Science, Comets, and an Inappropriate Shirt

Yesterday, we landed a spaceship on a comet.  This is an incredible achievement.  I am inspired, overjoyed and practically giddy with excitement.  There are so many incredible things we can learn from comets about the origins of life on earth.  It is an unparalleled achievement.

And it’s so disappointing as well.  You see, Matt Taylor, one of the scientists who’s been speaking to the press about this chose to meet the press while wearing a shirt featuring a number of scantily clad women.

Below is a screenshot showing Taylor’s shirt in all its sexist glory.

matt taylor STEM shirt

Alice Bell does a fantastic job unpacking the issue in her piece: Why Women in Science are Annoyed at Rosetta Mission Scientist’s Clothing.

It’s important to point out that in any other professional setting, something like this would be considered sexual harassment and would never be deemed appropriate.  It’s also important to acknowledge that women often have an uphill battle when entering STEM fields where casual sexism like this can be commonplace.

As Ms. Bell says,

ESA can land their robot on a comet. A comet! It’s amazing. But they still can’t see misogyny under their noses. It’s painfully ridiculous. Pointing this out is not a distraction to the science. It’s part of it. It’s time science finally realised that.

Perhaps, though, we should thank Taylor.  His sexism and ridiculous lack of professionalism have certainly brought attention to the fact that STEM fields have a long way to go when it comes to including the entire population of scientists.

Update:  Matt Taylor has apologized for the shirt, and not just in the usual political way:

“I made a big mistake and I offended many people,” he said, breaking down in tears. “And I’m very sorry about this.”