Kittens and glitter and lipstick and SCIENCE!

22 Jun

Well there I was wondering if there was anything I felt passionate enough about to break the blogging lull I had fallen into, and as if hearing my prayers the gods of “you couldn’t make it up” and “if you didn’t laugh you’d cry” dug deep into their storage of Utter Unalloyed Bullshit and gifted the world with this:

Well reader, this video teaser for the “Science: It’s a girl thing” campaign aimed at getting non-sciencey girls into science, provoked some interesting reactions from me.  Firstly, acid flashbacks to adverts for The Clothes Show 1993 accompanied by a vague sense of self consciousness, and a memory of the book “Are you there God? Its me, Margaret“.  Secondly, a wildly oscillating ambivalence between bemused giggles and the kind of disgust I usually reserve for comments about Kate Middleton on the Daily Mail front page (people’s fucking princess, do you hear yourselves?  DOES NO-ONE REMEMBER DIANA??? Ahem… sorry… off topic…).

Anyway, what’s so wrong with it?  Surely girls are put off by science being a male-dominated area?  Surely showing a “girly” side of science will go some way to counteract that?  Well aside from the fact that open-toed shoes are a hazard in a lab due to the risk of extreme pedicure by broken glassware/heavy objects/undiluted hydrochloric acid, and that LOOKING PRETTY has FUCK ALL to do with being a good scientist (if you happen to be both, yay for you, but the two characteristics are not causally linked), this advert is massively patronising.  As has been pointed out by many of the twitterati and other bloggers, a study has recently shown that overtly feminine science and maths role-models demotivate young girls interested in these subjects. The women in the vid above are further examples of the unattainable perfection which women are trained from their youth to strive for, but with the added dimension of being clever scientists to make your average gal’s inferiority complex that little bit sharper.

I don’t have a problem with talking about how science affects women via the products and principles they use: I once toyed with the idea of writing about the science involved in the lives of women like myself who wear make up and heels and dresses because we rock the femme look. I’m interested in why good quality mascaras don’t clump, how wearing heels might be affecting my spine, and how much research and development actually goes into a “clinically proven” moisturiser. However, I’m also interested in how language evolved, how planets were formed, and whether or not a grand unifed theory might someday be achieved: science is just the way we understand the world around us, from predicting which direction a penalty will be struck to working out how the universe started. That is why I’m always drawn to science, it’s the why and the how of everything we do and everything we are.

I can’t stand the premise of this video, because it fields the idea that science can be re-gendered, from a masculine discipline to a feminine one. In my opinion (and I’m living this, not just talking about it) science has no gender. As a teenager, I grew to love science, particularly physics and maths, because in these subjects you either have the right answer, or you don’t. Your gender has no influence on how you derive an equation, if you follow the rules of algebra correctly you are right, if not then you are not. You don’t describe the action of gravity from a gendered perspective. It isn’t like reading novels or poetry or looking at art and identifying with the themes and characters as a woman or as a man. Your personal experience of sexism, the expectations you feel weighing on you due to your gender, have absolutely no bearing on whether or not x=y. There are no “girly” and no “macho” fundamental particles, the matter we are made up of has no connection to this society’s stereotypes of gender, race, sexuality, whatever. It just is what it is.

Oh yes Ms Mongrel, you say, fine fine, but why aren’t there more women in science? IS IT BECAUSE LAB COATS ARE NOT PINK? Ah, the question, how do we make women like science? How can we mould the subject to fit their delicate lady-brains? Well reader, I’m about to blow your mind with new information. Are you ready? Sure? Okay:


Woah! What a shocker! Am I serious? Yes I am. There are women microbiologists, geologists, astrophysicists, particle physicists, sociologists, neuropsychologists, electrical engineers, astronauts, medical physicists, earth scientists, the list goes on and on. Guess what? I personally know a lot of women who fulfil these roles. They weren’t dragged in to science by a frilly pink advert based on an ad exec’s labcoat fantasy, they just liked science. More importantly, they weren’t turned away from science by people who thought it wasn’t for girls as happened throughout, you know, ALL OF HISTORY. Luckily some of those who were told such bullshit just rolled up their sleeves and said “I’ll show them”, and became the trailblazers thanks to whom most of the younger women scientists I know were actively encouraged by their schools, peers and parents. They developed the confidence to try something that society thought (still thinks?) they wouldn’t be any good at because they are equipped with baby-growing apparatus.

This is the worst thing about Science: It’s a girl thing! the idea of interviewing female scientists and showing that they are ordinary women with fulfilling work that they are passionate about is excellent. The idea of saying to girls “guess what, science isn’t all socially inept men in labcoats wearing their brown sandals with white socks, actual women work on this stuff too” is also excellent. Heck, that’s an excellent message to send to boys! This whole programme is based on a good motive and a positive idea. It’s just a shame they wrapped it up in tired old marketing bullshit and a great big tacky pink bow.


3 Responses to “Kittens and glitter and lipstick and SCIENCE!”

  1. Ween Wee (@weenwee) June 23, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    The reply videos have already begun (and the EU vid has been made private, hussah!).

  2. talkingparcel June 23, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Excellent piece, couldn’t agree more.


  1. #sciencegirlthing blogs | RoyMeijer - March 1, 2013

    […] Ms Mongrel  Kittens and glitter and lipstick and SCIENCE! […]

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