Science!: It’s A Girl Thing

It’s not often that a government public information campaign video goes viral. But the European Commission’s teaser video for their new campaign, Science: It’s a girl thing!‘ has been viewed and discussed all around the world - for all the wrong reasons.

The video (below) was so misguided that it prompted questions about whether it was an exercise in irony. The European Commission cleared this up swiftly. ‘Commission doesn’t really do irony. Hope was to get young people onto site. That seems to be happening!’

Science: It's a Girl Thing !

‘It’s just not safe to wear clothing like that while working in a lab’

‘I can’t believe how poorly written and directed this piece was,’ said astrophysicist Helene McLaughlin over at Wired. ‘This ad also perpetuates the prevalent mentality that we less-than-model-like women aren’t important enough to nudge towards science.’

‘I am a woman. I am a scientist. I rarely wear make-up. I’m afraid of stilettos. My clothes are more utilitarian than fashionable,’ she said. ‘In my opinion, anyone who loves [this ad] was never likely to be a scientist in the first place. And that is okay.’

She signs off with the practical observation that, ‘I would have been refused access to several of my labs if I showed up wearing stilettos and a mini-skirt, not because I didn’t look cute, but because it’s just not safe to wear clothing like that while working in a lab.’

‘Sexy girl science’ and ‘real guy science’

In the Guardian, Curt Rice, who was a member of ‘gender expert group’ that provided recommendations to the commission for the campaign, has written about the process - and his dismay at the result.

He says his first indication that something was off came with his invitation to the kick-off for the campaign. ‘It worried me. The logo for the campaign was written in lipstick. “What will that convey?” I wondered. Will it suggest that girls wanting to do science not only have to be smart but also feminine? Will it imply that there’s sexy girl science on the one hand and real guy science on the other?’

The teaser video, he says, is ‘completely devoid of any trace of our group’s recommendations’, with stereotypical cliches of sex roles.

‘When the girls did seem to have some interest in science, it was directed towards the science of make-up. Indeed, the video could almost be a hip cosmetics commercial.’

The main body of the campaign itself, he says, is much better; its website ‘full of stories of young women scientists and descriptions of exciting careers’.

Science toys for girls

The video may be shockingly bad, but it’s not a lone incident in the promotion of science to girls using stereotypes, make-up and (of course) lashings of pink.

Just look at these science toys for girls, sold in Australian Geographic shops around Australia.

'The Wild Science Magic nail lab teaches you about nail health, how to look after your nails so they always look their best. You can then make your own coloured nail polish, nail polish that shimmers and even glow in the dark nail polish.'

'The Wild Science Magic nail lab teaches you about nail health, how to look after your nails so they always look their best. You can then make your own coloured nail polish, nail polish that shimmers and even glow in the dark nail polish.'

'So much more than just another Lip Balm craft kit! Use industry standard ingredients to create an infinite variety of custom balm bases. For cold or hot weather, for sun or wind with softer or harder feel, and more.'

'So much more than just another Lip Balm craft kit! Use industry standard ingredients to create an infinite variety of custom balm bases. For cold or hot weather, for sun or wind with softer or harder feel, and more.'

'Welcome to the magical world of Chromatography! Your perfume designer lab combines the thrill of real scientific exploration with colourful creativity and wonderful perfume.'

'Welcome to the magical world of Chromatography! Your perfume designer lab combines the thrill of real scientific exploration with colourful creativity and wonderful perfume.'

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