A senior scientist on the Rosetta/Philae mission (a stunning success, brilliant and audacious, thrilling!) decided to show up for work on perhaps the most important day of the mission, the most important day in spaceflight since Curiosity landed on Mars, wearing a crappy bowling shirt covered in cartoonish images of half-naked women. He further compounded this stupid decision by referring to the Rosetta mission with “She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy.”
I’m not going to condemn a man for owning an awful shirt with half-naked women on it. That’s his own business, and I couldn’t care less. But it shows a staggering lack of judgement, and callousness to what others might infer, to wear this shirt to work. At all. When grownups go to work, they should dress appropriately for work. And unless you work at a bowling alley/strip club, that shirt is almost certainly not appropriate. It is really not appropriate when you’re going to be on a worldwide live-stream meant to be dedicated to inspirational science and engineering.
Casually throwing around sexually charged language and imagery in a workplace that is not about sex is simply not appropriate behavior. For anyone. And yes, for some men this means losing a tiny measure of freedom. We lose the freedom to be horn-dog dipshits in the workplace, because we need the workplace to be a comfortable place for everyone. (And, while it seems far less common to me, yes, women are also not allowed to be horn-dog dipshits in the workplace.)
When people (near-universally young men) start complaining about these losses of freedom I have to sigh and shake my head. We all give up things to make society better. We give up our right to take things by force. We give up our right to drive on the wrong side of the road. I give up about 40% of my income. And yes, I think we have to give up our right to be sexist assholes. And this guy should not have worn the shirt, or spoken that way, because it’s juvenile, and sexist, and unprofessional.
However, I am also concerned by the calls I see for him to be fired. Unless he has a history of behaving this way in defiance of request and directive to change, then what he deserves is a reprimand, a dress code, and to hear from people he respects that this is unprofessional and undignified. The leap from “He wore an offensive shirt” to “he must be fired” is an escalation I can’t justify with the information I have.
Men: for thousands of years we’ve had essentially carte blanche to be dicks at work. It is not changing. It has changed. Be a professional. Dress like it. Speak like it. Accept remonstration after screwing up. Change. It’s ok to be briefly wistful for the tiny little “freedoms” lost. And then suit up, show up, and do your job with your brain and your hands, not your dick.