Astronomical Sexism

Here’s my latest for STEM Women on how a sexist shirt worn by Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor is connected to everyday sexism in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), and why this matters to broader gender equality efforts in science.

The world has been abuzz with news that the Rosetta spacecraft landed on a comet 500 million kilometres from Earth, in an attempt to collect vital data about the origins of our solar system. Unfortunately, this event is also marred for women in STEM and our allies due to the pervasive power of sexism. Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor chose to wear a shirt with semi-nude women, effectively telling the world and our next generation of STEM workers that sexism is still very much part of our professional culture.

This comes only a couple of weeks since the The New York Times declared that sexism is dead in academia (which I also discussed on STEM Women). What this wardrobe choice says is that some male scientists in strategic positions for major science organisations, like the European Space Agency, ESA (and who is also linked to NASA) do not see equality as a serious issue.

On the STEM Women blog, I’ve described how some people see Taylor’s dress as harmless or eccentric, yet we show how this   incident is an example of everyday sexism. This includes the daily things that men say and do which contribute to professional exclusion of women in STEM. 

Entomologist, Professor Terry Wheeler, noted that this is an important lesson for STEM men like himself, who are senior researchers and have White male privilege.

“We need to make science and research and academia a fair and welcoming place for people who are not white, straight, males… We are only going to get there if senior, white dudes like me either step up and say “yes, let’s change things” and then work to make that change happen, or just shut up and get out of the way”.

On our blog we look at ways that you and your organisation might help to address everyday sexism in STEM. 

Learn more on our blog:


Image: Prof Katie Hinde.

5 thoughts on “Astronomical Sexism

  1. You people are morons. The shirt had nothing to do with sexism. A brilliant scientist was blatantly manipulated by politically correct social engineers. That, to me, is the greater injustice.


  2. David Crump Our article addresses the points you raise, including the designer of the shirt, which does not factor into the debate in any way. The issue as we discuss is context: wearing a shirt with semi nude women in a professional STEM context is inappropriate, given the sexual harassment and barriers women face in science, all documented with scientific evidence, and linked to in this and other articles we write on STEM Women on G+ and in other publications. 

    Taylor apologised for wearing the shirt, and yet angry men continue to attack women for discussing how the STEM sector might address everyday sexism.

    This happened almost one year ago and your outrage about Taylor’s right to wear a shirt he apologised for, and your concerns about “females in the fashion industry” are curious given the overwhelming evidence about inequity in STEM. Time to rethink your understanding of injustice. 


  3. Prime example how feminism is a regressive moment that bullies people that actually did things no one ever did.

    It’s amazing how a movement can sell its divisive agenda using pretty words like equality..


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