The controversy that almost trumped a historic space landing

Justin Marinelli, Staff Writer

Recently, the Rosetta mission at the European Space Agency made history by landing a spacecraft on a comet. With it came a fantastic opportunity to depict intelligent, talented women in a positive light, such as Kathrin Altwegg, the scientist in charge of analyzing the comet’s molecular composition, and author of 23 research articles and two books on comets and other interplanetary bodies.

The media, with its keen eye for good stories, responded with a wave of news articles and media profiles about Altwegg and the other female scientists on the team … oh wait. That actually did not happen at all. No such articles were written. Altwegg doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page.

So what was everybody talking about instead? The shirt that astrophysicist Matt Taylor had chosen to wear on what was no doubt the happiest day of his life. The shirt in question was one that had been hand-crafted for him by a female friend. It featured attractive women in tight black outfits wielding guns on a bright background. Perhaps a bit questionable in most work environments, but something that wouldn’t be out of place at a party, and I suspect that the attitude at the Rosetta mission on that monumental day brought excitement and happiness that was very akin to that of a good party.

Basically, it was a risqué piece of clothing that you could really only get away with on a special occasion with friends, which is exactly the situation that Taylor was in. Seems defensible, right? Taylor might even have wanted to show that he was thinking of the friend who made him that shirt on a day that meant a lot to him. Sounds like a sweet gesture, really.

The result? Progressive media outlets blasted him, ignoring all of the female scientists who made this difficult 10-year mission a success and claiming that his shirt proved that science was a hostile place for women. I’m counting five failures here: failure of observation, failure of logic, failure to give women the credit they deserve, failure to pass the Bechdel test, and failure to disprove the stereotype that women care more about fashion than science.

The Philae landing could have been used to highlight the results of an amazing team of highly accomplished men and women. Instead, it was used to harass a man about a shirt until he was forced to give a tearful apology in an incident reminiscent of a struggle session.

Congratulations social justice warriors, you made a nerd cry. I hope you’re proud of yourselves, because the rest of us think it’s disgusting that the people who whine most about judgment and oppression just bullied and oppressed a nerd for what he was wearing.

I stand with Taylor against all those who have bullied and harassed him. I stand with him against his tormentors, who lie through their teeth and insist that they are the real victims here. I stand with him because men like him do not deserve to be attacked and shamed in this fashion. I stand with him because I know that the bad guys here are the ones claiming to be for progress while denouncing the very people who bring it to us. 

I stand with Taylor because I don’t want to live in a world in which people make excuses for bullies while blaming the victims. I invite all those who give a damn about the world we are creating for ourselves to join me.

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