Getting Angry: Lipstick Science

Anyone in the vicinity of my Twitter feed today might have noticed I’m just a teensy bit annoyed about this. And for teensy bit annoyed, you can read blackout-inducingly angry. I’m not used to writing opinion pieces, I’m usually happily larking about with molecules named Larry, but I couldn’t watch that video and not respond. It made me simultaneously want to shoot someone and weep. 

The European Commission wants to shift the stereotype that science is all about old men in white coats. And, that’s a good thing, right? Except I can’t think of a worse way in which they could have marketed science to women. Problems I have with this video…
  • The vastly stereotypical and offensive assumption that all women love pink things, spiky heels, lipstick and nail varnish. I can only assume that they did the marketing research for this project by watching Barbie videos. 
  • The implication that science can be a girl thing, but only if you want to study cosmetics, really, because the less-pink areas of science are probably still out of reach for you, little lady (to be fair, the website is slightly better than the video on this point, but still, ugh) 
  • The fact that they only used airbrushed attractive models in the video; science may be a girl thing, but it’s only a PRETTY girl thing. Those of you who fall out of bed, stagger into the lab in work-boots, jeans and a back-to-front top, then cover it all with a lab coat covered in stains should just get out now, you’re never going to make it.  Put some goddamn lipstick on, you are a GIRL after all*. 
  • The misrepresentation of science on a day-to-day basis, anyone entering science based on that video would be overwhelmingly disappointed with my life as a scientist. At least 90% of my time is spent reading research papers or pipetting, and the remaining 10% is still not taken up with posing in heels. And guess what? That doesn’t mean it isn’t kind of awesome. 
  • The suggestion that women are at fault for their under-representation in science, and that if they just sat up and noticed that science can be OH SO MUCH SPARKLY FUN there would be no gender imbalance anymore. Um, no. Just no.
  • And finally, speaking as a scientist, this vapid, empty, pink-filled explosion of test tubes and Bunsen burners does absolutely NOTHING to convey why science is such a wonderful, rewarding, exciting, stimulating and challenging subject. It’s an insult to everything that I adore about science. 
This is the worst example of science outreach and engagement I have ever come across and I’m appalled, both as a woman, a feminist and a scientist. Please, EC, sort this out. Science is an EVERYONE thing. 

*I should point out, I have utterly no problems with women wanting to look stylish or wear make-up in the lab, I’m just outraged at the idea that it has anything to do with their competence or interest in the subject.

EDIT 25/06/12: It appears the European Commission have listened to the vast number of protests and objections to their video and pulled it from YouTube. Good times for social media outrage. 

One thought on “Getting Angry: Lipstick Science

  1. I really want to swear. HOw effing ridiculous.Yes flame tests were exciting at school. You know what's so much more exciting. Finding out the answer to complex questions. Being part of a reseach team that actually gets things done and dare I say it finding a cure to some hideous diease.Science is amazing. It is everything. Woman are part of that. Whether they wear lipstick or not is not important.Raaaaaaaage!

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