This blog post should have been about the amazing human achievement of landing a space probe on a comet that moves at 40,000 mph and is located hundreds of millions of mils away from earth. Instead, it is about a nasty woman named Rose Eveleth, a woman who got her panties in a wad when Matt Taylor, an astrophysicist who was part of the team that landed Philae on the comet, wore a T-shirt that was made by one of his friends.
In a nutshell: a brilliant scientist wore a T-shirt made by his friend (a woman, for the record) when he was taped on the biggest night of his life. It’s a Hawaiian-themed shirt with ’50s-style cartoons of women in bustiers who are shooting guns. It’s fun and lighthearted, although not exactly professional. But hey, when you land a rocket on a comet, you can wear whatever you damn well please.
Not all see it this way. Science journalist Rose Eveleth tweeted out comments about how the T-shirt makes women unwelcome in STEM and “ruined the comet landing” for her, thus turning the EDS achievement into a Rose-Eveleth pity party. Matt Taylor was forced to make a tearful, blubbering apology, which wrecked the greatest week of his life. (It is worth noting that Eveleth is a science writer precisely because she sucks at doing actual science. In an interview with Scientific American, she said, “It really wasn’t until college when I was studying abroad and doing research that I realized I’m just not a very good scientist. I didn’t really care as much about the data as I did about the stories I could tell about it. “) Feminism doesn’t have to be this way, kids.
Back in 2005, Larry Summers made a comment about women in science in which he opined that women were inherently not as good at science as men are. MIT professor Nancy Hopkins, a preeminent biologist, stormed out of Summers’ remarks in fury. At the time, it felt like I had been kicked in the stomach: it is incredibly crass to tell people who have devoted their lives to doing good science that their actual achievements are less important than Larry Summer’s back-of-the-envelope calculations on women’s inherent abilities.
Rose Eveleth just told Matt Taylor the same thing: his amazing achievement doesn’t matter as much as her twitter feed. It is a pathetic, anti-meritocratic attack on a world-renowned scientist by a mediocre mind who can’t get jack done in a lab. It was wrong when Larry Summers did it, and it was wrong when Rose Eveleth did it.
A few years ago, Mr. Velociprator’s ex-girlfriend (a woman who thinks that being a games journalist makes her a bad-ass STEM professional) said something similar to me. She asked me repeatedly whether or not I thought that my boyfriend’s mother was “intimidating.” When I said no, why would I, this so-called “feminist” replied with a sugary smile, “Because she’s an engineer.”
“I’m an engineer, too,” I replied. She told me it was “different” because Mrs. V had been a rocket scientist. I was then treated to five minutes of this “feminist” in “STEM” who advocates for “women in tech” denigrating my work on the NASA space elevator. This was two years ago, and I still can feel the sucker punch from a woman who had never taken college-level science, let alone spent her formative years in a lab doing nanotechnology.
Feminism is losing because it’s now about mediocrity, not a meritocracy. A meritocracy doesn’t care about Matt Taylor’s ’50s-sci-fi pinup T-shirt; it cares that he landed Philae on a comet. As Nancy Hopkins and many women like myself can attest to, that is the only route forward for women’s equality.