I think it is incredibly important to encourage girls to get involved with science, engineering, math and technology (STEM). Looking just at the screen snap above, I would have laughed it off as a poor attempt at trying to appeal to girls.
Then I sat and watched the full ad released by the European Commission as part of campaign to attract girls to STEM careers. Go ahead and watch it… I’ll wait. (This version of the controversial “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” video was posted to YouTube after the European Commission’s original version was rendered inaccessible.)
OK, back? Have you face-palmed yet? Go ahead and lift your jaw from the floor.
Yes, you did just see an actual European government public release promoting women in science where the girls dance around in fashionable mini-skirts, extremely high heels and LOTS of make-up. The closest these dizzying dancers ever get to actual science is putting on pairs of safety glasses. This ad perpetuates a stereotype that girls should be fashionable and only into makeup, etc.
I can’t believe how poorly written and directed this piece was. This ad also perpetuates the prevalent mentality that we less-than-model-like women aren’t important enough to nudge towards science. I think if they wanted to get fashionable girls into hard science, they could have found some absolutely beautiful famous female women (Natalie Portman, Kari Byron, Danica McKellar) to show off their real science, skirts and high heels as needed. Throwing both into a pot and hoping it all comes together is bit like pouring milk into vinegar and watching it curdle.
I am a woman. I am a scientist. I rarely wear make-up. I’m afraid of stilettos. My clothes are more utilitarian than fashionable. I am still beautiful, smart, and sassy. I went to school with a number of incredibly beautiful women with brains who had so much self-respect that they didn’t care what people thought of them when they walked down the halls drawing attention from everyone they passed. Those women were some of the smartest straight-A students in the physics program, and they worked very hard every day. Those women were inspirational and should be promoting STEM careers.
As you can imagine this ad drove me crazy. It does nothing to further the cause of women in STEM careers. In my opinion, anyone who loves it was never likely to be a scientist in the first place. And that is OK.
I think there is something to be said for girls that have never shown the slightest interest in STEM pursuits. We as parents, or aunts, or grandmothers, need to accept our kids, even if they don’t follow into our geeky mindset. Yes, science is a girl thing, but so is teaching or business or fashion or any number of other fields.
However, my opinions are not those of all women, even among the GeekMoms writing for this blog. The GeekMoms have been having long discussions off-list about the pros and cons of this ad. While the majority of us stated that this was a terrible ad, there were at least two GeekMoms who disagreed. They said it would be a perfect ad for their extra-girly daughters or nieces, because the message sent would be that science also applies to girls who like traditionally “girly” things, who may have thought that science had no room for someone like them.
From my point of view, the European Commission doesn’t know much about science if they think that slapping some models in high heels into a pink laboratory will really bring anyone to enjoy science more.
I would have been refused access to several of my labs if I showed up up stilettos and a mini-skirt, not because I didn’t look cute, but because it’s just not safe to wear clothing like that while working in a lab.
So for me, this ad and campaign deserves a massive double face palm.