The misogyny in Mission Control

The big news in science today is that a guy smart enough to help land a spaceship on a comet was dumb enough to wear this shirt to talk about it.

He’s Matt Taylor, who briefed the media yesterday on behalf of the European Space Agency, which planted a space lander on a comet.

The near-naked women shirt isn’t sitting well with people who say it shows perfectly the sexism in science, The Guardian says.

Not only did Taylor not ask himself whether it was appropriate, none of his colleagues seemed to either (or if they did, they were ignored). If the press noticed it, they largely saw it as a good thing. When science writer Ed Yong expressed his discomfort at this shirt, another journalist replied: “Don’t be such a misery guts. Matt’s a legend!”

Taylor recently joined an online chat with the Wall Street Journal. In response to a question over how he was accepted in science with his tattoos with: “The people I work with don’t judge me by my looks but only by the work I have done and can do. Simple.” As a post at Business Insider dryly noted “If only women could hope to someday be judged that way too.”

It’s not just what he wore either, his language stunk of a casual sexism too. Watch the video in the Mail’s version of this “British scientist taking Twitter by storm” story, and you can hear Taylor refer to the Rosetta mission as “the sexiest mission there’s ever been. She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.”

Some men are speaking out. The blog Infactorium says, basically, “grow up.”

I’m not going to condemn a man for owning an awful shirt with half-naked women on it. That’s his own business, and I couldn’t care less. But it shows a staggering lack of judgement, and callousness to what others might infer, to wear this shirt to work. At all. When grownups go to work, they should dress appropriately for work. And unless you work at a bowling alley/strip club, that shirt is almost certainly not appropriate. It is really not appropriate when you’re going to be on a worldwide live-stream meant to be dedicated to inspirational science and engineering.

Casually throwing around sexually charged language and imagery in a workplace that is not about sex is simply not appropriate behavior. For anyone. And yes, for some men this means losing a tiny measure of freedom. We lose the freedom to be horn-dog dipsh**s in the workplace, because we need the workplace to be a comfortable place for everyone. (And, while it seems far less common to me, yes, women are also not allowed to be horn-dog dipsh**s in the workplace.)

When people (near-universally young men) start complaining about these losses of freedom I have to sigh and shake my head. We all give up things to make society better. We give up our right to take things by force. We give up our right to drive on the wrong side of the road. I give up about 40% of my income. And yes, I think we have to give up our right to be sexist a*******. And this guy should not have worn the shirt, or spoken that way, because it’s juvenile, and sexist, and unprofessional.

The reaction on Twitter? Men who want to know where they can get one and women waging a lonely battle to explain the problem.

On his Twitter account, Taylor hasn’t responded to the criticism.

  • davehoug

    If I wanted to find the best baseball pitcher, but only wanted to look east of the Mississippi river, folks would think I was hindering my own goal. If I wanted the best and brightest minds on my team but allowed a culture of making 1/2 the people feel like leaving or not applying………..

    • The mistake in your logic is the assumption you only have two choices.

  • jon

    “On his Twitter account, Taylor hasn’t responded to the criticism.”

    Clearly the man is a genius compared to many others who have recently been featured on Newscut.

  • Jim G

    It was also the young men of another age who loudly complained that they were losing privileges when they were stripped of their swords and forbidden to challenge each other to duels. Society became a better, safer place when these privileged males were put in their place.

  • Gary F

    He should have worn his “I’ve seen Star Wars 1000 times” t-shirt.

    But then, he may think of it as art. Art is made to challenge the norms of today. It’s supposed to offend people, right? Crucifixes in urine OK, feces on religious items, OK, commit a Thought Crime by wearing a girlie shirt, NOT OK?

    Bad judgement, I could think of lots of cool shirts that I would wear if I was going to be part of such a grand world event.

  • Jerry

    A shirt like that is the sartorial equivalent of a monarch butterfly’s colors. It says “do not pursue, it will leave a bad taste”

  • kennedy

    Of the office workplaces I have visited or been part of, I can’t think of any that would allow that shirt. It was bad judgement by the individual to wear the shirt. It was a failure that no one with authority noticed, or if they did notice they failed to take action. As a result, the efforts of hundreds of good and talented people now have this image representing them.

    A very selfish individual act, and disrespectful to colleagues and the organization. Equally poor management to allow public presentation of the accomplishment to be tainted.

  • Gary F

    This is England, what if he wore his “NRA” or “Glock” shirt?

    OK?

    • Dave

      What’s it like to have guns on your mind 24/7? It must be stressful.

    • I believe the ESA space operations are in Germany, but it doesn’t really matter because we’re not going to hijack the thread, are we?
      Alright, good then.

      • Gary F

        just trying to add other politically incorrect examples to see if they are objectionable too.

        Kind of a freedom of speech thing. Do you have the right not to offended?

        • Jerry

          It’s false equivalency

          • The issue a hostile civilization here on earth for women, especially in this particular field.

            This, the complaint is, is a symbol of that environment; it’s not a concern about fashion.

            So the question isn’t a free speech question at all (especially in the European Union). It’s a question of whether you have the right to create that hostile environment because you object to the presence of women in it.

            It’s 2014, for crying out loud. It’s time for men to grow up a little bit.

            Men see a shirt. Women see a system.

          • BJ

            I agree. But/Also it looks like this particular guy might just be a giant tool to begin with.

          • Dave

            More accurately, it’s time for THAT MAN to grow up. Thanks.

          • Well, I don’t really think it’s more accurate, actually precisely for the reasons stated. He is a symbol. and moreover, on this and the catcalling discussion, men have not done themselves proud.

            Workplace harrassment and hostile work environments are real. Women aren’t imagining it.

        • Chris

          What does free speech have to do with anything? People are saying the shirt offended them, end of story. He wore it, but he has to face the critics. But I guess this guy did get the memo that if you are a scientist and you get a few tattoos you can raise your profile quite a bit.

          You “conservatives” love to have a chip on your shoulder I think.

      • Dave

        I believe Gary is referring to the fact that the scientist is British.

  • Ben Chorn

    He was probably told he needed a collared shirt and he didn’t want to wear one. It should be noted he changed his wardrobe a few times. He also looked like this:
    http://i.imgur.com/8fmiKoJ.jpg

    and this: http://i.imgur.com/OCMiKg0.jpg

    • If he’d have no tatoos there, I still think that dress would be considered unprofessional.

    • BJ

      Actually looks like the same shirt under a coat.

  • Ben Chorn

    Also, this might be a response to being told to cover up: “Much of Taylor’s body is covered in tattoos. Worried about image, the space agency asked him to cover his arms at a large media event this year. ” http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/nov/02/rosetta-mission-matt-taylor-one-to-watch-comet

  • Jon

    Wearing that shirt is not misogynistic. If he were allowed to parade around without a shirt on and a woman were not allowed to do the same thing, that would be misogynistic.

    • No sir, that would be “discriminatory.”

    • David Tesch

      Time to learn what misogyny is.

  • klunkerboy

    Please dont be so hard on the guy, he’s a science nerd, thats the closest to a woman he’s going to get this year

  • Gronono

    very nice shirt…..where can I get one?