This video, released yesterday by the European Commission, is supposed to promote women in science... so why does it feel like a cosmetics commercial? (Seriously. Watch it. The male gaze is strong with this one.)
European Commission spokesman Michael Jennings chalks it up to its appeal in focus groups, telling Radio Free Europe:
We know from having tested this with a lot of target groups... the group that we really need to reach and is very difficult to reach, the teenage girls, do overwhelmingly like this video
It speaks their language. It is something that attracts them, interests them, and gets them interested in going — hopefully — to the website and seeing the stuff that is on there which is really telling them about science as a career.
The campaign's unfinished website, to the EC's credit, features more substantial material (as does its YouTube Channel), including profiles of international woman researchers and information on pressing scientific issues like food security and energy solutions.
The campaign's logo is still portrayed as being scrawled in lipstick, and the "dream jobs" section of the website is conspicuously blank, but one gets the clear impression that somebody actually thought about appealing to women and girls with information, instead of sexualized representations of something that science is not. (It's worth pointing out, by the way, that science attracts plenty of women who wear lipstick and high heels and skirts — it's the fact that this video seems to have placed the emphasis on these characteristics alone that is so troubling.)
But even if the sentiments of the overall campaign are commendable, the messages conveyed here are not. This video misses the mark in a big way, by presuming that lipstick and blush are the only ways to attract women to scientific fields. It misses the mark by portraying science as a high-heeled, short skirt affair. It misses the mark in more ways than I have the time or patience to account for here. Want to know how women in science really look, act, behave and think? Twitter is serving up healthy doses of reality by the truckload. Some choice reactions so far:
- Why "Pinkifying" Science Does More Harm than Good, at Skepchick
- Scientific American's Joanne Manaster weighs in
- What actual female Anthropology students look like doing field work, at Wellesley University
- The always awesome "This is What a Scientist Looks Like" Tumblr