The outrage du jour concerns a just-unveiled EU Commission campaign aimed at getting girls interested in science.
A teaser promo for the "Science: It's a Girl Thing!" campaign has unleashed a firestorm of negative reactions from people around the world who see it as perpetuating female stereotypes, rather than overturning them.
On his blog, noted biologist PZ Myers summarizes the teaser's many flaws thus:
Serious man sits at microscope. Fashionable, slender girls slink in on ridiculous high heels and vogue to shots of bubbling flasks, splashes of makeup, twirling skirts, and giggling hot chicks. Seriously, this is not how you get women excited about science, by masquerading it as an exercise shallow catwalking. This is a campaign that perpetuates myths about women's preferences. The lab is not a place where you strut in 3″ heels.
Twitter users have taken to using the hashtag #sciencegirlthing to express their indignation. The Guardian's Higher Education Twitter account notes that some are using the hashtag #realwomenofscience instead to encourage other users to follow female Twitterers who are already making a difference in the world of science.
The British current affairs magazine New Statesman says that the problem with the campaign is that it is a victim of its own attempt to target an entire gender.
It's like this: "We're trying to overcome stereotypes. Yet we're targeting a whole gender - women in general. We need to find a way to appeal to the whole of womenkind. Yet we don't want to use stereotypes. Yet we need to appeal to a whole gender. Yet we don't want to use stereotypes."
It's difficult. Solution? Don't do it. This kind of campaign insults women who are interested in science already and can more than hold their own with the boys. They're the ones we need to think about.
Unless the backlash inspired the EU Commission to reevaluate its message, the campaign will proceed to roll out as planned, ultimately reaching 27 EU members states and sticking around for the next three years.
[diagram via James Monk]