There have been a few lackluster reactions to this that miss the point. It's been argued that a woman made the shirt for him (women are capable of making sexist shirts too), that he's actually a great example of a cool scientist who breaks the white lab coat mold (which is important in encouraging kids to get into science, to be fair), that he changed after the first press briefing he did in the shirt (true!), and that we in the United States have no right to inflict our stiff cultural norms on the rest of the world.
Others, including most commentors on the popular image sharing Web site Imgur, thought it was more of a fashion crime than an act of sexism.
Look, I'm glad that Taylor got as far as he's gotten without anyone discriminating against him for being covered in tattoos. I'm covered in tattoos! Science nerds can be covered in tattoos. Ink doesn't prohibit the doing of science.
I also love that Taylor has a quirky style, because it's true that scientists are often stereotyped as being stuffy and unapproachable. Projects like "This is What a Scientist Looks Like" try to undermine that longstanding image by showing people that scientists are real people who do things that don't require goggles sometimes.
But Taylor wasn't wearing a geeky t-shirt or a fluorescent green jumper. His shirt wasn't just quirky -- it was sexist. Shirts covered in half-naked women should not be worn in the workplace, because it sends a clear message to the women around you -- their bodies are really just there for display.
So maybe it was a mistake that Taylor wore the shirt on camera. He may not have realized he had it on. But he still wore it to work, and that's the real problem -- especially in science and technology, where women already face an uphill battle of workplace and industry sexism and rampant sexual assault.
Alice Bell put it pretty succinctly for the Guardian:
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.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times is publishing op-eds that claim there's no sexism in science.
No one is saying that Taylor isn't a good scientist, or that he should be dragged through the mud for his miss-hap. But when these things happen, we need to talk about them -- and the men involved need to listen.
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