We may get a shirt celebrating women in science.
November 16, 2014 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Thanks To That Shirt, We May Get a Shirt Celebrating Women In Science by Mika McKinnon for io9:
"Along with [the newly-designed shirt] provoking quite a few giggles, Elly Zupko, the woman behind the design has been talked into trying to make the shirt for real with the intention of donating proceeds to science diversity programs. She's soliciting names and images of women in science who should be featured on the fabric. Zupko has a lot of logistics to figure out, but she's enthusiastic and buoyed by the support of others eager to celebrate the wide diversity of women in science who have contributed so much over the years. If all goes well, the take-away of this mess will be the Project Scientist for the another incredible space mission wearing another shirt covered in ladies, but this time celebrating them instead of objectifying them.

From STEM Women, Astronomical Sexism: Rosetta #ShirtStorm and Everyday Sexism in STEM:
"Professor McGlynn outlines two general ways the STEM community can help to address the impact of this incident:
  1. Write to the ESA and NASA to let them know this behaviour should not be tolerated. We note that the response should be public so we know what these prominent space agencies plan to do to prevent similar incidents in future.
  2. Speak out. STEM professionals should continue conversations on social media to show the world that practitioners care about eradicating everyday sexism.
I would add another suggestion: formally make time with your colleagues and your organisations to have an honest and safe discussion about this and the other examples of sexism in STEM. "
Further reading

To the science guys who want to understand #shirtstormStorify piece (compiled tweets to form a narrative) by Janet D. Stemwedel.
From The Guardian, Why women in science are annoyed at Rosetta mission scientist's clothing
He's Smart Enough to Land a Drone on a Comet, But the Naked-Lady Shirt?Dame Magazine
I don't care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizingThe Verge (updated with a video of the apology)
The apology: coverage of the apology from The Guardian and video.
Link to original tweet by Elly Zupko (@SMLXist): There, I fixed it.
Space program or booby shirt? Ladies, start your fainting couches from Emily Willingham (responding to an op-ed by Glenn Harlan Reynolds that appeared yesterday in USA Today ). More about Emily Willingham: Wikipedia / About page.

Previously: Landing on a comet LIVE!, The most radical thing I can do as a woman scientist is, well, science., #WomenTweetScienceToo
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (341 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is such an amazing time to be alive.
posted by bleep at 9:09 PM on November 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I need to post this here so as to get this out of my head. Here is a Facebook thread that happened two days ago. (I've removed the other comments.)

ORIGINAL POST (friend, white male in the Bay Area, has a five-month-old daughter): So let me get this straight: A guy helps land a probe on a comet for the first time in history and all people want to do is complain about his shirt? This is why we can't have nice things.

Madamina: On the one hand, yes. On the other hand, this is an example of the kind of microaggressions that are too easily swept under the rug and become a larger pattern... but by the time that pattern gets noticeable, people then come back and say, "Well, if you had a problem with it, why didn't you say anything the first time?" And if someone like me DID say something the first time, that makes me a humorless bitch. And my friend with a PhD in nanoscience who works at Cornell can't get the lab supply rep to talk to her because she doesn't have a Y chromosome. Yada yada yada... and THAT is why we can't have nice things. (Sorry -- I have a daughter now, and all people can say is WOMEN BE SHOPPING.) [2 likes]

CHRIST, WHAT AN ASSHOLE (older white male):
Oh horrors! Microaggressions! Clearly many contemporary woman are too frail and delicate to be able to cope in the sharp-elbowed real world. I never expected to hear myself endorsing the Moslem treatment of woman but, in this instance, the practice of keeping women at home seems to be the only way to protect certain ever-so-sensitive women from the risk of being offended.
CHRIST, WHAT AN ASSHOLE: I'm going to attempt to obtain a copy of the offending shirt and, by wearing it, make a sartorial statement to censorious grievance mongers everywhere. [Picture of shirt.]

Madamina: Yes, you're very special. Good for you.

Asshole: [posts meme picture with pic of scientist and the following text] I JUST LANDED A SPACECRAFT ON A MOVING COMET/PEOPLE WHO CAN'T PARALLEL PARK ARE BITCHING ABOUT MY SHIRT

Second friend of friend: [A-hole friend], I'm an XL. Let me know what I owe you for it.

Asshole: [Second friend] et al.: the shirt was a one-off made for Dr. Taylor by a friend. To my knowledge the shirt style is not available for purchase. But I'm hoping, given all the fuss, that the shirt goes into commercial production soon. This is a link to the blog of the woman who made the shirt. http://ellyprizemanupdate.blogspot.com/

[Female friend]: Can you imagine what people would have said if a female scientist wore something so inappropriate to the press event? [1 like]

OP: I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have said "she was asking for it because of what she was wearing".

Asshole: [posts this delightful meme pic]

*****
I fucking hate people. I want to just do what I've been taught to do with trolls and simply ignore it. But I CAN'T. I just CAN'T.
posted by Madamina at 9:11 PM on November 16, 2014 [45 favorites]


The other Elly speaks:
"I am heartbroken to see my friend getting upset for the world to see just because he was himself. What he achieved was lost in negativity."

more here


(I think Matt Taylor was trying with his shirt to make a point about class (he has blue collar roots - his dad was a bricklayer & his first job was construction worker))
posted by Bwithh at 9:16 PM on November 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


If he was using his shirt to make a point about class, there are many quicker and easier ways to make that point than actually wearing a shirt covered in sexy sexy ladies.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:20 PM on November 16, 2014 [44 favorites]


It looks like the #gamergate warriors have adopted the #shirtstorm, which just kind of proves what a bogus issue it is. Or, if this criticism is enough to make Matt Taylor cry, maybe it's the MEN who aren't emotionally strong enough to handle rocket science.

...to make a point about class (he has blue collar roots - his dad was a bricklayer & his first job was construction worker)
...showing he comes from a long line of construction workers who catcall women who walk by. Got it. Class.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:23 PM on November 16, 2014 [12 favorites]


Well, his friend made him a cool shirt and his first thought may have been "OMG I have to wear this!"

When you zoom in it's not semi-nekkid ladies per se; they're (mostly?) science-fictional semi-nekkid ladies with blasters and stuff. It would have been funny and not inappropriate for an SF-themed luau or something. He seems like a nice guy and I wish he'd learned the rules about professional attire earlier, and in a less embarrassing way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:24 PM on November 16, 2014 [34 favorites]


(I think Matt Taylor was trying with his shirt to make a point about class (he has blue collar roots - his dad was a bricklayer & his first job was construction worker))

Or maybe, on a day that was special to him, he wanted to wear a shirt that was special to him since a fried made it for him personally. Or he just grabbed the first thing he found in his closet that morning. Absent an "I wore the shirt because X" statement from the man himself, which doesn't seem all that likely, we're all just playing silly what-if games.

(though to be fair, silly what-if games are basically the Official Sport of Metafilter).
posted by Itaxpica at 9:27 PM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


the thing i keep coming back to is i don't understand why the esa doesn't have a drawer of shirts with their logo on it for just such an occasion.
posted by nadawi at 9:29 PM on November 16, 2014 [30 favorites]


Or, if this criticism is enough to make Matt Taylor cry, maybe it's the MEN who aren't emotionally strong enough to handle rocket science.

That's kind of a nasty thing to say. The guy was so sorry about what happened that he was reduced to tears, maybe stop twisting the knife at this point?
posted by Drinky Die at 9:29 PM on November 16, 2014 [40 favorites]


i have two good friends who once gave me a "slut bucket" for a gift - it was hilarious and i showed all my friends and i kept the bucket until i let an ex convince me to get rid of it. i still understood that it wasn't appropriate to take to work, no matter how excited i was about it.
posted by nadawi at 9:31 PM on November 16, 2014 [13 favorites]


He seems like a nice guy and I wish he'd learned the rules about professional attire earlier, and in a less embarrassing way.

Seconded. The shirt is tacky-ass to be wearing on camera for a special occasion, but I don't feel like making a -gate drama over it. But I can't argue with the point that nobody there thinking, "Hey, that's not gonna go over well on camera" is a bad thing, as well.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:31 PM on November 16, 2014 [15 favorites]


That's kind of a nasty thing to say. The guy was so sorry about what happened that he was reduced to tears, maybe stop twisting the knife at this point?

But that's no fun.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:32 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


i think we can get the point across without insulting taylor directly or making jokes about how sincerely upset he seems to be - but i do think it's fair to comment on the overwhelming reaction from a certain kind of guy about this which is, "girls are sooooo sensitive that they can't even handle a shirt. that's the reason they don't belong in STEM (and by extension all areas that i consider nerdy and therefor only for other men like me)." and even out of that kind of guy, the trope that women are too emotional to participate in all sorts of things is overwhelming and should be challenged any time it comes up.
posted by nadawi at 9:38 PM on November 16, 2014 [32 favorites]


Also, I generally don't expect much logic-wise from the MRA/anti-feminist crowd, but even by that very low bar this whole "judging someone for wearing a sexist shirt is just like judging women for wearing revealing clothes!" argument is mind-bogglingly dumb.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:41 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


It looks like the #gamergate warriors have adopted the #shirtstorm, which just kind of proves what a bogus issue it is

Actually it's about ethics in shirts journalism.
posted by brundlefly at 9:41 PM on November 16, 2014 [40 favorites]


I work on the edge of STEM but not in planetary science like this guy. But I can't imagine thinking that a shirt covered in T&A is work-appropriate, ever. Even when I was a socially awkward teen I inew better than that.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:42 PM on November 16, 2014 [16 favorites]


People are awful. I'm ready for the reign of the cockroaches.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 9:44 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's kind of hilarious as shirts go, if also terrible, and it sounds like neither he nor his friend had any intention of making any kind of statement with it...but I think it's telling that there's a consistent stream of Ask Me threads on variants "I am a young female STEM graduate student/professor, what do I wear" paired with "I am in a male-dominated profession, how do I get respect in class/at meetings" and meanwhile a male scientist can meander in front of colleagues and TV cameras wearing this without a single comment on his attire and with zero loss of respect.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:49 PM on November 16, 2014 [53 favorites]


This is the same guy, right, who talked about how the robot (the whole mission?) was sexy but not easy? Because come the fuck on. Don't say shit like that to the press, don't wear a shirt like that on mission day. You can be a truly cool science-doing person without acting like a 12-year-old or a frat brother (see: Mohawk guy on the Curiosity mission).

And for the love of Christ, where were the PR/Communications people on mission day?
posted by rtha at 9:55 PM on November 16, 2014 [64 favorites]


Another reason to forbid bumper stickers.
posted by clavdivs at 10:02 PM on November 16, 2014


> And for the love of Christ, where were the PR/Communications people on mission day?

Right? I work for a much smaller organization with a much smaller media presence and my Communications director, not to mention anyone else in my organization, would have grabbed me before I ever made it NEAR a TV camera, much less a planned livestream, in something waaay less offensive than that.

Seriously, I wouldn't even go on the radio wearing something like that, or the female equivalent, whatever that would be.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:04 PM on November 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


And for the love of Christ, where were the PR/Communications people on mission day?

Seriously. I keep my boss on my Facebook friendslist just to keep me honest. I don't even post sketchy photos on my closed feed. (At least not after the whole machine gun incident. Oops.)

My husband and I were talking about the comparison with Mohawk Guy. That guy may have actually brought people into the conversation about his work.
posted by Madamina at 10:04 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Comment from a friend who is a planetary biologist:
"There are millions of tiny every-day actions and variables that can make the scientific community an unwelcoming place for women. Most of these actions are subtle, and it can be challenging to explain why they create an unwelcoming environment. And then there's this dude: Matt Taylor, giving a press conference about his Philae spacecraft's landing on a comet ... while wearing a shirt that gratuitously sexualizes women ... and saying things about the comet like, "..she is sexy, but I never said she was easy." Seriously, man, how are the young women who do graduate work with you going to feel about that? How are your women colleagues going to feel? This is why we can't have nice things -- like gender equity."
posted by ChuraChura at 10:09 PM on November 16, 2014 [76 favorites]


When you zoom in it's not semi-nekkid ladies per se; they're (mostly?) science-fictional semi-nekkid ladies with blasters and stuff. It would have been funny and not inappropriate for an SF-themed luau or something. He seems like a nice guy and I wish he'd learned the rules about professional attire earlier, and in a less embarrassing way.

I have a certain amount of sympathy over the shirt itself because like you say the image doesn't read to me as "sexy ladies" but as "retro pulp illustration." But the source material was obviously quite intentionally lurid so it's a fine distinction - I'm a fan of the tradition but wouldn't use images like that at work/out of the context of people who would be sure to appreciate them. Really it's the combined effect with his comments that pushes the whole thing over the top.
posted by atoxyl at 10:21 PM on November 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am of the mind that anytime we judge someone on the content of their clothing rather than the content of their character we are forgetting our shared humanity and attacking people for their preferences.

Steve Hill says it best Offended?
posted by FiveNines at 10:27 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am of the mind that anytime we judge someone on the content of their clothing rather than the content of their character we are forgetting our shared humanity and attacking people for their preferences.
Except that, as far as I've been able to tell, every comment I've seen has been about the shirt and not the man. Given the tearful apology that he issued over the shirt issue, I feel for him—and I think it's a great learning moment for everybody. In particular, learning who in our circle of Facebook friends is likely to talk about "whiny ladies" who "can't just be happy with everyone else" and bullshit like that.

We're thinking human beings; we can all be excited about a scientific breakthrough and be frustrated by messaging that unintentionally accompanied it, with no contradiction. We don't have to pretend that frustrating things didn't happen simply because they occurred in the penumbra of something awesome.
posted by verb at 10:36 PM on November 16, 2014 [37 favorites]


Is it an attack on the dude's humanity to question his decision to wear that shirt and say that thing on the biggest day of his career? I can think someone made a really stupid decision without thinking him irredeemable.

I don't know the guy. He clearly did some awesome science and project management, but that doesn't tell me anything about his "character" and I am sick unto fucking death of some people getting the vapors whenever someone goes "Hey, ah, that's maybe kind of an inappropriate shirt because sexualized images and women in STEM and blahblah you know the drill" because no, that is not the same as forgetting our shared humanity. Talk about needing some perspective.
posted by rtha at 10:37 PM on November 16, 2014 [50 favorites]


I'm a scientist and I wear metal t-shirts to work all the time, though I do keep the really gnarly Cannibal Corpse designs on the downlow. Not being a greyfaced automaton is one of the great privileges of working in science, and so the flack this dude has copped breaks my heart.

I'd agree the shirt's maybe more on the Cannibal Corpse end of the spectrum (i.e. NSFW), but the argument that it discourages women in STEM is such a stretch that it seems disingenuous. I feel like people make that claim because it justifies vehement and emotionally satisfying responses - compare with Adria Richards' public shaming of the donglejokers, justified because she felt their behaviour prevented women from getting into programming. This disingenuity provokes backlash from idiot MRA types, which backlash itself justifies the initial vehemence of the complaints, their merit notwithstanding - and so the internet gender wars juggernaut rolls on. Grim.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:39 PM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


I am of the mind that anytime we judge someone on the content of their clothing rather than the content of their character we are forgetting our shared humanity and attacking people for their preferences.

I mean that's great but generally when women walk into any room wearing literally any variety of clothing they get judged: she's a slut, she's too uptight, that outfit is too hip, that pantsuit is too schoolmarm, those jeans are too tight, that outfit is so young, she's not serious enough for this field. But tweet about a shirt a dude wore one time and suddenly it's an attack on his humanity?
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:42 PM on November 16, 2014 [60 favorites]


the fact that women have to be constantly reminded of their ongoing status as objects is what breaks my heart.
posted by bleep at 10:42 PM on November 16, 2014 [33 favorites]


Flag and move on?

Seriously, it was an error in judgement (and certainly the actual responsibility of the press team to ensure the team was represented visually appropriately).

It was an error in judgement, nothing more, nothing less. It might represent more (there are too many types of this sort of error in judgement, etc). But no one is actually critisizing anything he inappropriately said or did (unlike many many threads about incidents of sexism and/or workplace harassment), nor even seriously proposing he had any ill intent at any point (no one is suggestion he woke up with intent of dissuading women from entering STEM related fields).

As is common in these incidents, regardless of the facts at hand asshat misogynists will come out of the closet and say awful things - so there are things to point at and discuss, I guess.

So, I'll touch upon a couple of things from the first link here. Those numbered suggestions... I don't think they're good or realistic ones, except involving your media team with events like this (I assume there was a media team - any blame for this incident I blame on them).
For globally-important events, it is not just appropriate but common sense to run any interview subjects past a test audience before sending them out into public.
Really? Are you for real? "Globally-important events" are really funny things to define, but beyond that I've never heard of mutlinationals doing that for billion dollar product promotions... Is this a good use of resources? It sounds pretty absurd. (having someone with involved with media relations to say "wear another shirt" would have been a great idea, as I said).
The Project Scientist is a leader representing a diverse group, and not just themselves.
Really? In the 3-4 person panel I saw in this event everyone was a white man. It'd be awesome if it were a diverse group, but it doesn't look like it was from that panel. The demographics of that panel seemed to me to be as least as unfriendly as that shirt.
Consider how people from different circumstances and cultures will view the key players.
Okay, that sounds good. I mean, obviously there are some cultures that might be pissed off if there was a women scientist on the panel, but okay, outside of that it would be good if scientist spokespeople didn't inadvertently offend people. Sounds good.

But then, under that heading, came this:
For Taylor, anything short sleeved to reveal his tattoos would allow him to tweak conservative stereotypes of what a scientist looks like without entering into the realm of inappropriate.
Wait, WHAT? Why is it appropriate to intentionally 'tweak conservative stereotypes'? Is he there to make a statement about tatoos, or talk about some science? I mean, fast food workers have to cover their tattoos because of how the establishment doesn't want the person to represent their organization... Why is it necessary to make an intentional social statement at all when discussing science? Couldn't he leave "tattoos are awesome" for his blog? I love me some tattoos, but it seems more than strange to talk about how he looks shouldn't be offensive to people and then discuss how he can intentionally 'tweak' social conservatives.

I'm just sad that his shirt is the topic for his life... I hope that at some point when you google his name there will be discussions of his contribution to science and not his t-shirt at the top of the results. For his sake.
posted by el io at 10:47 PM on November 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


A shirt with sexy women on it is only as powerful as you make it.
posted by FiveNines at 10:49 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


> beyond that I've never heard of mutlinationals doing that for billion dollar product promotions

What? Do you think all the times on the iPhone announcement magically lined up with Jobs' off the cuff speech? What do you think autocues, rehearsals and media training are for?
posted by jaduncan at 10:51 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think all the dudes who are shocked, SHOCKED, that a person would try to talk about something and have everyone pay more attention to how he looks or what he's wearing than what he's talking about need to pay just a wee bit more attention to the chatter every damn time a woman tries to say something in public.
posted by straight at 10:56 PM on November 16, 2014 [102 favorites]


but the argument that it discourages women in STEM is such a stretch that it seems disingenuous.

I'm a women working in STEM and if one of my colleagues wore a shirt like that anywhere I would feel really gross and not want to go to work. I certainly would avoid working with them, which could end up having career repercussions for me. I'm not some fainting violet, quite the opposite. This isn't some made up thing where we're looking for things to be upset about. It really was a gross, inappropriate thing for that guy to do and I'm glad he was called out on it.

When he cried all boohoo I rolled my eyes, try putting up with the years of appraising looks and snarky comments that every women in science gets and maybe he'll understand why that shirt should never have been in his wardrobe in the first place.
posted by shelleycat at 10:57 PM on November 16, 2014 [85 favorites]


The CEO of large multinationals are savvy folks. But I've engaged with a random corporate PR person who is trying to coach an executive on general statements about random corporate stuff, and that sort of thing is not stage managed. Sure rehearsals, but specifically focus groups on dry-runs of speeches, no, don't have any first hand knowledge of that.
posted by el io at 10:58 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ah. It is indeed a Thing.
posted by jaduncan at 11:01 PM on November 16, 2014


the argument that it discourages women in STEM is such a stretch

You really don't think there are more women than men who would look at this thing and say, "I don't wanna work in a place decorated like a frathouse"? I think you're wrong. I'm not saying most women would think that, but if there are some who do, that's gonna push the male/female STEM ratios in the wrong direction.
posted by straight at 11:03 PM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not that anybody should have to justify this with a scientific study, but there is evidence that being objectified makes women perform worse on math tasks. The shirt falls under what I would consider subtle objectification and it would absolutely distract me and make me feel unwelcome in the workplace by reminding me that my primary value to many people is as a decoration. It would make me self-conscious as hell and I'd avoid working with this guy at all costs if this is the kind of thing he thinks is appropriate.

I also love the idea that science is this magical unicorn land where everyone gets to wear whatever they want - except for women, who have to dress seriously and project power, and not too slutty, and not too young, and not too into fashion, but you should be put-together, but not like you spend a lot of time and energy on it... male scientists might get to wear whatever they want, but women continue to be judged disproportionately according to their appearance, and with an extra-annoying double-bind about looking pleasant but not "too feminine" to boot. Why, it's almost like women are objectified or something!

A shirt with sexy women on it is only as powerful as you make it.

There are a lot of actual women scientists who are telling you that this upsets them and makes them feel unwelcome and objectified in their place of work, and this is your response? There are so many embarrassing empathy failures in the defensive response to this from men I don't even know where to begin. The dismissive bullshit (and harassment - someone was doxxed the other day over this) is ten times worse than the shirt itself.

This isn't just about being "offended," it's about trying to exist in a culture where wearing something that is actively hostile to women is seen as a harmless eccentricity, and where a man's right to wear a sexist shirt is deemed to outweigh a woman's right to criticize it.
posted by dialetheia at 11:04 PM on November 16, 2014 [77 favorites]


Yeah, if a colleague of mine wore that into work I'd think it was both crass and remarkably insensitive to coworkers. It would make me suspicious of that person in group situations just because of the sheer lack of sensitivity and care that it implies in a work context.
posted by jaduncan at 11:06 PM on November 16, 2014 [11 favorites]


There's a difference between level headed criticism, and what this became.

It has been terribly disappointing to see a milestone in human space exploration nearly overshadowed by the sheer size and hatefulness of the shitstorm that followed one participating scientist's poor choice of attire.

I truly, sincerely hope that none of you are ever in the situation where you have to participate in a world-changing event that's telecast live, lest some sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued and influential Internet persona (1) spots whatever dumb, unthinking mistake you made that day, and (2) decides to publicize that on the 'net.

I don't mean that sarcastically, I really hope you're never in that situation.

Poor guy :(.
posted by theony at 11:06 PM on November 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


Even out of work I'd find it crass, TBH.
posted by jaduncan at 11:08 PM on November 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Personally I find it sad that a milestone in human achievement has been overshadowed by a clueless guy wearing a gross shirt. This isn't the fault of the people finding the shirt gross, it's the fault of the guy - and the workplace culture that supported his decision - who thought that shirt was appropriate to wear.

Yeah, he's sorry about wearing it. But how about now looking to change that system so that wearing something like that is no longer acceptable, so that this kind of thing stops happening? It would be cool to read about the positive things this guy does in the future to make a real change to how things work, and way more meaningful than just his boohooing because he made a mistake.
posted by shelleycat at 11:13 PM on November 16, 2014 [29 favorites]


Also way more meaningful than reading about his scientific achievements because there are lots of great scientists around, not so many great mentors and leaders.
posted by shelleycat at 11:14 PM on November 16, 2014


It has been terribly disappointing to see a milestone in human space exploration nearly overshadowed by the sheer size and hatefulness of the shitstorm that followed one participating scientist's poor choice of attire.

I have followed this from the beginning. Let's be clear: the only reason this has escalated like it has is that the response by many dudes (including a bunch of twitter gamergaters who got bored and have been harassing female scientists for the last week over this) has been to dismiss these concerns as completely unimportant , to cast the women who are upset as conformity-demanding drones, to call them weak and easily offended, to question their motives in ugly ways, to completely minimize the impact of this sort of thing on women in science, and in the worst cases to harass the women who are saying this stuff on twitter and make it virtually unusable for them as a professional tool.

If most people had just calmly said "yeah, hm, maybe that shirt wasn't a super great idea" instead of defending to the death his right to wear it and talking endless scolding shit about women who called it out, none of this would have escalated at all. Women are only continuing to push back on this because there are so many people who don't even seem to agree that they have the right to find the shirt distasteful in the workplace (which seems like it should be self-evident to everyone who works outside a comic book convention, but hey).
posted by dialetheia at 11:16 PM on November 16, 2014 [90 favorites]


but the argument that it discourages women in STEM is such a stretch that it seems disingenuous.

Except that there are actual women, all over the internet, telling you that this is one of the many things that discourages us from pursuing careers in STEM fields.

I watched part of the landing with my daughter, who's just turned twelve. We were pretty into it, because it was cool, right? But when she saw Taylor's shirt, she said, "Ugh, his shirt is gross," and she stopped watching with me and went back to playing Pokemon. We'd been watching for a while, at that point. Maybe she was just bored of watching it and wanted to play her game. But maybe not. And I can't know that. What I can know is the chain of events, though: interested in cool science stuff happening, made visibly uncomfortable by sexualised women showing up in the middle of science stuff, no longer interested in watching science stuff. Correlation isn't causation, but it still seems like a thing that we should maybe look a little closer at.

I feel bad for Taylor. He doesn't seem like a bad guy, just a moderately oblivious one who made a stupid choice. I sort of feel like if people--and let's be real: I mean men on the internet--had been willing to say "wow, that was dumb of him," this wouldn't be nearly the dramastorm that it is, and I feel bad that his stupid choice has blown up the way it has. But I feel worse for the literal generations of girls and women whose interest in science and tech has been discouraged, both subtly and not so subtly, by the inescapably bro-y culture in those arenas.
posted by MeghanC at 11:16 PM on November 16, 2014 [84 favorites]


I heard that someone was going to actually make a revised version of this shirt, but depicting great female scientists instead of pinup girls.
posted by Flashman at 11:20 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Flashman, the link you want is That Other Shirt, where Elly Zupko , who did the Twitter "fixed it!", is trying to make it happen.
posted by MeghanC at 11:26 PM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


If any man I knew walked out of the house looking like that, I would give him an earful. Even leaving aside the sexist nature of the design, the shirt is just fugly. Fugly AND sexist? Oh, lovey, no, go change that thing.

The apology? Seems sincere, and I appreciate that. It's refreshing when someone who has given offense owns up to it and is sincere in apologizing. Did all the negative attention hurt his feelings? Sure, but that's what happens when you are thoughtless. Your fee-fees will heal, and perhaps that sting will remind you to be more thoughtful in the future.
posted by MissySedai at 11:27 PM on November 16, 2014 [10 favorites]


"Did all the negative attention hurt his feelings? Sure, but that's what happens when you are thoughtless. Your fee-fees will heal, and perhaps that sting will remind you to be more thoughtful in the future."

That's awesome that people here are mocking his emotional pain. In the old-days, pre-internet, this would just be a bad day as someone tells him on what should be his proudest professional day of his life that he made a bad judgement call. He'd have hurt feelings for a few days, no doubt.

But this incident has blown up, and it will be the top of his google rankings for years, if not the rest of his life. His children will bring this up to him, his grandchildren, every employer he ever meets, every girl he ever wants to date, people he just met at a party at his brothers house.

I agree people should be called out on their bad behavior, inappropriate words, and even inappropriate clothing (although this gets tricky; 'slut-shaming' isn't cool, right?). But this isn't a small conversation that the head of his office is having, this a global conversation and full articles in many global publications. I'd feel better about it if he appeared to be an unrepentant asshole but that doesn't seem to be the case.
posted by el io at 11:37 PM on November 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted. Please drop the personalization and "go on, do it" stuff. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:41 PM on November 16, 2014


Okay I'll try this without the hyperbole that apparently pissed off a hyper vigilant mod: does anyone actually want to discuss the content of the front page post, or is THIS the conversation in its entirety?

Because I think a women-in-science shirt, sold with the proceeds going to appropriate agencies, is a genuinely GREAT, albeit small, step forward. Who's with me?
posted by disclaimer at 11:42 PM on November 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


One of the purposes of the pushback is to change the culture and norms so that more people will get the message that it's not socially acceptable to wear sexist shirts at work, even in science. The point isn't just to personally chastise this guy. He was able to get a very advanced point in his career before anybody thought to point out that he shouldn't wear that to work, and that's the culture that needs to change. If I'd been on his team I would certainly have advised him to change before going on camera if only for his own good, but apparently nobody did that for him. Hopefully the norms will be a lot clearer to people who might make such innocent mistakes next time. He wore the shirt in a very public way - international tv! - and should absolutely expect a public response.

An interesting quote from that objectification study I linked above: "People that are being stereotyped [become] very, very concerned about their social connections and whether they belong," Gervais said. Objectification interacts with stereotype threat in insidious ways and contributes to the damage done by this sort of thing. It's not just about women saying "ew gross shirt," it's that shit like the shirt has a variety of complex effects on our sense of ourselves and our performance.

does anyone actually want to discuss the content of the front page post, or is THIS the conversation in its entirety?

Sure the other shirt is great, but there isn't too much to say about it, and there are a ton of other links in the post that cover a lot of the stuff we're talking about here. Be the change you want to see in the thread, but there's a lot more than just the cool shirt there.

Thanks for the great post jacob conrad is fully awesome - I especially loved the Emily Willingham response to that terrible USA Today op-ed. It covers a lot of the defensive arguments that keep popping up.
posted by dialetheia at 11:49 PM on November 16, 2014 [14 favorites]


[Comment deleted. As always, the ironic racism thing is not a great way to go for reasonable conversation – and folks, please dial things back a notch and/or take to Metatalk that which belongs in Metatalk. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 11:58 PM on November 16, 2014


By the way, my nomination for the women in science shirt is E.C. Pielou, a badass mathematical ecologist and absolutely brilliant natural history writer. The link is to a great tribute by paleocologist Jacquelyn Gill, posted in honor of Ada Lovelace Day.
posted by dialetheia at 11:59 PM on November 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


There has been a bunch of mentions of donating proceeds to the shirt to women in diversity non-profits, but I didn't actually see any mentioned in the article about the shirt. Sort of annoying. Would the BRAID Initiative be something that folks around here get behind?

I'm kind of against 100 faces on a shirt... It just doesn't make a good shirt. I like the clever geek ones in this link except the princess lei one. I mean, she was portrayed in a sexy-slave costume that is still replicated all over - not exactly an icon of feminism (I of course blame George Lucas). Also, Lei wasn't a scientist, she was a princess (yeah, a princess warrior but still a princess - were done with that trope, aren't we)? A sexy science-fiction character is (IMHO) not a 'response', but a continuation of a theme.

I just hope that if this gets made an honest-to-goodness designer looks at it - why have a powerful message in a crappy package that no one wants to wear. I speak as someone that has designed an awful t-shirt and know that I should have gotten some design-type person involved.
posted by el io at 12:05 AM on November 17, 2014


A shirt with sexy women on it is only as powerful as you make it.

Yeah, and it's the people who notice/point out racism/sexism/etc who are the real racists/sexists/etc. Ugh.

The whole "it doesn't do ANY HARM" shit when there are women RIGHT FUCKING THERE saying it harms them is such a crock of sexist bullshit. I don't see why we should be trusting people who are so clouded by their need to dismiss women to do anything scientifically useful when they're basically running around demonstrating their inability to make rational judgements about the ideas of half the species.
posted by NoraReed at 12:07 AM on November 17, 2014 [34 favorites]


I'm so glad I read a zillion memes mad at people for looking at Kim Kardashian instead of the comet so I could experience this!
posted by mobunited at 12:10 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was obviously a stupid idea to wear that shirt, which is offensive in that context. we are not talking about one's own home or a Kustom Kulture meetup where everybody has naked demon ladies drawn by Coop in their cars and shit. This was a professional environment outside the culture industry. It was bad. Let's not pretend that just because we can think of scenarios where it isn't bad, that this is one of them.
posted by mobunited at 12:15 AM on November 17, 2014 [15 favorites]


mobunited: I don't think anyone here is arguing that his wardrobe choice was an appropriate one. On twitter maybe, but that place is filled with professional trolls (it's been mentioned that some #gamergate folks are jumping into this - because gaming journalism integrity something something trolling).
posted by el io at 12:22 AM on November 17, 2014


A sexy science-fiction character is (IMHO) not a 'response', but a continuation of a theme.

This is the first time that I see an iconic character being invalidated in her default, first-seen representation (in a loose robe and German beermaid hair buns) because she once had a metal bikini forced on her on the second sequel.

Worse yet, without Leia to latch on during the original trilogy we have as most iconic female characters Oola the twi'lek slave dancer and Mon Mothma. If you've just wondered who the hell is Mon Mothma, yeah, that's my point. Has more lines than Oola, too.

The thing about being a geek girl, you take all the not too sucky female characters you get, because there are so few of them. See the recent Bayonetta thread for more discussion.
posted by sukeban at 12:44 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


A shirt with sexy women on it is only as powerful as you make it.

This is the "don't let the bullies get at you" thing, FOREVER.
posted by sukeban at 12:45 AM on November 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


And let's remember, the iconic image of India's Mars Orbiter mission will always be pictures like this one or this one of the mission control room. As an European, I'm kind of ashamed of the ESA right now that they allowed this PR disaster to happen.
posted by sukeban at 12:55 AM on November 17, 2014 [74 favorites]


Wow, that is quite a contrast.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:58 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


wow that really nails the topic home doesnt it O_O
posted by young_son at 1:01 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's worth pointing out that the woman science blogger who I was following during the whole Rosetta mission, on the last day of the lander loss, mentioned casually that the woman who was handling press conference on the loss of the Philae lander was the first woman she had seen on the ESA team over a time scale of a week.

This is not just a single guy making a mistake. This is an institutional problem, and a cultural problem. It's obvious that the reason the guy thought it was OK to wear the T-shirt, that there wasn't a stash of "proper attire" t-shirts, is because the notion that women might be interested in this event was completely foreign to the team. The fact that there are men coming in here to explain to women that no, there isn't really anything to be a angry about shows that the problem is endemic.
posted by happyroach at 1:39 AM on November 17, 2014 [51 favorites]


The main issue I have with this is the whole 'hey we scientists are mad crazy guys and not stuffy academics wooooooo look how crazy I am' vibe of the whole thing.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:43 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


"It's worth pointing out that the woman science blogger who I was following during the whole Rosetta mission, on the last day of the lander loss, mentioned casually that the woman who was handling press conference on the loss of the Philae lander was the first woman she had seen on the ESA team over a time scale of a week."

Oh my. I hope this isn't the same person who was in charge of the PR process for this event - because a media relations person was the person who should have told this bloke to change shirts before he went on the air. It would suck and be an awful irony if the person who loses their job is the only woman involved with the team.

I'm probably overly sympathetic with this guy because I remember wearing a t-shirt that was entirely inappropriate for the work place one day. Everyone thought it was hilarious, but told me that I would get in trouble for wearing it (I was a contractor at the time). This was the shirt. I was young, I thought it would be funny to wear it to work. I was working at Microsoft. (I didn't get in trouble for it, but I didn't wear it for more than a day).
posted by el io at 2:08 AM on November 17, 2014


I think happyroach has it. The guy thought it was ok to come to work wearing that shirt. He probably interacted with dozens of people including a TV crew. No one said to him, 'You need to change that shirt. It's offensive" It says a lot about the institution.
posted by night_train at 2:11 AM on November 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


A shirt with sexy women on it is only as powerful as you make it.

That "No Entry: radiation danger zone" sign is only as powerful as you make it....

I make it a priority in my working life to make sure I work in places where people will take my input as seriously as anyone else's and not disregard it because they think I am there as decorative furnishing for the office.

You bet that if I see someone wearing that kind of a shirt AT ALL, never mind on TV promoting their office to the whole world, it will give me a pretty big clue that their working environment is likely to be an unfriendly place for me to be.
posted by emilyw at 2:38 AM on November 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


I just... I mean we're on metafilter here so obviously we're gonna go on about things a lot but. So I think the media narrative of this has been unfair. What would have ideally happened in a non-insane world would be:

Everyone: "Hey, that's awesome, shame about that shirt, it's unprofessional and could be seen as/is demeaning to women"

Matt Taylor: "Oh I didn't really think about that, will do better in future"

Instead we had a big argument and lots of newspaper column inches. And the issue with the shirt becomes not the shirt itself but the reactions to the reactions to the reactions to the shirt. I think is a perfect combination of:

a)hyperbolae friendly twitter and tumblr
b)Column writers with column inches to fill

which turns what shouldn't have been that big a deal into a big deal.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 2:42 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Everyone: "Hey, that's awesome, shame about that shirt, it's unprofessional and could be seen as/is demeaning to women"

Matt Taylor: "Oh I didn't really think about that, will do better in future"


That's actually what happened, but you missed the contingent of people going "Why are you complaining you do not belong in STEM if you can't deal with titty shirts anyway go make me a sammich then die in a fire ugly slut". Which is why the newspaper column inches about chilly climates for women in STEM.
posted by sukeban at 2:47 AM on November 17, 2014 [63 favorites]


The guy's shirt just seems awful, no matter how you slice it. It's ugly, and I can certainly imagine that if I was a young woman with STEM aspirations, it would stand out to me as emblematic of why I might want to think twice about my plans. And, of course, if a woman in this dude's position made even the slightest error in choosing her outfit for the day, the Reddit headlines would be either 'SEXY BABE LANDS THING ON STUFF!' or 'WHY WON'T SCIENCE LADY SHOW US SOME MORE LEG? MY GOD SHE LOOKS LIKE AN UNSEXY LIBRARIAN!'.

Semi-related: I was asking my partner about this yesterday, as it's really started to stand out to me and get under my skin; what is with the tendency among internet MRA/misogynist types to confuse 'women' for 'woman' and vice versa? I see it all the time--it's become predictable to the point that I know it's coming in paragraph 2 from the first sentence in paragraph 1--on Reddit (which, TBH, I really only browse to fuel my hatred of most of the internet) and in Facebook discussions people share (like in (like in Madamina's FB quote at the top of the thread). It's so often in comments that contain no other major spelling or grammar issues, so I have a hard time believing it's just a mistake. I've also rarely--or never--seen someone write 'men' when they mean 'man', and it's practically the same damn thing. Has anyone written about this? Because I'd love to read it.
posted by still bill at 2:56 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm also amazed that no esa press relations person flagged this guy down and threw a golf shirt with the organization logo on it on him. For me the equivalent situation would be if I was working a company booth at an industry conference and there's no way I'd get away with anything like that shirt.
posted by octothorpe at 3:06 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm more offended at spending a billion bucks to land a washing machine on a rock ten years away for 10 minutes of useful data gathering.

Think of how many girls could have been educated for that. But then I'm a contrarian on space exploration, which I think provides for a convenient escape fantasy while our planet chokes.
posted by spitbull at 3:45 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Robot exploration is the smart kind, don't hate on it.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:47 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm also amazed that no esa press relations person flagged this guy down and threw a golf shirt with the organization logo on it on him.

It might be a "lovable nerd" protection field: he's not trying to be offensive, he thinks he's just being edgy and cool, he's this great big lovable nerd with puppydog eyes and there's no need to make him feel sad. Except, honestly, if someone were to politely pull me aside when (or before!) I make a faux pas I'd be ever so grateful - and I see no reason to think that Dr Taylor wouldn't feel the same way.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:48 AM on November 17, 2014


the argument that it discourages women in STEM is such a stretch that it seems disingenuous.

Nthing that I am a woman in STEM and find the shirt slightly discouraging (though a lot tacky), and the overall culture wherein he made it to international tv wearing the shirt without anyone pulling him aside and saying, "uh, maybe not, hey?" more discouraging.
posted by eviemath at 3:53 AM on November 17, 2014 [29 favorites]


I'm more offended at spending a billion bucks to land a washing machine on a rock ten years away for 10 minutes of useful data gathering.

Right? It's a terrible waste to employ people to design, build and operate a spacecraft searching for answers about mystery of the universe.

Also, that billion is in euros. In American dollars, the mission is cost about 1.8 Billion. It should noted that cost is spread over about 20 years (1996-2015). The mission was going to be even more expensive when planned as a sample return mission, but hey, at least we managed to keep costs down somehow.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:23 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


The problem with people who're pissed off about the fact that the shirt is a topic of discussion is, ideally this is a discussion that would have lasted for approximately thirty seconds, either before or after the shirt appeared on TV. "Dude that shirt is really freaking offensive, can you wear a different one?" "Oh shit WHOA you are totally right, my bad!" Shirt changed, discussion ends.

By turning the shirt's being an issue into a meta-issue, people are not only making it into far bigger of an issue than it ever had to be before, but the issue in question isn't "should sexist shirts be more important than science?", it's "should women be allowed to have opinions about the way anything makes them feel for literally any amount of time, ever?"

I get the sense that a lot of people imagine, or even DESIRE, a theoretical world in which men do all the work, talk about all the serious things, and women.... I dunno.... just sort of exist? Not necessarily as pin-up girls, nothing that overtly sexist, but definitely in some position that involves them giving men all the space to act exactly the way they've always acted, especially when they're alone amongst men. And if women DO exist alongside men, they ought to be the special sort of women who are so unconcerned about their own gender that they remain either invisible or bro-like themselves.

That a woman might have opinions about what a professional workplace entails, same as men, is what seems to be provoking all the outrage, and I find that fact to be deeply saddening, as well as telling of just how terrible our cultural views of women are.

not that it isn't fucking OBVIOUS to anybody who pays THE LEAST BIT OF ATTENTION to ANYTHING about the goddamned world, but NOO apparently every man in America is too busy LANDING ON A FUCKING COMET to spend any amount of time debating if whether when half the people on the planet say something a problem IT MIGHT ACTUALLY BE A PROBLEM ugh jfc can we kill all the fucking men already
posted by rorgy at 4:29 AM on November 17, 2014 [37 favorites]


just like how women are stereotyped to be over emotional but it's mostly men who throw colossal temper tantrums when someone points out their privilege, the discussion on this didn't stick around because the evil skeletons kept talking about it; it was a bunch of mens with manpinions about how terrible the evil feminist twitter cabal forced the poor innocent man into apologizing. this continues to be a thing because they keep trying to get women to shut up and we keep refusing.
posted by NoraReed at 4:47 AM on November 17, 2014 [50 favorites]


it was a bunch of mens with manpinions about how terrible the evil feminist twitter cabal forced the poor innocent man into apologizing.

No, it's just a factor of the internet. Something bad happens and then it gets amplified in certain circles as people complain about it. Add in the fact that shirt is symptomatic of women being discouraged from STEM fields and general sexism and of course this wasn't going to just go away, in some circles.

That's not a bad or good thing in general, though good in this case. Basically people talk about shit on the internet. Some circles are talking about a certain someone's butt. Others are discussing Taylor Swift. Then there's sexism in general, in STEM fields and really, where the hell was the PR department on this one?!

Saying this blew up because of some men complaining about feminazis is just simplistic at best
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:03 AM on November 17, 2014


In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to make a "federal case" out of every incident like this. But obviously this is not a perfect world. I think we SHOULD make a big deal over every single incident like this. Yes, it feeds the MRA backlash, but that backlash is like the rabid street preachers who condemn the "gay agenda." Their voices will get thinner and crazier as the rest of us shout them down and talk more sense. Social progress is messy and slow, but it's a real thing, and it's the only thing worth fighting for.
posted by rikschell at 5:05 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


What I know is this: if I was about to give a presentation to someone important at work - let alone a press conference covered on international television and I was wearing an even slightly inappropriate shirt - every manner of manager, coworker, boss, director, Vice President, camera operator, teamster delivering pastries to the set - any/all of them would likely offer their shirt to me in order to prevent international embarrassment.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:11 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


A shirt with sexy women on it is only as powerful as you make it.
It wasn't a shirt with sexy women. It was a sexist shirt. The response here is to sexism.
posted by maxsparber at 5:27 AM on November 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


A shirt with sexy women on it is only as powerful as you make it.

A society which perpetually presents woman as objects is only as powerful as every single item within it which perpetuates that woman=object dichotomy.

Society is much bigger and more powerful than any individual member within it. Your argument is silly and wrong.
posted by rorgy at 5:45 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


This guy is a fucking moron for wearing this shirt. He's an even bigger moron for wearing this shirt to work. Its appropriate for a bachelor party.

How the hell did no one every say anything to him, like 'dude not cool'? This isn't a problem with just one guy making one monumentally dumb decision. His stupidity had institutional support.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:55 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I look at the names of people listed on the Rosetta mission page and they are almost entirely male. Quite different, it seems, from the India Mars team.
posted by rtha at 5:55 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


This story would have been dead DAYS ago if it hadn't been for the usual misogynistic pushback from the usual gang of internet assholes. He was called out for making a poor choice, he apologized, and that would have been the end of the story.

Instead, we got days and days and days of mostly men shrieking with dismay that anyone might have the temerity to be moderately offended by something. Accompanied by the usual round of harassment and doxxing and DEATH THREATS for women who dared to have an opinion on the internet.

It reminds me of nothing so much as that conference of atheists where a speaker said something along the lines of, "Hey, maybe don't hit on a woman you don't know when you're alone with her in an elevator at 3 AM, it can feel unsafe," and was hit by wave after wave of OMG HYSTERICAL WOMEN GETTING SO OVERWROUGHT I AM GOING TO SCREAM UNTIL THEY STOP OR I FAINT!

If you want to blame anyone for this story blowing up, please put the blame where it properly lies.
posted by kyrademon at 6:08 AM on November 17, 2014 [39 favorites]


Its appropriate for a bachelor party.

The last bachelor party I was invited to was headed to a strip club, and I still wouldn't wear that shirt.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:09 AM on November 17, 2014


Good on Matt Taylor for responding to the whole thing. Intentions are important - he didn't consciously mean to offend people and I'm truly sorry that he had to receive so much nastiness.

Separately, since apparently people need proof, let me n'th that as a woman in STEM, the shirt+"easy" comment totally makes me feel less welcome.

Or rather, they feed into the experiences I have that my preferences, wants and comfort will always come second. For example, I attend a few really really large conferences a year, and there are so many attendees that it's hard to find a nearby place for lunch that doesn't have long lines. On one day, we found two options with enough space for our mixed-gender party : Hooters, and an establishment that clearly catered to a gay clientele. (NOT a gay strip club, not even a place cheesily named with gay puns, just a place known as a gay bar at night, with lots of single sex couples having lunch.) We went to Hooters, because the men in the group absolutely refused to go to the other place. I don't happen to know if anyone in our party was LGBTQ (and why would they out themselves after that?), but it was pretty clear we were either going to go to the place that made the normative het males most comfortable, or we weren't going to eat, and we weren't going to talk about the science that had drawn our group together in the first place.

When I mention this anecdote in passing to my female colleagues, I don't even have to finish it. As soon as I say Hooters was one of the options, they shake their heads and say "oh, that sucks that you had to eat there."
posted by synapse at 6:16 AM on November 17, 2014 [37 favorites]


An image just flashed into my head of a world where women dominated STEM fields and Matilda Taylor decided to wear her favorite "wacky" shirt for the big day, just for fun. The shirt was all done in this cool sci-fi style, and the design was covered with incredibly fit, gorgeous men (and maybe aliens, whatever) with giant, 12", rock-hard cocks, the whole pattern interspersed with drawings of just the massive penises and balls themselves, along with little "funny" phrases like "I'd rather get drilled by Philae than any of you," or "I bet there's more water on Mars than there is cum in your tiny dick," or "I don't need your calculations on the oscillation of the comet's magnetic field, just stand there and look hot for me, please," or "Unless you can thrust with 17.5 Newtons of force, you should just go into hibernation mode forever," or "Only someone with a micropenis would call this shirt a microaggression," or... you get the idea.

And hordes of women would get into an uproar online that some man/men couldn't just take a joke, that obviously they just "can't cope in the sharp-elbowed real world," and then they'd argue, "oh, give me a break, she was busy thinking about the MISSION, not what she was going to wear that day," etc..

I dunno, it was kind of fun to think about for a minute.
posted by argonauta at 6:23 AM on November 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


I am of the mind that anytime we judge someone on the content of their clothing rather than the content of their character we are forgetting our shared humanity and attacking people for their preferences.

Wearing a shirt like that out of the house without thinking about how it would come across is an indication of the content of his character.
posted by winna at 6:30 AM on November 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


How the hell did no one every say anything to him, like 'dude not cool'? This isn't a problem with just one guy making one monumentally dumb decision. His stupidity had institutional support.

People in science communication are often really concerned with the "boring old man in a lab coat" or just generally nerdy image of scientists, and when the media comes calling will often rustle up the person in the department who least fits those stereotypes. I have a friend who has been the token young woman in this scenario a few times, and once worked with a department who were incredibly keen that their sole non-white researcher was up front for any photos or press.

In Dr Taylor's case they probably thought "cool guy in a wacky shirt with tattoos - that'll show how science can be fun! He could be the next Brian Cox!" He was even on BBC's flagship Newsnight that evening being encouraged to roll up his trouser leg to show off his tats, so the media does play along with this sort of bollocks.
posted by sobarel at 6:33 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


there are so many people who don't even seem to agree that they have the right to find the shirt distasteful in the workplace (which seems like it should be self-evident to everyone who works outside a comic book convention, but hey).

That kind of shirt at a comic book convention would have me passing by to look at the books in the next booth. This kind of imagery turned me off reading comics for years, before I discovered alternative graphic novels.
posted by jb at 6:45 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I am of the mind that anytime we judge someone on the content of their clothing rather than the content of their character we are forgetting our shared humanity and attacking people for their preferences.

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last (to wear tacky shirts)!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:51 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Over at the Graun, Hadley Freeman's fashion column tackles the issue of what scientists should wear on TV.
posted by pw201 at 6:53 AM on November 17, 2014


To be honest, I didn't even notice the scantily clad women on the shirt, because the shirt was so frickin' LOUD! I mean, if Hawaiian shirts are the Who, Live at Leeds, then that shirt was Motorhead.
posted by jonp72 at 6:54 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I heard about this a few days ago as "Did you hear the guy who landed a probe on the comet did an interview wearing a gross sexy shirt?" I imagined a bearded, hairy dude wearing a skimpy red silk V-neck on national TV with chest hair poking out, which all things considered would be a step forward for gender equality in this country.

As usual the truth is disappointing.
posted by miyabo at 6:57 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


all people want to do is complain about his shirt?

Of course it isn't "all people want to do," and this distortion of what people are saying is part of how sexism perpetuates itself. The way to equitable treatment is to listen to those treated inequitably, not lie about what they are saying and scapegoat them as agents of injustice.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:09 AM on November 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


synapse: "let me n'th that as a woman in STEM, the shirt+"easy" comment totally makes me feel less welcome. "

As a mother, I was initially grumpy they weren't watching the live stream at school or doing much with the comet coverage at all. Now I'm relieved, because I had no idea I had to PRESCREEN SPACE SCIENCE PRESS CONFERENCES to make sure they weren't talking about comets being women that were "sexy" but not "easy" while wearing a shirt that I do not expect to see on prime-time television. How do I explain any part of this to my space-crazy five-year-old, that the comet is "sexy"? That there are naked ladies on this guy's shirt? These are things he notices and wants to know about now that he's in school and more aware of the wider culture.

Thanks for making it harder to raise sons and teach science to children, ESA! That's one crack professional organization you're running. I know I sound hyperbolic, but I was really disappointed, and I know several science teachers who adjusted their lessons because they couldn't show that press conference to a room full of fifth-graders who are hyperaware of sex and boobs. It just feels like "talking about science in PG-language to an audience including children" and "not displaying pin-up girls" should be Space Press Conference 101 -- for the year 1952. It's really disappointing that an organization can land on a comet -- awesome! -- but can't manage to share that with the world without objectifying women in totally unnecessary ways.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:16 AM on November 17, 2014 [51 favorites]


When I saw the shirt, I thought, Wow, what a jerk. The kind of shirt an insecure nerd would wear, thinking it was cool, and being clueless about harassing women. at work. on tv. He apologized; maybe he read the news, maybe his boss said Dude, you gotta apologize. His boss, his colleagues, his friends, all should have said Seriously, you cannot wear that shirt at work. You cannot wear that shirt on television. The fact that that somehow didn't happen strongly suggests that the ESA is a boyzone. Of course women got offended and pissed off. So, ESA, take a look at how you operate and deal with the sexism, hostile work environment, and harassment.

My preferred meme about the landing.
posted by theora55 at 7:18 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I just went through a few months a 'management training'. There are at least two breaks downs occurring here.

1. The shirt creates a potential hostile work environment
2. His boss should have noticed it and had a quick quiet word with him..... On whatever day he wore it, not just BIG MEDIA DAY


All this is said without passing judgement on the fellow, or his clothing, but simply from a best workplace practices standpoint. And no, before being asked, that doesn't mean you can only wear suit and tie silliness, there is plenty of room for individuality and expression of self without veering into this territory.
posted by edgeways at 7:20 AM on November 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


You know, I don't want to talk about a guy in a sexist fucking shirt when humanity just managed to land a probe on a comet. But I have to, because a guy in a sexist fucking shirt became the spokesperson for humanity landing a probe on a comet and no one, not a single person, in the position to stop it cared enough to do so.

That is the problem. Lone guy in a sexist shirt? Fine, file away under "thoughtless asshole." No one at ESA recognizing the problem with letting the lone guy in a sexist shirt send the message that they don't give a fuck about women as people? Well. That might finally open some eyes to the systemic nature of the problem.

/lone woman in my astrophysics program in college I wonder why
posted by lydhre at 7:24 AM on November 17, 2014 [48 favorites]


M.A. Melby has built a timeline of Twitter reactions to the shirt. Note the earliest critical response found.
posted by maudlin at 7:33 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


while feminists can't lay a hand on infinitely more obnoxious sexists

The goal of feminism is to end sexism, not punish individual sexists. Criticizing individual acts of sexism isn't laying hands on a person. It's asking them to change their behavior so as not to contribute to the larger pattern of gender inequity in our culture. And the ESA strikes me as a very important site for feminist work given the potential for influencing attitudes and perceptions during events like the comet landing, but of course any site where sexism hurts people is an important site for feminist work.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


This conversation is eerily similar to the conversations we have about catcalling.

Women speak up to talk about a particular sliver of sexism that really bothers us, and are met by a wave of men who speak up only when it's time to tell the women who have a problem with such actions that we're overreacting or imagining things, to moan that we apparently can't just take a compliment, to condescendingly inform us that there are infinitely more important things -- which is to say, any and everything except sexism -- we must devote all of our energy to addressing instead because apparently we can only be concerned about one thing at a time, and above all to remind us that we must grow more accustomed to having images of our bodies used as decoration on everything from shitty novelty t-shirts to top-dollar adverts because That's The Way It Is, Ladies.

All of this is said with absolutely no acknowledgment that The Way It Is is, in fact, the root of the problem. And one of my favorite things about the patriarchy is fact that it's almost always delivered in a "if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen" sort of way, with the speaker remaining blissfully unaware that "the kitchen" in this case is "the entire goddamn world."
posted by divined by radio at 7:55 AM on November 17, 2014 [43 favorites]


I look at the names of people listed on the Rosetta mission page and they are almost entirely male. Quite different, it seems, from the India Mars team.

ISRO did an excellent job of making sure the women on their team were up front and center for the media, but their actual gender balance appears to be comparable to or worse than NASA or ESA. I'm limited by being restricted to English language sources, but the main folks certainly seem to be all men. I'd love to know more about folks like Minal Sampath.
Sampath’s dream of actually going to space might not be realized but this dream could come true. After all when she was growing up, few around her would have dreamed she would be helping launch a Mars orbiter. Asked how she decided she wanted to work on the space programme, she gave a very familiar answer.

"I was in [my last year at primary school], when I saw a live launch on TV. At that time it just struck me in my mind how good it would be to work there, and today I am here."
Statistics!

ISRO: [Women] comprise about 20% of ISRO’s total workforce of 14,246 employees. About 10% of the total staff, or 1,654, are women engineers.

NASA: 20% of NASA engineers are female, a 76% increase since the early 90s.
In 2009, of the 11,494 scientists and engineers at NASA 2,554 were women- 22%.

ESA: Couldn't find solid figures for ESA, which is a little surprising. The European trade group Eurospace lists 20.8% across the European aerospace industry.
posted by zamboni at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


And for the love of Christ, where were the PR/Communications people on mission day

They were there, ESA produce a livestream cast on the web. But it was not very good, particularly the minutes of the actual landing which were a camera trained on mission controllers staring at screens without any audio. Perhaps the folks doing the difficult science just wanted to be left alone so they could concentrate and speak freely, fair enough, but it made for boring TV. The hour of self-congratulatory bureaucrat speeches afterwards was even worse. The whole thing made me greatly appreciate NASA's much more deft public communications team.

As for whether PR should have stopped the shirt, I think there was a deliberate effort to let the mission controllers be more casual. The mission controller was wearing a hoodie, lots of tattoos visible, etc. There's something to be said for the professional grey suit; no judgement required.

All the drama around the shirt completely confuses me. It's simple. The guy wore an inappropriate shirt. He realized it was inappropriate and apologized. We all learned something. Why does it have to be stretched out into endless hand-wringing over whether he should have been able to wear it, or whether he really needed to apologize? Is it so important to protect the right to not be criticized when you wear sexy lady shirts while doing publically-funded once-in-a-generation science?
posted by Nelson at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can see how a geeky guy with his head in the stars might not think twice about wearing a shirt given to him by his clearly empowered biker lady shirt making friend.

Question then become, why does she as author of the offending item not come in for an equal amount of criticism?
posted by IndigoJones at 8:04 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Because she didn't wear it ON TV REPRESENTING HER WORKPLACE.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:06 AM on November 17, 2014 [45 favorites]


Stephanie Zvan - “Just a Shirt”: Sexual Imagery in the Workplace
No, that doesn’t mean that Matt Taylor’s shirt specifically tells us he engages in harassing behavior. It doesn’t mean that it tells us bad things are going down at ESA.

It does, however, mean that objecting to sexual imagery in a workplace is reasonable, because it generally makes a good marker for harassment. It means that people reacting to that shirt weren’t just reacting to that shirt. They were, rightly and reasonably, reacting to a broad pattern that exists across decades of history of workplaces hostile to women.
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:10 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Question then become, why does she as author of the offending item not come in for an equal amount of criticism?

I'm sorry, I don't understand this line of reasoning at all. Society has codified many, many rules about clothing. You can't wear knickers to most workplaces. Bikinis are a no go for European churches. In no other case have I heard it suggested that the maker of the object be blamed for where the use has occurred, and I kind of suspect that if the maker weren't a woman, it wouldn't be an argument here. Context matters.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


Question then become, why does she as author of the offending item not come in for an equal amount of criticism?

For the same reason that the manufacturer of the fabric isn't being criticized. The existence of the shirt isn't the problem, it's the choices made by the individual wearing it on live tv, and all the people in his workplace who either saw no problem with it, or knew that making a fuss about it would label them as shrill humorless hags. It's the environment in which this kind of thing is somehow unremarkable.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Everyone is saying, "why did no one pull him aside and tell him not to wear the shirt?"
But do we know no one did so? As one of the lead scientists it's possible he was warned and did it anyway.

Nelson, that's a bit disingenuous, the issue would have gone as you suggest were it not for the wave of loud sexist support for the shirt which included a lot of harassment and threats against female scientists and journalists.
posted by Rumple at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2014


Count me as another woman scientist who was viscerally turned off. It was 'oh awesome! Landing on a comet! Huh, weird shirt ... whaaa? Are those women in bikinis?! Ugh. Let's think about something else' A not insignificant part of my annoyance is because I'd just spent 15 minutes figuring out what to wear to meet with a really impressive scientist visiting our department. Wondering if I could get away with pants or is that too causal but it's cold, plus I'm in ecology so is she going to be dressed in field clothes so then I'll be over dressed and we'll both feel uncomfortable. And really? Some dude scientist gave a press conference in that shirt?! Which he either didn't think about for 15 minutes or, worse, he did and he thought it was okay both fashion-wise and sexism-wise. Either way it's obviously way easier in science for men. I wish I could use my awesome brain power for things other than figuring out appropriate outfits but eh, guess I'm just a woman in science and have to ober think it.

Also reiterating what someone said above - those 'pin-up' women on the cover of scifi books are exactly why I didn't read them because I knew they weren't for me.
posted by hydrobatidae at 8:17 AM on November 17, 2014 [34 favorites]


But do we know no one did so? As one of the lead scientists it's possible he was warned and did it anyway.

I feel like his viscerally emotional response to the outcry would have been less surprised and hurt had someone mentioned it to him previously.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:18 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Has anyone asked the ESA PR office why they didn't ask him to change the shirt?

As best I can tell, there's just a different culture at the ESA, based on what their mission controllers were wearing for the landing and what the Curiosity team was wearing for that media event.

That doesn't mean Dr. Taylor should have worn that shirt for this event, but I'm guessing the culture difference meant nobody really thought much about the shirt (which is part of the problem).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:23 AM on November 17, 2014


Unfortunately, I feel the answer to why there has been a hue and cry about objections to the shirt is because men mistakenly believe the freedom to speech mean the freedom to speak without criticism or repercussion, which is not a right but a privilege, and one many have enjoyed for much of their lives.
posted by maxsparber at 8:23 AM on November 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


Question then become, why does she as author of the offending item not come in for an equal amount of criticism?
posted by IndigoJones at 11:04 AM on November 17 [+] [!]


Are you sincerely asking this?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:25 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


a geeky guy with his head in the stars

Also: the framing of Taylor as a sheltered nerd and thus somehow not responsible for his shirty actions because he's too busy doing SCIENCE DAMNIT to consider LADIES' FEELINGS? Not buying it.

Being a nerdy guy isn't a "get out of misogyny free" card.

And Taylor's, what, the scientific lead on this mission? He's done press and TV on it before the shirt thing ever blew up. He's a project manager, he's the public scientific face of the mission. He's not some tucked-away lab-dweller suddenly thrust blinking into the spotlight.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:25 AM on November 17, 2014 [20 favorites]


I wish I had friends that would gift me homemade shirts. But, naw, I wouldn't wear that one to work. I wouldn't wear it in public. I would wear it to dinner with the person who made it and probably not much ever again. But still, I think it's a wicked cool, very nicely done shirt.

My 15yr old boy bought a tshirt with a picture of woman in a bikini on it a few weeks ago. I told him "People find that kind of thing gross because it's sexist and it won't reflect well on you and it's not even a nice shirt."

He wore it anyway, once.

Once.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:26 AM on November 17, 2014


What I've learned from this thread and the thread about the Lorde tweet is that white dudes can do anything they want and anyone taking them to task for it is wrong.
posted by bleep at 8:27 AM on November 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


hydrobatidae: Also reiterating what someone said above - those 'pin-up' women on the cover of scifi books are exactly why I didn't read them because I knew they weren't for me

Hell, I'm a cis het male and I knew they weren't meant for me.
posted by lodurr at 8:28 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Question then become, why does she as author of the offending item not come in for an equal amount of criticism?

It's worth noting that she has gotten flack for the making the shirt, as evidenced in the twitter stream your comment linked to.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:28 AM on November 17, 2014


I can see how a geeky guy with his head in the stars might not think twice about wearing a shirt given to him by his clearly empowered biker lady shirt making friend.

Question then become, why does she as author of the offending item not come in for an equal amount of criticism?


Because no one is saying the shirt shouldn't exist. (Well, it looks like one person above is.) There's a time and a place, and international press conference was not it. I don't know the culture of that office, but that probably wasn't it, either. And when you add the weird comments about the robot's love life, this guy deserves some criticism. Not because he's a horrible monster, but so that he stops being so damn clueless. The shirt, in context, was sexist. Maybe he didn't mean it that way, but he needs to understand his feelings and comfort aren't the the only ones that matter.

Although, I find some of the reactions to the apology above just stupid. How many times are you going to mock him for crying? Can we work "boohooing" into a sentence again, possibly? It seemed sincere; it doesn't fix anything, but there really isn't more he can do publicly than an apology. Hopefully he is mindful in the future, but we're not going to see that, are we?
posted by spaltavian at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


As best I can tell, there's just a different culture at the ESA

Yes, it is obviously an exclusionary culture of white boys' club.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:30 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, I don't understand this line of reasoning at all. Society has codified many, many rules about clothing. You can't wear knickers to most workplaces.

Which rules are breaking down all the time. Geeky hard science types have typically gotten the biggest pass because they are needed. NASA circa 1969 is long dead.

Again, the shirt was gift from a power lady, which no doubt suggested to the guy that it wasn't inappropriate. If he was wrong, then so is she and should get the same kind of criticism and femsplaining that he's being subject to.

And does seem to me from comments that the content is as much being criticized as the context.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


[Writes long, world-weary rant. Considers it. Deletes it.]

If only he'd worn his Jesus and Mo shirt, eh?
posted by Devonian at 8:31 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


spaltavian: How many times are you going to mock him for crying?

Yeah, this is just weird. I don't have the time (or the background to do it well), but there's a deconstruction just begging to be done of this reaction (mockery for displaying "feminine" emotional responses).
posted by lodurr at 8:33 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


If only he'd worn his Jesus and Mo shirt, eh?

I'm pretty disappointed there aren't shirts of scientists of various hues and genders or shirts with all the spacecraft on them. I'd wear the shit out of either. It's like a whole new fashion venue.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]



And does seem to me from comments that the content is as much being criticized as the context.

That's because the context caused me to be aware of the content. An appropriate context would not have caused anyone to be aware of the content against their will.
posted by bleep at 8:35 AM on November 17, 2014


Again, the shirt was gift from a power lady, which no doubt suggested to the guy that it wasn't inappropriate. If he was wrong, then so is she and should get the same kind of criticism and femsplaining that he's being subject to.

What? "Femsplaining"? I'm on the record as really, really disliking the term "mansplaining" but, it's referring to a thing that actually exists.

And context matters. This isn't an issue of prudes being mean to the off beat nerd. He's responsible for where and when he wears the shirt. He's a full grown man, a note from his "really cool woman friend" doesn't give him a pass.
posted by spaltavian at 8:35 AM on November 17, 2014 [24 favorites]


Again, the shirt was gift from a power lady, which no doubt suggested to the guy that it wasn't inappropriate.

None of this follows, unless she handed the shirt to him and said, "This must be worn at press conferences."
posted by maxsparber at 8:35 AM on November 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


IndigoJones: the shirt was gift from a power lady, which no doubt suggested to the guy that it wasn't inappropriate.

Leaving aside for the moment what "power lady" means, I'm unclear on why the shirt's status as a gift has any bearing on whether it's appropriate for a social setting. We got my dad "hominy grits" tie for christmas one year and he was touched and amused, but he did not wear it to the office of the reactor shielding group he managed.
posted by lodurr at 8:35 AM on November 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


If you are finding your self exhausted by all of this bullshit, I'd really strongly encourage you to watch this, which really colored my perceptions of the ESA control room much more.
"Prof Grady of the Open University worked on a tool of the project called Ptolemy - a shoe-box-sized gas analysis instrument.
She was in on the Philae lander project from its earliest days and jumped for joy when she found out the news, even hugging the BBC's Science Editor David Shukman."
Clothing in STEM is a big deal, and what it signals is important. Once you figure that out there ends up being a wide range of things for men to signal, wear a suit and suddenly everyone knows you're wanting to go corporate, wear jumpers to signal moving up, and I guess wear shit like this to signal that you're painfully unaware of the importance of leaving the workplace unsexualized and sacred from all of that bullshit.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:37 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah, my girlfriend got her father an apron that reads "Fuck you you fucking fuck," but I have yet to see him wear it outside the house.
posted by maxsparber at 8:37 AM on November 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'd feel better about it if he appeared to be an unrepentant asshole but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I'm not really worried about YOUR fee-fees, either.

When you do thoughtless shit that hurts other people - and YES, wearing a gross, sexist shirt hurts other people! - and you get your feelings hurt from being criticized over being gross, thoughtless, and hurtful, THAT IS THE PRICE YOU GET TO PAY. You're sorry? Good. Think twice next time, and stop doing gross, thoughtless, hurtful shit.

I notice that he's not getting death threats for being gross, thoughtless, and hurtful. The women who have called it out are. The people who were hurt by him are the ones getting death threats and being told to kill themselves, and you're worried about HIM? Render unto me a fucking break.
posted by MissySedai at 8:38 AM on November 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


Good luck on the unsexualised workplace, btw. I'll expect that to happen around the time of the silent bee-hive.
posted by Devonian at 8:40 AM on November 17, 2014


you get your feelings hurt from being criticized over being gross

was it that, or was it the blowback against people who reacted negatively? I'm literally unclear on that, this is a real question.
posted by lodurr at 8:40 AM on November 17, 2014


Good luck on the unsexualised workplace, btw. I'll expect that to happen around the time of the silent bee-hive.

Silly women, thinking they can expect to be treated as professionals in a professional setting.
posted by sukeban at 8:42 AM on November 17, 2014 [28 favorites]


It's weird seeing some people who are normally arguing context does matter- cancel Colbert, for example- turn around and now demand equal denunciation for anyone involved in a graphic shirt, because it's either bad or it isn't, right?

This isn't an argument against "context matters"- I'm one of those people. But I'm one of these people here as well. There are situations where this shirt might be seen as non-offensive. Just like there's a time and place for lewd jokes. You telling your girlfriend she has nice legs isn't the same as saying it to a stranger in the street.

We all know these things. So why is suddenly the designer of the t-shirt being called to account? She didn't wear it on camera in the work place.
posted by spaltavian at 8:42 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


YOUR fee-fees

Is this necessary?
posted by spaltavian at 8:44 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Good luck on the unsexualised workplace, btw.

As with any reform work, feminism is not utopian. It works for improved conditions, such as a workplace culture where wearing such a shirt would be recognized as inappropriate. Feminism seeks an ideal and it works to bring our reality as close to that ideal as possible.
posted by audi alteram partem at 8:45 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


So why is suddenly the designer of the t-shirt being called to account. She didn't wear it on camera in the work place.

I don't see anyone here blaming the designer for anything other than maybe bad taste at most.
posted by sukeban at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2014


You missed this, then: Again, the shirt was gift from a power lady, which no doubt suggested to the guy that it wasn't inappropriate. If he was wrong, then so is she and should get the same kind of criticism and femsplaining that he's being subject to.
posted by spaltavian at 8:48 AM on November 17, 2014


The whole "fee-fees" thing is just all around pretty terrible. Infantilizing the emotions of someone you disagree with so they are more easily dismissed as irrelevant is not a respectable method of argument. It's right up there with "nanny nanny poo poo."
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Good luck on the unsexualised workplace, btw. I'll expect that to happen around the time of the silent bee-hive.

Are you happy about that?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't see anyone here blaming the designer for anything other than maybe bad taste at most.

I think spaltavian is speaking more to the tendentious arguments that feminists are hypocritical and hysterical for going after the shirt in context rather than in general, often from the same quarters that insist on context when it makes for a convenient attack.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:49 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


To add to my last comment: I think you might not get where I'm coming from. I'm saying that the shirt was sexist in context, and those offended by it don't have to comment the absolute offensiveness of the shirt, or need to denounce whomever made it. The issue is with him wearing where and when he did.
posted by spaltavian at 8:50 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


We aren't against the shirt per se. We are against the shirt being worn in a professional context in which it does not belong for many different reasons. Would you please stop waving strawmen, spaltavian?
posted by sukeban at 8:50 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


sukeban, I don't know what else to say other than you are missing my point and I am on your side. What you just said is exactly the point I was making to IndigoJones.
posted by spaltavian at 8:51 AM on November 17, 2014


To add to my last comment: I think you might not get where I'm coming from.

Evidently, no.
posted by sukeban at 8:51 AM on November 17, 2014


Again, the shirt was gift from a power lady, which no doubt suggested to the guy that it wasn't inappropriate.

This is such a fine example of "but I KNOW a woman, and SHE says women shouldn't have a problem with it, checkmate, feminists" that I want to preserve it in amber. Good lord.

Here's a question, though -- what the hell is a "power lady," and how on earth can I become one? (If the answer is "acquiesce to the patriarchy," I respectfully withdraw my request.) What does a power lady do, exactly, that allows her to so effortlessly neutralize the concerns of dozens if not hundreds of individual women, up to and including women who work in STEM and have spoken out about how this obviously sexist shit has affected their view of their line of work? From where or whom does she draw this unequaled authority?

Good luck on the unsexualised workplace, btw. I'll expect that to happen around the time of the silent bee-hive.

Yep, I've definitely noticed this in my workplace. Wait, no, I haven't, at all, because I'm employed in a professional setting with professional adults who can keep their shit straight at work. But I guess that inconvenient fact flies in the face of reality, so it's obviously beside the point. Now that we have that all cleared up, we can just give up and accept sexism in the workplace as an unavoidable truth. That's The Way It Is, Ladies!

So why is suddenly the designer of the t-shirt being called to account. She didn't wear it on camera in the work place.

It's because she's a woman, and IndigoJones would like us to know that feminists and feminist-minded allies are being hypocritical if we fail to aim the brunt of our umbrage at the womanly female power lady who invented the entire idea of putting half-naked ladies on a shirt in the first place.
posted by divined by radio at 8:51 AM on November 17, 2014 [32 favorites]


Evidently, no.

Well, zombiefladers explained it better than I did.
posted by spaltavian at 8:52 AM on November 17, 2014


sukeban: Evidently, no.

Consider the possibility that you're reading some posts as replies to you that aren't.
posted by lodurr at 8:54 AM on November 17, 2014


Does that mean I just spaltaviansplained? Or zombieflandersplained?
posted by zombieflanders at 8:55 AM on November 17, 2014


spaltavian: You missed this, then...

Yeah, that was a neat trick: make a woman "responsible" for a grown man's shirt-choice. 'He's blameless because a woman made him do it.'
posted by lodurr at 8:55 AM on November 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


i again think mocking him specifically for getting emotional during his apology isn't the best look, but i still think it's a reaction to how women are called hysterical and emotional, and how those charges work towards keeping us out of powerful positions/how they're used as silencing tactics, and not because they're mocking him for being feminine.
posted by nadawi at 8:56 AM on November 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Woman in STEM, -nthing others above who have nthed discomfort with the shirt. I find it offputting. I don't mean "offensive" when I say that, I mean "offputting", in the sense that I recoiled and made a face the first time I comprehended what I was actually looking at and lost interest in the entire thing. I was already struggling to maintain interest, what with barely being able to pick out any women or minorities, but that really gave it the death knell.

Also, ESA is really not exceptional here. That's the other part that's offputting. I wanted to expect better of ESA than the same old bullshit and apparently I can't do that because there is no better to expect from them if such a workplace culture can unthinkingly allow an embarrassment of this scale to occur. It's irritating and disappointing.
posted by E. Whitehall at 8:57 AM on November 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


I just don't understand what was the purpose of spaltavian's dragging the shirt designer into the discussion in this comment other than as a "gotcha, feminists!"
posted by sukeban at 8:57 AM on November 17, 2014


It was IndigoJones who did that, and spaltavian who was pushing back.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:58 AM on November 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


nadawi: ... and not because they're mocking him for being feminine.

Well, you'd want to look at who's doing it. Dollars to donuts, if the MRAs aren't doing it yet, they'll start soon.
posted by lodurr at 8:59 AM on November 17, 2014


E. Whitehall: I was already struggling to maintain interest, what with barely being able to pick out any women or minorities, but that really gave it the death knell.

This is kind of an important observation....
posted by lodurr at 9:00 AM on November 17, 2014


so far i've seen the mras taking two tacts - one, calling all the women and "betas" over sensitive and obviously unable to hang with a dude as smart as taylor, and getting really angry at "sjws" for mocking the crying because it shows that feminists don't actually care about men and just want to mock them - and that this is the real bullying unlike the fake bullying of zoe quinn, etc. so, no, i don't think they'll start mocking him for this any time soon. to them it's a smoking gun to bludgeon their enemies with.
posted by nadawi at 9:02 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think that may be giving them too much credit for understanding rhetorical logic. They're rhetorical cargo-cultists. And anyway as soon as Taylor does something to disappoint them (which I strongly suspect he will), they'll label him a beta.
posted by lodurr at 9:05 AM on November 17, 2014


sukeban: I just don't understand what was the purpose of spaltavian's dragging the shirt designer into the discussion in this comment other than as a "gotcha, feminists!"

I didn't do that. This is IndigoJones' comment. Here is my response, and here is me expanding upon that.

I'm sorry if that was initially confusing on my part but the record has been corrected 4 or 5 times now, can you stop accusing me something I didn't do?
posted by spaltavian at 9:05 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also my normally awesome, science-heavy, Twitter feed has entirely been taken over with women scientists responding to harassing/dismissing comments and trolls. I want my science back and it's not the women who are to blame.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2014 [19 favorites]


I just don't understand what was the purpose of spaltavian's dragging the shirt designer into the discussion in this comment other than as a "gotcha, feminists!"

Yeah, that was IndigoJones turning the table into his own leg there, not spaltavian. I think the point has been hashed out, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:08 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


well, i've read a bunch of mra/red pill/etc threads, tweets, and what not about this and so far if the crying comes up it's because they're trying to center this guy's feelings above all other concerns and they're mad at the feminists for being mean. but sure, something in the future might change and they might mock him for it - that's just not at all what's happening now.
posted by nadawi at 9:12 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


what the hell is a "power lady," and how on earth can I become one?

ideally a lair inside a dormant volcano is somehow involved.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:16 AM on November 17, 2014 [33 favorites]


nadawi: well, i've read a bunch of mra/red pill/etc threads, tweets, and what not about this ...

My first reaction on reading that is to recoil in horror. Better you than me, I suppose. I think I'd probably rather bang my head on the wall.
posted by lodurr at 9:19 AM on November 17, 2014


I also want to mention part of my being put off is the knowledge that I'm going to have to field questions about this as the Token Woman in my STEM classes, likely with pictures being pulled up on phones or on my computer (my mouse being grabbed out of my hand to make sure they can force it on me, as always happens every time!) and I will be far from the only woman asked to express a patriarchy-friendly opinion to workmates who likely have a position of power over her and/or can make things very difficult for her if she doesn't say what they want to hear.

It's intimidating, being crowded around and intruded upon and laughed at if one demurs even a little bit from an opinion that doesn't paint other women as overreacting and sensitive and only worth demeaning. It's really, really uncomfortable to be asked over and again to betray other women -- and myself -- for the sake of processing men's emotions for them, for the sake of my career advancement, for the sake of a 'comfortable' atmosphere for 'everybody', for the sake of getting anything done or hot coffee or whichever bullshit microaggression punishment for not hewing to the patriarchial line these dudes will threaten to dish out (and some actually will dish them out).

We talk about women being role models for women and girls. Well, men are also role models for other men, and that includes the men that say the same old sexist shit about women being oversensitive and overreacting and making a mountain out of a mouse's whisker and yada yada yada.
posted by E. Whitehall at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2014 [60 favorites]


the overwrought stupid reaction by the mras finally got me to unsubscribe from r/truereddit which has sadly been infected by their asshattery.
posted by nadawi at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


It is exactly the kind of shirt certain men wear to work when there are few to no women around them. (Also see; sexist calendars, mugs, mouse pads, and other things they might have at a workplace without women). As others have pointed out. So really, you can see it this way; the ESA could have avoided embarrassment by hiring lots more women, who would have made it less comfortable/likely for this guy to wear this shirt to this occasion.
posted by emjaybee at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


YOUR fee-fees

Is this necessary?


Yes. And will continue to be until people knock off with the "But what about the MAN'S FEELINGS?! You nasty feminists are MEAN and made him CRY!"

Yeah, so what? He felt bad. GOOD. He should have. He sincerely apologized. BETTER.

That doesn't mean that women now need to shut up about how gross his actions were, and need to be gentle with him, lest his heart be broken. Again, HE isn't the one getting death threats over his jerk move, and neither are the men who are whining about how hurt they are over the criticism. The women who criticized him are. Pardon if I'm not really caring about the hurt feelings of the men.
posted by MissySedai at 9:25 AM on November 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


YOUR fee-fees

Is this necessary?

Yes. And will continue to be until people knock off with the "But what about the MAN'S FEELINGS?! You nasty feminists are MEAN and made him CRY!"


That's not what happened in this thread, or even in the response you commented on. That commenter didn't deserve to be spoken to like a child; you're not talking to some MRA guy on Twitter or the guy who wore the shirt.

I'm NEITHER of those PEOPLE anyway, so the CAPITALS seems like you are yelling at me. I'm not trying to have the conversation you are describing.
posted by spaltavian at 9:27 AM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Good luck on the unsexualised workplace, btw.

I really don't understand why people think that an unsexualized environment means that nobody there likes to fuck - or even fuck each other - rather than that they just keep their private pantsfeelings to themselves when in the workplace and when addressing work matters. It's not that challenging to not hang up pictures that make people uncomfortable, stick to lunch locations without sexual imagery, and not make smalltalk before meetings about how much ass you got over the weekend.

The only interpretation for that sentiment is "you're not going to fucking get it because we're not going to let you." Which, you know, I guess may be true. But we're going to try.
posted by phearlez at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2014 [37 favorites]


Yeah, so what? He felt bad. GOOD. He should have. He sincerely apologized. BETTER.

I really don't care about how Taylor feels about the whole thing and whether he apologized or not. The real problem is that he clearly works in a place where that shirt is considered OK and what it reveals about the culture of that place.
posted by straight at 9:32 AM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Making fun of, and mocking people generally doesn't stop their behavior.


Good luck on the unsexualised workplace, btw.

That's silly. I run a nonsexual work environment. It generally is not that fucking hard to do.
posted by edgeways at 9:33 AM on November 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Making fun of, and mocking people generally doesn't stop their behavior.

Is this true? It runs contrary to my own experiences -- so profoundly contrary as to seem like a self-evidently wrong statement. Mockery, and its gentler sibling teasing, has always struck me as one of the primary tools used to police behavior.
posted by maxsparber at 9:37 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Making fun of, and mocking people generally doesn't stop their behavior.

Is this true?


No.
posted by phearlez at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


my workplace has a casual dress code (though it is a pretty traditional cube-farm style office). and we've never, ever had to worry about someone wearing something like this. we don't have sexual harassment training, we don't actively encourage discussion on these issues, and we're in a somewhat conservative industry. but we manage to have a very open, empowering environment, where i never experience some of the things that other women do in their workplaces: men talking over them, men getting credit for their ideas in meetings, etc.. last year, when i suggested the dress code didn't need to be split into sections for women and men, they changed it without hesitation.

and i can tell you there is one obvious reason why: our gender balance is thoroughly tilted towards female. we probably have 70% women to 30% men here. our current CEO is a man, but our VPs are 3 women and 2 men, and we've had female CEOs in the past.

therefore, one solution (in my eyes) to sexist workplaces is to equalize the gender balance. well actually, it's both the solution and the hoped-for result of all these efforts. so this is where we get into the problem that this shirt illustrates: how do you welcome and encourage more women to enter an industry or workplace if the existing boyzone as displayed discourages them? but how do you change the boyzone without more women in the workplace to facilitate that shift?

which is why i'm okay with the "overreaction" to events like this. we can't really make significant changes to the workplace without equalizing the gender and power balance. we can't get more women into male-dominated fields without making those fields less hostile. we don't have the numbers within these workplaces for quiet whispered asides to be effective; they're too easily drowned out when the ratios are 5 men to 1 woman. so the few that are brave enough to speak in the current environment have to be loud and forceful and unrelenting in their language, and i'm okay with that.

on preview, this is not about the infantalizing language some have used regarding the scientist's apology, just want to make that clear. i'm talking more generally about women/people "making a big deal out of a shirt."
posted by misskaz at 9:42 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Ok, I'm sorry.. I guess what I was trying to get at is I don't think mocking or teasing changes peoples attitudes. yeah, it can change public behaviors.

I think that Superman episode has more to do with de-mythologizing than mocking, but not really an argument to wade into.
posted by edgeways at 9:49 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mockery ... has always struck me as one of the primary tools used to police behavior.

Only when the person being mocked looks up to, respects or is otherwise concerned with being accepted by the person(s) doing the mocking. This is why mocking internet trolls, MRAs, Sarah Palin et al is highly ineffective re: altering their beliefs and/or behaviors.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:50 AM on November 17, 2014


that's not the only way to measure effectiveness.
posted by nadawi at 9:55 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm very curious if people who think this shirt is ok - like - would they sit there and complain if a woman had brought up a centerfold hanging in the office (a "tasteful/softcore/lingerie" type centerfold to match the style of images on his shirt). I mean, surely there are some who think that there's no problem w/centerfolds (outright misogynists), but are there people who somehow make a dividing line between a shirt and a centerfold poster? If so, that's pretty damn icky.
posted by symbioid at 10:02 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Only when the person being mocked looks up to, respects or is otherwise concerned with being accepted by the person(s) doing the mocking.

By this measure, I am not sure what would be effective. If a person doesn't respect the person criticizing them, they can dismiss any criticism, no matter how tactfully put. As has repeatedly been demonstrated in the endless can't-win scenario of women bringing up the subject of sexism, in an infinite variety of ways, to get as an infinite response an infinite number of threats of murder and sexual violence.

And somehow these threads always become about how women respond to sexism rather than being about sexism. And ultimately that represents a failure of respect as well -- the subject of sexism is given less respect than the subject of whether women respond to it in a way we consider acceptable, and there will never be a way we consider acceptable.
posted by maxsparber at 10:25 AM on November 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


It looks like the #gamergate warriors have adopted the #shirtstorm, which just kind of proves what a bogus issue it is

Actually it's about ethics in shirts journalism.


AMAZING first photo from the Rosetta lander and -- wait, is that... is that *writing*?
posted by homunculus at 10:29 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


seems like scholarships might be a better thing than a new shirt.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:36 AM on November 17, 2014


Seems like both are possible and desirable.
posted by maxsparber at 10:41 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Ah, well. I do not think what I mean by the unsexualised workplace is perhaps what others understand by it.

The one characteristic of this and similar debates is that there is no air to breath, no shade, no space and no appreciation of the complexity and paradox that are humanity's lot.

We can, should, must work hard to make things fairer, more just and less oppressive. Not in the cause of utopia, not even because the battle is there to be won, but because this demonstrates to everyone that working like this is an option. If you believe, as I believe, that people are hard-wired to behave well if they see it as a valid option, then the more that people see other people do it, the more they themselves will do so too.

This,however, is a religious war out of control. and such things are hugely perverse. They break the just cause. They break the just. They do not serve their stated purpose. They say that there is an end, and that it justifies the means, and the means need not be constrained. That, too, is a lesson that people will consider a valid option once they see it.

The true fight is not against the other, it is with ourselves. Once we are self-justified, we have lost.
posted by Devonian at 10:50 AM on November 17, 2014


For the record, I'm not suggesting one or another forms of argument are acceptable or not acceptable. When I say "effective" I'm referring to success at achieving what I presume is the end goal of convincing the opposing side that they are in the wrong or, barring that, that their actions merit reflection and perhaps modification. And that's what we want, isn't it? To get the misogynists, trolls, MRA folk etc. to stop being, well, what they are? Or at the very least to shrink their ranks, hopefully to the point of being nonentities -- kind of like the KKK.

Another measure of success could be how many people echo and repeat your sentiments. From that perspective, turning the tide of public opinion in your favor is a clear indicator of success, and if those ranks swell to where there is overlap with people whose opinions / acceptance matter to individuals on the opposing side, so much the better.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:53 AM on November 17, 2014


> It looks like the #gamergate warriors have adopted the #shirtstorm, which just kind of proves what a bogus issue it is.

And Neo-reactionaries and Dark Enlightenment enthusiasts too, according to that piece. I've gathered that they had some overlap with GG already, but this just makes the whole thing even more absurd.
posted by homunculus at 11:04 AM on November 17, 2014


there is no air to breath, no shade, no space and no appreciation of the complexity and paradox that are humanity's lot

The feminists I've known in my life and the feminist writers I've read are one of the central influences on my knowing the importance of recognizing nuance and complexity. I see that understanding of complexity honored time and time again by feminists like Stephanie Zvan (whom I linked to above) who, in the face of misogynist threat and invective that tramples nuance, continue to explain and oppose the operation of sexism.

Feminism is not self-justified. Its argument for equality is justified by virtue of human rights and the extent to which our sexist culture violates those rights.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:08 AM on November 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


I'm very curious if people who think this shirt is ok - like - would they sit there and complain if a woman had brought up a centerfold hanging in the office (a "tasteful/softcore/lingerie" type centerfold to match the style of images on his shirt). I mean, surely there are some who think that there's no problem w/centerfolds (outright misogynists), but are there people who somehow make a dividing line between a shirt and a centerfold poster? If so, that's pretty damn icky.

Well I don't think the shirt was okay in context. But I don't think what the shirt represents to a person who would wear the shirt is necessarily the same as what a centerfold represents to a person who would put up a centerfold. I suppose my argument is that it *would* be fair game at a comic book convention or a metal show etc. And that there's a lot to parse about what kinds of images of nudity are considered artistically respectable versus purely pornographic and why. I already know not everyone agrees that they would ever want to see it and there's lots to debate about the "art" argument - and it doesn't really matter because not only is it clearly not appropriate to the context he actually said something really sexist. So if anything is actually surprising to me here it's that that part seems to get less play.
posted by atoxyl at 11:13 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ah, well. I do not think what I mean by the unsexualised workplace is perhaps what others understand by it.

Then could you clarify what you do mean?
posted by rtha at 11:16 AM on November 17, 2014


Mockery...has always struck me as one of the primary tools used to police behavior.

Only if the person doing it is doing it from some source of authenticity, be it structural or moral. Even then I see it most of the time as a violence to not just the mocked, but also the mocker. It makes me dislike both.

Mockery, ime, causes many third parties to withdraw from the conversation, and disregard anything said by either party. It's emotionally satisfying maybe, but ineffective as a long-term strategy to cause change.
posted by bonehead at 11:31 AM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


maxsparber: Is this true? It runs contrary to my own experiences -- so profoundly contrary as to seem like a self-evidently wrong statement. Mockery, and its gentler sibling teasing, has always struck me as one of the primary tools used to police behavior.

Oh, wow. I find myself responding REALLY strongly to this.

My experience is that mockery breeds resentment, makes people shut up in a bad way, and overall promotes bad feeling.

Mockery is almost the opposite of open communication. It creates a fundamentally unsafe space. It's basically just the application of bullying toward more socially-acceptable goals -- but it's fundamentally still bullying.

So yes, if all you want to do is proximately stop a behavior -- it probably works. But overall and medium- to long-term, it's a horrible, horrible strategy for dealing with bad behavior in a workplace.
posted by lodurr at 11:33 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


For one in structural or social power over another, as a parent or boss or even a more popular classmate, mockery is utterly wong. It's a very common form of bullying and abuse.
posted by bonehead at 11:36 AM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


For Those Who Are Very Concerned About "Callout Culture"
And also recognize that some outrage comes from a place of hurt and marginalization, and some comes from a place of indignation and entitlement. And some things that are labeled “outrage” are simply, objectively not....

(I’m also amazed that people are claiming that Matt Taylor crying is evidence that he was mistreated. I don’t want people to be sad generally speaking, but I don’t think him crying is necessarily a bad thing. It is upsetting to realize you have hurt people! Sometimes being upset is a good sign. Sometimes you should be upset.)
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:37 AM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


fwiw we have mefites who have discussed how they used to be into things like pua and stopped because of mockery and the depth of anger they saw displayed by women who disapproved. so, it might not work for everyone, but it does work. and that's even ignoring that sometimes mockery is done because it gets really fucking grim existing as a woman in this world and sometimes you make jokes to get by.
posted by nadawi at 11:38 AM on November 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


Making fun of, and mocking people generally doesn't stop their behavior.

Is this true? It runs contrary to my own experiences -- so profoundly contrary as to seem like a self-evidently wrong statement. Mockery, and its gentler sibling teasing, has always struck me as one of the primary tools used to police behavior.


Policing behavior via mockery is called "bullying". It does "work" in a sense, but it also backfires in about a million other ways.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:47 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Kirk Englehardt from the Georgia Institute of Technology has a good piece about the twitter harassment at linkedin. Relevant excerpt:
I don’t encounter sexist jerks on a regular basis, so I suppose I’d been living in a bit of a bubble. The things these men said online were nothing short of shameful.

The amazing thing was that Rose (@roseveleth) retweeted many of those negative comments, allowing the trolls to make her point for her. This showed incredible guts. And it confirmed to me that sexism is alive and well in science - and beyond.

So while I started off wondering if we’d gone a bit too far with the outrage – I’m now convinced we haven’t come close to going far enough.
If you aren't following the awful responses and harassment that women are continuing to receive for speaking up about the shirt, you're only seeing half of the story.

Policing behavior via mockery is called "bullying".

This is going way too far. Mocking is not bullying. People make fun of each other all the time, especially men; it only seems to become "bullying" when a white dude becomes the butt of the joke.
posted by dialetheia at 11:50 AM on November 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


Where as Rush Limbaugh is a noted voice of moral clarity and authority, having convinced multitudes to change their ways.

Calling out is not at all mockery. If Taylor did react emotionally when confronted with his dumbassitude, all that says is that maybe there's hope for the man.
posted by bonehead at 11:51 AM on November 17, 2014


I am a guy and I was pretty appalled at the shirt, but also feel that Taylor seemed sincere in his apology and probably just thought "I'm going to wear this cool shirt my friend made." I hope he takes a look at himself over this, and maybe devotes some personal effort towards encouraging girls to become scientists.

I would never wear something like that though, even among friends. In high school I had a couple of bikini model posters in my dorm room, because I thought that's what I was supposed to do to be cool, but even at that age I was amazed that guys would wear stuff like those "I like to fish with my Big Johnson giant penis fishing rod innuendo" T-shirts that were popular at the beach. I was like, wow, I can't believe those dudes would wear those in public! I would also be embarrassed to go to Hooter's though so maybe I'm not typical.
posted by freecellwizard at 11:58 AM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Policing behavior via mockery is called "bullying".

This is going way too far. Mocking is not bullying. People make fun of each other all the time, especially men; it only seems to become "bullying" when a white dude becomes the butt of the joke.


Yeah, okay. I oppose bullying of non-white people and women too, since apparently this is the point in this thread where that has to be said.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:07 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


people often miss the required +power part of bullying or prejudice. women (who, of course, are receiving death threats for making mild jokes) are not bullying this guy.
posted by nadawi at 12:08 PM on November 17, 2014 [14 favorites]


To be clear, I don't think this guy was bullied. Public figure made public idiotic decision.

I'm speaking to the general defense of mockery as a tool for policing behavior.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:10 PM on November 17, 2014


OK, so how about this - do you guys read Deadspin? Do you consider the kind of mockery they apply there to be bullying? I sure don't. People mock each other all the time without it being considered bullying. Calling people terrible names is actual bullying MikeMc, which is why you had to insert that into your mockery example to turn it into bullying.

Also this is a ridiculous derail that is still elevating men's feelings above womens' right to speak. There are actual women scientists being actively harassed right now on twitter and we're talking about whether gentle mockery of a dude counts as bullying... I think our priorities are kind of fucked here guys. If you're seriously worried about bullying, the much more clear example is the actual harassment that's happening against women right now.
posted by dialetheia at 12:12 PM on November 17, 2014 [30 favorites]


people often miss the required +power part of bullying or prejudice

"+power" is not required, that's just some people's opinion of what's required.
posted by MikeMc at 12:12 PM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think our priorities are kind of fucked here guys. If you're seriously worried about bullying, the much more clear example is the actual harassment that's happening against women right now.

Yes, that is a clear example of bullying.

(I don't read deadspin, but there is a lot of stuff that goes on in sports media that definitely borders on bullying at least. Poor Mark Sanchez is never gonna live down that butt fumble. :|
posted by Drinky Die at 12:15 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


MikeMc: "+power" is not required, that's just some people's opinion of what's required.

If you can easily take the "bully" in a fight, how is he still a bully? You keep your lunch money, he ends up crying uncle.

How is this any different when the bullying isn't physical?
posted by tonycpsu at 12:15 PM on November 17, 2014


if you remove the +power part the definition of bullying or prejudice it becomes so broad as to be meaningless.
posted by nadawi at 12:16 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


+Power is required in my view, but I've always found bullies to be extremely good at finding unconventional ways to leverage sources of power. They don't play fair. They might get you in a fight just so they could have friends blame you and get you suspended. A bully once mocked me for being fat and then told on me when I said, "Fuck you." It's a little more complicated to apply +power thinking to bullying than it is to things like racism or sexism, because it is often such an interpersonal area where the power dynamics aren't always clear just based on identity. That's the problem with trying to apply it to this case of course, like I said, it's totally different with a public figure.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:20 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


also, if we're just talking about general mocking and bullying and not about this dude, the shirt, the response, etc, maybe we can stop this derail.
posted by nadawi at 12:21 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Good idea, sorry folks!
posted by Drinky Die at 12:21 PM on November 17, 2014


Phil Plait: Shirtstorm
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


By the way, cool twitter scientists are posting their work-appropriate nerd shirts today at #scishirt, if you want to see some inclusive geeky looks that won't drive women away from STEM fields. My main takeaway is goddamn, we scientists really love our terrible puns.
posted by dialetheia at 12:24 PM on November 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Sometimes a Shirt is More Than Just a Shirt.. from the blog, Isis the Scientist...:
"If it were truly one shirt – one isolated incident in women’s decades long careers – I could see their point. A woman leaving science over one shirt might earn her the fragile flower label. But, it’s never just one shirt. ..."
Also:

This is making me SO HAPPY!

(On preview: seconding dialetheia's comment.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 12:27 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Policing behavior via mockery is called "bullying". It does "work" in a sense, but it also backfires in about a million other ways.

No. Unless you are going to claim The Daily Show is bullying.

Using mockery to belittle someone who is less powerful than you is called bullying. Using mockery to call out someone who is more powerful than you is not bullying.
posted by maxsparber at 12:28 PM on November 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


tonycpsu: If you can easily take the "bully" in a fight, how is he still a bully?

I dunno, maybe because s/he knows you won't? Or that you don't want to make it a "fight"?

The bottom line is that if mockery and intimidation are accepted means of accomplishing things, then you're endorsing the idea that force = rectitude (a.k.a. 'might makes right').
posted by lodurr at 12:30 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is there some nuance of "mockery" that I'm missing here? Is the Onion bullying somebody it satirizes? On preview, same point as maxsparber - mockery by itself does not constitute force or bullying. Lumping mockery together with intimidation and force is disingenuous; intimidation and mockery are miles apart.
posted by dialetheia at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


The bottom line is that if mockery and intimidation are accepted means of accomplishing things, then you're endorsing the idea that force = rectitude (a.k.a. 'might makes right').

From my perspective, you're saying that the speech that is most important here is speech that uses humor to convey a point, because you think it's mean.

That's not the same thing as might makes right. And, honestly, once again we have left the subject of the original sexism and constructed an entirely fictional scenario in which the man in the sexist t-shirt is now the victim of bullying, and how did that happen?
posted by maxsparber at 12:34 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


The #scishirt hashtag dialetheia linked to is AMAZING for everyone who dreamed of being Miss Frizzle when they grew up surely not just me
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:34 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


maxsparber: No. Unless you are going to claim The Daily Show is bullying.

Well, it is. As enlightened satirists will tell you, satire is a blunt instrument, best reserved for attacking the strong. Steve Carrell and Stephen Colbert have both talked about this w.r.t. their own time on TDS. Carrell. in particular said he crafted his 'idiot' persona specifically so he would always appear to be stupider than the person he was interviewing. He felt it humanized them.

Look, this is not a binary issue. However, it's pretty clear that use of mockery and intimidation, whether you want to call it bullying or not, does clearly establish a precedent that it's OK to win by force. It establishes a precedent that ends justify means. If you want to keep it, fine, but just accept that you're doing that.
posted by lodurr at 12:34 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Using mockery to belittle someone who is less powerful than you is called bullying. Using mockery to call out someone who is more powerful than you is not bullying.

The mocking in this thread was about him crying while apologizing though; not the sexist act. Then another MeFite was mocked about their "fee fees". I don't really care about this guy being made fun of for doing something dumb and sexist, but at the very least, it doesn't make for interesting discussion to continue that process to other things he does (especially when it's showing remorse), and onto anyone here who has a take on it.
posted by spaltavian at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


The awesome thing is that if we are utterly serious when we explain why something is a problem, then we're humorless, but if we use humor, then we're mocking and we're bullies and that's much, much, much more important than the original problem. So amazingly, it's very hard to get the tone right so that we get to discuss the original issue and not how inappropriate and ineffective our critique is.

Fuck that shit.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2014 [28 favorites]


Phil Plait: Shirtstorm

PREACH:
So yeah, it's just a shirt.

And it's just an ad.

It's just a saying.

It's just a TV show.

It's just the Internet.

Yes, but you almost make as much as a man does.

It's just a catcall.
It's a compliment!

It's just that boys will be boys.

It's just that she's a slut.

It's just that your dress is too short.
It's just that we want to know what you were wearing at the time, ma'am.

It's just it's just it's just.

It's just a death by a thousand cuts. No one cut does the deed. In the end, they all do.
By the way, cool twitter scientists are posting their work-appropriate nerd shirts today at #scishirt, if you want to see some inclusive geeky looks that won't drive women away from STEM fields.

This is so wonderful, thanks for linking it. And in case anyone else clicked over and immediately started wondering where these amazing trilobite leggings came from: here you go!
posted by divined by radio at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2014 [19 favorites]


The awesome thing is that if we are utterly serious when we explain why something is a problem, then we're humorless, but if we use humor, then we're mocking and we're bullies and that's much, much, much more important than the original problem. So amazingly, it's very hard to get the tone right so that we get to discuss the original issue and not how inappropriate and ineffective our critique is.

Is that the case here? It seems this thread is very supportive of the "this is actually a real problem" position. Or is this a comment on the general discussion of the issue in the larger culture? Because I think MetaFilter tends to do side issues without losing sight of the main issue well sometimes.
posted by spaltavian at 12:40 PM on November 17, 2014




Actually despite having a.) defended the idea of such a shirt and b.) said the shirt isn't even the centerpiece of what was wrong with his behavior, I will say I looked at it again and it's more naked ladies and less laser guns than I was imagining in my defense of pulp illustration tradition. I'd find it embarrassing to wear in public at all and I *would* wear a Cannibal Corpse shirt.
posted by atoxyl at 12:41 PM on November 17, 2014


ArbitraryAndCapricious: So amazingly, it's very hard to get the tone right so that we get to discuss the original issue and not how inappropriate and ineffective our critique is.

The problem with a lot of these tone arguments is that you can't tell how upset people are over it.

I responded "strongly" to maxsparber's original rhetorical question and one answer to it because I processed that through a workplace filter, where I've never, ever seen mockery used in a positive or effective way.

But beyond that, I accept that it's a feature of our society -- even as I recognize that it clearly satisfies all the important criteria to be classified as 'bullying' and recognize that it's probably ineffective if we actually want to have open communication.

It is clear and obvious that humor is often used for abusive purposes, and it's one of the most difficult things to fight when it's used that way, for exactly the reasons you cite.
posted by lodurr at 12:42 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Over $14,000 raised to buy Matt Taylor a gift, presumably to help him get over hurt feelings or something. The fundraiser organized by @JustLaurenB
posted by Rumple at 12:42 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


oh for fucks sake. well, people can spend their money on whatever they want, i suppose.
posted by nadawi at 12:44 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


i just had this vision of taylor taking the money and donating it to a women's STEM scholarship fund or something.
posted by lodurr at 12:45 PM on November 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ideally either he or the ESA will realize that accepting the "totally innocent and not politically motivated" donation is a shitty idea but who even knows anymore.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:46 PM on November 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


Ugh, I quit. From that fundraising link:

Despite Dr Taylor's efforts for humanity, he was bullied to the point which he broke down.

So we've raised $14k for a gift to help with his feelings, but women whose feelings were hurt by his shirt get a couple more weeks of gater harassment making their social media and networking virtually unusable, and $0 for women in science.

This exemplifies what we're talking about here: the focus inevitably seems to returns to men's feelings, just like a magnet pointing north. Which is exactly how this discussion has gone: instead of talking about how to support the brave women who are being mercilessly harassed for trying to change the culture and make science more inclusive, or god forbid talking about their feelings even as they're being personally threatened with violence, we're seriously hung up arguing about whether it was "bullying" to level humor at somebody. This is precisely why the narrow focus on his feelings is harmful in and of itself - it's exactly the kind of rhetoric these guys are using behind this fundraiser, to change the focus from women and their desire for an inclusive workplace to mens' desire to never feel bad about doing anything ever.
posted by dialetheia at 12:50 PM on November 17, 2014 [38 favorites]


also, they're raising money for a gift for the whole team...which is buying matt taylor a watch? and hey, look at that, there's that bullshit bullying claim again. amazing.
posted by nadawi at 12:51 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


Over $14,000 raised to buy Matt Taylor a gift...

FYI, in the very headline and copy it says Dr. Taylor and the entire Rosetta mission team. Taylor would an high end astronomical watch, project manager Fred Jansen gets a pen from the Mont Blanc Star Walker collection and the rest of the team gets a meal or a bottle of whiskey with a custom label mentioning their names and role in the mission.

Taylor knows about the crowd source but has to check with higher ups to see if it's allowed.

If he (or someone around him) has half a brain, he'd ask that the money be donated to programs involved in getting women in STEM fields.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:53 PM on November 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


we're seriously hung up arguing about whether it was "bullying" to level humor at somebody.

I'd say it's about whether it is, not whether it was, and the discussion was specifically about mockery, not "humor." And I'm not sure we're "hung up" on it.

But other than that, I agree that it's a problem that it's about the actor's feelings.
posted by lodurr at 12:54 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not opposed to the Rosetta team getting fancy gifts (I mean, they landed a robot on a comet!!! Scientists are generally poorly compensated! That watch is super awesome!) but the framing of the appeal is disheartening. Don't give money to scientists for science's sake, give money to...prove feminists are wrong?
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:59 PM on November 17, 2014 [12 favorites]


the extra gifts were only added as an idea after the funding secured his watch which is pretty obvious from the copy.

also, "julie m" has started and funded 2 projects at indiegogo - this one, and one to get unicef to accept gamergate donations.
posted by nadawi at 1:00 PM on November 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Honestly I felt bad for Taylor too, and when I saw him so affected by what he'd done that he cried, I thought, "wow, he's probably a good guy, it's too bad our shitty sexist culture apparently didn't give him any feedback about how to act before now so that he could have avoided showing his ass on international tv like that." I don't think he meant anything malicious by it, and I am socially awkward to the max so I understand how somebody could misunderstand complex social norms - but the thing is that this shouldn't be a complex or nuanced issue; this should be something that should have been clear the first day he got to grad school. The culture failed Taylor. I don't hold him personally responsible. But this is how we change the culture so that the men who are entering grad school today will know better than to make a mistake like that.

I also think that if people want to elevate his feelings over the effect such actions have on women in STEM, they have their priorities in the wrong place.

I'd say it's about whether it is, not whether it was, and the discussion was specifically about mockery, not "humor." And I'm not sure we're "hung up" on it.

We're clearly hung up on it because we're talking about this ridiculous bullying/mockery derail instead of any of the actual issues that matter here. If you want to keep splitting hairs about mockery then fine, but it's important to be aware that it's the exact same false-equivalence derailing tactic used by the folks raising money to make up for his terrible "bullying" at the same time that brilliant women scientists are being harassed with impunity.
posted by dialetheia at 1:00 PM on November 17, 2014 [23 favorites]


I would love to donate to an organization for women in STEM. (I decided recently that whenever I got the urge to get into a Facebook fight, I would donate instead. The rage is strong today.) Does anyone have suggestions?
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:12 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here’s the problem with all the feminist cultural debate that’s right now. Let’s imagine the ocean is mainstream culture and that microaggressions are plankton. Feminist scholars, and bloggers are on the beach with a cup dip it into the ocean and pull it up and point out the percentage of plankton present in that cup and hold it up as an example of the percentage of plankton in the ocean. Critics then come in and go well that’s just that one cup your holding. This happens when Anita Sarkeesian talks about Hitman, it happens when STEM talks about Taylor’s shirt, it happens when anyone posts a street harassment video. The plankton aren’t just in that one cup, they are floating everywhere in the ocean that allows them to survive.
posted by edbles at 1:24 PM on November 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


I would love to donate to an organization for women in STEM. (I decided recently that whenever I got the urge to get into a Facebook fight, I would donate instead. The rage is strong today.) Does anyone have suggestions?

Last Week Tonight Listed a bunch of them during the Miss America Pageant segment.

Society of Women Engineers
posted by edbles at 1:28 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


Clearly, that schmuck has no friends in that lab. If someone I worked with was about go on camera wearing something that stupid, I'd have to stop him and say something.
posted by Renoroc at 1:34 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


The culture failed Taylor. I don't hold him personally responsible.

I do. And he stood up and took responsibility and demonstrated that he's a responsible and thoughtful person. I don't mean to pick on a turn of phrase here, but I think we'll do better as a culture when we accept that there's nothing hostile or unfair about asking someone to be responsible. People often rise to the level of the expectations we place on them.
posted by phearlez at 1:47 PM on November 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


Clearly, that schmuck has no friends in that lab. If someone I worked with was about go on camera wearing something that stupid, I'd have to stop him and say something.

Clearly, he has friends in the lab and people who would prefer this not be an issue for the entire agency, but there's a different culture over in the ESA. It's probably fueled to some degree by sexism, but it's not clear how much and what else is going on.

I had wondered if he was just hated by almost everyone around him and their attitude was "eh, screw that guy, let's watch him fall," but he does seem liked and it's doubtful everyone who noticed how problematic the shirt would be is willing to risk the agency's reputation.

It's all very bizarre.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:54 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


I actually think it's possible that people just registered "really loud, ugly shirt" and didn't realize that the pictures were naked ladies at all. I have a skirt with stylized cats on it, and I'll often be talking to people for like ten minutes before they say "oh! Wow! There are cats on your skirt!" People just aren't that observant about such things, I've found.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:59 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


The awesome thing is that if we are utterly serious when we explain why something is a problem, then we're humorless, but if we use humor, then we're mocking and we're bullies and that's much, much, much more important than the original problem. So amazingly, it's very hard to get the tone right so that we get to discuss the original issue and not how inappropriate and ineffective our critique is.

Fuck that shit
.

Men are delicate flowers, and we should be vigilant in ensuring that we haven't trod on their tender feelings.

In the meantime, women should just shut the fuck up about the death threats, just get over it, and don't DARE give anyone the side-eye.
posted by MissySedai at 2:13 PM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


If only there was some middle ground to be found where the bad actor could be criticized and end up apologizing and regretting his mistake and we didn't need to mock him for his emotional response at the same time. I guess I just can't see any way though.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:19 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's the internet. Things will be mocked for good reasons, bad reasons and just reasons. Best to just keep a level head and fine bottle of rum by your side to handle these rough spots.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:22 PM on November 17, 2014


You know, I've found rum and a level head don't seem to coincide with me that often. Maybe I should try tequila?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2014


In the meantime, women should just shut the fuck up about the death threats, just get over it, and don't DARE give anyone the side-eye.

Um, where in this thread are people saying to shut the fuck up about the death threats?
posted by el io at 2:29 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've seen very little mocking of Taylor and a lot of mocking of the dudes who all seem to have the ability to empathize deeply with any dude who is ever called out for acting like a sexist doofus but no ability to empathize with any woman, ever, for any reason.

As usual, public ridicule and mocking of these tantrum-throwing whiny manbabies is completely necessary, since it serves the duel purpose of cheering up those of us who actually deal with marginalization and are underpaid, dismissed, called overemotional, harassed, assaulted, etc AND it sometimes actually gets through to the douchebags.

And if seeing these people (who are attempting to make the world as hostile to women as possible) mocked is a problem for you, well, I'm sure your fee-fees will heal.
posted by NoraReed at 2:32 PM on November 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


If only there was some middle ground to be found where the bad actor could be criticized and end up apologizing and regretting his mistake and we didn't need to mock him for his emotional response at the same time

Hardly anyone has mocked him at all. Seriously. Like, I think one person said the word "boohoo" and another person was dismissive of someone else's "fee-fees" because they were elevating their feelings over the feelings of people receiving actual bullying and harassment. In fact I've found most everyone calling this out has been focusing on the culture instead of Taylor himself.

I'd personally prefer a middle ground where women could point out that something was sexist without opening themselves up for weeks of horrifying harassment, which harassment is then dismissed with false equivalencies and ignored in favor of making barely-relevant comments about women "bullying" men. If the women who called it out hadn't been dismissed out of hand, put down, and harassed, none of this would have escalated like it has; Taylor would have apologized and everyone would have moved on. If you don't believe me, go read some actual women scientists' feeds on twitter and tell me who's being bullied and who's escalating this conflict.
posted by dialetheia at 2:35 PM on November 17, 2014 [18 favorites]


What's worse than being angrily attacked by a thousand feminists on twitter?

Being 'defended' by ten thousand misogynists on twitter.
posted by el io at 2:41 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've seen very little mocking of Taylor

Me too. I don't see why what there is of it has to be defended to the death though. It was just shitty.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:52 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Me too.

To be blunt, then, why do you keep bringing it up?
posted by dialetheia at 2:55 PM on November 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


Well, if I had said, "Bullying women for stating an opinion online is wrong," nobody would have defended the practice so the conversation would not have involved multiple comments. Since I instead said "Mocking this man for crying is wrong, he has already apologized," a bunch of people have taken issue with the comment for various reasons and now mocked me for having "fee fees." So here we are.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:59 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


But, done with this thread since this is clearly a dumb derail. Sorry again.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:05 PM on November 17, 2014


Nobody took much issue with your original statement as far as I can see, and it's heavily favorited so clearly many people agree with you (as do I, for that matter). A few people did try to explain why it's important to them to be explicit that they do not care about his feelings especially, sometimes using humor, which is a delicate thing to explain but I'll try.

Basically people are giving him the mildest possible version of the treatment that many men give women every time women say their feelings are hurt by sexism. Women are currently getting a ton of backlash about how their feelings about a shirt are frivolous and manufactured and ultimately shouldn't matter at all in the face of this amazing comet landing, when those same people are simultaneously Very Concerned about Taylor's feelings. The women are actual scientists who are actually made to feel unwelcome by the shirt and who are currently receiving actual harassment, whereas his feelings were hurt because he had to apologize for doing something hurtful. To prioritize his feelings over the feelings of the people he hurt to necessitate the apology is wrong and doesn't make sense, and that's what people are trying to point out with various rhetorical techniques.

Pointing out that his hurt feelings don't ultimately matter in the broader context - not saying that we should go out of our way to hurt his feelings, but arguing that his hurt feelings over being called out are a natural consequence of doing something hurtful and not a reason to refrain from pointing out the hurtful thing, which some have argued even in this thread - is a way of trying to wrest control of the narrative back from people who want to center his feelings as the main issue here. It's a way of saying "your feelings are hurt over having to apologize for actually doing something wrong, huh? Imagine how hurt your feelings would be if you were made to feel unwelcome in your workplace every day through no fault of your own! Or if you were experiencing the threats and harassment that the people speaking out about it are experiencing!" If people were sending him threats over this, then sure, we'd have something to talk about, but to my knowledge the worst that's happened is a few people made some jokes about how his feelings must be REALLY IMPORTANT to be elevated above real bullying and harassment. And to be clear, Taylor isn't even the one doing that, it's all the people who seem to have endless empathy when seeing a man cry because he feels so bad about accidentally being a sexist jerk, but very little empathy for seeing a dozen women scientists essentially driven off twitter with threats and harassment and endless sealioning.

I completely agree with you that we don't need to twist the knife at all on this guy personally, but that's not quite what people were doing. They were using humorous rhetorical techniques to make fun of people who are all bent out of shape about the feelings he was forced to experience when he realized he'd made a big mistake, but who conveniently ignored the actual feelings of the people he affected with that mistake or the feelings of those currently being harassed over speaking out about the mistake. Given the relative magnitude of those impacts, it makes some sense to be a bit humorously dismissive of the idea that his feelings should be elevated to be as important or more important than the actual people affected by his behavior.

tl;dr: the joking dismissive stuff about men's feelings is a direct response to the unrelenting minimization of women's feelings that happens every time this stuff comes up. Shirt-supporters are saying "your feelings don't matter and are stupid, and hey look you really hurt this guy's feelings, you bully!!," and so some women are naturally going to respond, "no, YOU'RE the one having a big emotional tantrum response to this, and I'm the one who's actually being harassed here."

I'm not saying it's great to make fun of people, just that it's not happening out of thin air - it's a direct response to having one's feelings endlessly mocked and minimized.
posted by dialetheia at 3:38 PM on November 17, 2014 [26 favorites]


Um, where in this thread are people saying to shut the fuck up about the death threats?

You do understand that we're talking about the broader culture, right, and not just this thread?
posted by MissySedai at 3:45 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


NoraReed: ... well, I'm sure your fee-fees will heal.

Why do you assume this is about the "fee-fees", and not an actually-held belief that mockery is counter-productive?
posted by lodurr at 4:03 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


this continues to be the dumbest derail.
posted by nadawi at 4:16 PM on November 17, 2014 [21 favorites]


The Phil Plait article has cites "Lewis' Law". (“Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”)

Cited for truth. Cites with generally civil comments just explode into dismissive-ness and nastiness when any women's issue comes up. I'm going to start using that shorthand.

Also, if anyone came into my office wearing that shirt, I'd hand them shawl I keep for extra cold days and ask them to cover the shirt. Unless, of course, there was some power relationship that made it imprudent. And that's the conundrum, isn't it.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 4:31 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


A couple more thoughts:

Just because he felt bad and apologized doesn't mean he actually got the whole message. As I keep saying it's not just the shirt but the juvenile sex metaphor - how can someone seriously think that's material for a press conference in this day and age? Actually I have some ideas about how a certain kind of nerdy guy picks up stuff like that in a misguided attempt at machismo but to put the images and the comments together like that in public I think suggests a person who really might be clueless, which, yes, I know, does not mean harmless. I'm not trying to absolve him, but to suggest that it looks like he means well, wasn't just feeling sorry for himself etc. and is probably capable of understanding the issue.

As mentioned in this thread it would be a really great ending if he could be convinced to give the money raised on his behalf to the cause of women in science and engineering. If I were someone like Katie Mack I would try to contact him, say "sorry for putting you in the spotlight but you do get the point, right?" and make some gentle hints about what he might do to come out looking good. Not because she or anyone owes him that but because it would be a really classy thing that would make everyone come out looking good.

Because on the other hand there are also not only gamergate types but fairly mainstream conservative publications already frothing about political correctness gone mad so it would be pretty shitty if they got to him first and convinced him that he's the victim and this became a symbolic thing for everyone to remain angry about forever.

Of course in the end it's up to him.
posted by atoxyl at 4:39 PM on November 17, 2014 [4 favorites]




The fashion failure here is as incredible as humankind landing on a comet. It could only have been worse had he realized midway through the interview he wasn't wearing pants.
posted by humanfont at 4:59 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


That Kiran Opal piece is pretty great! She links to a couple of other good summaries of the harassing response to this too, including a piece about the gamergate connection and a more general roundup from the Washington Post.
posted by dialetheia at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Why do you assume this is about the "fee-fees", and not an actually-held belief that mockery is counter-productive?

Because "Mockery is counterproductive" just came up in a context where a white male's sexism is being defended? Because it's associated with posts warning about the dire conformity that will unleashed if we try to reduce sexism in STE fields, and worse, if women's opinions are actually taken into consideration?

Because "Mockery is counterproductive" is being used as a massive derail from the main issue?

I dunno. I guess it's us feminists being cruel and insensitive. In any case, I think I've got a new line for my bingo card.
posted by happyroach at 5:38 PM on November 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. If this is gonna turn into a discussion of how Metafilter of Mefites talk about x, take it over to Metatalk and have it there. Otherwise, folks please try and drop the Mockery: Best Or Worst Thing? derail already.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:05 PM on November 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


That Kiran Opal piece audi alteram partem linked is thorough and wonderful.
posted by Corinth at 7:10 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am annoyed how Taylor is portrayed by the Gamergate folks as some how single handedly landing the probe on the comet. In their mind he seems to be some John Gault superman who built this probe in his basement and launched it against all the odds and opposition of liberals. This is a multidisciplinary effort with hundreds if not thousands of key participants. It was funded by European Union, an organization the right wing has sought to destroy using public science funding opposed by these right wing assholes.
Taylor had the privilege to represent the project in a critical moment before the world. He failed to honor that trust and instead disrespected his team, the public and the historical moment.
A tearful apology is the least he can do. He received a great public honor and he spat in our face rather than act with humility and grace.
posted by humanfont at 11:13 PM on November 17, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I got some of the "BUT HE LANDED A FUCKING ROBOT ON A FUCKING COMET" stuff on Facebook. Blugh.
posted by brundlefly at 11:19 PM on November 17, 2014


Over and over, I'm seeing people say that this guy was harassed, abused, bullied, etc... but since I'm coming in a bit a late to this, I'm not having much success at finding exactly what this abuse and harassment consisted of. At this late date, searching twitter for #shirtgate or #shirtstorm brings up secondary discussions, mostly from MRA, #GamerGater, and other assorted anti-feminist types railing against the usual stuff, but not much of the initial commentary.

So, can someone point me to what precisely was Matt Taylor subjected to? For example, in the Telegraph, Boris Johnson calls it an "unrelenting tweetstorm of abuse [...] a hurtling dustcloud of hate, orchestrated by lobby groups and politically correct media organisations" but doesn't even quote one mean tweet. So, I'd really rather not just take his word for it. Most of what I've seen so far directed at Dr. Taylor has been relatively tame stuff, but that may simply be a function of the sources I normally read.
posted by mhum at 6:13 AM on November 18, 2014


mhum: He wasn't subjected to jack shit, frankly, unless people were contacting him privately (and thus, not doing anything Boris Johnson would know about). it was all really mild, pretty professional, certainly annoyed, but nothing out of line.
posted by lodurr at 6:16 AM on November 18, 2014


this comment upthread shows how disingenuous the whole bullying framing is. it's a fig leaf to cover the actual harassment women are facing over this, as usual.
posted by nadawi at 6:22 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that was my sense too but I wanted a little more research to back it up. The best/worst that, say, the National Review points to is this sarcastic tweet by Rose Eveleth who, they point out later in the article, goes on to accept Dr. Taylor's apology. If this is the worst they got, this is pretty weak sauce.

To be clear, while harassment, abuse, and bullying can take many forms, what I'm specifically not seeing in this case are: "go kill yourself"/"die in a fire"-type comments, death threats, rape threats, doxxing threats, efforts to have Dr. Taylor fired from the ESA, efforts to have Dr. Taylor run out of science altogether, or efforts to have the ESA defunded for not firing him. I'd think that if such things were hurled about in that "tweetstorm of abuse", one of the r/KotakuInAction people would have compiled a lengthy imgur album scrawled over with red lines in MS Paint by now.

Perhaps also of note is that I'm not finding much (any?) continuing criticism after Dr. Taylor's apology. One of the defining features of bullying to me (apart from the power differential between the parties) is its ongoing and perpetual nature. In fact, the only people really still talking about this on Twitter are the aforementioned anti-feminists and the people reacting to them. As Kiran Opal says in the article linked above, "This is no longer about Matt & Rosetta. This is now about men being outraged that women made Matt reconsider."
posted by mhum at 7:16 AM on November 18, 2014 [17 favorites]


Yeah, that was my sense too but I wanted a little more research to back it up.

Melby's research seems pretty exhaustive to me. And looking at her Twitter today, she's still getting piled on for daring to do the research to begin with. I read through her entire timeline compilation, and the meanest tweet she found was ONE calling him an "unprofessional, sexist jerk". Quite the abusive deluge, that one tweet. Oy.

If this is the worst they got, this is pretty weak sauce.

It's barely even broth, let alone sauce. But that's never stopped that crowd from showing their asses before.
posted by MissySedai at 9:10 AM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


MissySedai: "the meanest tweet she found was ONE calling him an "unprofessional, sexist jerk""

Don't forget the one that said he looked like the dude from Duck Dynasty.

What's also interesting to me is that none of the usual anti-feminist suspects seem to be directly quoting many tweets or anything, not even from the selection on M.A. Melby's list. They're just outright declaring that there's been campaign of harassment directed at Matt Taylor. The worst that r/KotakuInAction (aka the semi-respectable sub-reddit for #Gamergaters) point to is the Chris Plante article in The Verge linked in the post itself and even that is really more about the culture at the ESA that could overlook the shirt rather than about Matt Taylor himself. When even the most die-hard opposition comes up so empty-handed, you'd think they'd be discouraged. But that's not how such things work, I guess.
posted by mhum at 9:43 AM on November 18, 2014


When your clique has an already fully developed persecution complex you don't need to provide specifics, and doing so just emboldens your opponents - then it's something you said that they can refute. Demanding they come up with examples puts them in the position of proving a negative. See: The War on Christmas.

This crowd considers it self-evident that a man receiving any criticism is bullying and abuse. Throw in that it "made him cry" - something they consider feminine and weak, meaning that they humiliated him in the worst possible way - and it doesn't matter what the specifics are.
posted by phearlez at 10:17 AM on November 18, 2014 [10 favorites]


It's classic at this point: women point out sexist thing in kindest way possible, everybody reacts like they just issued a Unabomber screed with personal threats in it. Then those women receive the actual threats and blowback that are attributed to them, without any consequences for the harassers and accusers. By the end, the women are trying to simultaneously fend off the only actual abuse that's occurring while also defending themselves against accusations of bad faith, like "when will the mockery end?!!?" because one person made a duck dynasty joke or said the word "boohoo" or something. Watch for this dynamic next time we have a good feminism MeTa - it literally always ends up this way. There might be one or two examples of a woman toeing over the line but they are ALWAYS taken to task for it while the people perpetrating the injustice in the first place are let off the hook with some dismissive "well sure, what do you expect? but I thought you cared about EQUALITY!" nonsense.
posted by dialetheia at 10:20 AM on November 18, 2014 [29 favorites]


Someone is going to have to explain the fee fee thing to me because google just says it's something you make out of a towel for male masturbation.

What I find most annoying when I decide to browse imgur's front page is the amount of cherry-picked twitter/tumblr posts showing women using feminism for selfish/hurtful reasons, and then it receives a ton of upvotes. It's sort of ridiculous that at least one of these makes it daily and you only see support of feminism when there's a major news story breaking. There's always a ton of comments debating about the validity of both sides/movements, but it always strikes me how so very, very rarely people comment on how the constant popularity of anti-feminist material makes it to their front page, considering the size of the internet from which you can draw sources, might signify more about their own bias than actual reality.
posted by halifix at 3:14 PM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Someone is going to have to explain the fee fee

Also known as "pweshus feewings". That is, a slightly mocking retort when someone (male OR female) decides that their momentary hurt feelings over being called out for being an idiot is more important than the actual effect their idiocy has on others. Also applicable to the tender feelings of those given to defending such idiocy, and fussing about how hurt THEY are that the idiot they're defending has been called out.

It's apparently really mean when a woman uses this turn of phrase in response to a man. Reverse sexism or some shit.
posted by MissySedai at 4:59 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nicole Gugliucci - So about That Shirt…
For years now, women have been fighting to carve out safe spaces in science, tech, comics, conventions, all the traditionally “nerdy white male” spaces. And we’re getting feedback now in the form of “Gamer Gate” and “men’s rights activists,” whole movements of people who are upset at the upsetting of the status quo. So maybe it’s not a surprise in hindsight, but I’m supremely disappointed. There is more than enough space to celebrate an amazing scientific and technical achievement AND discuss the ongoing subtle sexism in science and academia WITHOUT it devolving into an all out war. If I’m spending half my time on Twitter blocking vitriol, that’s time I’m not sharing science. That’s actually driving us away from even wanting to interact.
posted by audi alteram partem at 6:38 PM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Who is this "Julie M" character behind the campaign to buy Matt Taylor a hurt-feelings watch?

Incidentally, her campaign has now raised over $18,000, six times more than the base price. I hope she has her purchases audited; it's not that I wouldn't trust her, it's actually about ethics in trolling.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:20 PM on November 18, 2014


[A couple of comments deleted. Guys, we've been deleting comments that continue the "mockery" derail as cortex requested above, and it would be great not to just morph that into a "fee-fees" derail. Also, if necessary, please take meta complaints to metatalk, and cut out the personalized stuff. As always, please focus comments "on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site." ]
posted by taz (staff) at 10:10 PM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]




I'm far from a Twitter power user so I'm not sure how she did it, but doesn't the way Melby is presenting her research pretty much render Storify redundant?
posted by lodurr at 1:32 PM on November 19, 2014


I think you are not seeing the harassing and abusive tweets because people either delete the tweets after the fact, or else the comments pointing out the harassment in online forums get deleted.

TIME mentions some, with links, and Melby does not include any of them in her "exhaustive" timeline, so it is quite possible there are more.
posted by misha at 3:09 PM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


you mean abuse like :
“Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me a–hole,”
...
“I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing.”
...
“His shirt says to women in STEM: I have no respect for you as a professional. When I look at you, I see a sex object.”

i think we must have different definitions of abusive if that's what you think qualifies. also, ugh, when did time start printing fucked up anti-feminist screeds? that's disappointing.
posted by nadawi at 3:35 PM on November 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


That whole article was the perfect complement to dialetheia's comment here. One vaguely threatening tweet (harpoons, c'mon, don't go there) against a male scientist and suddenly feminists are ruining space.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:45 PM on November 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


also, ugh, when did time start printing fucked up anti-feminist screeds? that's disappointing.

The same Time that put "feminism" in the list of words to ban in 2015, since retracted? Not really surprising.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:46 PM on November 19, 2014 [1 favorite]




nadawi already covered my reaction -- that's the worst that Time author could find? -- but it's also worth noting that Melby's timeline was only looking at tweets sent directly @ the shirt-wearing scientist, and the handful of (quite mild!) tweets linked to in that ridiculous Time article weren't.

But also, for emphasis: oh, my god, that article was a load of trash. Contributing editor at Reason magazine, indeed.

A good rule of thumb is that if any article crows triumphantly about the shirt having been made by a woman, as though that were some sort of gotcha trump card, you can take it as a given that the author's understanding of feminism is a crude parody at best.
posted by nobody at 4:18 PM on November 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


Tweeters target Instapundit for daring to disagree about the shirt. They then (verifiably falsely) accused him of doxxing for writing the criticism.

"A few people incorrectly said Instapundit doxxed someone, which means we can ignore all criticism of his extremely dumb column. Score one for honest argument!" - Michelle Malkin's news site
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:40 PM on November 19, 2014 [9 favorites]


misha, to be clear, what is your opinion on the ongoing ACTUAL threats and harassment those women scientists who called it out (99.99% of whom were exceedingly polite) are still receiving, which is at least two orders of magnitude worse than anything that was ever said to the guy? It's funny it hasn't come up in your posts since you're so concerned about bullying and harassment in general.

Why do you feel that it's appropriate to constantly try to redirect the conversation to the very few cherrypicked times you can dig up that feminists were a little mean, instead of worrying about the THOUSANDS of times that anti-feminists bullied women and the ongoing harassment campaign against women who spoke up about their concerns about women in STEM fields? Or even why not focus on the 99.99% of feminists who handled this perfectly and point out what was great about their approach, instead of blowing a few tweets out of proportion and acting like those outliers represent the way every feminist behaved? At the very least, it would be nice if you'd acknowledge that while one feminist might have said the word "asshole" once, the people who spoke out about this are STILL being harassed and personally threatened in much, much more graphic terms.

If our goal is to do something about bullying on social media, it makes sense to start with the most terrible behavior and go from there, and the absolute worst stuff is by far coming from the gamergate & anti-feminist communities. It's disingenuous to pretend otherwise. It might be enlightening to try researching the harassment against women scientists that's ensued from this whole thing if you're interested in seeing the scale of the vitriol they're still receiving. I can only imagine you aren't fully aware of it if you're hyperfocusing on one tweet that said "asshole" like this.
posted by dialetheia at 6:14 PM on November 19, 2014 [18 favorites]


Well, "a-hole", actually. And you can say that on broadcast TV.
posted by lodurr at 7:00 PM on November 19, 2014


misha: "I think you are not seeing the harassing and abusive tweets because people either delete the tweets after the fact, or else the comments pointing out the harassment in online forums get deleted. "

Well, anything is possible. But, not everything is probable. Do we think it likely that basically all of the truly abusive tweets have vanished as well as all of the contemporaneous commenting and reporting that would have quoted those tweets? Further, I will once again point to the complete lack of any continuing campaign -- no calls for Matt Taylor to be fired, no calls to defund the ESA. These would necessarily have to be and remain public in order to be a thing.

TIME mentions some, with links, and Melby does not include any of them in her "exhaustive" timeline, so it is quite possible there are more.

As nadawi points out, there are exactly three tweets cited in that article, two of which direct their invective primarily at the shirt (or, I guess, the act of wearing the shirt) and one which calls Matt Taylor an asshole. If this sauce gets any weaker, it's going to be water. Also, keep in mind that the author's worldview-- while not nearly as extreme as Christina Hoff Sommers' -- definitely leans towards the anti-feminist side. Just take a look at her articles in Reason about Gamergate, California's "yes means yes" law, or even Elliot Rodgers to get a feeling for where her sympathies lie.

So, while M.A. Melby's list of mean tweets (which I think only MissySedai claimed to exhaustive; I certainly never assumed it to be) may possibly be dismissed because of which side she falls on, it's a little harder to figure out what Cathy Young or Christina Hoff Sommers or Milo Yiannopolous or any of the Gamergate horde would have to gain by soft-pedaling this. If this is the best that the most die-hard, axe-grindy anti-feminists can dig up, Occam's Razor suggests that maybe there wasn't very much there to begin with rather than some mass, coordinated tweet and/or comment deletion.
posted by mhum at 7:21 PM on November 19, 2014 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, let's take a look at what we find when we search Twitter for, say "Eveleth shirtgate":

Guys pls sign the petition to fire that cunt Rose Eveleth who bullied Dr. Matt

We can move on when Rose Eveleth is in tears on national television apologizing for her stupidity.

Rose Eveleth is mentally ill.

So there's that.
posted by mhum at 7:30 PM on November 19, 2014 [8 favorites]


[Sort of a slow-rolling "remember to reload in case you're replying to something deleted" thing here the last little bit.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:57 PM on November 19, 2014


Has there been any reaction from Dr Taylor at all? I understand he was very busy at first and the apology seemed heartfelt and enough at the time, but it would have been nice to hear him firmly distance himself from the "he was bullied to tears" crowd and reinforce that he made a mistake in wearing the shirt, that he understands the points that were raised about sexism (also with regards to the "she is sexy but not easy" comment) and how important it is to him to do better in the future. As it is, on that fundraiser page, it still says that he is aware of the fundraiser but will have to ask ESA if it is okay. I cannot imagine that he wouldn't want to distance himself from that.
posted by blub at 2:54 AM on November 20, 2014


Links above seem to imply he was going to accept the 'gift' that was being patreoned by some honey-badger fellow-traveler.

I think he really needs to block out an hour to talk with someone who actually understands social media and can explain to him how he's being used as a symbol. Maybe he has, and doesn't get it. Maybe he's changed his position on the gift. I don't think we know at this point.

One of the killer things about stuff like this is that we who live in the social media space (which, congratulation, you're here, you probably do) see it in a way that normals just don't. We expect them to "get" things they have previously had no incentive to get. If you're not tuned in to online sentiments, you could plausibly fail to grasp when you're being used as a symbol. If we lived in a sane world, Taylor could have apologized, he and the ESA could have learned from it, and we could have moved on.

I joked elsewhere about a 'post-Poe's Law singularity'*, but it's occurring to me now that there might actually have been a social media watershed at some point when we weren't paying attention. Post-gamergate (for lack of a better marker**), it may no longer be possible to screw up in public and move on if what you've done makes a small critical mass of sociopaths angry enough to go nuts. In the past they wouldn't have gotten traction; now they have it.

--
*where satire, sincerity and disingenuousness collapse into a single point.
**Tea Party?
posted by lodurr at 3:47 AM on November 20, 2014


the only indication we have that he's even considering the gift is from the people running the campaign. that's not really a trustable source.
posted by nadawi at 6:31 AM on November 20, 2014


that's good to know. The ESA's got enough egg on its face already.
posted by lodurr at 6:44 AM on November 20, 2014


Rather than yet another conversation about misha's personal approach to feminism can we just link to the moderating gamergate exhaustive coverage of the subject and move on?

I think he really needs to block out an hour to talk with someone who actually understands social media and can explain to him how he's being used as a symbol. Maybe he has, and doesn't get it.

Should he? I mean, I think that an evolved human being who has gotten some spotlight and some education should use that position&knowledge to Do Good, but I'm not sure to what extent it's reasonable to demand people participate in these online media kerfuffles and be aware of them.

He should now be aware of his visibility and cautious about how he lets himself be co-opted, but I'm not sure I think he has any obligation to participate beyond choosing not to participate. Someone sends him a watch, he says "thanks" and nothing more... is that condemnable because outside his view that individual is spouting nonsense? It's one thing when an organization with a visible presence & position approaches you to give you a gift, or a person who is a figurehead for a movement. But this is some clown who's really only important to another bunch of tweeting clowns. Asking someone to vet unaffiliated groups and a person's social media presence might be a bit much to ask.
posted by phearlez at 10:40 AM on November 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


That's really all I'd ask of him, phearlez. In my experience, even pretty technical people often don't really get how this stuff flows, and I think they can't really be properly cautious until they do.
posted by lodurr at 12:06 PM on November 20, 2014


American Astronomical Society Statement
We wish to express our support for members of the community who rightly brought this issue to the fore, and we condemn the unreasonable attacks they experienced as a result, which caused deep distress in our community. We do appreciate the scientist’s sincere and unqualified apology.

The AAS has a clear anti-harassment policy, which prohibits “verbal comments or physical actions of a sexual nature” and “a display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures.” Had the offending images appeared and comments been made under the auspices of the AAS, they would be in clear violation of our policy.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:22 PM on November 20, 2014 [15 favorites]


Dialethia, I am on record as being 100% against any harassment whatsoever. I think calling someone an asshole early on is not conducive to a calm and measured discussion, but "They did it first!", or that the ends justify the means arguments leave me equally cold.

Please understand, like mhum said about the original harassment, though, I haven't seen any actual death threats, unless we are including childish insults like, "Go jump off a cliff," which, really, feels like a stretch to me, as someone who has been online for years.

One person claimed that a friend had been doxxed and others retweeted that, without any attempt to confirm whether it actually happened. And I am finding a lot of these social justice tweetfests to be less than credible, in that when you do check on those, they are usually exaggerations or even just made up completely out of whole cloth.

People do delete offensive Tweets after the fact, of course. They also claim their accounts have been hijacked and a lot of other things that we know rarely happen--remember back to how Anthony Weiner tried to use that, and no one believed him, and rightfully so. Someone claimed that Eveleth was doxxed, but that seemed like nothing more than a smear campaign, according to the links I found. I do appreciate the comments louder found; count is a disgusting term, as is calling her mentally ill. The thing about making her cry seems ugly to me, but given that's what happened with Dr. Taylor, I can't see being incensed over that unless we get incensed over him crying, and others here feel like that doesn't matter at all.So, basically, no one came out looking great here to me.

My two links were in response to mhum, who wondered why we weren't seeing more original harassing tweets, and also posited that everything stopped when Dr. Taylor apologized, because they gave a direct counterpoint to that assertion, not because I think anyone was justified in harassing anyone else.

Personally, I think that complaints about the shirt should not have been made during the press conference over social media, because they overshadowed the comet landing. I think that's why they were made publicly, to draw attention to sexism in science, and I feel like it was a sucky time and a sucky way to do that and though it probably did draw attention, it did it in the worst possible way.

The message communicated was that what a scientist was WEARING was more important than what a scientist was DOING, and I personally feel that reflects poorly on everyone concerned.
posted by misha at 4:38 PM on November 24, 2014


Please understand, like mhum said about the original harassment, though, I haven't seen any actual death threats, unless we are including childish insults like, "Go jump off a cliff," which, really, feels like a stretch to me, as someone who has been online for years.

I submit that you didn't look all that hard. And that doesn't even cover the fact that many times it's done out of the public eye. But by all means wave it off with a "aww it's not all that bad" and emphasize how weak-willed she is.

One person claimed that a friend had been doxxed and others retweeted that, without any attempt to confirm whether it actually happened. And I am finding a lot of these social justice tweetfests to be less than credible, in that when you do check on those, they are usually exaggerations or even just made up completely out of whole cloth.

This is pretty awful and ignorant, considering how often it does happen.

The thing about making her cry seems ugly to me, but given that's what happened with Dr. Taylor, I can't see being incensed over that unless we get incensed over him crying, and others here feel like that doesn't matter at all.So, basically, no one came out looking great here to me.

One cried because he was upset about his public appearance. The other cried because she publicly and apparently privately received sustained harassment and death threats. Please spare us the usual horrible, minimizing "both sides are equally as bad" bullshit.

I feel like it was a sucky time and a sucky way to do that and though it probably did draw attention, it did it in the worst possible way.

And what is the acceptable time and acceptable way to do it? Because the the only other time was essentially when no one was paying attention, and the way it was done was already pretty comically mild compared to the picture you've repeatedly painted. A picture based off of extremely flawed sources that you further misrepresented, as it turns out.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:33 PM on November 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


What the scientist was doing was appearing on a live stream to explain to millions of people viewing exactly what others were doing. He wasn't landing the probe. He didn't write the code or calculate orbits. He only became head scientist for this project last year 9 years after it launched.

We are criticizing him for the crap job he did. Apparently you'd rather give him imaginary honors for the acomplishments of others. Why?
posted by humanfont at 6:42 PM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


The message communicated was that what a scientist was WEARING was more important than what a scientist was DOING, and I personally feel that reflects poorly on everyone concerned.

So you're saying the best time to do something misogynistic is right when you're doing something else that's good, so people will look bad if they call you on it?

This is the logic that let, for instance, famous SF authors get away for so long with groping women at conventions. "The guy's getting a lifetime achievement award. That's no time to make a fuss about all that stuff. We're trying to honor his work, not his character."
posted by straight at 7:11 PM on November 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


We will duly record your thoughts on police brutality when the officer is done pummeling you, not before.
posted by phearlez at 7:44 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


The message communicated was that what a scientist was WEARING was more important than what a scientist was DOING, and I personally feel that reflects poorly on everyone concerned.

Really? Because you seem determined to emphasize that people complaining about the shirt were way worse that a guy who is so fucking smart he managed a project to land a robot on a comet but it didn't occur to him that that shirt might not be a great thing to wear on that day. This is bullshit.

At least we can be happy that apparently the feminists who sent all those horrible harassing tweets to Taylor were smart enough to delete them so quickly that they've left no evidence, and the harassers who sent death and rape threats to female scientists who had the gall to mention the shirt were dumb enough to leave their tweets and comments undeleted.
posted by rtha at 7:48 PM on November 24, 2014 [13 favorites]


Step off. Have the common decency to disagree with what I actually say instead of making up fucking straw men. It is shameful for people who claim to be feminists to slander another woman for stating her opinion the way some of you are doing in this thread.

Rtha, straight, pearlez, et al, the very first sentence I wrote is that I am against harassment, no matter who does it. Do NOT put words in my mouth.

I think people should pick their battles wisely. So what. Is that a crime? No. Is that sexist? No.

If the issue that needs attention is sexism in science, that shirt would have been on the bottom of my own list as an example for that very reason. It might not even have made the list at all. Again, does my prioritizing that way make me sexist? No.

Even if the shirt was at the top of my list, though, writing, petitioning or otherwise addressing the ESA or AAS with my concerns following the press conference, rather than calling Dr. Taylor an asshole and publicly humiliating him while it was going on, is the route I personally would have taken. Does that make me sexist? No.
Does that mean mean that I want the women who did those things harassed? NO, again.

If you approve of reducing men to tears, if you think insults are only bad when the people you don't like are doing them, or that making stuff up to libel people (like in the Instapundit link) are ever okay, we are going to disagree. Does that make me the misogynist bogeyman you obviously want me to be for disagreeing with you? NO, it fucking does not..

Do NOT act like my saying anything I have said means I am favor of harassing the women doing any of those things, or ANY WOMEN AT ALL for that matter, in retribution, because I made it damned clear I am NOT in favor of any of that.

I am against harassment. Read that however many times you need to for it to sink in. Please feel free to bookmark that statement and come back to it, even.

This ridiculous habit of hyperbolically demonizing other people because they disagree about some small, specific thing like a shirt has just got to stop, though!

Feminists are not a monolithic entity. Women--hell, people!--are allowed to disagree, and they should not be made to feel like their their opinions, their feelings and their lived experiences are beneath contempt when they do. Let your empathy rise to the level of your passion and let go of the animosity.

I'm removing this thread from recent activity now.
posted by misha at 11:27 PM on November 24, 2014


The problem with saying you're against harassment is that it doesn't mean shit when you back it up by a bunch of the falsehoods used by the misogynistic, harassing folks and hold up "but I'm against harassment" as a shield, like the fact that people using your arguments to attack women who fail to toe patriarchy's line somehow doesn't matter because of how you feel about harassment in your heart.

Shit, are there even any feminists left who take "but I'm against harassment" seriously when it comes out of the mouth of someone spouting the kind of anti-feminist shit you see on reddit? Because after hearing that from gamergaters over and over, I've started taking it with enough grains of salt to keep Cambell's from having to buy any for its soups for a decade.
posted by NoraReed at 11:57 PM on November 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


Is Dr Taylor even engaging with this any more, or did he apologise and drop it? I haven't been following this but it I would have expected to hear something if he had commented on it subsequently.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:07 AM on November 25, 2014


The guy wore a tasteless shirt and made a tacky joke while representing a team that had just accomplished a great scientific feat. His team deserved better. If he cried as he apologized, he merely displayed the shame appropriate to his actions. Sometimes shame is the correct response to what you've done.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:10 AM on November 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


"I'm against harassment, but... (excuses for harrassment)" is the new "I'm not a racist but (excuses for racism)".
posted by tonycpsu at 7:19 AM on November 25, 2014 [6 favorites]


Nothing puts the cherry on top of a defensive rant like following it up with closing your eyes and putting your hands over your ears. I guess people can disagree on how childish a demand for the last word is too.
posted by phearlez at 8:04 AM on November 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is Dr Taylor even engaging with this any more, or did he apologise and drop it?

Dr Taylor seems to have handled this with grace and professionalism after realizing his mistake. The rise of defenders of Dr. Taylor seem to be unwilling to let him just admit fault and move on. It is like you at a bar with your friends and you bump into someone by accident. You have the situation under control. You are buying a fresh drink for the bumped person and having some napkins brought over. Then your drunk friend decides you are the real victim and starts a brawl.
posted by humanfont at 12:36 PM on November 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


Except in this case it's more your drunk random angry stranger and his fifty drunk angry buddies.
posted by lodurr at 1:38 PM on November 25, 2014


It is shameful for people who claim to be feminists to slander another woman for stating her opinion the way some of you are doing in this thread.

And yet this comprises the bulk of your participation in threads like these.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:31 PM on November 25, 2014 [9 favorites]


Except in this case it's more your drunk random angry stranger and his fifty drunk angry buddies.

It has the flavor of some historical romance, with Matt Taylor in the role of blushing maiden. She wants nothing to do with Ye Drunken Random Stranger or his fight, but he is determined to defend her honour anyway. "SHE HAS BEEN REDUCED TO TEARS! TO ME, GENTLEMEN!" he cries. Ye Drunken Stranger and his friends proceed to demolish the tavern, stab a dozen other patrons, and ride wildly off in all directions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:17 PM on November 25, 2014


It doesn't track precisely, because what seems to really work the dudebros up here is that a MAN was forced TO CRY IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE. Which is feminizing, which is obviously the worst thing a man can have done to him.

Also, they wouldn't ride off in other directions; they'd then immediately all start pressing up against her to Claim Their Reward for their valiant actions. It's what I consider the Dark Times from SNL but the image of the two club dudes grinding on the terrified woman is what springs to mind.
posted by phearlez at 7:49 PM on November 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think what I didn't express well up-thread about the crying is that the 'feminizing' is not something that feminists are doing to Taylor - it's something that frightened men are doing to their idea of Taylor. And as such, it does more violence to Taylor than anything any imagined feminists are actually doing.
posted by lodurr at 3:30 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think what I didn't express well up-thread about the crying is that the 'feminizing' is not something that feminists are doing to Taylor - it's something that frightened men are doing to their idea of Taylor. And as such, it does more violence to Taylor than anything any imagined feminists are actually doing.

Lodurr, I don't understand what you mean by "feminizing" doing "violence" to Taylor?

I think you are being disingenuous to suggest that frightened men are the only ones demeaning Taylor, AND that the demeaning is not based on anything feminists have done, but instead some "imagined feminists".

I have seen some men give Taylor a hard time for crying on other sites. I haven't seen it so much from men here on Metafilter, which is great and what I would expect from progressive thinking people. But men definitely did do this, I agree.

If that is what you mean by feminizing him, though, you don't have to look far to see that feminists are guilty of this as well. Even in this thread, feminists (whom I assume you would not call imaginary) infantilized Taylor for having feelings and also called anyone one who complained about that whiny, tantrum-throwing, babies, etc. themselves. There is nothing imaginary about that.
posted by misha at 1:45 PM on November 29, 2014


I find it hilarious that the same conservatives who were rushing to Taylor's unrequested defense in shirtgate have now worked themselves up over the Obama girls' choice of clothes and possible eye rolling at the annual Presidential turkey pardon.

Announce a historic first for humankind and science in a tawdry bowling shirt and you are above reproach. Wear mixed separates and roll your eyes at seeing the President of the United States forced to pardon a turkey because tradition -- that's an outrage against good manners and behavior.
posted by humanfont at 2:47 PM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think you are being disingenuous to suggest that frightened men are the only ones demeaning Taylor...

... and it's pretty fast and loose of you to suggest that's what I'm saying. "Only" is a big word, misha.
posted by lodurr at 5:16 PM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Christ, it's like a bad zombie flick in here.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:24 PM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I believe most of the "infantalizing" was targeted at the army of misogynists coming to Taylor's aid, and conflating calling men out on having tantrums when they don't get their way with the creepy patriarchy-enforcing behavior of people who think the worst possible thing that can be done to a man is make him cry publicly (while simultaneously supporting, tacitly or explicitly, the standard threats and harassment tactics used to silence women) is, uh, gross. Infantalization of women is a real societal phenomenon that's backed up by actual sociology, and just like how using shit about "reverse racism" is absolutely meaningless in the context of actual discussions of what racism is (because there is a rigorous definition of "racism" used in those contexts that takes power into account), the "infantalization of men" isn't suddenly A Thing because I used some metaphors you thought were mean to describe men who are actively trying to drive women into silence.

And pretty please let's skip the "academic jargon" line here, since misha's the one who invoked infantalization and we all have access to search engines and can read up on these terms and what they mean in this context if we want to.
posted by NoraReed at 9:20 PM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think you are being disingenuous to suggest that frightened men are the only ones demeaning Taylor...

... and it's pretty fast and loose of you to suggest that's what I'm saying. "Only" is a big word, misha.


Okay? But you specifically said that frightened men ARE doing this and feminists are NOT, so I think that is a distinction without a difference.

And pretty please let's skip the "academic jargon" line here, since misha's the one who invoked infantalization and we all have access to search engines and can read up on these terms and what they mean in this context if we want to.

No, actually, infantilization was brought up way upthread, and not by me, and has been mentioned several times since as well. You must have missed it earlier.

Just as a heads-up, your misspelling of the word may be what's tripping you up here. If you search the thread, look for infantilization, not infantAlization.

Either way, it was targeted first at Dr.Taylor, and then at a Mefite participating in this thread, who was not even defending Dr. Taylor, and not at some mythical "army of misogynists" "having tantrums" because they didn't get their way, or anyone "actively trying to drive women into silence". So, wrong on all counts.

Personally, I feel bad for anyone who starts crying, because I know the person feels awful, and whether I think someone ought to feel awful or not, I don't take any joy in witnessing their grief (or shame, or remorse). I can't imagine wanting to associate with the kind of person who would delight in another's pain; that is not the behavior of someone who believes in equality for all, which I strongly support. That's a far cry from thinking that reducing Dr. Taylor to tears is the "worst possible thing that can be done to a man."
posted by misha at 1:18 AM on November 30, 2014


ah yes the army of misogynists is totally mythical. GamerGate was just me hallucinating!
posted by NoraReed at 8:55 AM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]


CMD-F "infant" - 2 results here and here prior to misha's use of the term here.
posted by rtha at 9:17 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay? But you specifically said that frightened men ARE doing this and feminists are NOT, so I think that is a distinction without a difference.

Misha, if I categorically stated it that way, it was an error. But I don't believe I did, because it's the kind of thing I'm usually pretty careful to avoid doing.
posted by lodurr at 8:14 AM on December 1, 2014


Personally, I feel bad for anyone who starts crying, because I know the person feels awful, and whether I think someone ought to feel awful or not, I don't take any joy in witnessing their grief (or shame, or remorse). I can't imagine wanting to associate with the kind of person who would delight in another's pain; that is not the behavior of someone who believes in equality for all, which I strongly support. That's a far cry from thinking that reducing Dr. Taylor to tears is the "worst possible thing that can be done to a man."

I feel bad when my son cries during immunizations. I feel bad when I see people struggling with weights as they exercise. I feel bad when I see people on AskMe talk about the difficulty at moving on after ending a relationship even though they know it was the right thing to do. It is not necessary for me to take joy in their pain in order to believe it was right thing for them to suffer in order to gain.

To see Dr. Taylor cry and say "good" isn't some sort of super-villain luxuriating in a moment of suffering. It's being pleased at seeing a person capable of growth experience understanding how his bad choice fit into a bad cultural structure. It is his emotional equivalent of setting a broken bone or re-seating a dislocated shoulder.

I have absolutely zero hope you'll ever grasp this and set down your apologia - any more than you'll actually take this out of your recent history - but I join the legion in saying that trying to parallel this desire for growth - even if it has moments of painful transition - with people who seek to silence and intimidate others is actively harmful to the cause you repeatedly claim to support.
posted by phearlez at 10:16 AM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


MetaFilter: I have absolutely zero hope you'll ever grasp this.
posted by homunculus at 10:53 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]




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