comments:

“But that still leaves the question, why would smart women be interested in cheerleading?”

“...dress in a cheerleading costume and you're performing for the sexual gratification of men. At least the stereotype for the female scientist is respectable.”

Cheerleaders aren’t smart, says public opinion. Cheerleaders aren’t respectable.

And women who dress sexy, that’s never because they like it. No, they’re just poor deluded dupes forced into the role of dressing sexy by society. Not like the smart people! The smart people who can become scientists!

I totally agree that the concept that girls must be hot to have worth is a serious problem. But the other side of that is also a serious problem, one that is seriously underestimated:

“There is the flipside stereotype that smart women are physically unattractive, but it's always seemed much less pervasive to me, and much easier for people to get over ... instead of cheerleading, the smart, attractive woman just keeps doing her job while she happens to look attractive.”

I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. It is a very pervasive problem, and it is not easy for people to get over.

For one thing, in the sciences, it’s harder than you think to keep doing your job while you happen to look attractive. There is social pressure *not* to dress well. *Not* to wear anything that shows how good you look. Why? See above.

“I looked at the woman, looked at the job description, and my first thought was to devalue the status of what she ‘really’ did.”

You get taken less seriously. And that’s not a good thing.

If for no other reason, it means there are thousands, millions of girls out there who don’t have any scientists as role models. No one who looks like them. No one allowed to look like them. Anyone who does look like them is denigrated and people wonder if they are “real” scientists.

So, Science Cheerleaders? Clap, clap, stomp, stomp, go team.
posted by kyrademon at 2:20 AM on November 12, 2010 [21 favorites]


hot.
posted by the cuban at 2:49 AM on November 12, 2010


> Curious, hippybear -- suppose you saw a picture of a guy, topless in a muscle magazine, flexing oiled muscles, and were told he was also a scientist. Would you think he was a serious scientist, a legitimate, respectable one?

Here you go!
posted by bukvich at 4:49 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is really hard to look at a photograph of a woman who meets societies outrageous standards and not immediately try to devalue her intelligence and abilities.

How is it the cheerleader's fault that you judge people by their appearance?

These women are young, an age when most "scientists" are just scraping by as graduate assistants or lab techs or even waiting tables. But they've already reached the pinnacle of one profession, cheerleading, and now they are starting out on their science careers. They aren't Nobel Prize winners. At least not yet. But they are role models to many kids. How can them saying "science is cool" be anything but a good thing?
posted by Dano St at 5:31 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


quarantine: "My inclination is to say that if women choose to do this for their own edification, and not out of a feeling of needing to make themselves sexual objects for men for their professional success, then "We shouldn't do that" sounds a lot like "You don't know that you're just feeding into misogyny, baby.""

Ultimately, the question of whether this is bad or tolerable boils down to what people think while they're doing it, which is why the question is probably irresolvable.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:59 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


FUCK YEAH.

This is awesomeness on a truly epic scale. Breaking down expectations about both scientists *and* cheerleaders!

And between science cheerleaders and science for citizens, it sounds like Cavalier is really committed to making science accessible. Which is the sort of thing that will do more for getting more women and more people into STEM careers.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:14 AM on November 12, 2010


Have you read that article recently, Loudmax? There are updates that are relevant.

Wait, Chris Anderson asks for freaking *suggestions* as to how the magazine can improve its coverage of women from the woman who just pointed out this:

...the last time that a woman was featured on your cover, because she was being featured in the magazine for an actual accomplishment, was way back in 1996 when it was Sherry Turkle, the academic and author. And, the only other time was in 1994, when musician/author Laurie Anderson was featured.

and that's supposed to be something that mitigates the criticism in some "relevant" way? It's not working.
posted by mediareport at 6:23 AM on November 12, 2010


getting more women and more people into STEM careers

Which is to say, the things that work to recruit women into these fields also work to recruit a wider diversity of people in general.

As for WIRED, it's not like their lack of women on the cover is anything new. Did Chris Anderson and the rest of the WIRED folks suddenly notice that people have been bitching about this off and on for years? It's not like people have not already been offering suggestions. I predict that they will fail to act on any of these suggestions, or will act on them for a couple of issues until things fall back to their usual status quo. (I'd love to be wrong in my prediction, but I've seen way too many cycles of that sort of thing happening.)
posted by rmd1023 at 7:43 AM on November 12, 2010


and that's supposed to be something that mitigates the criticism in some "relevant" way?

If it was, I'd have said that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:13 AM on November 12, 2010


These women are young, an age when most "scientists" are just scraping by as graduate assistants or lab techs or even waiting tables. But they've already reached the pinnacle of one profession, cheerleading, and now they are starting out on their science careers. They aren't Nobel Prize winners. At least not yet. But they are role models to many kids. How can them saying "science is cool" be anything but a good thing?

I don't think you understood my comment at all. I am on your side. What I meant was that the science cheerleaders are an interesting thought experiment, or maybe "teachable moment", about our expectations for women. When I see a beautiful woman and am told she's an occupational therapist, my first thought is that she's a dumb cheerleader who had to turn to that because she got kicked out of the hotties' club. Whereas I wouldn't think that of a man. Even an extremely attractive man. I would take him seriously as a practitioner of an important career.

I'm not griping that these women aren't Nobel laureates. I'm griping that society has taught me that conventionally beautiful women are not to be taken seriously for any other aspect of their character.
posted by Sara C. at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2010


A surfer dude saying, “Dude, I’m like totally a doctor, bro,” lets him know that someone who talks like him can still be a doctor.

It really does.


Yes. I (really) was not saying that it doesn't. I was saying that if the larger problem were a widespread cultural expectation that males were not mentally wired right to become doctors, that wouldn't really help. And if the wider problem were that people thought surfer dudes were dumb and treated them with disrespect once they did years of work to become a doctor, it again wouldn't really help. I actually don't think the problem is that young women think they cannot be doctors because they are cheerleaders. I think people become cheerleaders because those are more visible female role models, and that is what women are supposed to be.

I like this project, don't get me wrong. It fills a niche. It would fill more niches if that YouTube video gave the women a few moments to talk in detail about their work and show how smart they really are. The girls could see them sounding like actual doctors and engineers, enhancing the idea that yes, girls like them can raise their hand in science class and say smart, technical things.
posted by salvia at 8:28 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


My second paragraph was not intended to be in response to anything you said, Sara C., but I can see how I didn't make that clear. I did get your gripe, and society does deserve blame somewhat for your perceptions, but I dunno... you know that first thought is superficial, yes? There's no reason to believe she can't be both beautiful and smart, and I think you'd agree with that. So, maybe, that initial kneejerk is something you should work on in your own mind, rather than denigrating her choices.

I apologize if that seems a little short. Some other comments here have been a bit jaw-dropping to me and I may be misplacing my temper on your comment because it's more engage-able.
posted by Dano St at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2010


DANO ST I AM NOT DENIGRATING HER CHOICES.

Gah.
posted by Sara C. at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


It would fill more niches if that YouTube video gave the women a few moments to talk in detail about their work and show how smart they really are.

Salvia, there are a bunch of other videos on their channel, some of which are more in line with that approach. Try this one.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:45 AM on November 12, 2010


Ooh, thanks ChurchHatesTucker. That was the kind of thing I was hoping to see. Thanks.
posted by salvia at 10:28 AM on November 12, 2010


Exactly. I heard the Valley Girl lilt and thought "bet she has a hard time getting taken seriously by the other engineers." That was why I wanted more actual science in their interviews, not "I'm, like, a doctor, tee hee!"

I went back and listened. Two women, near the end, discuss how they encourage children to get into science: "I'm like, hey, you can think out of the box!" but I think that's an acceptably common use of the word to report indirect speech.

But that's it. None of the women say anything remotely like "I'm, like, a doctor, tee hee!" They're all quite articulate. I think society codes "valley girl lilts" and "perky women" as stupid, regardless of their actual words.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:56 AM on November 12, 2010


Scientist Barbie is still Barbie.

That's an interesting take. So you're under the impression that her Barbie-ness is essential, and actually defines her, rather than anything else she has to offer?

It seems this is creating some cognitive dissonance for people. Like Barbie and Scientist need to be mutually exclusive, or that one needs to define the other. Identitiy is highly fluid and amorphous. It's not an oil/water mixture, but rather two parts subjectivity and one part aether.

If you have a problem with cheerleading that's one thing, but if you must make that arguement than maybe you should the clear distinction of what the cheerleading is for. Cheerleading women into science is hardly a bad thing.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:18 PM on November 12, 2010


I guess for me, what it boils down to is this: I have read lots of things about Dean Kamen, because he has accomplished lots of things. On the rare occasions a picture of him has been included, it has not focused on his body/face; rather, it generally has shown him in a room of the kids he's supporting, or him in a picture with other people, or what have you. What he's wearing is generally nondescript enough that it's hard for me to picture him in my head, as I write this. I don't really know if he's attractive or not, because media pieces on him don't mention it, and pictures don't highlight it. But I have tremendous respect for the guy, for what he's done.

And if Dean Kamen were Deanna Kamen, and attractive? I promise you, I'd know what she looked like, and what she wore, because there would always be a picture of her with the articles, and a mention of her physical appearance in the articles, and as far as media coverage of women who accomplish great things goes, that pisses me off. I think it's somewhat disrespectful.

What pisses me off more, though (and I say this as a father with a daughter, I didn't care fuck-all about this previous to her birth) is when the woman who's accomplished some great things goes out of their way to show off their physical assets. I feel like it's counterproductive; in combination of our obsession to glorify and promote women whose primary assets are their physical ones even though they have no other apparent talents, it helps to establish a common thread: dumb and pretty? We think you're great! Smart and pretty? We think you're great! Famous and pretty? We think you're great! The common thread: You're pretty? We think you're great!

So that's just my take on it. I just wish my daughter could grow up reading about, and hearing about, and watching news pieces about women who do some really awesome stuff -- without having any emphasis whether they're pretty or not.
posted by davejay at 9:08 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


More on media depictions of men vs women in science here at http://alicerosebell.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/bimbo-or-boffin/, discussing this paper.
One clear difference emerged from studying the 51 profiles: the attention given to the appearance of women scientists. Half of the profiles of women referred to their clothing, physique and/or hairstyle whereas this was only true for 21% of the profiles of men. Such references might seem fairly innocuous, especially when located within a generally positive article, but Chimba and Kitzinger stress the ways in which references to a man’s appearance carry a different tone. For example, while women might be described as having a ‘mane of blonde hair’, the focus for men is more likely to be on a beard, with rather different connotations: ‘His full white beard is worn more in homage to Charles Darwin than the Almighty’ (Chimba & Kitzinger, 2010: 612-3).

posted by rmd1023 at 8:07 AM on November 14, 2010


What do you think of when someone says "there's this male/female scientist I know"? Unless you have some enlightened way of thinking you probably already have preconceptions about what a scientist is like, whether they're a man or a woman.
These woman are testing those preconceptions for young girls to see and that's what they blatantly say they are doing. If the news or media focused on some of these women specifically because they are good looking that would be something else. Now if you wanted to ask the question "has this been picked up by the news media because they are good looking?", well maybe but they are expressing their points clearly regardless.
But I think taking what these women are doing and turning it upside down and saying this is wrong because they are beautiful is not the right way to look at it.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:39 PM on November 14, 2010


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