Another take on Feminism: Shirtgate

by Brian Schunk

Sports Editor

What have radical feminists been up to lately? Funny you should ask: a few weeks back, they ruined the greatest achievement of a man’s life, bullied him into making a tearful apology on television, and took one small step toward ruining feminism for everyone.

On Nov. 12, 2014, a team of scientists landed a space probe on a comet moving at a speed of over 135,000 miles per hour roughly 300,000,000 miles away from the Earth. This marked a huge success for the Rosetta mission, now over ten years in the making, and the first ever controlled touchdown on a comet in history. Millions tweeted about this mind-blowing feat using the hashtag #cometlanding; however, the reaction to this achievement was not entirely positive.

Instead of marveling at the accomplishment, some decided their time would be better spent ostracizing one of the team’s lead scientists for the shirt he wore during an interview immediately following the comet landing. That scientist was the brilliant astrophysicist Dr. Matt Taylor, and he decided to wear a custom-made shirt given to him by his close female friend, both during the mission and the interview, as a thank you to her.

The problem? His shirt featured several scantily clad comic book women bearing firearms. Gender activists could not stand for this form of expression and eccentricity; they condemned Dr. Taylor, calling him and his shirt sexist and misogynistic. According to his attackers, the shirt objectified women and exacerbated the problem of casual sexism in STEM fields. Atlantic Journalist Rose Eveleth tweeted, “Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me.” An article emerged in the online magazine Verge headlined, “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing.”

Two days after the comet landing, Dr. Taylor’s critics had their victory. At a press conference, Taylor was asked to give a progress report on the mission. Sitting in a plain navy hoodie, he began to cry. In broken speech, he said, “the shirt I wore this week… I made a big mistake and I offended many people, and I’m very sorry about this.” Only the tearful apology he was guilted into making didn’t mark the end of the issue. Social justice warriors continued to demand that he be fired and that the European Space Agency issue a public statement apologizing for the terrible evil committed against women.

Sure, the shirt wasn’t exactly professional, but it was far more tacky than demeaning. Regardless, the only ones apologizing for their actions should be Dr. Taylor’s critics for their crimes against feminism. Simply put, they, as the vocal minority, make a social movement about gender equality unattractive by filling it with hypocrisy, double standards, and good old-fashioned man-hating.

Just imagine the uproar that would have resulted if people had paid all this attention to the clothing of a female scientist, as opposed to what she achieved in her career.  Some went as far as to say that Dr. Taylor deserved the backlash he got, and he should have known what would happened if he chose to wear that article of clothing. He deserved what he got because of the clothing he wore? That’s a mentality I’ve been taught to believe is never appropriate.

Most of all, the outrage of Dr. Taylor’s shirt has contributed to the growing misinterpretation of feminism as a euphemism for man-hating. Increasingly, it seems so-called feminists are far more interested in bashing and shaming men for petty offenses than empowering women and celebrating their achievements. Maybe Dr. Taylor’s critics should have focused on shining some of the spotlight on the female scientists working on the mission, as opposed to overshadowing their work with claims that a shirt could ruin such a great scientific achievement.

Overreactions like this have tarnished the feminist label. By making the feminist movement less attractive and less appealing, radicals are making the goal of gender equality that much more difficult to achieve; thus, they are doing far more harm to women than Dr. Taylor’s shirt ever could.

Categories: Opinion

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