A defining moment in human history in the technological and space age. We landed a probe on a comet. For most though, what really is out of this world is human affection. Like for example, a friend making a shirt for another. Using their creativity to show how much someone means to them. It might not make the world go round, but it makes the journey worth it.
Doctor Matt Taylor, the Rosetta Project Scientist at the European Space Agency, is a person to celebrate. The son of a bricklayer, he is the embodiment that science is open to all those that want to reach for the stars. His appearance, with tattoos uncovered and a shirt that was homemade by a female friend of his, rocked the world as much as his team’s achievements.
ESA can land their robot on a comet. A comet! It’s amazing. But they still can’t see misogyny under their noses. It’s painfully ridiculous. Pointing this out is not a distraction to the science. It’s part of it. It’s time science finally realised that. [Alice Bell: Guardian]
Nothing like crassly using the man of the hour to make the serious point that we live under patriarchy, women are under represented in science, and misogyny exists in the workplace from the factory floor to the laboratory. Except the article really was more about the need for scientists and journalists to understand casual sexism. No mention that the shirt was made by a good female friend, but not in appalling labour conditions under low wage conditions like the feminist Fawcett t-shirts “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like”
He apologized for having caused offense. His friend, who made the shirt for him, was standing firm:
Alice Bell in The Guardian “Political Science” article mentioned the online interview with the Wall Street Journal that Matt did. Some other questions he was asked “Can a person with tats all over their arms really be trusted??” (reply “Yes”) but this was the one where she quoted him, but not the question:
Sandeep Mukare: It’s generally agreed that a tattooed man can’t achieve great thing but you are an exception & My Q is how did u do it?
Matt Taylor (via WSJ): The people i work with dont judge me by my looks but the work that i have done and can do. Simple.
There were a number of questions about his tattoos. Appearance which breaks expectations gets way too much attention compared to the achievements and contributions that person can make. It reminded me of the article by Francesca Stavrakopoulou:
Jonathan Wolff’s column about the way academics dress caused uproar on my Twitter and Facebook feeds this week. And rightly so. Despite occasionally acknowledging that some academics might be women, his comments betrayed his assumption that academics are male, for apparently their default uniform comprises trousers, a jacket, a shirt and a tie.
As the online interview showed, by having tattoos his credibility and responsibility to lead a European Space Agency was called into question. The irony of how visuals (let alone gender) cause people to form subjective opinions on others was lost in the rush to stick it to the man with a garish taste in shirts. Who had just helped in one more leap for humankind, and instead of tears of joy was forced to shed tears of humiliation by the condemnation of a social media mob.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog