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That Shirt.

13 November 2014

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.

126 Comments leave one →
  1. 13 November 2014 12:17

    Having not been online much recently due to a pending paper submission, I was appalled when I read about the shirt and his follow up comment last night. Personally, I would be uncomfortable if a coworker or advisor showed up wearing something like that, and I can imagine many others, both male and female, would be too.

    • veblen permalink
      15 November 2014 16:59

      There was nothing wrong with Matt Taylor’s shirt. Where can I get one? (Women’s Size M)

    • Der Physiker permalink
      17 November 2014 14:15

      Someone with a sense of humor will just laugh it off. The shirt is rough representation of geek culture. Are you not familiar with scantily clad women in spandex? Like wonder women? If you don’t know about her, you must be living in a cave.

      • contentsmayvary permalink
        17 November 2014 18:47

        That’s quite a leap to infer that Modernscientist is completely unfamiliar with comic book depictions of women simply because s/he stated s/he found the shirt inappropriate for the situation.

      • Der Physiker permalink
        17 November 2014 19:15

        Am I not allowed to make a rhetoric on how ridiculous it is that people are fine with sexy superhero in spandex but not a vintage style gunner girl?

      • Lenoxus permalink
        17 November 2014 20:01

        It would have made no difference if he’d worn a shirt with sexy female superheroes, I guarantee.

        You seem to think that the well-established history of such depictions of women in superhero comics, and the cultural connections between those comics and modern science culture, serves as a sort of grandfathering.

        But what we’re saying is: at best, there’s a time and place, and this wasn’t it. (I’m personally not thrilled with such depictions in general — it’s 2014, we can do better. However, the inappropriateness of the situation really compounds it.)

      • Der Physiker permalink
        18 November 2014 04:02

        Wonder Woman have been used by 2nd wave feminist as a symbol of woman empowerment. I guess 3rd wave feminist hate it now. To be honest, I find the gunner girls as a symbol of empowerment. The problem is that people are parroting ‘sexism’. I mean, how can woman with big guns be a symbol of sexism? The shirt is casual, very casual. If you say that he got bad fashion sense, I agree with you. It looks awful.

      • 18 November 2014 16:56

        Knowing what it is does not make it ok.

      • Maria permalink
        18 November 2014 18:36

        Adults do not wear shirts like that to work.

    • 18 November 2014 18:38

      I’m offended by idiots who think a shirt is “sexist” but never seem to focus on FGM, school girls being shot in the head because they want an education, girls being kidnapped and sold as slaves, idiots in some American states trying to pass laws making a miscarriage illegal and so on.

      some people need a lesson in perspective

      • mumexpress permalink
        19 November 2014 08:47

        To borrow a snippet from Phil Plait’s piece on this same issue.

        “So yeah, it’s just a shirt.

        And it’s just an ad.

        It’s just a saying.

        It’s just a TV show.

        It’s just the Internet.

        Yes, but you almost make as much as a man does.

        It’s just a catcall.

        It’s a compliment!

        It’s just that boys will be boys.

        It’s just that she’s a slut.

        It’s just that your dress is too short.

        It’s just that we want to know what you were wearing at the time, ma’am.

        It’s just it’s just it’s just.

        It’s just a death by a thousand cuts. No one cut does the deed. In the end, they all do.”

        You stop talking about the casual sexism and it remains acceptable, filtering into everything else.

        What’s so hard to digest that the guy made a mistake and then apologised, and MEANT it? Only misogynists feel emasculated by that. The story is not about the shirt now, its about the reaction. MRA’s are licking their lips and dusting off their keyboards.

      • 19 November 2014 16:46

        Seriously, stop trying to compare where the US to where people in the middle east are. Are you saying that just because they are in a backward state that we should strive for the same.
        And it also is a false logic to try to say you cannot condemn him AND the things going on in the middle east at the same time.

      • gekko permalink
        24 November 2014 11:00

        Your “Dear Muslima” letter has been duly noted. People like you how demand that others stop being concerned about an issue because THERE ARE MORE SERIOUS ISSUES IN THE WORLD. Except all you are showing me is that you somehow can’t manage to care about more than one issue and you demand that everyone in the world work on the same one issue. The world works better if we all care about a multitude of issues and if we each work on those issues that matter to us, dividing our efforts and attention across a multitude of issues.

        The OMG, THERE’S ANOTHER, WORSE ISSUE YOU MONSTER rebuttal to concern over issues like this is laughable.

  2. 13 November 2014 12:26

    (Hit send too soon…) One aspect of this discussion that has particularly annoyed me is the conflation of “cool” and “non-conformism” with the sexual innuendo of the shirt and comments. I’m all for breaking stereotypes, but the notion that doing so requires overt references to sexuality is absurd.

    • 18 November 2014 16:57

      Nicely said. Anyone who thinks acknowledging sex makes them “cool” is too sheltered to be cool. EVERYONE knows about sex, guys.

  3. 13 November 2014 17:54

    When I was a young adult I worked in the public service. A male employee touched me sexually but if I hit him in self-defence it would have cost me my job. I was lucky: he came up behind me in the filing bays and touched me around the waist one time too many. My instinctive reaction was to jerk my elbow back really suddenly. I managed to stop myself in time so that I didn’t make contact with his stomach. He saw my reaction and, finally, stopped touching me. Verbal harassment in the workplace remained constant until I transferred to a different section but the physical touching stopped.

    While this physical harassment was going on, another woman took me to one side to tell me that someone else had been raped IN the workplace. She complained and lost her job while the guy who allegedly raped her was protected by the boys’ club. I was warned: don’t complain. No matter how bad it gets, DO. NOT. COMPLAIN.

    If a leading scientist gets away with this kind of sexism — the tee shirt and the innuendo — then that breeds the kind of crap I had to deal with in the workplace when I was 18 years old. This guy’s behaviour would not be an isolated incident. His behaviour in a very public situation is the ideal time to take him to task: his female co-workers should not be penalised for a public outcry leading to more inclusive work practices.

    • Higgs Bosom permalink
      16 November 2014 08:28

      listen, that sounds terrible what happened to you but get a fucking grip, they are not the same shit

      • 17 November 2014 21:28

        Casual sexism and depiction of women as objects reinforces the idea that women are objects. Women being perceived as objects is what leads to rape and sexual harassment.
        Not the same thing, but certainly connected.

      • Charmed Fart permalink
        18 November 2014 00:10

        They are certainly not connected, except in the mind of violent crazies and misogynistic psychos. So are all the rest of us supposed to live a flat, vanilla, sexless, humourless, joyless, thin-skinned, kiss-ass world?

        incidentally, Higgs Bosom, great name.

      • Maria permalink
        18 November 2014 18:40

        From the perspective of a woman who has studied and worked in male-dominated environments for over 20 years: They are connected.

      • Tara Ballance permalink
        18 November 2014 20:16

        Sorry, good buddy, but in fact, they are.

      • 19 November 2014 16:47

        Coming from a guy who is trying to sound funny and sciency. Bosom? Seriously? Trying to hard mate.

      • 4 December 2014 13:19

        I’ll also vouch that they are connected. Just because you don’t think that you’ve ever seen it IRL doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Odds are that you *have* but that you just didn’t pick up on it because it didn’t affect you personally because it just seemed common place and because you weren’t the brunt of the joke.

        This is kind of the same viewpoint a lot of people take when it comes to any sort of -ism that doesn’t impact them directly (racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, etc). You think that because you acknowledge the larger parts of the issue (rape in the workplace, inequal pay) that this means that you have a broader perspective on the issue and that you know what the score is… but the fact is that this only means that you probably only have a superficial knowledge of what’s going on if you don’t think that -isms can’t be seemingly small things and that they can’t link to the larger issues. I can vouch that for the longest time I’d argue that the average workplace couldn’t be racist if everyone minded their Ps and Qs. I actually had to have a co-worker explain how there are a million different ways that we can be insensitive to one another and perpetuate racism, only that it’s so normalized that I wouldn’t pick up on it as a white female. It was hard to admit because I didn’t want to admit that I could potentially be wrong, but I had to do it or I’d end up being more at fault for being confronted with the evidence and ignoring it.

        No, wearing a girly shirt doesn’t mean that Taylor is going to go out and rape his way through Manhattan or that he condones extreme sexism, but it does encourage the idea of “woman as object” when he wears it in the workplace and doesn’t think about how it can be received by others- ESPECIALLY if he wears it during a period in time where he’s likely to be interviewed by the media. If he’d been stopped on the side of the street and been interviewed when he wasn’t on company time then odds are nobody would have cared. It’d be seen as a tacky shirt for the most part. However by wearing this in the workplace he is perpetuating this idea and while this may be small, it does eventually snowball into the idea that women should put up with unwanted sexual jokes and remarks made about and to them, that they shouldn’t complain about the “accidental” inappropriate touching because it won’t go anywhere, and so on.

        Basically dude… you really DON’T know what it’s like and it DOES happen.

  4. David permalink
    13 November 2014 18:04

    Will someone please breakdown the exact problem here? Other than the fact that a guy wore a shirt that acknowledges that women have genitalia, I mean. First of all, let’s completely do away with the “professionalism” argument, because I’m sure there are millions upon millions of people who dress unprofessionally every day, and those cases certainly don’t merit a bunch of hand-wringing tweets and blog posts. I’ll leave the professionalism discussion up to his supervisors. So, then, let’s get to the heart of the issue. Would it be okay if this guy wore a shirt with half-naked men on it? Why or why not? Would it be okay if he wore a shirt with half-naked men AND women on it? Why or why not? Would it be okay if he wore a shirt with fully clothed women and/or men on it? Why or why not? Would it be okay if a woman wore a shirt with half-naked men on it? Why or why not? Would it be okay if a woman wore a shirt with half naked women on it? Why or why not? Would it be okay if a woman wore a shirt with clothed men and/or women on it? Why or why not? Where does the problem actually begin? Is the display of the human form simply off limits on a article of clothing? Or is the partially naked human form where the trouble starts? Why? Is that just an extension of our society’s puritanical view of sex, or is there a rational reason behind it? Let’s keep in mind that just because something makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it is wrong. There are a whole lot of people in this world who are uncomfortable with the idea of two men kissing, for example. If this guy had worn a shirt that depicted two half-naked men kissing, we’d have a whole different group of people very pissed off today, and I have a feeling the “progressive” types who are currently up in arms would be tripping over themselves to come to this guy’s defense. So I’m curious where, how and why you all want to draw the line. You can’t just say that men wearing shirts depicting half-naked women is off limits. There’s a lot more ground to cover than that. So let’s see you cover it.

      13 November 2014 18:24

      Bahaha david you are as if a reddit forum has come to life. I doff my trillby hat to you, you bloviating fucking dipshit.

      • NelsonMandala permalink
        15 November 2014 15:13

        So being sensitive to other peoples feelings is important when it comes to clothing but not in how you talk to other people?

        Could you even begin to try and rationalize why its okay to call David, a person you know nothing about besides a few paragraphs of relatively benign questions, a “fucking dipshit”? Do you honestly think such a response is going to do anything to further the kind of understanding/awareness you supposedly feel so passionately about? Was the last time you called a person a “fucking dipshit” in real life because of similarly aggravating questions?

        Presumably you’ve inferred from the fact David has asked some questions about this issue that he doesn’t share your opinions on this matter and is therefore beneath any kind of reasoned response or even basic courtesy.

        What would your opinion of David be if he took a similar stance towards anyone who (he presumed) disagreed with him, and rather than asking questions and trying to improve his understanding of others viewpoints simply resorted to cliched insults?

    • Facepalm permalink
      13 November 2014 19:23

      could I recommend reading the article more slowly? It’s spelled out very clearly what the problem is, but you seem to have skipped right over it.

      Just in case you’re still confused, the answer to your questions is “no, that would not be appropriate to wear to work”.

      • 14 November 2014 00:54

        When you know your wrong or don’t have a counter argument, go for the snarky asshole response.

    • tom permalink
      14 November 2014 01:39

      “First of all, let’s completely do away with the “professionalism” argument, because I’m sure there are millions upon millions of people who dress unprofessionally every day, and those cases certainly don’t merit a bunch of hand-wringing tweets and blog posts.”

      Nice try at attempting to disregard a main point of the problem by making unfounded assertions based on your own offhand idea of how millions of workplaces must operate. You don’t get to demand that someone explain the problem (when they actually already did, and have pretty clear factual statements like “workplaces have dress codes and rules about inappropriateness”) and then just waive away whatever you like.

      But, because I’m a good sport, here’s part of the answer to your question: in the “millions and millions” of workplaces where people dress inappropriately, there are often written rules of conduct that can include appropriate workplace dress codes. When someone violates those codes of conduct, like perhaps if they came to work with no pants on, there are consequences. They know they can be written up, suspended, asked to leave for the day, and so on. These rules are there to make sure everyone feels reasonably comfortable in the workplace, and other employees can know they’re working in an environment that takes measures to make sure everyone is welcome. Most people navigate these codes of conduct effortlessly as made evident by the millions and millions of people who go to work with their pants on. However, no such consequence is in place in this particular professional setting. It is frustrating to see someone wear something that is very obviously inappropriate in the workplace and have people in leadership positions not take any action.

      To answer your other questions since you apparently need defined *exactly* how naked the people on your articles of clothing are allowed to be:
      likely okay
      irrelevant because why are women wearing shirts in the workplace anyhow AMIRITE???

      I’d ask you a few questions:
      Do you have a job that is not in the sex industry? If so, would you really, truly feel that it was appropriate for you to go to work in clothing that had pictures of people in their underwear on it? Do you feel as though your workplace suffers because not enough people are wearing shirts with naked people on them? Do you not understand why codes of conduct exist in workplaces? Do you honestly feel like your ability to wear clothing with naked or near-naked people on it is so fucking important that you need to have each and every this-or-that scenario spelled out for you?

      If you do have a job in the sex industry I can understand why you’re a little rusty on what people typically wear in other professional settings.

      • Jack permalink
        17 November 2014 10:03

        “Nice try at attempting to disregard a main point of the problem by making unfounded assertions based on your own offhand idea of how millions of workplaces must operate.”

        Science isn’t a stuff boardroom. It’s like you people have never heard of what professors do when they get tenure. This is the equivalent of socks with sandals and being accosted by the fashion police. It’s ridiculous.

        Trying to make the comparison of this environment to a suit-and-tie hardline dresscode is just vapid ignorance of how scientists trend not to sweat that stuff when doing real work.

        Then again, most people complaining about this aren’t scientists. Go figure.

      • Der Physiker permalink
        17 November 2014 14:36

        You know what, my professors are giving lectures in t-shirts. Scientific community (at least in what I am doing) is not as formal as you think. It’s pretty often to see people wearing informal clothing. We are not doing business, we are discussing problems and new findings most of the time. Why would you wear a tuxedo in a situation created to be as relaxed as possible to generate ideas? Excessive formality and ceremony does not help, it just make the atmosphere too stiff for proper discussion.

        I don’t see anything wrong with his shirt. It doesn’t look appealing to me but who am I to say that he should not wear that? He might have sleepless night a few days prior to the landing nor have the time to pick fresh clothes. It is very common for scientist to sleep in their workplace.

        It is not like we have a dress code.

      • 17 November 2014 15:41

        Hasn’t anyone noticed that he’s wearing THAT SHIRT over the top of what looks like it might be a black polo shirt? HE IS WEARING TWO LAYERS OF CLOTHING. So claims that it took him by surprise, he’s just being casual etc, do not apply. I suspect he dressed up for the occasion and, as people have said before, tried (too hard?) to fit the ‘hip, trendy’ profile. It backfired.

      • nolojo permalink
        17 November 2014 17:03

        In Reply to Jack:
        If you agree scientists are appropriately dressed for a “scientific” work environment by wearing this particular shirt, then you must also agree that it is also appropriate for scientists to wear shirts depicting century-old characters in “Black-face” and Indians depicted as “coolies” or gunga din.

        It is so NOT appropriate to show up to work dressed like that. Also, everyone keeps commenting on the lack of clothing on the women but no one mentions the brandishing of guns and (other) weapons on this shirt.

      • Der Physiker permalink
        17 November 2014 17:11

        And why was there no outrage until some journalist start the spark? His female colleagues are even supporting him.
        Gunner girls is a part of geek culture. If you have problem with the shirt, you might also have problem with Wonder Woman and many other super heroes.

      • Jack permalink
        17 November 2014 17:14

        “If you agree scientists are appropriately dressed for a “scientific” work environment by wearing this particular shirt, then you must also agree that it is also appropriate for scientists to wear shirts depicting century-old characters in “Black-face” and Indians depicted as “coolies” or gunga din.”

        Mother of all false equivalence. Perhaps try a shirt depicting characters out of the blackspoitation film era. Which may be questionable taste, but nothing particularly offensive.

        Perhaps on the scale of ‘feels > reals’ the sight of something you don’t like may properly equate to something absurd and truly offensive. In real life, not so much. In academia, especially not so.

        Science doesn’t progress on suits and ties. We sterilize labs and equipment, not people.

        Not to mention, the women are by and large clothed, and the shit itself is an expression by a female friend, who is likely the reason he wore the shirt.

        This inane outrage doesn’t make sense. Stuff that doesn’t make sense, and vapid hysteria, aren’t things that make it far in science.

      • swampscottsoxfan permalink
        17 November 2014 17:30

        ^Well-said, Jack @ 17 November 2014 17:14. “Mother of all false equivalence” indeed.

    • Jack permalink
      17 November 2014 13:29

      “Would it be okay if this guy wore a shirt with half-naked men on it?”

      No. That’s unprofessional and not suited to the workplace.

      “Would it be okay if he wore a shirt with half-naked men AND women on it?”

      No. that’s unprofessional and not suited to the workplace.

      “Would it be okay if a woman wore a shirt with half-naked men on it?”

      No. That’s unprofessional and not suited to the workplace.

      “Would it be okay if a woman wore a shirt with half naked women on it?”

      No. That’s unprofessional and not suited to the workplace.

      “Would it be okay if a woman wore a shirt with clothed men and/or women on it? ”

      No. That’s unprofessional and not suited to the workplace.

      “Where does the problem actually begin?”

      When people wear clothing that other people — clients, customers, and fellow employees — find unprofessional or that makes them uncomfortable. The exact merits of any particular complaint, obviously, are going to vary and should be addressed by the company itself.

      “Let’s keep in mind that just because something makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean it is wrong.”

      There are two ways to interpret the word “wrong” in this context. The first is that shirts with half-naked women on them are INTRINSICALLY or morally wrong. Obviously they are not. There’s nothing “wrong” with owning a shirt with someone else on it half-naked, provided the art or person were not photographed without consent and you aren’t violating someone else’s IP to create your product.

      The second version of “wrong,” however, is the question of whether others are made uncomfortable by the perceived inappropriateness of your clothing. And this is the point that the OP is addressing.

      I would think it slightly inappropriate if my doctor entered my examination room dressed as a stripper, not because I am ashamed of female bodies or because I think strippers are evil, but because there is a uniform, a presentation, a professionalism associated with being a doctor — and she wouldn’t be meeting that standard. I would feel similarly ill-at-ease with a male doctor who presented in similar fashion.

      The point here is that cultural norms and expectations have shifted and in this case, one of those shifts caught this person off-guard. Doesn’t make him evil. Doesn’t mean he deserves to lose his job. Doesn’t mean anything except that yes, I find it mildly inappropriate to see that shirt on a professional on a streaming TV session.

      • It's a Bleeding Shirt permalink
        19 November 2014 01:40

        So, your argument boils down to:
        “Not in any workplace I am personally familiar with”
        “He should dress like what society thinks a scientist should dress like”
        I see so many arguments from people about what is proper in the workplace, what should be allowed in the workplace, etc.
        Did it not occur to you that he likely has people he answers to who would have a set of expectations as to his clothing and appearance? Would any self-respecting employer allow an employee to be broadcast across the world in an outfit that they did not agree with?
        His employers clearly knew what he was wearing and either had no problem with it or didn’t want to have to physically remove it from his body.
        I have personally worked in a couple “workplaces” that have had little or no dress code beyond “don’t have your naughty bits hanging out of your clothes” or “bathe semi-regularly”. These were fairly relaxed corporate settings that indeed had customers, but were focused more on the results of our work rather than whether or not our cufflinks were polished.
        The scientific community is by-and-large focused on the results of ones work and many of those “workplaces” are extremely casual compared to corporate workplaces.
        The saddest thing about this entire affair is that this man’s crowning achievement, possibly the greatest day of his life, was ruined because people wanted to throw him on a post and burn him as a sexist.
        I’m against sexism in all forms, personally, but his chosen attire means nothing to me. It’s garish and somewhat cartoonish but doesn’t offend me or any female that I’ve brought it up to. If it said something along the lines of “Either whip em out or whip me up a sammich”, then I could completely understand the outrage.
        The women on his shirt aren’t anymore scantily clad than the women in Maxim magazine or even in Cosmopolitan.
        And the phrase “She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy” is only sexist if someone makes it sexist. It’s simply a metaphor. He’s stating that the project is amazing/fantastic/etc but isn’t going to just happen.
        This man should be celebrated for his accomplishment. Instead he was reduced to tears because some people couldn’t let go of a piece of multicolored fabric and enjoy one of the greatest scientific achievements in our lifetime.

      • Twobitsandpepper permalink
        22 November 2014 14:08

        Wait wait wait, bleeding shirt … Are you saying that you would be violating dress code to have clothing with your naughty bits hanging out, yet it’s perfectly ok to wear clothing depicting someone else’s naughty bits? Amazing.

    • 17 November 2014 13:58

      Yes, we live in a society that is more puritanical than you (and I) would prefer. There are any number of venues for protest against such puritanism, but the workplace is not one of them. In order for the workplace to function as a workplace, avoidable distractions, annoyances, and discomfort should be minimized as much as practical. And that shirt, worn by someone who makes comments such as the one he did, will obviously make a whole lot of people uncomfortable in the workplace. There’s your “why or why not.”

    • oh no you didn't permalink
      17 November 2014 20:55

      I am not going to answer your ‘oh so rational logical’ questions, which try to equate male and female nakedness, or form, or whatever – because it is inane and ignores the real power dynamics that exist in society. Completely ignoring our history where women are objectified, reduced to ornament, and this is seen as their natural place. Where a scientific paper with a female name is, by that fact alone, less likely to be published.

      Additionally – there is nothing wrong with sex or nudity – outside of the workplace. Outside a press release. The outcry is not about prudishness or hatred of sex, or denial of nudity. However, lets also admit that the shirt will always be reducing women to nothing but sex, and that is inappropriate and belittling everywhere equally.
      If the shirt had homoerotic imagery, naked men lazing around a space background, I’m pretty sure it would have raised eyebrows for it’s sexual explicitness – with women, it was nothing more than pop culture.
      Maybe it was meant to be funny, nerdy, boyish-larrakinish – but irony does not magically arise when someone ‘who isn’t a misogynist’ does something that belittles women on a whim, from a position of privlidge and power.
      The man has apologised, which has mostly been accepted – the outcry seems to be coming from.people who do not believe women should resist the cultural forces that constantly sexualise and trivialise their contribution and place in society.

      • Jack permalink
        17 November 2014 21:52

        “Where a scientific paper with a female name is, by that fact alone, less likely to be published.”

        [Citation Missing]

        “However, lets also admit that the shirt will always be reducing women to nothing but sex, and that is inappropriate and belittling everywhere equally.”

        That’s your opinion. That’s your choice to be offended.

        “If the shirt had homoerotic imagery..”

        Doubt anyone would have cared. Especially since the women weren’t naked, and weren’t even scantly clad for that matter.

        “..from a position of privlidge and power.”

        He just landed a probe on a comet. He earned it. Wearing a shirt that his female friend designed for him on a historic occasion is not abuse or oppression.

        You don’t have a right not to be offended. The internet, and science for that matter, is not a hugbox.

    • 17 November 2014 21:39

      Try googling “objectification.”

    • sathania permalink
      19 November 2014 16:45

      It’s because, historically, women have been below men. If a woman wore a shirt of naked men it would still be inappropriate, but not on the same level, because men are usually not objectified, they can be a lot of things, while women are usually valued only by themselves. It’s like when black people call themselves “niggas” but if a white person does it is offensive, one has been in a position of power over the other.

      I personally think the whole reaction was exaggerated, but that’s pretty much the explanation behind it, at least the way I understand it.

  5. TootsNYC permalink
    14 November 2014 00:59

    You wrote: “Men: for thousands of years we’ve had essentially carte blanche to be dicks at work.”

    I’m not sure I believe this, the “carte blanche” part. I think that there have often been workplaces in which decent men didn’t allow coarse behavior. Sexism is ages, ages old, but I think that our “free and open” culture has allowed the coarseness that’s happening now.

    Do you think that in past eras, this guy would have been allowed to wear that shirt, and make that statement without the senior person pulling him aside? In fact, you say you don’t care if he owns that shirt–but in the 1930s, you probably would have judged him quite harshly merely for owning it.

    Every era has its problem with sexism, definitely. But I think crudeness is a huge part of our era’s problem. And that crudeness comes from the freedom we’ve claimed in terms of sexual speech and sexual expression.

    I’m in favor of the idea of calling out that sort of sexism. But I think we should also call out simple crudity.

    • swampscottsoxfan permalink
      14 November 2014 01:26

      “Do you think that in past eras, this guy would have been allowed to wear that shirt, and make that statement without the senior person pulling him aside? In fact, you say you don’t care if he owns that shirt–but in the 1930s, you probably would have judged him quite harshly merely for owning it.”

      The ironic thing about this paragraph you’ve written is that given that it’s a pin-up “Girl Gunners” Hawaiian shirt, he probably would’ve gotten praise for it in the ’40s. I seem to recall quite a lot of similar imagery from planes and the backs of bombardier jackets during that era …

      Context is important.

      • 21 April 2015 00:38

        Really? Praise for that shirt in the 1940s? I don’t think so. Google up images of scientists in the 1940s. They’re all wearing quite formal attire or lab coats. Whatever soldiers may have painted on the noses of their combat aircraft in the 1940s or embroidered onto the backs of bomber jackets on their way to their not unlikely death has nothing to do with what scientists wore as professional attire then or now. My grandfather, a scientist in the 1940s, was a filthy fucker who would have loved that shirt, but he would have never, ever, ever wore that to the lab. Nor would he have taken me, his granddaughter to the lab – a national laboratory – (as he did) if there were people wearing printed depictions of fetish gear to work. By the time he took me to work, in the early 80s, things had “descended” to the level of sweaters and shirts.

  6. swampscottsoxfan permalink
    14 November 2014 01:23

    Dr24hours wrote:

    “… wearing a crappy bowling shirt covered in cartoonish images of half-naked women.”

    It’s a Hawaiian shirt depicting WWII pin-up style “Gunner Girls” (and a PT109 PT boat, if I’m not mistaken).

    Feel free to heap your abuse on the company that sells them:

    “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.”

    So let me make sure I have this right – it’s OK to wear a “sexist” shirt in a bowling alley? What did a bowling alley ever do to you?

    Guess I should be glad you’re not my boss. I dress to be comfortable at work. A pin-up shirt is far from anything I would ever waste my energy on.

    • GaiasEyes451 permalink
      17 November 2014 14:26

      It was known before your time of posting that the shirt was not purchased but rather made for him by a friend. Please do your research before posting information that is simply incorrect.

      • swampscottsoxfan permalink
        17 November 2014 16:10

        WTF? What information did I post that is “simply incorrect”? Unlike you, I actually had a brief Twitter discussion about the shirt with Elly, his friend that sewed it for him.

        I was also the very first person to discover that (and post the URL for) the Aloha Land site sold a shirt with the identical material/pattern that she used. Unlike YOU, I actually went out and DID “do my research”.

  7. Akō Line permalink
    14 November 2014 21:06

    You say “We lose the freedom to be horn-dog dipshits in the workplace, because we need the workplace to be a comfortable place for everyone.”

    A significant fraction of the words population is uncomfortable around non-related women exposing their hair and skin. Do you wear long sleeves, an ankle length skirt, and a headscarf to work? Would you if one of your coworkers was uncomfortable?

    Also, I do not see any “half naked” women on that shirt. There do not appear to be any exposed breasts, buttocks, or genitals. Perhaps you could take one of the many images available and circle the half naked women to point them out to us?

    • 14 November 2014 21:27

      At least half of their surface area is unclothed. Anyone can see that.

  8. d.hyer permalink
    15 November 2014 17:58

    It seems kind of petty to be so inflamed with this. Grow up and submit your papers. This is the kind of crap that drove me from academia.

    • hklang permalink
      15 November 2014 21:31


    • GaiasEyes451 permalink
      17 November 2014 14:22

      If this is your attitude toward work place discrimination I’m surprised you left academia, you would have fit rather nicely.

      • JrzygirlLA permalink
        17 November 2014 17:41

        Awesome scientist, awesome shirt. But tell me this, would you be offended/harassed if a wore a Hawaiian shirt with pictures of cocktails all over it to your place of business? ‘Cause by your logic you should be.

  9. 15 November 2014 21:46

    Being a professional has nothing to do with wearing and acting. It has with doing your job properly. And he did because facts speak for themselves (Rosetta was a sucess). If he wears a pin-up shirt (sexist? pleaaaaaaaaase!) in job, who are you to ask him to wear something different? Dress code? Some people believe in that, some people don’t, and if they let him go that way deal with it. I’m tired of this shit. You are thinking with the guts way more than he was thinking with the dick.

    • 17 November 2014 22:32

      Millions (possibly billions) of highly-educated professionals and their professional organizations disagree strongly with you.
      And, yes, pin-up shirts are both sexist AND unprofessional. “Please!” is not a counter-argument, it’s the whine of a teenager who has no rational argument to make.

      • 18 November 2014 04:47

        Mi argument is simple. Opinion!=Fact. If you can’t understand that, I have nothing more to say. He should have worn boticcelli’s venus. That would be sexist too

    • 21 April 2015 00:44

      Actually, the facts DO NOT speak for themselves, that’s why they did a broadcast and had an interviewer. Facts, rarely, if ever, speak for themselves, that is why we have humans present them. It will have been press released. There will have been social media accounts, etc. He chose to wear a shirt for a live stream interview that said much more than the facts of science. He may well have done it as a favour to a friend to promote her work, but as such he was using my taxes to promote a friend’s business and wearing an offensive shirt* in the process. It was wrong time, wrong place and wrong message.

      *objectively offensive? Maybe or maybe not. Offensive in the workplace. Yes.

      • 10 May 2015 08:02

        Blahblahblah. Don’t change the meaning of my words. When I say “facts speak for themselves” it is obvious what I’m saying: the fact is that Rosetta landed, and that speaks for itself. And in addition I say that is not related to this guy wearing a shirt which might -or might not- be sexist.

        Your taxes are also my taxes, that argument, therefore, is not valid. You have an opinion, which I respect, but I have mine: I prefer this different guy promoting science in pants and ink with his alternative looking rather than the typical nerd scientist who will be only listened by his own kind. By the way, the shirt is not offensive in the workplace since they let him wear it (no dress code). And which is more important, I bet my ass everyone was pretty happy he was presenting the facts in a different way. Broadcasting you say? More public? Probably. It is good to open up and stop being endogamic. The problem is some ultrafeminist girls came up and started crying.

        As I said, if he was wearing a He-Man shirt in an spaceship no one would say a thing (and this guy was strong as hell and in his underwear the whole series).

  10. 16 November 2014 03:55

    This post is 100% on target. I see nothing in it to dispute.

    (If you just want to read my take on the shirt issue itself, skip to the fourth paragraph)

    FAR too many people confuse freedom with “doing whatever the hell I want” . That’s not any kind of freedom “I” would give my life to defend. That is disrespect for others essential dignity (in their lights and in the light of others), a vital component of one’s true well-being. At most, this type of freedom is of the “dignity for me, but not for thee” type, which inevitably leads to nihilism or a breakdown of society. It’s certainly not the kind of freedom that leads to true justice and equality of dignity ( the latter a prerequisite of equality under the law). So part of being a member of a self-claimed civilized society necessarily involves giving up a few of our “rights” in order to have a civil, sane, considerate, even safe society.

    While equal application of rules and guidelines is important, ultimately it’s less important than preserving others’ dignity. In fact, without paramount on equal dignity for all, it’s difficult for me to see any justification for any kind of laws, moral / ethical rules, etc. at all. Part of respecting others dignity is to realize that we are all different in some way. So long as that difference cannot reasonably be regarded as a threat to others dignity, life, health, physical functionality, legitimately held property or money, etc., the person is entitled to have and enjoy his or her own type of difference.

    Another part of respecting others’ dignity involves accepting their differences.

    NOW to the SHIRT matter: In this case, the right to wear that t-shirt is inferior to womens’ right to feel dignified and appreciated in their workplace. Men, as a group though not ALL men, may not get upset about being sexualized by women women but women as a group tend to get upset at being sexualized by men. Just why they tend to is not important. The point is that they do, regardless of their reasons.

    In this case, regardless of how men as a group may regard sexualization of themselves by women, we have to adjust our behavior to accommodate womens’ concerns if we want women to feel welcome in historically male spheres (such as physical sciences, engineering, and other NASA-related fields). I’m sure the guy had no premeditated intention of degrading women, and I’m sure he ultimately does appreciate his female colleagues’ contributions. That still doesn’t change the fact that it was highly inappropriate to wear that t-shirt in the presence of women.

    Having said that, he does not deserve to get fired. As the poster said, a convincing reprimand is appropriate here if this is a one-time occurrence.

  11. Madoc permalink
    16 November 2014 15:53

    So, you’re judging him based on what clothes he wears? But, it’s wrong to judge a woman by what clothes she wears… But damning a man for his same choices? Ah, right… Because logic!

    • 16 November 2014 16:41

      A guy wears a shirt depicting women wearing lingerie in sexualised poses but people come out to defend him.

      In contrast, this:

      Unless you work in certain types of night club or in outright sex work, clothing depicting women in lingerie does not belong at work.

      In contrast, please explain what is wrong with a woman wearing long pants, a blouse, a suit jacket and a scarf to a conference. These are the double-standards that we’re discussing here.

      • swampscottsoxfan permalink
        16 November 2014 19:19

        “… depicting women wearing lingerie in sexualised poses …”

        I provided a link to the shirt in question above. As far as I can see, every depiction of a cartoon woman on the shirt is holding a gun. (It is a “Gunner Girls” shirt, remember.)

        I don’t know about anyone else, but when I see pictures of women with guns, the first thing *I* think about is sex … NOT.

        (That aside, Dr. Hörst should’ve decked him.)

      • Disturbed permalink
        17 November 2014 21:12

        So it’s good to criticize the fashion choices of an intellectual if they’re a man, but not if they’re a woman.

        Tell me more about double standards!

      • 19 November 2014 13:46

        Maybe it’s because she’s wearing jeans to a professional convention. Jeans aren’t really considered business attire.

        Also, remember this guy works at NASA in a large room all day worrying about a lot of things like mathematical equations that won’t kill his co-workers. I’m sure NASA could care less what he wears as long as he does his VERY IMPORTANT job.

        It’s not really a business environment where appropriate dress in front of clients is much more important. A lot of tech companies like Google or Shopify have very minimal standards for dress codes (usually clothing with offensive language) because in those types of environments it doesn’t really matter what you wear as long as you do your job.

  12. CroneGeek permalink
    16 November 2014 20:10

    I’m wondering if ESA management kind of set him up for this, encouraging him to be hip and cool, and he took it way too far.

    Matt Taylor has only been working on Rosetta a couple of years, he was formerly working on northern lights research. All the profiles of him being such a cool guy and a scientist too seem to be a good part of why he was hired for the position of lead scientist — to project a hip geeky image for Rosetta and ESA.

    This may help explain why no one questioned his choice of attire — that was part of the job the execs at ESA hired him to do, to be edgy.

    I also wonder if none of the women he worked with said anything to him because they wanted to see him get his comeuppance in public. He has twitter pics seeming to show him wearing the shirt to the office in October. Since he was the lead scientist, maybe no one felt free to say anything about it, or maybe someone said something and he blew it off.

    I do want to know if that shirt is considered acceptable workplace attire at ESA.

    I accept Matt’s apology and don’t feel he needs to be further punished, assuming he’s been thoroughly educated on proper workplace decorum now.

    But the ESA management and PR team still have some explaining to do. This was a livestream they tried to get into schools! A major part of the mission of NASA and ESA is education, to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. How could they not have planned and supervised the proceedings with a general audience, including school kids, in mind? ESA owes the public and the science teachers / students an apology, imho.

    • 17 November 2014 15:22

      I think you kind of hit the nail on the head in the sense that Matt Taylor doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    • 17 November 2014 15:22

      Agree, one hundred million percent. I do think the shirt was offensive and if I was a coworker of his I would have said something to the effect of “dude, that shirt is gross and offensive, would you please not wear it to work anymore?”

      I cannot believe the lengths to which people will go to conflate this issue with judging or assigning blame to a woman based on how she dresses in the case of assault.

      The fact is what you wear matters, and what you wear to work on one of the most important days of your career matters more. People WILL judge you, regardless of your gender, based on how you present yourself to the world. There is a difference between saying the shirt is sexist and offensive and telling a woman that the rape was her fault because of how she dressed.

      I was told in graduate school that if I ever wanted to present my work publicly I would have to lose the blue streaks in my hair. When I start any new job I cover my tattoos until such time as I know it’s ok to show them. You want to talk about what’s appropriate to wear the day the maestro is at rehearsal for an opera? And I HAVE been told to wear more “appropriate” clothing (read, in this case: show less boobs). This is a fact of professional life, in any field.

      I’m a feminist, and my feminism is very important to me. I have no problem with the shirt itself, I have a problem with the decision to wear it to the workplace. And I have a problem with people equating the criticism he is receiving to verbal abuse or even rape.

      As to how “different” things are in science and in academia, I have been in both. Yes, they are different, but different doesn’t account for lack of taste and poor judgement. It might be perfectly ok for him to wear that shirt on a daily basis at his office. His coworkers – male and female – could have no problem with it. That doesn’t make it a good choice to wear when being interviewed. The world sees you, and how you present yourself ALWAYS speaks volumes about how you perceive yourself, your work, your colleagues, and your workplace. I would find it embarrassing if I were part of the ESA and that was how we were presented to the world on the big day.

      Thank you for writing this.

    • castille permalink
      19 November 2014 20:06

      I’d like to comment on that school kids theme. I was reading here, and clicked over to look at that shirt in the store front. My 12 yr old daughter comes by and see the shirt. And this starts an interesting conversation I’d like to pass along here.

      She says ‘ugh, who would ever wear THAT shirt?!’ I say, ‘wait, and I’ll show you.’

      I find a pic of Matt Taylor during his interview, briefly explain the Rosetta project and how they’ve successfully landed a probe on a comet! And that this is their lead scientist and he’s accomplished some great work. And she’s a science loving kind of girl and this all sounds super cool and she’s slightly impressed. I explain, he is therefore interviewed on TV to talk about this successful project he’s led and represent his whole team to answer questions about what they’ve done.

      Daughter looks at Matt Taylor, and her response is… “Wow, that’s *really* unprofessional.” Keep in mind, we’re talking a bout a 12 yr old whose parents don’t go to work in suits, who’s never held a job herself, and who thinks good school attire involves shirts with ninjas, bunnies, zombies and best of all, combinations of the three. So I asked her to expand on this thought – what makes it ‘unprofessional’ exactly?

      She tells me it’s about ‘what people will think of you if they see you in it.’ I ask, ‘what might they think of you?’ She says, ‘they might think you’re rapey or something.’ I say, surprised, ‘rapey, really? that might be a little extreme for a shirt, no?’ She amends it to ‘Well, they’ll think you’re not someone likes women very much. That’s what it makes me think anyway.’ I just want to repeat that – an impressionable girl thinks your choice in shirt conveys that you do not like her, or who she will become. So you wear it on TV to represent your whole organization. Daughter is not political, does not know what ‘feminist’ means, does not read thought pieces and is not exposed to women’s studies. But she does have opinions.

      And, for me, this in a nutshell was what was wrong with having this guy wear this shirt on this day to represent them for their accomplishment. Potentially, even to school children. If a kid I have to argue with over the rule where we may not wear platform heels to school can see that this was a poor choice for the occasion, I have trouble fathoming how grown-ass adults whom I assume function in society can’t see why it was.

  13. James Dee permalink
    17 November 2014 15:44

    Let’s get our ducks in a row.

    1. We all agree this man is intelligent. Probably one of the top their minds in the world right now. After all he was part of a team that did thread a needle to a comet from earth.

    2. We can assume he is internet savvy. He’s in an age where being plugged into the internet is uniform and everyday.

    3. He is unfortunately in an industry that whilst groundbreaking, phenomenal and just about wonderful in every way just isn’t sexy enough to demand people talk about for longer than just past the initial event. I don’t like it and I wish it were not true but it is.

    4. By wearing this catastrophe of a shirt. This complete mess of ideas and representations of what is considered forward and modern thinking he has ensured that “more” people will be talking about this project for longer than they would under normal circumstances.

    Now are they talking for the right reasons, No but it cannot be denied that certain things like this keep happening. Anyone else remember that when they discovered evidence of the higgs-boson for some reason all the world could talk about was they used “comic sans” as a font?

    I’d like to think that the world moved past all the buzzwords and would focus on the true wonder of discovery. Maybe one day that will be true

    But for now what it takes to keep and article of this magnitude in the press and trending on the net is a stupid font or a “badly chosen shirt”

    I want to think the world is smarter than that but maybe it’s not.

    I like to think he is smarter than that.

    • Lucy permalink
      19 November 2014 14:07

      Thank you, James. I exactly remembered the higgs presentation when I saw this mess starting. How long it’s been now, close to three years? And yet still when she became a CERN director few weeks ago, most of the buzz would be about “the comic sans lady”. To be honest, at that time, I actually perceived it much more inappropriate and unprofessional for such event, than I ever did this shirt, which completely escaped my attention. But on the higgs day, I felt very disappointed that such a great discovery gets presented to the public in such a messy way they’ll get nothing from it but a memory of a font. Nevertheless, I still think the worst thing Fabiola could do would be to apologize afterwards, break down for spoiling the talk and start retrospectively changing all her slides, and I am happy that she didn’t, that she stayed cool and strong in her opinion, and is where she is today, without anybody (and especially her) giving a s*t on which font and color scheme she uses, although it is painfully awful and childish. That’s why academia is not business and should not try to become one – science is playful, unconventional and free in getting into “scandalous” excesses every now and then, and it is good so. I’d wish Matt stays similarly cool about all this and keeps on going.

  14. jenn permalink
    17 November 2014 18:18

    I think we are missing a major point here by focusing so much on the adult world. I have two daughters and a son who all want to grow up to be in science. On the one hand I can point to Taylor and say “Wow! Look what this scientist and his team accomplished” and that would be that. But then I would have my son pointing out the “awesome” shirt as only a 12 year old boy can, and my daughters would have to renegotiate their thoughts on their place in science. The guy did something monumental and PUBLIC and he presented himself in THAT shirt. Sorry but I can’t help but think he was trying to impress 12 year boys with how “edgy” he was and not use that moment to impress everyone with what science and human ingenuity can do.

  15. ant permalink
    17 November 2014 18:19

    Was Matt Taylor, Project Scientist at European Space Agency & project leader just judged on his wardrobe by a bunch of leftist feminists? Wow, how ironic.

  16. stefanhensel permalink
    17 November 2014 19:11

    Do you think that Dr. Taylor should have his tatoos removed, too, in order to keep his job? Just being curious …

    • 17 November 2014 22:47

      well, if his tattoos are naked women, uh it would probably be in his best interest to cover them up. I have a lot of tattoos (all on my back) and yes, I keep them covered while I’m working at my office.

  17. Disturbed permalink
    17 November 2014 21:02

    I’m shocked and appalled Dr. Taylor would appear in this manner. To think that in this day and age that he would appear on live television looking like that. Doesn’t he know what kind of violent message that sends with all those tattoos? Any respectable job would ask you to cover those up. After all, we must think of the “customers” here. And why is he not clean shaven? Any respectable professional would shave that beard immediately. Unless your Muslim in which case perhaps his beard is not long enough! Regardless, the man must not be allowed to do science looking like that.

    Also, is no one thinking of the children? Once eager potential scientists will now be forever scared after realizing such a violent tattooed individual would dare to advance humanity.

    He must be stopped. Or at least made to weep before the world.

  18. Harrison permalink
    17 November 2014 21:43

    Maybe everyone goes back to wearing suits & thin black ties like in the 1960’s….what a bunch of prudes.

  19. Syd permalink
    17 November 2014 22:22

    Hmmm….I think Taylor’s choice of a shirt was poor, but I don’t get the whole furor over it. He made a mistake in judgement. And who know what his reasoning was, but I doubt if he got up and said “I am going to put this shirt on so that I can piss off some people today and act like a misogynist.” I kind of feel sorry for someone who is socially clueless and yet so brilliant in other ways. God knows there are a lot of scientists around who are individualists and don’t adhere to some administratively pre-ordained dress code. I’m glad for that.

  20. 17 November 2014 23:43

    I was taught a long time ago that if you wanted to do well in life, show up to work on time. If you wanted to do really, really well, dress nicely. Neither of these traits involve jerk-like behaviors. I hope people reflect on how they come across to others and change their behavior if they think they are being inappropriate.

  21. 18 November 2014 00:31

    “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.”

    The IBM concept (much like the insulting phrase) “Grown up business attire” has been dying for decades.

    And who exactly are you to say what is/isn’t appropriate for what job/workplace/team/dynamic..? Have you actually been in any of the major silicon valley firms, or the scientific research facilities (the places where the people make the real breakthroughs on a daily basis.) I have,. and this thing is pretty normal in the tech sector, the better your skills the less likely you are to give two dingo’s kidneys about meeting some outdated standard of dress etiquette. (I’ve personally negotiated zero dress code policies in several jobs and while I don’t wear a speedo to work, if that’s what made me feel comfortable and enabled me to work as my best, I’d do it in a heartbeat.)

    It’s not inappropriate, he’s the guy THEY CAME TO for info, he didn’t seek the media out. They came to him because he was the source. You don’t go to Yoda for training and then bitch that his robes are dirty. His dress is 100% appropriate for any situation if that’s what he wants to wear that day that makes him feel comfortable. If the broadcasters didn’t like it they could have not aired the footage,..where’s the outrage for the media outlets,..allowing such a taboo thing on the internet?! (the scandal) I mean really where do you draw the line? Is it OK to be openly gay in the workplace, is a pink shirt on a man “Grown up”? What if it has a frill? Does that fit your model of workplace etiquette that somehow you became the emperor of and thus dictate to the world?

    The message that people walk away with from this always reflects a lot about the person in question.

    The message that *most* people got from his attire was “Hey you know what, you don’t have to be a lemming to reach great heights, be an individual you can excel even if you don’t conform.” No suit no tie, smartest guy in the room, check check check.

    The fact that “unduly outraged internet community” can instantly trump “Lifetime of achievement” is just one more “societal norm” that makes me wonder why people are so keep on the concept.

    “Casually throwing around sexually charged language and imagery in a workplace that is not about sex is simply not appropriate behavior.”
    Odd,.. it happens in pretty much every other workplace/situation in the world and somehow everyone’s genitals don’t suddenly pop out and orgy’s don’t spontaneously erupt, gang rapes aren’t commonplace and society still stands despite it all.

    And best of all….

    “We all give up things to make society better.”
    I find it hilarious that you assume the thing you expect someone else to give up is the only *right* solution, whereas you giving up something that would instantly render this situation (and almost all others) a non-issue is somehow the wrong one. (ie worry about your own life and don’t try to impose your standards on other people.)

    I know it sounds like I’m coming down on you just because I think you’re a narrow minded jerk but it’s not that,.. your entitled to your opinion, it’s just that I’ve been at the mercy of people who talk like you do, and watched them change their mind 100% in the course of a week or an afternoon when something better came along.

    I say this because I’ve been in fortunate enough to have the freedom to work for several companies that had no such hang ups and it was absolute heaven.
    I’m sure you would have walked in and balked/shrieked/fainted at one of our staff meetings, you probably wouldn’t have been able to take anyone seriously, but for us, and our customers it was utopian.

    I had employees that ran the gamut,.. skimpy clothes all the way up to full goth attire, (I’m talking Clive Barker Hellraiser Cynobite) type finery, and while they were good coders before (in their forced “grown up business attire”), they were god-like when they could feel safe to express themselves and their personal idiosyncrasies w/out having to try to hide them all day. Men, women, transgendered, different races, sexual orientations and religions,.. people with all manners of idiosyncrasies all working together. There was a LOT of “socially questionable” banter and yet almost no one ever had an issue with any of it. Largely because everyone was 100% equal and a simple respectful discussion fixed any problems that did arise, but mutual respect was king. That level of “professionalism” and respect was something I’ve never seen in any business before or since.

    Was getting customers to “go with it” a little harder? Yep, but I wasn’t going to hide my people and our results were unquestionable and in the end I find the people who matter let actions and results trump “social norms” and hopefully tabloid talking heads and kneejerk outrage bloggers.

    My point is, you assume giving up things is the way to move forward, whereas I’ve seen that taking in everything is actually a more realistic way to move forward.

    The perfect world where no person ever offends another will never exist. People who try to bring that world about, tilt at windmills, waste time/effort/money/resources that could actually do good in the world, and hurt humanity as a whole. Their only result (and goal in some cases) being to elevate themselves in a narcissistic, masturbatory, martyrdom, exercise.


    The perfect world where each person is so confident in themselves and each other, that nothing anyone says, or wears can affect them is here now. It’s yours you just choose it. It’s in other people that you can seek out. And it’s infinitely easier to get someone to join you in this perfect world than it will ever try to try to coerce, dictate, and impose people out of the other one.

  22. 18 November 2014 00:45

    Awesome. Fabulous. Brilliant. Right on. The last line might have to be carved in bronze in letters a foot high outside every workplace door ever.

    And I’m a geek, I’ve dealt with thousands of geeks, and I never, ever saw any geek wear a shirt like that in a work environment.

    Great work. Thanks for putting this up and adding to the drive towards a more rational world.

  23. ProhJohn permalink
    18 November 2014 05:29

    Am I missing something here? The complaint was that he wore this shirt and made a tasteless comment during a live screening. This is not about what you should wear or say on a normal day in the office.
    Personally I like to dress casually but I always consider the context when choosing clothes. I hate wearing a suit and tie, but there are occasions in my job where I do because it portrays a suitable image and people often judge on appearance rather than performance. In this case I don’t see the shirt as offensive, but it is tasteless.
    I have a bigger problem with the comment, it is simply not acceptable to say that to a worldwide audience, many of whom are children.
    As for what should be done to Matt, nothing at all in my view as he apologised quickly without trying to imply he had done nothing wrong. As for the suggestion ESA fire him, think about what you are saying. You cannot just fire people on a whim, you have to be able to show they have breached their conditions of employment. That principle is something people have fought hard for, the idea that it should be abandoned for something as trivial as this is ridiculous. He wore a tasteless shirt and made a stupid off the cuff comment.

  24. Tom permalink
    18 November 2014 08:01

    I chuckle to wonder whether he made a bet that he could provoke thousands of words by wearing a dumb shirt.

  25. 18 November 2014 16:57

    Reblogged this on Helen Louise Williams.

  26. 18 November 2014 21:30


  27. getYourHeadOutOfYourA$$ permalink
    19 November 2014 03:16

    Gawdy tshirt yes. Sexist no. If it was a male in shorts depicted on the tshirt would the feminists be harping on about it? No. Would men? No. This is a wannabe cause that has been ‘bandwagoned’. The fight for equality has grown an ugly head where anything that could be construed to be sexist gets painted as an affront to all women. Be honest with yourselves, you are not in one bit offended by the shirt. Find a real cause

  28. andywenk permalink
    19 November 2014 03:24

    Thanks for writing this up. You are writing “When grownups go to work, they should dress appropriately for work.” What is appropriate? Who is going to decide that? It depends in which social area you are in. For me, Dr. Taylor wore a shirt he personally likes and what is obviously his style if you look at this Tattoos. These women on the shirt are not naked. They don’t express sexism – in my personal opinion. It’s simply his style and there is nothing to complain about at all. He is just a very successful happy man and showing his personal life at work – maybe celebrating the success of the mission with a crappy t-shirt. We are in a century where everybody is calling for diversity in communities and at work (especially in the field of IT where I come from). Accepting his personal attitude is diversity.

    I would like to know what all his female colleagues say about him personally and if wearing this shirt is showing his “sexism” attitude. And – did anyone of the people complaining about his shirt speak with him personally before they started a shiRtstorm?

    All the best


  29. Big Brother permalink
    19 November 2014 06:24

    I think the solution is a work uniform, same style for everyone regardless of genus or age.
    I imagine that if everybody wear a gray or lightbrown uniform with pants and long sleeves for school and work or anywhere in public, and also hace some kind of cap that cover the hair totally, then nobody could be offended. And we would live happily ever after.

    Of course no lipstick, makeup, beard or personal accessories should be carried as we cannot exclude the possibility that they signal something offending.

    Last but not least. No handbags should be allowed. The fashion industry for handbags is the biggest example of male oppression. Almost every woman are today forced to buy expensive and awful glittering bags as a proof of submission to male power. It is time for change! Burn the handbags! Say no to the oppressive fashion industry owned and controlled by men.

  30. Jon Turner permalink
    19 November 2014 08:58

    What I find interesting is that his female friend who is an artist made the shirt as a gift to him. She was on tv defending him a few days ago.

    • andywenk permalink
      19 November 2014 09:02

      yes Jon Turner – and thats even more ridiculous that all the people accusing Dr. Taylor forget about that fact! But hey – that would erase the basis for any further comments and shirTstorms

  31. 19 November 2014 13:39

    I know a few women who perform burlesque and consider themselves Modern Pin-up models. There’s a whole women run organization and movement of women dressing for themselves in the classic styles of people like Betty Paige.

    I don’t understand how his shirt is sexist. These women CHOOSE to dress this way, they CHOOSE to make themselves up for it and many of them feel great doing it.

    As a guy i find the overall look of pin-up models to be very sexy. I am not rude about it, i appreciate the female form and many of these women find empowerment through it. Remember Pin-up models are traditionally curvy women,

    I see no issue with a shirt like this. Perhaps he is a fan of pin-up models or even that Sailor Jerry style of art-work, most commonly depicting curvaceous women as seen on his shirt? (Considering his current sleeve I don;t think i’m making too much of a jump in logic here.)

    Either way there is nothing overtly offensive about his shirt, no more so than if he had come in wearing a shirt made entirely of Cosmo magazine covers. Or maybe he just thought it was a cool shirt and didn’t give a second thought to it being sexist? Has it occurred to anyone that maybe he just genuinely liked the colors of the shirt and never thought about that people could perceive it as offensive?

    Before reading the article I couldn’t figure out why anyone would have a problem with it. It has no objectionable words or phrases, It’s not like it was one one of those silk screened custom shirts he got at the mall that has some derogatory phrase disparaging a group.

    This guy did something no one else in the history of man-kind has ever done. He landed a vehicle, SUCCESSFULLY, on a comet. I think complaining about the shirt he wore in an interview is nothing more than petty jealousy.

    I’m a feminist and I will fight to the death for an attitude change towards women in society, I think current thinking is archaic and frustratingly ridiculous.

    All I’m saying is this particular “offense” is nothing more than us trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

    If we want to see a change in perspectives we need to pick our battles and I don’t think a shirt some guy at NASA wore during an interview without giving it a second thought is battle worth fighting.

    • Zoe permalink
      19 November 2014 15:11

      “Has it occurred to anyone that maybe he just genuinely liked the colors of the shirt and never thought about that people could perceive it as offensive?”

      Of course he didn’t think it was offensive. He didn’t have to, because he lives in a world where is privilege completely insulates him from having to care about the depictions of women as sexualized objects. It’s never affected his career, it’s never made him feel unsafe, it’s never created a disturbing culture where his physical appearance has had a bearing on his work… until now, anyway.

      “This guy did something no one else in the history of man-kind has ever done. He landed a vehicle, SUCCESSFULLY, on a comet. I think complaining about the shirt he wore in an interview is nothing more than petty jealousy.”

      Jealousy? Sure, I’m jealous that a scientist who did something incredibly notable lives in such a world that he doesn’t have to consider the humanity of 50% of the people around him (hah, hah, not at work, of course: that’s closer to 15-20%).

      • Jon Turner permalink
        19 November 2014 20:29

        I think it was more like his friend made him a shirt and he wore it on TV in honor of her. Everyone is forgetting that detail, that his female artist friend made the shirt as a gift and gave it to him. Granted its not very professional to wear but I think its glaringly obvious he didn’t mean any h arm. In this day and age people are so quick to assume and destroy without taking into account the details. That is what I think is sickening.

  32. apete permalink
    19 November 2014 15:30

    The guy spent years, leading to the historic landing of a washing machine on a comet. When he woke up that morning, don’t you think he had a bit more on his mind than, “Which shirt should I pull out of the closet?” If you really want to see women objectified, minimized, and want to see gaudy clothes… Just punch “Haute couture” into google images. For anyone who criticized a brilliant achievement because they can’t get past the guy’s shirt… Get bent.

  33. Casey permalink
    19 November 2014 19:45

    You women are so focused on something so simple. I realize his shirt was not the best in a professional setting but to lose your cool over the fact that there are women on it? Are you serious? Is something so simple enough to offend you and create a shitstorm?

    He landed a probe on a comet! A comet! A huge step in science and you’re focusing on a shirt? This is why some people see some women as jokes including myself since I am a woman. He did not sexually harrass anyone, didn’t say anything innopropiate toward woman from what I know, he never said women can’t be in the science field. His FEMALE FRIEND made him that shirt and he wore it. You always say women can wear whatever they want and shouldn’t be scrutinized, why are you attacking him for wearing what he wanted of CARTOON women.

    Please go and protest every video game/comic book/cartoon that depicts women like this instead of targeting one person. All you’re doing is bullying someone for what they wear, something you people always fight against, oh but since it’s a man who cares, let’s attack him and make him feel like a horrible human being for wearing a SHIRT. Oh but I forgot women are so frail and delicate that they are always the victims and they can’t fight past adversity or a simple clothing choice. If something like this is really going to stop women from joining the scientific field, then those women can stay out, because someone who is really dedicated to what they want to pursue wouldn’t give a crap what other people said or wore.

    Also I would find it funny if someone wore this to work, yeah it isn’t “work appropriate” but I’m not so sensitive to get offended by it. If anything I’d like to buy one.

    • 21 November 2014 19:57

      No Casey, this is not a simple issue, it is actually very complex. It is not about an innocent T-shirt, nor about dress code or etiquette—it is an issue about the use and abuse of the female image as a sexual object.
      The fact that over-sexualized images of women are everywhere as you mention—in video games, comic books, and cartoons is enough evidence of the huge dimensions of this problem.
      But most importantly, it is not a problem of women being too sensitive or offended, neither about women against men. It is our problem as a society.

      This scientist’s only fault was to wear something that exposes a big truth: sexism and the objectification of the female figure. And because it is everywhere, young women grow up believing that it is normal, that there’s nothing wrong with it and that they should exploit their sexualities in compliance with the society’s standards, that their tits should be bigger, that their asses should be firmer, that their bodies are to be tamed and controlled to please men. Beware: female empowerment and female over-sexualization are not the same.

      What this T-shirt tells in a few images is that:
      a) that the most attractive—and important— aspects of women are, of course, tits and ass.
      b) that women are decorative objects that can be used in a myriad of products—mostly for the delight of the male public
      c) that women are meant to be looked at—as I mentioned above— for the delight of the male public

      This is not about denying human sexuality, but let’s be honest and face the fact that whoever designed the pattern for the T-shirt—along with all others who depict women in an overtly sexual way—did not do it on an spirit of admiring the wonders of the human body; its because of the tits and ass.

      • Jack permalink
        21 November 2014 21:41

        You’re reading way too much into that shirt and imposing meaning that people generally wouldn’t find in it.

        Then again, when you think misogyny is everywhere, you see it everywhere I guess.

  34. Martin S permalink
    20 November 2014 03:30

    I sympathise with a lot of this. But…

    Was wearing this shirt “callous”? That’s language we use to describe murder or rape. He wasn’t cruel or indifferent to suffering. This is getting things out of proportion.

    The “semi-naked women”. This makes it sound like the images are soft porn. It looks to me rather like what a ten-year-old would see in a Marvel comic. And we’re complaining about this while our online lives are saturated in porn and Kim Kardashian’s horrible big arse is everywhere.

    If we want to talk about women in science and serious sexism, then let’s do that. But this seems an unreasonable proxy. We’re really arguing about other stuff, for which this guy shouldn’t be carrying the can.

    We should be allowed to get things wrong sometimes. Meanwhile… landing a spacecraft on a comet?

  35. Ben Goldberg permalink
    20 November 2014 17:12

    I could show you pictures what women dare to wear in the biggest bank of the country every day. Does this make me allowed them to humiliate them in front of millions?

  36. Steven H permalink
    20 November 2014 17:37

    I agree with the argument laid out in the original posting, in as much as the individual showed poor judgment & that it is representative of a larger societal problem. I am bothered by some of the support for the position: “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.” We do not, nor have we ever had the right to take things by force or drive on the wrong side of the road. This kind of misrepresentation is very unnecessary and detracts from the validity of the point being made.

  37. Connie Rounsaville permalink
    21 November 2014 09:28

    Dear Author of this Article-
    You’ve never actually MET a scientist before, have you?

    • 21 November 2014 09:44

      I am a (formerly) federally-funded principal investigator, systems engineer, and scientist. I have spent 20 years working in science, publishing in the peer-reviewed literature, and designing and conducting scientific studies with a variety of colleagues. I am and have been employed to do science by multiple universities and hospital systems.

      All of which you’d know if you had spent even 30 seconds poking around the blog.

  38. 21 November 2014 13:49

    The irony is that the shirt was hand made by a female friend and given as a birthday gift. While I agree, the wearing of this shirt at such an event, that would be broadcast worldwide, was not the best idea, you can hardly claim misogyny. The man simply was clueless about the consequences! How many of us, men and women, have done something, said something or posted something on line without thinking it through?

  39. Windy Wilson permalink
    21 November 2014 14:29

    We have to talk about this shirt, or else we have to acknowledge that NASA is out to lunch and hasn’t had any cutting edge historic accomplishments in a long, long time.

    You know, that shirt isn’t keeping high school girls/ women out of high school calculus. The real issue is effectively training the next generation of scientists and engineers. A friend of mine, a college calculus professor faults the whole math establishment for being hostile to men and women, boys and girls for teaching math as “Okay, hotshot, see if you can figure this out”, which is not how most boys and girls learn well.

    And the days of white shirts with narrow black ties and gray trousers as the uniform for engineers went out with white-sidewall haircuts and Skylab. When I worked in Aerospace only the old guys dressed that way. The young engineers all wore Polo shirts and dockers, the managers wore patterned dress shirts, either abstract or patterned, and the financial guys wore the white shirts and ties. The Assemblers wore jeans and T-shirts.

    • 27 November 2014 18:46

      Mebbe we should just grab each other’s hands, join in a circle and wish that shirt to Mars. That’d give NASA the positive publicity they desperately need. And it would prove that love really conquers anything, like Matt McC said in his recent movie.

  40. 23 November 2014 12:41

    Don’t suit up tho, I am offended by suits. Most of the worst crimes in the last centuries were commited by people in uniforms – the western suit is just one of them. If you come try to sell me something in a suit, I know you try to cheat on me.😛

  41. Steve H permalink
    25 November 2014 01:48

    I blame his wife who gave it to him for a gag birthday gift, the female shirt designer and the lady who owns the clothing line.

  42. 27 November 2014 18:44

    The shirt sure is ugly and I’d never wear it. Maybe this guy should have given it a second thought, or asked someone before showing up on world tv.

  43. Marie Lazarine permalink
    1 December 2014 13:43

    I think that this controversy is one step closer to the control of women’s bodies in public space and a central suggested criterion is “indecency”.
    If wearing a shirt that represents “a provocative woman” becomes an offense sexism what about the right for a woman to walk in the street dressed in a sexy way and this without been insulted or raped ?
    Keep your shirt Mr. scientific and your humor, I’m sure you are a man respectful of women’s rights.

  44. 8 December 2014 02:39

    Thank you for your insights.


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