Thoughts on ‘Science. It’s a Girl Thing’

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By Kristi Charish.

This is a tricky blog to write. So much so I’ve been mulling over what I’m going to say all week.

It’s not every day the science community responds so passionately to a media piece, let alone a music video clip.

Most of you out there have probably heard, seen, or weighed in on the video ‘Science:It’s a girl thing!’ developed by the European Commission as part of their campaign to encourage more girls to pursue STEM careers. The now notorious video was not the entire ‘Women in Research and Innovation’ campaign but part of a much larger website initiative that can be found through this link. If you’ve only seen the video and haven’t taken the time to visit the site itself, I strongly encourage you to visit, especially their profiles of women in science where some incredible EU women are interviewed about their science careers.

There’s already been an onslaught of blogs, tweets, and Youtube comments on the video. I thought Mary Ann Rankin’s Blog on the Huffington Post was particularly insightful on the viral disaster and can be read through the link I’ve provided. For the most part people are universally panning the music video, which was developed to generate traffic to the same-titled website. Female scientists everywhere have been calling it sexist, insulting to women in STEM careers and a distasteful display of sexism in a work environment.

They have a point; the idea that all you need to do to make a career path attractive to young women is slap on six inch heels, make-up, pop music and a hunky guy is sexist.

However, now that the dust has settled, I want to take this discussion in a different direction and it’s centred around a point I really hope isn’t going to garner too much animosity from SCWIST readers out there.

Here it is: Women in STEM careers were not the target audience. 13-18 year old girls were, particularly those who might not otherwise pursue a STEM career.

Did they like the video and would they visit the site?

I think this aspect has been underplayed and it’s a huge mistake. I may not have related to the site, but I don’t get Justin Bieber either. Who am I to dictate what should appeal to thirteen-year-old girls?

My concern is that if the marketing department did their job and this video is on target for the audience, is the backlash causing more harm than good to the cause?

In other words, are we upset because the video was completely off base and insulting to women everywhere, or because the video illustrates something we don’t want to hear. That girls and young women relate to sterotypes we as a whole in the science community find distasteful and degrading?

I think it’s an important question to ask, right up there with ‘How do we get more women to enter STEM careers’?

Are we alinetating girls who relate to that kind of imagery and is that what we as scientists and women in STEM want to say?

‘Take your high heels and stuff it! We don’t want your kind of girl in our labs!’

As someone who strongly believes modern feminism should be inclusive, I certainly hope not. If we want to have any dialogue or influence with the younger generation of women we need to respect their media and interests.

I think we need to be using this to kick off a discussion as to why young women relate to these kinds of images, not inadvertently victimising them for it.

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