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Science - It's a Girl Thing (Insert Facepalm Here)

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** Note: as of 2pm PST The European Commission took their video down (WIN for Ladies in Science!). The video below is a copied file.

This morning the interwebz have been all a flutter with the release of a 'teaser' video from the European Commission of Research and Innovation. The video is called 'Science - It's a Girl Thing' and it depicts some model-esque females being checked out by a male scientist while strutting their catwalk walks and wearing rather risque clothing. There's plenty of pink, there's plenty of makeup, there's plenty of sexual innuendo, and then at the end they all put on some safety goggles - because I guess this makes them scientists. No word on whether the divas depicted in the video are actually scientists - but my guess is a strong no. Have a boo:

The video is getting negative feedback from females worldwide - with good reason. It's an insult to the XX gender, it follows all of the disgusting stereotypes that many of us are trying to break. I might feel a little less hatred towards it if I knew that the females in it were actually scientists - because I do know several model-esque scientist ladies who can strut their stuff in a killer cocktail dress better than most. However, do we use the power of the feminine mystique to get our scientific points across? Do we begin a conference presentation or a professional lecture by treating the stage like a catwalk and the podium like a pole for dancing on? Ummmmm no.

Last year many female scientists got together and created a video about why evolution should be taught in schools. It was in response to the dismal answers about evolution given by almost the entire roster of contestants in the Miss USA pageant in 2011. If you want to see a video with REAL female scientists who are awesome, eloquent and kickass (myself included) - this is the video you should be watching.

The European Commission for Research and Innovation is going to be drowning in the negative PR they get from this video. This pleases me.

As expected, my colleague here at PsiVid Joanne Manaster has some comments on this ridiculous video as well. Joanne spent several years as a professional model, so she can certainly speak to the challenges faced as a 'non-stereotypical' scientist:

With my science career and having been a fashion and cosmetics model, I am often pointed to as a role model to inspire young ladies in science. Here are some of my thoughts on that which relate to this video using glamour as a motivator for young women to consider careers in science:

Never once in the past 20+ years I've worked in labs did an experiment or procedure

1) care that I was female

2) decide to work better because of my clothing/shoe/hairstyle, etc. choice.

How I carry and present myself is important as a teacher and communicator, but neither of those rely upon short skirts and heels.

I'd like to add that the girls in the video are not seen actually doing science, which is unfortunate, although the imagery from macro to micro is intriguing and I think could be worked into a less offensive campaign.

I run a girls engineering camp (formerly for middle school, now up to high schoolers) and help out with all manner of young people, but am often called to help with girls' science programs. The girls don't seem especially concerned with the feminine trappings, but really enjoy speaking with women (or men) who are enthusiastic and passionate about what they do. Sure, the little girls (like 5-7 years old) will come up and play with my hair, and I'll get an occasional compliment on a blouse or earring choice, but mostly these girls want to be around people who get a kick out of science. They see me speak in scientific terms and engage with them.

If you are interested in them (and that's what most kids want, isn't it?) and in science, you might impress a few of them now and again. This echoes some of the information brought up in an article so eloquently written about at Double X Science, Don’t worry so much about being the right type of science role model.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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