An amazing thing happened yesterday. Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a probe on a comet for the first time ever in the history of humans.
|First image from Philae of the surface of Comet 67P/C-G|
|Monika Jones and Dr. Matt Taylor. Photograph: European Space Agency/PA|
Now, I don't know why Dr. Taylor chose to wear that shirt. Perhaps that is simply the shirt that he wears on Wednesdays, and no thought went into his wardrobe selection whatsoever. I cannot presume to know what his motivation was when he buttoned up that brightly colored shirt covered in half naked women wearing latex and lingerie. I cannot even presume that he had a specific motivation other than to simply put on a shirt. What I can say, is that as the Project Scientist and an established spokesperson for the Rosetta Mission, that neither he nor any of the many people around him thought that perhaps wearing a shirt that sexually objectifies women on the day that Philae landed and the whole world would be watching might not be the best choice is indicative of the much larger, systemic issue of sexism in the STEM community. Now I am not, by any means, claiming that Taylor himself is sexist. I don't know him. What I am saying is that by wearing that shirt while acting as a representative of the scientific community and of the ESA, a message (intentional or not) was sent that the sexual objectification of women in the workplace is acceptable.
To be clear: I do not believe that there was any malicious intent involved here, but I do feel that it is important to draw attention to these instances when they occur. We, as a society, have collectively determined that sexual harassment is unacceptable, especially in the workplace, and this was no less an example of sexual harassment than slapping the rear end of a coworker. (Before anyone brings up that I'm projecting my American expectations onto a European society, I assure you, it's not acceptable there either.) In my opinion, ignoring this situation as a harmless, albeit unfortunate, fashion faux pas is just as dangerous as claiming "boys will be boys" when an office worker slaps the rear end of a coworker as she walks by.