Monday, December 6, 2010

Cheerful Science

There's been a bit of discussion in the blogosphere regarding the Science Cheerleaders who performed at the USA Science and Engineering Festival:

This has produced strong opinions both for (e.g. here and here) and against (e.g. here and here). You can peruse links within those references for even more reactions, some of which have some pretty strong language.

My take on it? It depends on who your audience is.

For instance, I personally get really creeped out by comments along the lines of "oooh, she's smart *and* pretty, that's really sexy!" because I'd rather evoke your respect rather than a visceral reaction. My feeling is that women get taken less seriously as scientists when we are judged on their appearance. So if your goal is to reach out to scientists, it doesn't really help.

On the other hand, if your goal is to show young girls that studying science doesn't have to be to the exclusion of all else, then maybe it's not such a bad thing. You don't have to be a white guy in a white lab coat to be a scientist, after all. (How many astronomers own lab
coats, anyway?) Science Cheerleaders prove that.

So what's your take on Science Cheerleaders? Do you like them? Hate them? Would you want to be one?

(Full disclosure: I was one of those girls who never had a chance at being a cheerleader. But in junior high, some of the parents got together and formed Wrestling Cheerleaders and Wrestling Poms, and pretty much opened it to all comers. We cheered and danced at wrestling meets. It was all pretty embarrassing, actually.)