Society

'That Shirt Is Not Appropriate For Science Outreach': Scientist's Shirt During Comet Probe Broadcast Sparks Controversy

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Some people are crying foul over a shirt that a scientist wore during a live stream of the Philae probe landing on a comet 310 million miles from Earth.

Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor sported a shirt that featured busty blondes in lingerie as the European Space Agency broadcasted the historic landing. Although he later changed out of the shirt, some people took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

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"No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt," tweeted The Atlantic tech writer Rose Eveleth.

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The shirt is especially controversial given that many people feel that fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM, are often inhospitable to women.

Astrophysicist Katie Mack tweeted: "I don't care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn't appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in STEM.”

Some male scientists agreed that the shirt was distasteful. Dr. Seth Zenz, a scientist at the legendary CERN lab, tweeted, “As a professional physicist, I publicly insist that [Taylor’s] shirt is not appropriate for science outreach.” 

S.E. Smith, a writer for XO Jane, clarified the significance of Taylor’s wardrobe choices in the greater scheme of things. Smith wrote, in part: “How many little girls and young women with an interest in STEM logged onto this broadcast this morning, excited to see a historic moment, only to be greeted with this shirt? How many of them started to rethink their interest, given this and the other thousands of incidents involving sexism in STEM, large and small? This isn't about a single shirt and what happened when a man wore it, but about a much larger picture.” 

Taylor and the European Space Agency haven’t responded to the outcry, but Elly Prizeman, who designed the shirt, tweeted that she “Did not expect this!”

Sources: CNN, XO Jane / Photo Credit: Associated Press