The EU Commission, apparently, does not believe that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
The Internet was all a-twitter Friday with the hashtag #sciencegirlthing. That is the tag line chosen by the commission for its campaign to get girls interested in science. The promotional video at the center of this campaign is what really made a splash -- but not in the way intended. The EU Commission took it down at 5:00 p.m. EST the same day it went up. For now, you can still view it on YouTube (and below):
The video is also embedded within a blog titled "Science -- It's a Girl Thing (Insert Facepalm Here)." In her critique, the biologist Carin Bondar wrote: "The video is getting negative feedback from females worldwide -- with good reason. It's an insult to the XX gender, it follows all of the disgusting stereotypes that many of us are trying to break."
The astronomer Mehgan Gray presented a stronger response in her video. She said the EU Commission video delivers a "very, very bad and very negative message." An off-camera (male) voice suggests that perhaps the original video did work for the target audience, which is not grown-up scientists but girls still in their teens. Dr. Gray admits that she is not in that group.
To test the response of the target audience directly, I drafted two subjects to view the teaser video. In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that (somewhat to my chagrin) the younger teen proclaimed the video "cute." However, she did not find that it sparked a newfound interest in science -- it offers only 53 seconds of entertainment, rather like flipping through a fashion magazine. The second, 16-year-old test subject dismissed the video as "ridiculous," though she thought it could work well for a makeup commercial.
Some more rigorous research might have shown the well-meaning people at the EU Commission that they were on the wrong path. A study by two University of Michigan psychology professors published in March in Social Psychological and Personality Science concluded that feminine stereotypes have a detrimental effect on girls' interest in science and math. A summary of the study published just over a week before the "girl thing" video sums up the problem that erupts when fashion models are presented to girls as models for scientists:
The researchers concluded that we need a "better understanding of feminine STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] figures aimed at motivating young girls." Last year when three girls swept the Google Science Fair the judges said they stood out because of their "intellectual curiosity, their tenaciousness and their ambition to use science to find solutions to big problems." Maybe emphasizing those qualities in girls instead of whether they like fashion and makeup will help boost their STEM confidence. After all, excelling as a scientist, engineer, or mathematician has nothing to do with your lip gloss.
It's very simple, really. If you want to show that science is a field for women as well as men, you have to emphasize mind over makeup.
I believe a video like that would have a better impact, it would give girls true inspiration, and a real example of what it means to be a woman scientist, and all what they can accomplish if only they have the sparkle of science in them.
I thought I would like to contact that girl, and let her know about this EU Commission thing. What do you think?
Yes, the second video is poor, and as I said, the music they used was a really bad choice. I seriously find it hard to believe that the EU Commission is behind all this. The worse part is that they haven't been able to improve this since the first attempt.
This video, made by a student, is not only great but also addresses women in science at the end. Something like this is way more inspiring to start a career in science than the silly videos I have seen so far, which are far from inspiring.
You're most welcome, Kim and Suan. Thank you for tuning in for the update. The second video does have some weaknesses in trying to show science as a fun alternative to office work. (So all the career choices in the world have been reduced to these two.) There is much drudgery on the road to science, though, so this is far from a realistic portrayal. It seemed to be be based on the original video with uts group of girls enjouying themselves in the lab (though this time they left off the heels and lipstick or the boy in the background). But I did like that it flashed on pictures of real women in science at the end.
Yes, Kim, I didn't like the second video at all. Plus the music they chose is horrible. Anything is better than first attempt, that's for sure. Now, I really wonder if there's no one single person on the planet who could make a good, smart video for this topic. It's really hard to believe.
Thanks for the update, Ariella. The first and third are much better than the second one, which I didn't like. At least there has been an improvement since the first video. I still think this could be improved even more.
@Bolingbroke I just found this picture on Weather.com. If you want to know what real women scientists look like at work, here's a picture of some just after the Mars landing was transmitted: They're not exactly glamorous, but they're real.
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