Monday, April 11, 2011

AASWomen for April 8, 2011

AAS Committee on the Status of Women
Issue of April 8, 2011
eds. Joan Schmelz, Caroline Simpson, and Michele Montgomery

This week's issues:

1. NASA hosts Science Cheerleaders

2. LGBT Issues in Physics Session at the APS April Meeting on Monday, May 2

3. M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship

4. Job Announcements

5. How to Submit to the AASWomen Newsletter

6. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the AASWomen Newsletter

7. Access to Past Issues of the AASWOMEN Newsletter

1. NASA hosts Science Cheerleaders
From: Lynn Cominsky []

Recently, NASA utilized a group of professional cheerleaders, who are also scientists, engineers and science teachers, to entertain 200 young female students attending a Women in History Month Celebration at the White House. You can read about it here:

I found out about this from a male scientist colleague who works at NASA Goddard and who thought it was very inappropriate. He wanted to know what I thought. I have mixed feeling about the entire thing, as the feminist part of me does not appreciate cheerleader stereotypes (the women cheer while the men perform at sporting events) while the post-feminist part of me appreciates seeing attractive confident women who can break stereotypes of geeky scientists and make science seem cool. So I thought I would ask a sampling of science teachers, staffers and colleagues for their opinions. Some of the responses follow below. Without divulging identities or ages, and based on this admittedly unscientific and uncontrolled sample, it appears to me that the older respondents are more likely to be appalled than those who are somewhat younger. I will continue to collect comments for use in a possible article for STATUS, in the future. If you do not wish to respond publicly in this forum, please feel free to write me privately, and I will redact your identifying information before using any quotes in the future STATUS article.

Comments on NASA Cheerleaders: From a Female Education Faculty member in the East: Just to chime in after reading this....a few thoughts a. I like the fact that the cheerleaders that are being used to represent this are actually STEM area college students, graduate students or working in the STEM field. I think this will be useful to show young ladies that you can be "cool" and "scantily clad to attract the guys" and still be intelligent and interested in the sciences. I believe this needs to be carefully done - but it does help dispel the myth that all science types are "geeks". b. It would be nice if the cheerleaders could not only discuss what their field is but also to discuss the science (and there is some) behind cheering. c. I'm not sure if this will motivate girls to go into science, but if nothing else it will cause alot of people to at least be at or watch an event about science.

From a male E/PO staffer in the West: This seems a little bit horrifying. Cheerleaders epitomize the sorts of stereotypes about women and girls that most of us in science and education have been trying to get beyond. Events like this don't help with that. If it does encourage more young girls to go into science I think that's sad.

From a female E/PO staffer in the West who also performs as a synchronized swimmer: I can see this working for girls between 8 and 12, with same age cheerleaders maybe, but it seems a tiny bit out of place at a higher age. This could be done for young adults but with a little more "class" in their cheerleading (as in more taste, or sophistication) that could work (says the artist/performer in me :-)

From a female science teacher in the Midwest: Personally, I'm appalled. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but when are we going to stop making young women think that they have to dress scantily and look like this to be "cool"? Now we are going to tell young women and girls that they have to look "hot" to be scientists, too? From the viewpoint of healthy body image for young women and respect for women this is a huge step backward in my opinion.

From a second male E/PO staffer in the West: I think they are great! Not as role models for future girl/women scientists but to show that being a scientist doesn't mean one cannot have diversified interests; that being a scientist doesn't mean donning a lab coat and thick glasses, and being stuck behind a computer or microscope all day.

Reply from the first male E/PO staffer in the West: The above point is a fair one. Lots of people have diversified interests, scientists included. So have a program about the diverse interests of people who become scientists. But it doesn't seem very productive to battle one silly stereotype (all scientists wear glasses and lab coats) by reinforcing another one (only women who look like Barbie and can prance around on stage in revealing clothing are worth paying attention to or emulating). I suspect that this is just a ham-fisted way to address the unfortunate fact that many girls lose interest in school (and especially math) when they reach Jr. high, and the thinking is that showing them cheerleader/scientists might make them understand that being smart and being "beautiful" are not exclusive of each other. Fine, but cheerleaders represent a pretty narrow idea of beauty, and one that we should be trying to combat in people of this age, not reinforce. This thinking gets enough reinforcement from the fashion industry, the beer industry, the movie industry and many others, including of course, the professional sports industry.

From a third male E/PO staffer in the West that has a college-aged daughter: Science Cheerleaders was started by a cheerleader. There are young women across this country that like/love/enjoy cheerleading. This will help reach them to let them know that if you choose to be an athlete you can also be intelligent/science-minded. The cheerleaders will do a good job to recruit/inspire like-minded women. There will always be those (especially men) who will only see cheerleading as something that "Barbies" do in order to "prance around," who cannot look past their "revealing clothing" and who think that the only purpose of cheerleading is to "represent a pretty narrow idea of beauty." At best, they are ignorant of what cheerleading is and say these things without thinking about the human beings they are referring to. At worst, they hurt with intent.

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2. LGBT Issues in Physics Session at the APS April Meeting on Monday, May 2
From: WIPHYS, April 1, 2011

Who Should Attend: Anyone interested in issues affecting or resources available for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual, pansexual, etc. physicists

Workshop Description: Currently there is extremely little in the way of resources for LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual, pansexual, etc.) physicists. This meeting will be an open conversation to continue creating these resources.

The session is open to both LGBT+ physicists as well as straight and cisgender people who are interested in helping those who are not. Some topics that will be on the discussion floor:

* Lack of employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression * Lack of data on the LGBT+ physicist demographics * Health insurance policies that cover domestic partners * Health insurance policies that cover transgender related health care * "2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People" - Campus Pride * Making networking resources available so that LGBT+ physicists have a means of communicating with one another

Please bring an open mind to Salon VII at the Hyatt Regency Orange County in Anaheim on May 2, 8-10pm. There is no cost to attend.

If you have any questions: Please e-mail or visit the website.

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3. M. Hildred Blewett Fellowship
From: Rick Fienberg []

To enable women to return to physics research careers after having had to interrupt those careers. The fellowship consists of a one-year award of up to $45,000 (applicants can apply in a subsequent year for one additional year of support). Allowed expenses include dependent care (limited to 50% of the award), salary, travel, equipment, and tuition and fees. Overhead charges by the institution are not allowed. Application deadline is June 3, 2011.

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4. Job Announcements

[The AASWOMEN newsletter has adopted a simplified format for job ads. We will no longer be posting the entire ad, but rather a 1-line description of the position and a web site - Eds.]

Tenure Track Position in Physics at Truman State University

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5. How to Submit

To submit an item to the AASWOMEN newsletter, including replies to topics, send email to .

All material will be posted unless you tell us otherwise, including your email address.

Please remember to replace "_at_" in the e-mail address above.

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6. How to Subscribe or Unsubscribe

To subscribe or unsubscribe to the AASWOMEN newsletter, please fill in the required information at: .

If you experience any problems, please email

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7. Access to Past Issues of AASWOMEN

Past issues of AASWOMEN are available at

Each annual summary includes an index of topics covered.

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