TIME magazine, fresh from its triumph at electing the word “feminism” as the Worst Word in the World, has given the job of reporting on sexist shirts in the workplace to
Katha Pollitt Amanda Marcotte Soraya Chemaly Cathy Young. Cathy Young of Reason magazine, Cathy Young who is Christina Hoff Sommers’s favorite colleague in feminism-bashing.
When I first heard about the outrage over a scientist from the Rosetta Mission, which landed the Philae space probe on a comet, wearing a “sexist” shirt for a press appearance, I racked my brain wondering what the offensive garment could have been. A T-shirt showing a spacecraft with a “My secret fort—no girls allowed” sign? An image of a female scientist with the text, “It’s nice that you got a Ph.D., now make me a sandwich”?
Right – if it’s not spelled out as literally and unmistakably as possible, then it’s not sexist at all. If it doesn’t say “no women allowed” then it’s not sexist. Hooray! Feminism has won and we can all move on – because people don’t put “no women allowed” signs on the doors any more, except in religious institutions. But guess what: actual signs saying “women get out” are not the only form of sexism there is. There are others.
This is true of so many things – of everything that social and political, in fact. A workplace where the men are always grabbing the women’s butts but there is no sign anywhere saying “women get out” – that is still a sexist workplace. There is such a thing as implication. I don’t believe that Cathy Young is genuinely so stupid that she doesn’t get that. I think she chooses to pretend she doesn’t get it.
Dr. Taylor’s shirt may not have been in great taste. But the outcry against it is the latest, most blatant example of feminism turning into its own caricature: a Sisterhood of the Perpetually Aggrieved, far more interested in shaming and bashing men for petty offenses than in celebrating female achievement.
No, that’s not true. The question of how to make STEM fields more attractive to women is not petty at all. One way not to make them more attractive to women is to ignore low-level sexism. Sure, it is low-level. That shirt is far from the worst kind of sexism or the worst thing anyone could have done. (Mind you, paired with “I didn’t say she was easy” it gets a bit worse.) But low-level sexism also matters, and when it’s amplified by being the face of an exciting event like this, then it matter more. It’s not petty.
[T]his particular brand of feminist ideology, which inevitably stigmatizes straight male sexuality, is at the center of the recent culture wars.
It doesn’t “stigmatize straight male sexuality” to say “not in the workplace.”
Sadly, the brouhaha over Dr. Taylor’s shirt overshadowed not only his accomplishments but those of his female teammates, including one of the project’s lead researchers, Kathrin Allweg of the University of Bern in Switzerland. More spotlight on Dr. Allweg, Dr. Grady, Dr. Alexander and the other remarkable women of the Rosetta Project would have been a true inspiration to girls thinking of a career in science. The message of ShirtStorm, meanwhile, is that aspiring female scientists can be undone by some sexy pictures on a shirt—and that women’s presence in science requires men to walk on eggshells, curb any goofy humor that may offend the sensitive, and be cowed into repentance for any misstep.
Thanks for ruining a cool feminist moment for us, bullies.
Thank you TIME magazine for joining the war on feminism.