Thus Spake Zuska
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Geek Gorgeous vs. Sexy Science

Two blogs I recently discovered that I really like:. 

Joolya writes Naked Under My Lab Coat.  Thanks to Dr. Shellie for that link!  Here's a nifty post. 

Via Joolya I found Sexy Science Version 1.0, which brings you "the hottest science currently going on today and the hottest scientists behind that work".  This is a so much more sensible way to break down stereotypes about scientific and technological competence rendering one nerdy and ugly than the ill-begotten Geek Gorgeous calendar. 

The Geek Gorgeous calendar does not represent a positive development for women in technology.  Calendar photos show women provocatively dressed and posed, draped in technological objects.  The calendar's producer, a female software engineer, asks "What is so wrong about intelligent women showing the world that they can be just as sexy and comfortable with their bodies as the bimbos, but hold careers where they are valued for nothing more than their brain power?"  Zuska answers:

  • "Bimbos" are not the standard we should be trying to measure up to
  • Who, exactly, is the audience for this calendar?  Other tech women?  Young girls?  Or adolescent boys? 

Despite her insistence that the calendar does not objectify women, March's model is posed nearly identically to the cover girl on Playboy's "College Girls Spring 2003 edition".  The calendar's producer believes "Geek Gorgeous" shows women proud of who they are.  But presenting technically competent women as sexy bimbos in the manner of familiar male fantasies does not "take the power away from men to view women as one-dimensional sex objects".  It encourages everyone to view technologically competent women as just one more variation on the male sex object.

What's different about the Sexy Science site?  It does not strip the scientists from their context, strip their bodies of their normal everyday clothing, and sexualize the tools of their trade.  You won't find airbrushed boobs bound in ethernet cable here.  Also, you won't find the scientists referred to as "models".  You'll find chemists and engineers (actually pretty heavy on the organic chemists, so either there's a prejudice for chemistry there or all the really cute folks are in chemistry) and detailed descriptions of their work and then pretty normal-looking real-life photos of people, in their labs or at their desks or with their students.  At Sexy Science, the science is as sexy as the scientists.  Which is a whole lot sexier than College Girls Spring 2003 + some blah blah about IT that no one will read because the only people who will buy this calendar are adolescent boys and pervy guys who want to jerk off while looking at it.  

A similarly misbegotten calendar has been produced down under by another IT industry worker who also thinks that advertising IT women as fancy whores, I mean screen goddesses, is the way to recruit the nation's young girls into the IT workforce.  Yo, what is it with IT and the calendars?  Lots of controversy around this one, and an attempted denial of service attack on its website.  The Australian Computer Society had the good sense to withdraw its sponsorship from this calendar when it found out what the photos were going to be like.  Yes, "goddess" Sonia, I so think posing like the inappropriate object of Kevin Spacey's lust in "American Beauty" is a good way to encourage adolescent girls to consider careers in IT.  

Since there are so many more men than women in IT, why not make a Chippendales calendar of IT men?  Wouldn't that be a more sensible way to show adolescent girls that IT is a sexy, glamorous career option and that they ought to check it out?  They will be wanting to meet all those hunky guys in the IT workforce so they'll be clamoring to be let into the IT classrooms.  I just can't imagine giving a young girl a Playboy pinup calendar and having her say "yeah, I wanna go work with HER!"  Unless...could this be the stealth lesbian recruitment campaign?  

Does a Chippendales calendar for a 12-year-old girl seem somehow less wholesome than Geek Gorgeous or Screen Goddess IT?  Do you think the lesbian recruitment idea is ridiculous?  

If you find that ridiculous, may I just point out how frickin' poisonous this whole calendar business really is?  That, while we are trying desperately to break down gender stereotypes that keep girls out of the science, engineering, and IT workforce, producing a calendar that ENSHRINES stereotypes about female beauty standards and being the object of the male gaze is oh-so-counterproductive.  Duh.  Zuska recommends that if you find either of these calendars in anybody's office, you should puke on their shoes.                    

7:14:57 PM    comment [] trackback []

Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position - Workshop

Grad students, postdocs, this was in my email inbox.  Run, do not walk, to file your application!

Dear Female Graduate Students and Postdocs,

Will you be actively searching for a faculty position in the near future?  You may be interested in applying for this upcoming Rice ADVANCE workshop on "Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position", October 22-24 2006 - hosted by the School of Engineering and School of Natural Sciences at Rice.  We are expecting young women from institutions across the nation to apply.  Participants will be selected after applications are reviewed by the Rice ADVANCE Leadership Team and faculty in the Department you designate.  Travel costs will be paid for those selected to attend the workshop. 

More details and the online application can be accessed at this website.  The workshop flyer can be downloaded from the website homepage.  Please note that the application deadline is August 15, 2006.   

Rebecca Richards-Kortun, PhD, Workshop Co-Director

Professor and Chair of Bioengineering, Rice University 

2:22:15 PM    comment [] trackback []

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