Was listening to NPR’s Science Friday and heard about the fascinating new attempt by the European Commission to get girls interested in science.
Interestingly enough, they say that it’s actually turning girls off to learning science. I can’t imagine why. Maybe it’s because it looks more like a commercial for cosmetics than something showing them the wonders of science. Maybe it’s the fact that the majority of women in the commercial are just posing and looking surprised at all the science instead of learning or working. In fact, apart from the woman writing the formulas on the wall the only person actually doing science in the video is a guy who appears to be fascinated by the fact that there are women in his laboratory. Where apparently they’re making cosmetics. Wait, sorry, there’s that bit at the end where they put on the protective goggles. I guess that’s science!
Maybe the reason this is turning girls off learning science is because girls don’t want to be patronized, because that’s what it really boils down to. This video is basically telling them “Don’t worry! Not all women who do science are frumpy and ugly! Some of us wear stiletto heels and sunglasses because we’re girls, and that’s what girls do!”
If I were a girl (wait a minute, I totally am!), I’d much rather see women in a lab mixing up solutions or inspecting things under microscopes and being told I could change the world. That would make me want to do science, not a trio of models primping their way through a pink haze. I’m also uncertain as to why they keep flashing makeup during the video. Are they trying to tell girls that they should totally do science because then they can learn to make that horrifying mascara that you have to use special solution to remove?
It’s a lot like those science kits that are marketed for girls. They’re all centered around making lip gloss and spa products, while the ones marketed for boys are things like physics and chemistry. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be sets that make bath bombs and soap, I’m sure that’s all kinds of fun, but the fact that the sets are clearly marked “Girls’ Science Kits” and “Boys’ Science Kits.” Are they worried that if they market them gender-neutral that a boy might get a hold of the lip gloss maker and – gasp! – turngay? The company also has “Eco Science” kits and “Cosmetic Science” kits that show both boys and girls on the box, so why the need to label the others with the corresponding so-called gendered colors?
It all comes down to this misguided idea that science is unfeminine, which leads to people trying desperately to sell the extreme opposite point and make it look nothing but feminine, when most girls in the age bracket they’re trying to influence just want to do what’s fun and interesting. To say nothing of the girls who don’t want to be feminine and are less likely to consider science as a career because it’s being presented to them in this way. Sometimes girls just want to be smart and creative, neither of which should have to be tied to or separated from “prettiness.”
I’m really happy, though, that the European Commission has listened to the massive amount of criticism the campaign has received and has instead decided to shift their focus and put it more on making a list of notable women in science to provide role models for girls. They’re asking for suggestions from the community, so if you have one please go share it.
One last thing: up until a few decades ago, pink was the color you dressed boys in because it was a healthy and robust color while girls were dressed in blue because it was calmer and more serene. Think about that one for a while.