Friday, June 29, 2012


"Leave it to females to worry about fashion at a software conference."

As I was building my Word Around the Net roundup today, I ran across two science articles that were related. This seems to happen a lot, where a couple different things will collide and give me something to write about, particularly on Friday. Sometimes I'll start up a bit on WATN and realize its going to be too big to just be a little mention and deserves its own post.

These two articles were both about women in science, and the push to get more chicks involved. This seems to matter desperately to some people, who think something horribly wrong has happened if there aren't at least as many of x demographic group involved in every activity as in the general population.

It matters so much that Larry Summers was drummed out of his position as President of Harvard university for suggesting that maybe there aren't as many girls in some areas because they just don't want to be in those areas. Outrageous! The only possible answer must be the brutal tyranny of the white male oppressive dominance of western culture!

So the first story I saw was about a Google conference on science, where they were pushing to get more girls involved. Ryan Tate writes at Wired:
Google I/O hadn’t even started when critics began unloading on how the developer conference was being run. A forward-thinking Google panel on how to get more women in tech became a flashpoint for whether the t-shirts handed out at Google I/O are patriarchal.

“They gave me a t-shirt and it’s a size small, men’s,” said Alex Maier, a community manager and heavy user of Google’s products, during a Q&A session with the panel. “That makes me feel unwelcome. I don’t want to make this a big issue or confrontational thing…. But the thing is, I show up, and I want my shirt, and I don’t want to be told that I can sleep in it.”

What, Maier asked, was Google going to do about its one-gender-fits-all clothes in the future, given that women at Google I/O are already vastly outnumbered and prone to feeling excluded?

The audience of roughly 100 women applauded the question exuberantly.
Now, this is what leaps out to me here. If your primary or even high secondary interest is in science, computer programming, and technology you don't give a damn what the shirt you're wearing is. You don't care if it was a child's large, you don't even care what color it is most of the time.

The Wired article totally misses this point, they just don't get it. They're so focused on the narrative of "women being unfairly kept from jobs" they just don't even notice the hilarity of women fixating on fashion while insisting they are just like the boys.

Then there is this story in the London Telegraph by Nick Collins about a European Commission film called "Girl Thing" which again is trying to make science interesting and attractive to girls, because darn it they just won't get involved in the politically correct ratios. It seems the video tried to make science girly, and people were outraged:
The film, published by the European Commission, describes science as a "girl thing", and combines generic pictures of beakers and words like "hydrogen" with pictures of skinny models wearing designer sunglasses.

But its pink background, lipstick-style logo and techno music soundtrack appeared to have missed the mark with viewers who branded it as "offensive" and "insulting".
While the campaign's other films had drawn praise for featuring interesting and intelligent women discussing their careers in scientific research, the video took a different approach featuring three models giggling and blowing kisses against a bright neon backdrop.

Viewers said it contained no scientific content whatsoever, save for a handful of images of beakers, test tubes and formulas interspersed with pictures of lipstick and nail varnish.
Now, clearly they're missing the point as badly as the Wired article. This tries to turn science into a pillow-fighting jammy-wearing sleepover and acts like girls will like tech and scientific jobs if only they are pitched to boy-crazy 14-year-olds. At least its not as bizarrely racist and surreal as the Kill Bill ad the EU put out.

But it does seem to comprehend something basic: women do like different things than men do, on average. The problem is they don't carry it far enough and extend that to their job choices. Yeah, its a bit overboard, but girls do like lipstick and girly stuff a lot more than guys. And guess what?

They aren't as fond of science, math, and tech as guys are either, on average. And that's not a crisis or a problem.

1 comment:

Philip said...

It's not about the fashion. It's about the control.

Think in terms of demanding terms about the shape of the meeting-table or the color of the room at the very beginning of negotiations. If I can get you to concede to my terms, or change yours, then I'm already ahead.