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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Microaggressions In Popular Science: or, why don’t more chicks choose STEM careers?

July31

Nesko and I were watching a run of shows on the National Geographic channel about peripheral vision and sleight of hand and how the brain functions. My breaking point came when a pair of identical twin women “interviewed” for a “job” to demonstrate a study. They were dressed the same, right down to heavy make up and very short skirts. I mean, this was supposed to emulate a job interview, and they looked like they were about to go clubbing. The moment also kind of bought into the “sexy twins” fantasy. They could have used one woman dressed differently each time. They were needlessly sexified. It was kind of a straw that broke the camel’s back moment, though.

Earlier, cheerleaders took their shirts off to demonstrate how when your eyes are tracking something moving you don’t pay attention to stuff in your peripheral vision.

Men were told to use their peripheral vision to pick the “hot” cheerleader out of a pair (one cheerleader was a man dressed in drag) because beauty totally isn’t subjective and it’s easy to discern hotness from a distance. And they were mocked for choosing the “ugly” cheerleader because all men have the same taste and all men prefer feminine looking women.

There’s a very real perception of SCIENCE! as a male field. Statistically it’s true, STEM fields are dominated by men, and women who study/work in them face a lot of explicit and implicit prejudice. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how more women can be encouraged to study STEM fields. Start ’em young, some people say. Increase their access to STEM programs in high school, in grade school, in after school programs, in camps. Offer more mentoring to college students, say others. Make more STEM-themed toys and games advertised toward girls. Add more pink to the mix! Make videos showing women scientists wearing high heels and lipstick and sexy clothing!

One really easy way to change the perception of SCIENCE! as a boys club would be to strip the male gaze out of pop science productions.

Want to make a show about how the brain works? Get rid of the cheerleaders and the shirtless titillation and short skirts. Operate under the assumption that your audience will be made of both men AND women, in equal numbers. Science is really interesting! If you can’t sell how the brain works on its own merits, if you need sex to sell it, you are doing something VERY wrong.

3 Comments to

“Microaggressions In Popular Science: or, why don’t more chicks choose STEM careers?”

  1. On July 31st, 2013 at 1:27 pm PurelyNicole Says:

    This is horrifying.

    Brigid Reply:

    yeah, i was really disappointed.

  2. On July 31st, 2013 at 3:08 pm tapati Says:

    Microaggressions In Popular Science: or, why don’t more chicks choose STEM careers? http://t.co/SGtAwENpgI