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What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

she blinded me with science

Friday Facepalm: Science, It’s a Girl Thing


I’ve kind of got a thing for alliteration, and when I came up with the phrase “Friday Facepalm,” it seemed irresistible. The problem, of course, is that facepalmy-things have six other days of the week to happen. But today, the Science: It’s a Girl Thing campaign crossed my internet path, perfectly timed for maximum alliterative success. Science: It’s a Girl Thing is an effort by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation, a pan-European governmental oragnization, and its goal is to get young girls interested in science and more women into scientific careers.

So it’s really unfortunate that they also made this video. Go ahead and watch. Update: It appears the video has been taken down. Good move, Science: It’s a Girl Thing.

[To sum up the video, it features three women in stiletto heals and sunglasses who appear in a sort of neutral space. A young, conventionally attractive man in a lab coat looks up from some indistinct test tubes with awe. Then the women appear to enter some sort of lady-science space where nail polish is examined beneath a microscope, lipstick gets melted, test tubes and beakers full of clear liquid or dry ice bubble with no apparent purpose, 'H' shaped tables represent hydrogen, and notations are (in two very quick shots) are scribbled on a transparent white board. Other than the scribbles, the women pose and moe faces for the audience, rather than actually interacting with any of the equipment. Then they replace their sunglasses with safety glasses, as the slogan "Science: It's a Girl Thing" is sung over the end of the video.]

Contrary to all appearances, this is actually an attempt to make science seem relevant to young girls, instead of a story about three sexy ladies who distract a diligent researcher from his work in their lab-inappropriate clothing and ruin his experiments by throwing lipstick and nail polish in them.

That’s a little bit hyperbolic, but among the many distortions made in this video (like setting aside the awesome achievements of modern science in favor of flashy “scientific” visuals, the familiar association of “lady science” with cosmetics, and that almost nobody in this video is actually shown “doing science”), the most obvious one to me is that the filmmakers were probably trying to make these ladies look confident and attractive, not like objects for consumption. They screwed up.

This isn’t a particularly hard distinction to make, but it’s one that society still gets confused about a lot. Creating a female power fantasy is not the same as creating a (straight) male sexual fantasy (and vice versa). And while there’s nothing wrong with personally wanting to be someone’s (or a lot of people’s) sexual fantasy, there is something wrong using with “male sexual fantasy” as the default and overwhelmingly dominant way that women are depicted. And it’s really too bad. Because the other videos that Science: It’s a Girl Thing have put out are really awesome. I mean, check these out:

Real interviews, with real women, doing some incredible science, with some really slick editing. If Science: It’s a Girl Thing gets ignored based on the first video in this post, intended to be the teaser trailer for the campaign, it will be too bad. But it will also be entirely Science: It’s a Girl Thing’s fault.

(via a billion tipsters)

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003556555177 Lily Milos

    Before watching the video, I thought maybe you were overreacting about Science: It’s a Girl Thing.

    Nope. Nope. You were right. I was wrong.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R7GVNIKWG3S2UTHEQOMSZXT4M4 Anna B

    Whut the fack.

    How did it go from the other videos to…. but why did they…. how could they….

    Ugh. Just ugh.

  • http://twitter.com/FroWillis Sarah

    Wahuuuut?

    That trailer thing was just so, wow, bad. I’m totally laughing because my love of science will hopefully result in me surrounded by dead bodies.

  • Anonymous

    This video reminds me of those weird commercials that you spend the entire duration wondering what it’s going to be for and always end up being for a Vegas or AC nightclub.

  • Maria(student) Gutierrez

    I don’t think the first video was so bad. I actually liked it. I thought they showed science as fun as we see it. 

  • http://twitter.com/turnthrice aJ

    Hmm, I can’t access the video. It says it’s private.

  • http://www.facebook.com/privatewojtek Bear Philippe

    Here’s the video. Someone reuploaded it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g032MPrSjFA

  • John Wao
  • Anonymous

    “Creating a female power fantasy is not the same as creating a (straight) male sexual fantasy (and vice versa). And while there’s nothing wrong with personally wanting to be someone’s (or a lot of people’s) sexual fantasy, there is something wrong using with “male sexual fantasy” as the default and overwhelmingly dominant way that women are depicted.”

    Right on Susana.

  • FreGenet Mesfin

    This video shows all the reasons why I studied Biology as an undergrad. To be SASSY!

  • Anonymous

    Wow… I guess if I’m a girl scientist I MUST be in it to make cosmetics. Why would I want to study anything else?

  • http://twitter.com/MrsSheaWong shea wong

    The response videos have already begun: http://youtu.be/5vyAWyAUHpI
    It could have been such an amazing opportunity to really talk about women in science. Well, at least we’re talking…

  • http://www.facebook.com/SF224668 Stephen Fogarty
  • Anonymous

    Its been mirrored here if you want to update this page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g032MPrSjFA

    An i’m happy that you also found it mildly offensive. For starters scinece is not a girl thing, its a person thing. As trying to display science as a make-up, fashion & pretty dressess thinkg is more then mildly offensive, its down right pandering to juvenile stereotypes.

    I don’t think this had anythign to do with sexual fantasy & everything to do with appealing to the notion of the “pretty princess.” This concept that we can be sold anything by putting a pretty dress in the picture. Good lord i’m happy this is european, that at least goes a far way to excusing this nonsense: After all Europe is not exactly known for not pandering to silly outdated dogma’s.

  • Anonymous

    Really? You didn’t get “mildly offensive” just from the title & the main image.

    I suppose your more optimistic then i am. I’m more of a realist.

  • Anonymous

    Their heart was in the right place; I think the problem is more that the emphasis is so much on the stereotype of women thinking about nothing but makeup, and not much on actual science.  If they went more into the chemistry of the makeup, it wouldn’t be so bad, although it’d still be kind of stereotyped.  I mean, I get that the average young girl and the average young boy have different likes/interests, but there has to be more than one thing to appeal to the young girl.  What about flowers and butterflies?  What about stars?  What about sea life?  Girly-girls eat that stuff up, and it would have some great opportunities for a real science lesson.