THE CASE OF DR. MATT TAYLOR’S BAD SHIRT
Now that the media furore surrounding the events involving ESA scientist Dr Matt Taylor has died down, I feel it is an appropriate time to throw my two-pence into the pot. This is in no way an attempt to reignite the fire, but consider this my very own postscriptum to a selections of events that troubled me deeply.
For those who don’t know (and who would blame you, for there was very little coverage in the UK), Matt Taylor was involved with, and performed the press briefing on, the Rosetta space mission. What you may know however, is that the Rosetta space mission, after the hard-work of hundreds of people over a number of years, landed a probe on a comet. Now as is probably evident, I know very little in-depth information about the science behind all this—although it fascinates me nonetheless—but what I can understand is that this is a ground-breakingly big deal. On hearing of the project in the recent weeks, my first reaction was simply to admire how far we have come as humans, but others didn’t feel the same.
For many, the issue was simply how little some people have progressed in terms of social and gender-based politics. And why such a criticism? Because of Taylor’s ‘sexist’ shirt which featured scantily clad, 80s-movie style women. See below.
I am not a fashionable person by any means, but my first reaction to seeing the shirt was simply one acknowledging that this man has bad taste in shirts (but what do I know?). Many may deem me ignorant and oblivious to the issue at hand, but frankly: a shirt is a shirt is a shirt. To me, it was no different to any of the horribly garish Topman t-shirts featuring semi-naked women, or likewise the Hollister or Abercrombie shopping bags with raging muscular men plastered all over them.
The critics argue that the offensive shirt is frankly out-dated, showing little respect for women and actively repelling them from the scientific community. Yet for me, what has become clear is that people cannot help but to see things through gender divides. Arguably, Taylor has been bullied in a way that itself dissociates him from the scientific community and his own scientific achievements, even to the extent that he apologised in tears shortly after. And all this for what is essentially a silly, and admittedly ugly, retro bowling shirt.
It is now accepted that men and women are allowed to wear whatever they wish. The claims that women are ‘sluts’ for donning short skirts of low-cut tops, or the criticism in the workplace for women’s fashion choices should be unanimously seen as ridiculous by now. Likewise, a man’s fashion choices, no matter how horribly garish they are, shouldn’t be criticised in a gender-biased way and the individual shouldn’t immediately be deemed sexist or misogynistic because of it.
Ultimately, I suppose my plea is for gender divides to be all but abolished. What I should be writing about here is the accomplishments of a great team of people—yes women and men—who have achieved something truly incredible. Yet, what I find is that I’m having the same old gender-debate that seems to have no progress, only heading further away from equality the more it resurfaces. When Emma Watson made her fantastically progressive speech at the United Nations for the HeForShe campaign, instead of recognising a human achievement in promoting awareness and progression for all people, the news was shrouded in gender arguments which ultimately only help to send us backwards. What the ESA has achieved is phenomenal, Taylor’s taste in shirts is not, granted.
But without the gender-tinted glasses that our hostile and attacking society seems to have, maybe we can break down the notions of gender rather than perpetuating the divides by bullying a man for his cult-flavoured, retro shirt. Why not celebrate our achievements? Let’s forget all this gendered attacking, and break down the gender divides we keep hanging onto. Then, can we not focus on these mind-blowing achievements and rely on that to encourage anyone and everyone to work together, equally, to do something amazing?
(Forgive the sappy, over-optimistic conclusion, but is it too much to try and please everyone?)