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    The Sexing Up Of Science (I'm Coming Out! And So Can You!)
    By Andrea Kuszewski | November 20th 2010 07:29 PM | 163 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Andrea

    Andrea is a Behavior Therapist and Consultant for children on the autism spectrum, residing in the state of FL; her background is in cognitive

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    A few weeks ago, The Science Cheerleaders grabbed headlines with their appearance at the USA Science and Engineering Festival, where they cheered for citizen science and science literacy, as well as served to provide a new kind of role model for young girls, showing them they can be both cheerleaders AND scientists.

    Following this public appearance, were two very strong reactions. One was overwhelmingly positive. The other was overwhelmingly negative and critical—and a lot of it came from scientists and science bloggers. 

    This is troubling to me.

    But before I really get into my specific angst, I want to mention a few things.

    First, I have met Darlene Cavalier, the original Science Cheerleader, and founder of Sciencecheerleader.com and the co-founder of ScienceForCitizens.net. We had a chance to hang out in Boston in June and chat about citizen science and science communication, among other things, at Humanity + @ Harvard, where we were both speakers. She is an amazing person with a clear vision for science literacy, and a tireless advocate for science communication, one which we should feel very fortunate to have cheering on our side. She has logged in countless hours working with policy makers and educators in order to push for an increase in not only science literacy, but for enthusiasm in science in general.

    You may not like the way she is doing it, by promoting cheerleading as an avenue for science awareness, but get over it. It works.

    Second, I have a confession to make.

    I was a college cheerleader. Yep, that's right. I wore short skirts, and had pom poms and everything. And rumor has it, from time to time, my cleavage was showing as well. And one more thing: I was also a Bacardi Girl, which means I wore skimpy clothing and peddled liquor to frat guys in college bars. Was I a bimbo-slacker student? Hardly. Between the doubled-up semesters of undergraduate research and a therapy internship, I also managed to serve as the Chapter Secretary of Psi Chi (National Honor Society in Psychology) for two terms and graduate Magna Cum Laude.

    So—now the question is, especially for those of you who are regular readers of my column, does this lower my science credibility in light of this new revelation? If so, shame on you. Also, keep reading, because I have a lot to say about this.

    There were a few science bloggers, that I am aware of specifically, who wrote posts in response to the Science Cheerleaders appearing at the USA Science and Engineering Festival, NeuroDojo and Scicurious to name two. The general consensus was: "We know it's really crappy of us to hate this idea and it will make us look like closed-minded bigots, but we really hate this idea and are being closed-minded bigots, but we just can't help it and here's why..." They go on to state why they have problems with women being cheerleaders for science. Dr Zen, from NeuroDojo even goes so far as to say he hates everything cheerleading represents. Sci thinks that women have a hard enough time being treated with respect by men in science, and sexing ourselves up only makes this worse.

    They both have a right to their opinions, and they both make a few good points. However, I think their conclusions suck as a whole. I have a few distinct reasons why I disagree with their opinions, which I will lay out here.

    My first point is this: people generally have the wrong impression about what cheerleading actually entails. A fellow former cheerleader has agreed to "come out" with me in public and make a statement about cheerleading. Go Arikia!!!

    Behold, the lovely and talented Arikia Millikan, community manager at Wired.com, hacker, technophile, and all-around cool chic—well-respected in the tech and blogging community. She was also a cheerleader for 5 years, and had this to say:

    "[People are] missing the point of what a cheerleader is. In sporting events, the cheerleaders are there to support the athletes on the team. They aren't football players themselves, and they have a different athletic skill set. Their job is to rally the crowd to support the football players. They are typically attractive and perform dangerous stunts with the intention of drawing the crowd to the football game, and to show support for the larger institution of the school itself.

    In my opinion, science could use some more cheerleaders: people who may not be doing the science, but still want to draw attention to the rock stars of science. I personally admire and support the campaigns to do this, including Chris Mooney's GQ spread and Darlene Cavalier's Science Cheerleader campaign. When I was an actual cheerleader for five years, sometimes the athletes would say we were annoying or that we would distract them from the game, which sucked, because we were there to support them. Some people could do well to graciously accept that people are making efforts to support them, even if it is in an unconventional way."

    The whole point of having cheerleaders is to generate excitement and support for a cause. Why not for science? The reason the "cheerhaters" give: cheerleading is just selling long hair, large breasts, shapely legs, essentially, their sexuality, in order to lure in admirers.

    Which brings me to my second point, and the more important of the two.

    What is wrong with being both a scientist AND a cheerleader? Or being intelligent AND a sex object? Is there something inherently wrong about being perceived as attractive or sexy? Why does one have to negate the other?

    Scicurious says in her blog post, "I don't know if I want cheerleaders representing women in science this way."

    Well, the thing is, the Science Cheerleaders ARE women in science. Every one of them. They are scientists and engineers, not play-acting. So really, you have a problem with them being authentic. I have a problem with people thinking feminism equals removing sexuality altogether.

    WRONG
    . Feminism is all about equality despite differences.

    Women can be attractive, and that doesn't make them any less competent or intelligent. Feminists should be screaming at the top of their lungs in SUPPORT of this type of thing—strong, intelligent, independent, confident women who are trying to be good role models for young girls—showing them you don't have to give up your womanhood or your femininity in order to be a successful career person. You can be intelligent AND wear makeup and have highlights! Who knew?

    Some arguments I've heard used against my rationale: "You are only making yourself a sex object and this in turn makes it difficult to gain respect from men because no one will take you seriously."  <-- This statement here, is a very big problem for me. Huge.

    Boobquake
    This was my profile picture in support of "Boobquake". Note that I had this picture up for several days, and the world did not end in a flurry of fire, brimstone, or a series of natural disasters. Also, God didn't strike me down.

    Since I'm going for full-disclosure here of my tendency to engage in activities that may be perceived as sexual in nature, I should mention that these types of endeavors and pursuits did not stop in college. In fact, right now, I am one of the administrators in a group on facebook titled "We're Scientists AND We're Sexy!"WSAWS
    A screenshot of the facebook group, "We're scientists AND we're sexy!" or simply, WSAWS.

    Silly, you may say? Well, the over 21,000 group members don't think it's very silly. In fact, I've met some of my closest friends in that group.
    Contrary to what you may be thinking, it isn't a virtual "singles bar for scientists", either.

    What it is—a group of scientists who aren't in denial of their sexuality, or their passion for learning, or their forward-thinking about science. It's a forum where we are allowed to be ourselves, without worrying about censorship from the "science moral and ethics authority panel" who often dictate how we should look, or how we should talk, or what kind of image we "should" be projecting, or what kind of role model we "should" be. We just be ourselves—we talk science, we talk about the difficulty of relationships while pursuing a PhD, we lament the trouble in finding like-minded peers in real life, the battles fought in the lab, we question and discuss social issues—and it is a wonderful, lively, authentic environment in which to interact.
    discussion board
    A sample of some of the current discussions going on in WSAWS.

    But yes, I won't lie, there is a visual aesthetic as well—we have a featured "Sexy Scientist of the Fortnight" who is chosen by crowdsourced votes on posted photos in the group. The chosen scientist is the avatar picture for the group for that fortnight, and as you can see by the screen capture above, there is no nudity required (or allowed) to be voted as "most sexy scientist". I, myself, have been voted one of the "featured scientists" a few times.

    Here are the "winning pictures"—myself with Phil Zimbardo at TED 2010:

    WSAWS pic 2Yep—me and Phil Zimbardo! I was so excited to meet him—giddy like a child.

    And one of just me...
    WSAWS picThe founder of "We're scientists AND we're sexy!" (WSAWS), the brilliant and witty Jojo—a PhD student at Oxford studying Protistology—created the group on one sleepless night in the lab as a joke, trying to see if anyone would join such a group. After one week, there were 147 members. The following month, 522 members. After three months, over 1,000 members, and now that we are three years old, we have almost 22,000 members world-wide. It is a highly multi-cultural group— members from every country, background, sexual orientation—but the common threads that weave us together are science, independent thinking, open-mindedness about the world society, and passion for life. I daresay I am closer friends with the people I've met in WSAWS than I am with anyone in real-life. In fact, it's in a discussion thread in that very group, where I met Darlene Cavalier, the Science Cheerleader.

    So what is the moral of this story? Why do I think sexuality shouldn't be taboo in science, even though there are negative reactions as a result? I'm getting to that right now.

    The Therapist Has Now Entered The Building

    This is where I put on my therapist hat, because as well as being a former cheerleader, Bacardi Girl, and science blogger, I am a Behavior Therapist (and a damn good one—might even have won a few awards several years ago). So...*ahem!*

    Let me frame this in the context of a true story, a situation where I was training a new therapist to work with a young child with Asperger's and OCD. This child had an obsession with peach crayons. Of all the hundreds of colors in the crayola box, the peach crayon was the color extraordinaire. So I asked the newbie therapist what her course of action would be to handle his inappropriate obsession with the peach crayon, given it was interfering with therapy.

    Her answer: Since he is obsessed with the peach crayon, and it is resulting in maladaptive behavior that is unreasonable and interfering with therapeutic goals, we should just remove the peach crayon from the box so it is unavailable. That way, he won't be able to engage in inappropriate behaviors surrounding the crayon, and we can continue on with therapy.

    Wroooong answer. (However, a typical rookie error)

    Removing the crayon from the box (a.k.a removing the object of obsession) is exactly the opposite of what you should do. The peach crayon shouldn't be hidden from view, it should be the new target item. Let me explain.

    Removing the peach crayon is not helping him deal with his unrealistic expectations of the peach crayon, or change his maladaptive behaviors surrounding the peach crayon. By hiding it, he is only suppressing those behaviors because the antecedent to the behavior isn't visible. The urge to engage in those behaviors will reemerge as soon as that crayon reappears. Some day, somehow, in the course of that child's life, he will come into contact with a peach crayon, and all hell will break loose. Not an effective method of therapy.

    Instead, you need to expose the child to that peach crayon more often, and when he engages in those inappropriate behaviors, you teach him to change that behavior, show him what is appropriate, and shape his behavior from there. You force him to deal with the discomfort of changing his maladaptive ways surrounding that peach crayon, because really—life is full of peach crayons, and he'd better learn to deal with the reality of those crayons now, because the world will not stop producing peach crayons just to keep his behavior in check.

    How does this relate to cheerleaders and sexuality and science? In short, the people that have a problem with women displaying their sexuality or scientists showing their fun, flirty side need to just get over it. As humans, we are sexual beings. Just because we may be serious as hell about the science we study, does not mean we gave up our sexuality and traded it in for a "license to practice science" badge.

    Suppressing our sexual nature just because some people engage in maladaptive behaviors and have unrealistic expectations surrounding our sexuality is the exact wrong way to handle this issue. We need to keep on being who we are, sexual beings and all, and make those people deal with the fact that it isn't going away. They are the ones being maladaptive in their thinking, so they are the ones who need to change.

    I am not going to tip-toe around the haters and pretend to be someone I'm not (and neither should you), living an unauthentic life, just because they don't know how to act around the peach crayon. They need to be taught how to act around that peach crayon, because the peach crayon isn't going anywhere. The rehabilitation of the messed-up thinking about human sexuality and feminism begins by coming out of the closet—as human beings, sexual and all.

    One of the Science Cheerleaders that was interviewed in that video clip posted above (please watch it if you haven't already) said this:
    "People say 'Think outside of the box' and I'm like... you can do more than that. You can live outside of the box."
    We should all be living outside the box, especially when it comes to how we view women in science. It's OK to be sexual and be a scientist. There's nothing wrong with that. People who force us to behave in ways contrary to this are only hurting us in the long run. Open your mind. Bust through the stereotypes. And live an authentic life.


    ***Addendum***
    After the initial posting of this article, I have gotten an overwhelming positive response, but especially from the female scientist/engineer/tech community, which makes me... well, pleasantly surprised and unbelievably happy, for lack of any better way to put it. Thank you for all the support! You ladies rock STEM!!!

    Another sci-blogger, Biochembelle, who blogs at LabSpaces, wrote this post last year, which echos my same sentiments regarding females and the pressure to repress your sexuality in the scientific workplace. Three cheers for Biochembelle!!!

    Comments

    "We scientists need evangelists, and I don’t doubt for one second that these women are wonderful evangelists."

    I just wanted to remind people that I wrote that about the Science Cheerleaders, too.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    I know, and I'm sorry if it implies that you were 100% negative. I did mention you made some good points, and linked to your post, but I can only write so much here and keep it concise and on-message. :) Thanks for reading and commenting!
    aidanmaslow
    So jealous of that picture of you and Philip Zimbardo!
    Andrea Kuszewski
    I know... RIGHT?! *\(^.^)/*  <--- That's my cheerleader with pom-poms emoticon.
    Hi Andrea, thanks for the mention. I do agree with you that we SHOULD be allowed to be both scientists and sexy. I would never say that you can't be both, or be both a scientist and cheerleader. My problem is not BEING both of those things. I'm hugely impressed with these women and I didn't intend to give the impression that I wasn't. They are talented and they are incredible athletes.

    So my problem is not whether you can BE both a scientist and sexy. My problem is whether you should use sexy to PROMOTE science in this way.

    The thing is, absolutely we should be allowed to do that without people thinking worse of us or trying to take advantage of our sexuality in the laboratory, or in any other venue. In a perfect world, people WOULD support cheerleading for science for this very reason, that you can be sexy and athletic (and being an athlete of another kind and also a dancer, I'll be the first to agree that you can be both sexy and athletic AND a scientist), and that every group needs fans.

    However. That's in the perfect world. This is not a perfect world. This is a world where people DO often think less of people who are not afraid to display their hotness. It may not be RIGHT of them, but they DO. I don't think that thrusting sexy in people's faces is the best way to change their opinions, and I worry about women in the lab and the way they are treated. Many of us are still fighting every day to not be treated like objects in the lab and in the world at large. And I worry that, in this non perfect world where we are still fighting, using cheerleaders to sell science isn't going to help.

    So I'm all in support of being both sexy and a scientist, I'm just not sure we should USE sexy to get people interested in science (and do 6 year olds really need sexy?). And while their main point is that you CAN be both, there are lots of other ideas they are conveying which I'm not sure are helpful.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Hi Sci. Thanks for commenting!

    I do understand what you are trying to say, and I do agree that it is extraordinarily difficult to be a female in science, be a sexual being, and be treated with respect. I have faced this myself, from FEMALE authority figures even more than men. It's sad the number of women who treat other women this way, although by the response I got today on the web, I'm inclined to think there are far more open-minded women than have the courage to speak out.

    That's part of the reason why I'm glad you wrote your post, because it inspired me to write this one. It's obvious that you are open-minded about sexuality, based on your column, yet you are still feeling the effects of the bristle against open sexuality in general, especially in science. That is exactly the reason why we need to not "keep a lid on sex", but not throw it in people's faces, either—just let it be natural. And frankly, cheerleaders wearing the outfits that they do is what is natural in this society, right now. To have them cheer wearing overcoats would look ridiculous and contrived, and make it look as if they have something to hide or be ashamed of, which they clearly don't.

    With that said, one of the things I contemplated bringing up in this article (but didn't due to length and conciseness), is the idea of using sexuality to "sell science". That Geek Calendar that came out in the UK to support the 'Science Is Vital' campaign is selling sexuality, albeit of a tamer nature, but that's exactly what it was doing. True, the scientists were not nude or in compromising positions, but they were photographed to look appealing and sexually attractive. This, in turn, sold calendars. It got people excited about science. It showed people that sexy, attractive people practice science. It showed people that there is no "stereotype" that should be attributed to scientists. There is nothing wrong with that! I say everyone needs to lighten up about sex and perhaps experiment a little.

    There. I said it.

    (and thanks again for the long thought-out comment. I appreciate it!)
    Gerhard Adam
    This, in turn, sold calendars. It got people excited about science.
    Sorry, but you lost me on this.  Is the point to promote science or sexual experimentation? 

    While I can understand wanting to change some of the perception regarding the image of individuals in science, I can't imagine you really believe that this "sells science".  I seriously doubt that this would increase someone's interest in science at all.  What it could do, is to help someone that's already interested to overcome some of the social difficulties and stereotyping that occurs by others.  As a result, perhaps it can bolster someone's confidence to pursue their interests, but it certainly won't generate an interest where none exists.

    As I've mentioned previously, it may help to eliminate one particular stereotype, but it doesn't help if an alternative stereotype is advanced in its place.  In particular, I'm not clear on why open sexuality has anything to do with anything in this context.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "And frankly, cheerleaders wearing the outfits that they do is what is natural in this society, right now. "

    Natural??? And you are a scientist? Whoo boy.

    Cheerleading in gogo boots, make-up tight shorts and pom poms is "natural"?

    No. It is not.

    It sounds like you're prescribing that women should only wear certain items of clothing in order to avoid trouble.

    Hank
    Science long wanted diversity and when it happened, the immediate response was to want to shun attractive people in science because they were...attractive.  As if that got some kind of leg up in getting through peer review?

    Carl Sagan was soundly derided by almost all of the science community of his day because he was popular yet younger people speak of how they inspired them.   So it goes with popularity in any form - I always thought D Cav's idea was clever and, as you note, whether people regard it as a 'gimmick', there really is not a 'feet on the street' stronger advocate for science outreach anywhere.   If she's not bad to look at, that's okay too.

    Smart people are already sexier and more interesting and funnier than dumb people.    It's time we stop being ashamed of being uber hot also.
    I don't have an issue with the idea that scientists can be sexy/attractive/feminine, what I DO have an issue with is the route taken to deliver that message to kids. The Science Cheerleaders I saw at the Science and Engineering Festival were BARELY covered: tight clothes, boobs popping out everywhere, short skirts, perfectly tanned and toned bodies. Good for them, they are sexy. They are ALSO sending young girls the same message the media bombards them with every day: "You aren't good enough. To be sexy you have to show miles of cleavage, wear lots of makeup, and short skirts." "Oh, and now you'll never be sexy enough to be a scientist." What happened to teaching confidence?? THAT is truly sexy. Those women didn't get PhD's because they looked good (God I hope they didn't,) but because they worked for them. The face of science is already chosen from among the most visually appealing (I know, I work in science communication,) why do we have to take it further and dress it in skimpy clothing? Those women would have been beautiful enough to shake the stereotype without the cheerleader costumes. Try adding some fabric and THEN go out in public to be a role model. Science Cheerleaders - well intentioned, but I'm mostly embarrassed for them.

    Hank
    You make some fine points but isn't doing the opposite?   Instead of telling girls that now they have to work hard and look good which, let's face it, is a silly assertion no one makes about science, they are telling girls they are no longer going to be stereotyped based on how they look and can do anything they want, including science.

    I just don't see it as a negative representation, I see it as knocking down a wall that used to exist based on appearance that made young women 'act' a certain way and become people they were perhaps not.  
    Gerhard Adam
    Personally I'm a bit tired in all the fuss regarding the message sent to girls.  They aren't the only ones affected by this.  It is has been a staple of media to presume that all people with a modicum of intelligence were geeky to varying degrees and usually either clumsy or unattractive.  Even in programs today, it is considered quite normal to show someone of high intelligence as being socially inept or awkward.

    It should be clear that no one is going to be enticed to study physics because of cheerleaders.  No one is going to expend the energy and effort to excel at science simply because there are a few sexy women involved.

    If anything, the entire effort should simply be aimed at demonstrating that (1) there's nothing wrong with being intelligent, (2) it doesn't require an apology and (3) if you're attractive too then that's just an added bonus.  No longer should it be presumed that the "cost" of being intelligent is being unattractive.  Being intelligent or a scientist can also include being attractive, successful, and physically robust.  Let's bury the traditional geek or nerd image and stop apologizing to all the mediocre people that simply want targets to feel better about their own inadequacies.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Hey Andrea, I agree with the gist of your post. Sexiness (and women who are fertile/attractive/sexy etc) can, will, and do attract attention, no matter what they do or how they dress, short of full buqua perhaps.

    Sexiness is fine, as long as those who are the sexy ones are controlling the message being sold by the sexiness and directing the attention it grabs - perfectly valid reason to flaunt it if you've got it. Better those, who embody it personally, go ahead and use "it" to sell whatever THEY want to sell (and science is cool!) rather than allow their (temporary, alas..) flowered-out femaleness be packaged and sold out from underneath them by those less attractive for lesser purpose.

    I think it is a bit unfortunate that one has to hide that they were a cheerleader to be taken seriously in science, yet, it is exactly what I did myself, as I did not to mention, all through my studies, that I had a good run in front of the camera as a professional model, just in case that would lead people to believe I was unable to mentally handle the challenge of science studies. (Frankly, though, I did meet a good number vapid models, so the stereotype has measure of truth).

    I think there is something charming about the cheerleaders cheering for something other than sports, which get lots of attention anyway.

    If I do have an opinion, it is is this: It is not so much that young ladies (and gentlemen) need to see women in science being sexy, it is that they just need to see women articulating science, period. I am less concerned that they have a certain persona or appearance, although, undoubtedly, for visual media, charisma and charm and a measure of attractiveness is pleasing so people will take notice.

    Why do I share that I used to model? I do so because people are intrigued that I had a "glamorous" career, but chose to go into science. I wrestled with the decision to share my former career, but I decided to no longer hide it, and allow that story to be in the whole of who I am, which is why I put a few innocent (meaning, not swimwear) photos up on my website from those days.

    I am proud to say to my teen daughters and other young ladies I interact with that you don't have to shed your clothes or dumb yourself down to get attention. A sense of humor, your intelligence, and wisdom gained by your diligence to your studies and work are what are going to have you stand out in the long run. The cheerleaders Darlene chose embody the very advice I give to my own girls and the ones I have the privilege of introducing to science and engineering at every opportunity.

    BTW, Andrea,
    My 14 year old (daughter) is an Aspie. Early intervention is the best gift to give a child on the spectrum! Thanks for your contribution to the field.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Thanks for the comments, Joanne, and thanks for the support! It can be difficult being pushed and pulled in so many directions as a female—you want to obviously be taken seriously for your intellect, but you don't want to have to deny your femininity, either. I'm glad you were able to find others to relate to as well—for me, that has been the most difficult thing to do, until I became more active on the web. Since then, I've found comrades-a-plenty, albeit all over the world.

    And I'm really happy your daughter had early intervention! You sound like a great person to have as a mom, so she's very lucky. Being a therapist is one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding jobs I've ever had—parents like you make our job a thousand times easier, so thank YOU! :)
    I will see you at #scio11 :)

    vongehr
    Its got nada to do with sexy - it is about cheerleading. We have cheerleaders for science enough, it is called skeptics and science blogs, and it is mostly just as bad in that it repulses a huge amount of the potential audience we should attract. I do not care whether it is sexy or not - I am sexy enough. Bad science journalism and all that gives already a misleading picture of science. Now you want to drive that home by further advertising that science is just another type of Hollywood, another religion, just another team of many, like the green bay packers, with cheerleaders, and we support them not via rational decision but because they are "our boys" (the rapists planting my country's flag, the religion of my parents, the team of the college that was not clever enough to reject me, whatever). Science is not yet religion, but you guys turn it into one. Thanks a bundle.
    Hank
    You hate science bloggers!
    And you are one!
    And you hate irony!

    Please take heart in the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers football team have no cheerleaders and the correlation is unclear on if or how it makes the Steelers better than the Packers, though they are better.   

    That doesn't help USC, the college not clever enough to reject you (ha ha) at all, though.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Heh. That is all.
    maitri
    Ahem, let this Packer fan assure you that we have no cheerleaders (we borrow some exceptionally-clothed and decidedly-not-glamorous young women and men from UW Green Bay on occasion). And when you beat the living crap out of the Vikings, are one of the oldest teams in football and have the superbowl trophy named after your most famous coach, we can start talking better teams. Also, didn't the Steelers have the Steelerettes at one point? Hmmm?

    Nice post, Andrea.

    I understand that people who hate the concept just don't have the experiences you and other women have had in many different worlds, so to speak, or perhaps their experiences there were negative.

    Honestly, I go back and forth on the Science Cheerleaders thing. I'm a scientist and vain, and there's nothing wrong with being both at the same time, so the Cheerleaders are good for rooting out the false dichotomy between sexitude and nerdery. But, still, science is science, and it bothers me when we then have to burden it with the attractiveness of sex, money, power, etc. and not science itself to bring in and retain scientists. It's a feeling of "Who the fuck cares what you look like and where you came from? Just get over yourself and do the goddamned science." And then that circles back to "Well, the Science Cheerleaders then do help cheerleaders and booth-babes get over their perceived 100% Bimbo status; they do help them get over their looks and just do the science."

    Now I'm off to get my nails did before peeps pour in for Thanksgiving.
    Hank
     Also, didn't the Steelers have the Steelerettes at one point? Hmmm?
    Hey, that's some good knowledge.   I can't even count back that far.  That was before I was even born.    

    But does it count if they had to play on a college field so they let some college cheerleaders pretend to be Steelers cheerleaders?   I suppose it does.   

    But one number I can count to is six, which is the Super Bowl wins the Steelers have - when the Packers have that many Super Bowl appearances, much less wins, they can be famous for more than winning the first one and therefore getting a trophy named after the coach, right?  :)

    Oops, I forgot the Packers are also famous for Brett Favre, who plays for Minnesota.   But he'll go in the HoF wearing yellow and green, I suppose, and that's all that counts.
    Clearly this entire discussion is confabulating two issues, one being whether there should be defined partitions between sexiness and professionalism for females (and out of fairness, let's just include men in there as well) and whether it is fair that a lack of partitions can influence perception. Clearly the answer to both is no, but this is extraordinarily subjective. The definition of such partitions will vary from person to person on both sides of the issue. Thus, there is no clear way to define the balance other than by what each individual is comfortable. If your employer demands certain partitions (with such rules known and established BEFORE partitions are challenged,) comply or find a new job. Men and women who decide to modify their professional perception of another based on a differing subjective definition of the sexiness-to-professionalism ratio, should be prepared to be mocked for their conservatism or close-mindedness.

    As I write these specific examples, it is clear to me that finding a consensus is futile and feeling comfortable is key. The message to our young people on this issue should be the same as it is for almost everything in life: Be yourself, consider alternative views, be yourself, find your comfort level and be yourself.

    Oh, and that science is cool.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Thanks for commenting, Noah! And I wanted to click on a little "like" button, but there is no little "like" button for me to click, so.... *groan*.... I'll just go ahead and say, "I really like your comment".

    I agree there is appropriateness to any job situation, and believe me, I wasn't wearing hot pants going to see clients who were young boys, but I did wear skirts, and the families had no problem with this, so why should my supervisor?

    There is no hard and fast rule as to what is "sexual" or "non-sexual", but if we are pushing women (and men) into a position where they feel their identities are being stifled in an unnatural way, this is a bad thing. It isn't right, and it should stop. And in order to make it stop, we need to stop side-stepping the issue, which is why I wrote the article.

    Thanks for the insights! And yes, science is way cool.

    Oh, and "like" to your whole comment.
    vongehr
    By the way, in case you think it is all that emancipatory that cheerleaders "come out", or that it is all that revolutionary: Come on, it is a completely save "look at another item that shows how special I am" after the sexual revolution has gone on many years ago; similar has been done so many times by now (e.g. Isis on SB and worse). If you want to do something emancipatory, daring, "come out" style that would count in my eyes, try how many people in science you get to openly admit that they used or use psychoactive substances, joining a group "We are Scientists AND we are High" on facebook or whatever. I have met so many physicists who shot up heroine, I start to doubt there is anybody in physics who did not go through some period of "experimentation", let alone the huge number of scientists on amphetamines and so on. See how many scientists you get into a stoner league of science. Would it bust stereotypes? Yes! Would it attract about 80 percent of young people to look closer into it and thus into science. Damn right it would. Do I see anybody daring of you daring cheerleaders? Chicken shit.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Well, Sascha.... I have actually never gotten high on illegal drugs. Ever. So I guess, in a way, that busts your stereotype right there.

    But great idea! If you start the "We're Scientists AND We're High!" group and it takes off, be sure to let me know and I'll write a feature article about it. :)
    vongehr
    Don't see how your confirmation of the stereotype of undaring and lame cheerleaders is busting anything about say physicists in high energy particle theory.

    (BTW: It was you who wrote here about "illegal", not me.)
    Sascha, you're missing the point big time. Interest precludes education. I want as many people being interested in science as possible so that instead of recoiling when they hear anything about science mentioned, and forming a mental block to learning about it because they have a perception that science is something really hard that only nerds do, they explore it further and build the critical facilities necessary to distinguish between sound scientific reasoning and lobbyist bullshit in situations where it really matters.

    Also, Dr. Isis is brilliant, you leave her alone.

    vongehr
    No, I did not miss that point, and if you read my first argument again, you may discover that I just do not agree, and this is because there are a lot of other points that I did not miss.
    "because they have a perception that science is something really hard"
    Yes, that is what critical thinking is, it is hard and uncomfortable at times, and any shortcut is pseudoscience. This is more generally about "making science interesting". Science is interesting, and a teacher who understands what she is teaching gets that across just by presenting good science, while all those lame teachers who do not understand their own field properly think they need to spice it up artificially. It backfires, as the pupils come to hate not only the teacher, but the subject. And those who were attracted by the spice, they go for the spice, they may jerk of to cheerleaders on the net, they do not all of a sudden read science. There is stuff that science can do and there is stuff that pseudoscience and religion and all that can do. Cheerleading they can all do. What can science do that others cannot? For example, we can get people safely high and teach about anthropology/psychology/philosophy/fundamental physics doing so. You in? Surface scratching establishment chick Isis in? I don't think so.
    Your comments seem to be a product of your white male privilege, and probably of your drug use as well. You can just go ahead and continue to live in a bubble where everyone has access to quality education and sexual attraction never influences anyone to do things they otherwise wouldn't, including learn. I will be over here, being myself, and being an advocate for the often-neglected fields of science and technology.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    "Like"
    Like Like Like

    Nice article Andrea, <3 <3 <3.

    Wanting to be sexy is a gigantic motivator for everyone with a normal sex drive. Wanting to be sexy has motivated me to do some of my best and most creative work. My discovery that ammonia oxidizing bacteria living on the external skin is an important pathway to set the basal NO/NOx level in eukaryotes derived from trying to impress a woman I was dating by answering a question she casually asked; why did her horse roll in the dirt in March. Unfortunately, she was insufficiently impressed, but following scientific discoveries to their logical conclusion often takes longer than is appreciated because the path goes where no one has been before. But that is ok, I am working on something even bigger for someone who should be able to understand it ;)

    Trying to impose your own views of what is appropriate on other people is about trying to thwart their progress, block pathways they might take and restrict the conceptual space that they can access, and confine them to a box imposed from without. It is trying to bring others down to the lowest common denominator that you can understand. Doing this too women is the height of misogyny. Doing this to scientists is the height of anti-science. Doing this to gays is the height of homophobia. Doing this to other cultures is the height of xenophobia.

    Gerhard Adam
    My discovery that ammonia oxidizing bacteria living on the external skin is an important pathway to set the basal NO/NOx level in eukaryotes derived from trying to impress a woman...
    If you're claiming that such a casual question is what got you interested in science which you steadily pursued for years, culminating in your PhD and resulting in your discovery, then you might have a point.  If you were already doing this before you met this woman, then it's irrelevant.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    He makes everything about NO so it should not be a surprise it was a catalyst for romance also.
    No Hank, only things that actually are connected to NO physiology, which romance does happen to be.

    It is NO that activates sGC and makes the cGMP that Sildenafil potentiates by inhibiting PDE5. In females it peaks around the time of ovulation and in rats induces lordosis. Or as the first line in this review paper says:

    “Nitric oxide (NO) plays a crucial role in reproduction at every level in the organism.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10559838

    and I would add "and orgasm too" ;)

    I was already doing science, having been a scientist from childhood. The casual question got me interested in finding the answer and explanation for the casual question, and the extremely important implications of the explanation of that question became obvious to my already prepared mind (which chance favors ;). One does not need a PhD to be a scientist or to do science.

    My background is in chemical engineering, so I knew about soil chemistry (important in understanding which bacteria metabolize ammonia in the soil and to what). I knew about there being urea in sweat which hydrolyzes to ammonia (from playing high school football). I knew about ammonia against the skin causing diaper rash (from having children in diapers). I keep aware of current events in science so I knew about nitric oxide being the “molecule of the year” (Science 1992). I knew that nothing in biology makes sense except in terms of evolution. For horses to evolve the behavior to roll in the dirt in March, before insects come out, there must be important physiology behind it. There is. The basal NO/NOx level is set by these bacteria, and the basal NO/NOx level is one of the most important aspects of the regulation of physiology.

    I have steadily pursued this idea for over 10 years now, and my US patent on using these bacteria as a topical treatment just issued. I have made steady progress in preparing the scientific community to understand the importance of this. They are not quite there yet. They will be soon.

    I raised this as an anecdote supporting Andrea's idea which I fully agree with. There is nothing non-sexy about being a scientist, except to people who can't be scientists or who can't recognize the importance of thinking like a scientist. Of course people who can't do or understand something will try to denigrate it as non-sexy, as non-important. This is exactly what Andrea was talking about in her post on creativity in science. When the gatekeepers of what is fashionable in science don't understand it, the truly creative scientists keep plugging away at it.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    D Whitlock, I agree that sex can play an important part in motivating people, hence you said above that...
    My discovery that ammonia oxidizing bacteria living on the external skin is an important pathway to set the basal NO/NOx level in eukaryotes derived from trying to impress a woman I was dating by answering a question she casually asked; why did her horse roll in the dirt in March.

    For horses to evolve the behavior to roll in the dirt in March, before iinsects come out, there must be important physiology behind it. There is. The basal NO/NOx level is set by these bacteria, and the basal NO/NOx level is one of the most important aspects of the regulation of physiology.
    However, can you explain why the horses roll in March please? What physiology is the basal NO/NOx regulating in the horses?


    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Helen, everything that NO regulates is affected by the basal NO level.

    NO is a signaling molecule, it is generated at a site, diffuses a distance and then activates a NO sensor. Every NO sensor only “senses” the sum of NO from every source, including the basal NO level. Changes in either the signal generated NO, or the basal NO level affect the output of the signaling pathway with no threshold.

    The no threshold aspect of basal NO levels affecting NO signaling is extremely important. There is no threshold because the pathway is already in the “active range”, that is NO is already actively controlling the pathway, so a change in the NO level affects the NO signaling with no threshold.

    So more NO from my bacteria lowers the threshold for vasodilatation mediated by NO that produces the physiological effect potentiated by Sildenafil. It is neurogenic NO that produces the effect in the first place. With my bacteria it starts sooner, happens faster and lasts longer. The same is true for every NO effect. Some are quite important, such as mitochondria biogenesis.

    The point about the horses is that the presence of bacteria on their skin is so important that they have evolved behaviors to reinoculate their skin when they don't have enough. Low NO causes the skin to itch by disinhibiting mast cells making them more sensitive, compelling the behavior of horses to roll in the dirt. It is low NO in the skin that causes the intense itching of primary biliary cirrhosis, end stage kidney failure, cocaine abuse and of Morgellons.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks D Whitlock for the explanation of why horses roll in March. Very interesting subject, do you have any recommended links to related papers researching this correlation please?
    It is low NO in the skin that causes the intense itching of primary biliary cirrhosis, end stage kidney failure, cocaine abuse and of Morgellons.
    Are patients with these problems also advised to roll in the dirt or is there an alternative method?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    You can try my blog

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/

    Or this write-up on how the bacteria are connected to the Hygiene Hypothesis

    http://books.google.com/books?id=a3mwmXzpsjkC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA103#v=onepage...

    We aren't selling the stuff yet.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks :)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    ...white male privilege...
    As soon as that phrase was written, you lost all credibility with me.
    Mundus vult decipi
    As soon as that phrase was written, you lost all credibility with me.

    As soon as that phrase was written, you lost all credibility with me. It seems we are at an impasse.

    Hank
    Knowing Gerhard, I would gather that he didn't want to have a sexual politics motivation inferred because it clouds the discussion and makes it a personalty discussion rather than a topic.   Now, granted, the topic can't be addressed without discussing sexual politics in culture, but placing it on an individual you don't know was not evidence-based.
    Gerhard Adam
    Good catch, Hank.  The point is simply if that the best you can come up with is "white male privilege", then you're speaking from bias.  While it is clearly one of the categories that Hank has indicated are free targets in today's society, it does nothing to advance your point if you're going to resort to such stereotypes.  When the point of the article is to try and break stereotypes, it's a cheap shot to invoke them simply to advance your own agenda.

    People's relative advantages will always be a sore point for many and in many cases, good arguments can be made as to why there needs to be societal change.  However, when you arbitrarily stereotype a race and gender as being privileged, you indicate that you aren't looking to level the playing field, but only want advantage to shift to your favored side.
    Mundus vult decipi
    That's not the best I can come up with. I was trolling him on purpose because his comments were aggressive and annoying. I am well aware of the implications of that statement, one of which is that people who lack critical facility and social awareness don't know how to respond to it. So, good job Hank and Gerhard.

    Sorry Gerhard, basing credibility on anything other than facts and logic is completely non-scientific. That you want to deny credibility to someone simply because they are willing to entertain different social views is about your inability to understand those views and your unwillingness to try and understand them.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, but that's simply not true.  No one is talking about being able to assess someone's abilities and then arrive at a conclusion, but rather whether someone's appearance is enough to raise the question.  I think I've been pretty clear that do persist in a prejudice AFTER you've had a chance to assess someone's capabilities is clearly unwarranted bias.  However, anyone that tells me that they don't pre-judge based on appearance is telling fairy tales. 

    I don't care what social views someone entertains, and it certainly isn't incumbent on me to understand them or to accept them.  My only responsibility on this is to be open enough to assess such an individual on what they are supposed to represent (i.e. physicist, doctor, etc.).  However, as I've just stated, initial impressions will make a difference and I don't believe there is anyone so open and unbiased that they are essentially a tabula rasa with respect to first impressions.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Sorry Gerhard, the ineffectual spin you are trying to apply now is only digging your hole deeper. You said:

    “As soon as that phrase was written, you lost all credibility with me.”

    indicating that whatever the person says next has no credibility to you. If that isn't

    “talking about being able to assess someone's abilities and then arrive at a conclusion”

    then what is it? Projecting your faults onto everyone else by saying that everyone prejudges is the tu quoque fallacy.

    “I think I've been pretty clear that [to] persist in a prejudice AFTER you've had a chance to assess someone's capabilities is clearly unwarranted bias.”

    Oh, but prejudice BEFORE you've had a chance to assess someone's capabilities is somehow different? Huh? Do you actually mean that? Or do you mean that prejudice based on ignorance is warranted but only prejudice after you know the prejudice is unfounded is unwarranted?

    “I don't care what social views someone entertains, and it certainly isn't incumbent on me to understand them or to accept them.”

    But you feel entitled to use those social views (which you don't feel the need to bother to understand) to make initial impressions about people you don't know. In case you don't know (and you seemingly don't know), that is the essence of privilege. To privilege your own world view in the complete absence of data, which without knowing what the other world view even is, is exactly what you are doing.

    You are right, nearly everyone who meets someone they don't understand has feelings of unease and even of xenophobia. I have blogged about the physiology behind it.

    http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/2010/03/physiology-behind-xenophobia.html

    Those are feelings. Feelings are morally neutral. Only actions have a moral value. The scientist (and the non-bigot) considers those feelings and looks at the facts and logic behind them, notices that there aren't any, and tries to acquire data to fill in the hole in his/her conceptualization of reality. The bigot (and non-scientist) simply asserts (as you have):

    “I don't care what social views someone entertains, and it certainly isn't incumbent on me to understand them or to accept them.”

    and so perpetuates their inability to understand the person they have prejudged, and so perpetuates their feelings of xenophobia and their feelings of privilege.

    I am not saying this to be harsh, but to let you know where it seems like you are coming from. I don't know you from Adam, so I don't know if you are trolling or not, but if you aren't trolling, you should examine your feelings of privilege.

    Gerhard Adam
    Oh, but prejudice BEFORE you've had a chance to assess someone's capabilities is somehow different?
    Of course it's different and it occurs regularly.  We all do it (which is why stereotypes exist in the first place), however if one persists in taking action after evidence is in, then it is unwarranted bias. 

    After all, isn't that precisely the point in dressing differently or to affect certain styles?  The objective is to make a statement and to garner a reaction.  In other words, the people that adopt such styles (especially those that are controversial) are counting on that reaction.  I know of few people that are completely arbitrary in their styles.  They are all chosen to convey a certain image and/or message.  In many cases, people revel in being able to create a contradiction that plays off those stereotypes (which is precisely the point in the cheerleaders for science).  Obviously at an intellectual level no one believes that an intelligent scientist can't be attractive.  However, when it is couched within the context of cheerleading, everyone recognizes the contradiction which is precisely what they are counting on.
    But you feel entitled to use those social views (which you don't feel the need to bother to understand) to make initial impressions about people you don't know.
    Of course I'm entitled to such views, however if I were to act on them against contrary evidence then I would be bigoted.  I'm not sure why you feel that I'm obligated to understand other people's motivations or beliefs.  If I were to act in a negative manner towards them, then you might have a basis for complaint, but not every belief or motive is worthy of investigation.  In some cases I can accept another individual's views, while in others I may need to tolerate them.  However, there is no instance of where I am obliged to consider them legitimate.

    Obviously stereotypes that are too broadly considered become bigotry when one acts on those prejudices.  If I see a long haired individual with a beard, I might make an assumption about what this individual represents depending on the context in which I encounter them (i.e. an encounter at a scientific conference is going to be different than an encounter in an alley) .  On the other hand, if they're also wearing the Hell's Angels colors, you better believe I will have a specific bias associated with it.  They are making the presentation.  Note that it has little to do with the hair and beard, but instead additional information formulated the initial impression.

    It doesn't matter whether we're talking about radical Islam, or a stripper.  Initial impressions carry with them the initial message that individual is sending within that context.  To suggest that you're going to a strip club and are open-minded enough to speculate that each of those girls might be a PhD candidate is ludicrous.  If you discover that they are, then your initial impression can be adjusted accordingly. 

    The impression that an individual makes is part of the process of forming trust between individuals and our prejudices are intended to help us assess how trusting we should be during an initial encounter.  They can certainly be wrong and they can also mislead (which is why serial killers tend to be good a manipulating that trust to find victims). 

    However, if you're telling me that everyone you meet is met with a completely neutral feeling and you wait for all the evidence to be in before you judge an individual. .... I'm sorry, but I don't believe you.



    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    However, as I've just stated, initial impressions will make a difference and I don't believe there is anyone so open and unbiased that they are essentially a tabula rasa with respect to first impressions.
    Sorry, Gerhard, but one doesn't need to be a blank slate, to not have prejudice
    A good session or ten in an Ashram has a decent enough effect that will change perceptions long enough to make one realise what BS most people believe about appearances, and allow for surprises. Once past the appearance prejudice, and accepting universal difference, there's no going back  :)
    My Guru told a young girl who believed herself 'to be an ugly cow' to go to the field behind the Ashram, and sit in the field and meditate on the question, 'Which is the ugly cow?'
    3 days later he was told she was still sat in the field, grinning like the proverbial cheshire cat, so he sent for her
    She came and sat in front of him, and he asked, 'Can you tell me which is the ugly cow?'
    'Oh no, Master, they are all so beautiful, but so different' she said
    'Then can you see yourself without prejudice, now?' he asked, 'or do you still think you are an ugly cow'
    'Don't be silly', she said, 'you know there's no such thing'
    There was much laughter

    Aitch




    Gerhard Adam
    Aitch, I'm not sure what the point of your story was, but it certainly didn't involve prejudice.  One can't "pre-judge" oneself.  I can certainly appreciate the issue of self-esteem or beliefs, but how does this translate into an instance of prejudice?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Maybe I am missing something here, but it seems to me Gerhard is perfectly entitled to have his own criteria for what will or will not damage someone's credibility with him. I too will lose faith in a conversation when I detect a political agenda or other ulterior motive. These might become apparent through the use of certain catch phrases or talking points or by appeal to particular authorities that one finds disreputable. Will we sometimes make mistakes by not giving everyone the benefit of the doubt? Sure. But time is precious. Time spent in one conversation is time not spent in another. It behooves us to spent our time wisely. We have only a finite allotment. (It is called using your best judgment.)

    Steve, I am not saying that Gerhard is not entitled to use his own arbitrary, capricious and whimsical fantasy criteria for judging someone, just that when he does so he is not being a scientist, is exhibiting privilege, is not living in the reality based community and is being a bigot and an ass. If that is how he wants to be perceived, that is his choice to make.

    There is no law against being a bigot and an ass, and no law against not having a good grip on reality. I tend to prefer the science that comes from people who can separate their feelings from their conceptualization of reality because that science tends to be more reliable and there is less bias to filter out.

    Why Gerhard wants to project a non-scientific approach to things on a science blog is not something that I understand. I guess he is trying to project to us that he really isn't a scientist but is a bigot and an ass? Is that it? I don't think so, I think he wants to “frame” the dialog so that his “privilege” trumps his being an ass, and so that the way he is acting is perceived to be “cool”. That is a very delicate balance to try and make. I don't think it works.

    Gerhard Adam
    Of course you must be correct.  After all, it's not like you would make a judgment about someone without all the facts being available.
    Mundus vult decipi
    socrates
    Sorry, D, you lost me on "Why Gerhard wants to project a non-scientific approach to things on a science blog...". Is that really what Gerhard wants to do? I'm afraid, when someone resorts to a straw man attack, they lose their credibility with ME - scientific or not [wink]
    Citizen Philosopher / Science Tutor
    socrates
    P.S Let's make a distinction between judging a person (good person/bad person) and judging someone's credibility (listen to them/don't listen to them). It is definitely part of good science (and good inquiry of any kind), to weigh the reliability of the source when deciding whether to take it seriously.
    Citizen Philosopher / Science Tutor
    Aitch
    The point of the story was to show just how far prejudice affects people. I spoke at some length with the girl in the story, and she had only become so disillusioned about her appearance because of other people's comments. Hence had become prejudicial to herself However, my point really was addressing your 'I don't believe there is anyone so open and unbiased that they are essentially a tabula rasa with respect to first impressions' with 'but one doesn't need to be a blank slate, to not have prejudice'....the story merely followed as an illustration of why I say so....personal experience again, which you've tripped over with me before
    Self esteem and prejudice are, IMO, intrinsically linked, and again, I take issue with you about prejudging oneself. 
    If the effect of others is so strong as to make a young girl feel so badly, then she is/was prejudging herself before giving others a chance to judge her themselves. I think she realised, by explanation, that she was using it as a perverse form of self protection from others slights, basing it on the notion that 'no-one can hurt me as much as I hurt myself'
    Having been bullied when I was younger due to my early [late teen] baldness, I can vouch for that...and know of people I've spoken to, who were driven almost to suicide because of the taunts they received about their appearance
    There's far more to notions of appearance, whether first impressions or continual,  than merely 'sexing things up'....as it goes to the issue of 'what am I worth?', or often 'what am I good for?'
    We all make mistakes, sometimes about ourselves, some, like prejudice, are harder to overcome

    Aitch

    Gerhard Adam
    Aitch, I'm not disputing your point about the story, nor your personal experience.  I don't believe the word "prejudice" is appropriate in this context, but then I may just be prejudiced (although the proper word should be "biased") about it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Well, it was you who introduced it, followed by, ' However, anyone that tells me that they don't pre-judge based on appearance is telling fairy tales', - and  I don't btw, which was my original point....  later followed by the bit I quoted/commented to
    So maybe I was prompted by your fairy tale analogy bias...

    Aitch



    No, mate. She mis-read what you said. Which was quite predictable really as she just sees science as a commodity to be marketed with free gift vouchers, club points and juvenile leg shows. She won't understand what you were saying if you spell it out a million times. You must realize, this is not a misguided attempt at rehabilitating science but is just promoting a theory of women's politics.
     
    Yes I know the thread is more than a year old but it seems to have come to life again.






     
    Well... actually I hate cheerleading, it seems like a sexist approach to sport, and high schools, and colleges... where the boys are the heros and the girls, well just sideline cheerers. But then, I'm English. We don't do cheerleading :) And yet, I enjoyed this post because it brings to the fore that science is important -- important enough to shout about. It is sad to me that science is so sidelined that all those who do it are considered nerds or geeks. So yeah, shout it out: we are scientists, and we are sexy! And boys too. Don't make this just a girl thing.

    Love to get into conversation sometime with you and some of your community. I am passionate about changing corporate culture... moving away from the macho-command-control model to a more holistic, loving, maybe even sexy (!) way of being. I mean, srsly, let's all get a little more human.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    By the way—just to show those of you who are still ignorant as to the legit nature of cheerleading, take a look at this video of the 2010 NCA National Cheer Competition. Keep in mind, these are college athletes. Observe the awesome (also note that college cheerleading is co-ed, and the guys are just as talented as the girls):

    So yeah, they are awesome gymnasts, but that doesn't make me want to be a scientist :-/ And there are other ways of being sexy too. Look, essentially I agree with you, we don't need a separation between sexy (fully human) and scientist. One can be both. I'm not sure that pushing the cheerleading thing so hard will achieve the goals you seek. It may, I don't know, but cheerleading is only one form of promotion (and personally I find it decidedly unsexy, clever yes, spectacular, sometimes, but not sexy). There are other ways to promote and attract. And (thank goodness!) there are many other ways to be sexy.

    Anyway, I like the way you tempt people out of their comfort zones. This is controversial, if nothing else, and causes many of us to sit up and say... "you what?" And that's always a good thing.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Wow, that's a fantastic video, I really enjoyed watching it. I have no problem with cheerleaders at all and probably would have enjoyed being one, it just wasn't an option in England when I was a teenager. I used to play la Crosse, which is like rugby for women (with sticks) and the cheerleaders were the few hardy parents who used to bother to come and watch, mainly in the rain, I don't think mine ever came and I played dozens of matches. I think men in kilts look great, so my ideal would be kilted male cheerleaders for science. Are there any out there that want to come out too?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Aitch

    Courtesy: http://www.xmarksthescot.com/forum/f98/my-cheerleaders-tilted-kilt-36471/

    Well, they're close to being male!  ;-)

    Aitch
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    No Henry, they're not at all close to being male! These are real men in kilts, not quite cheer leading though http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWa_lHc4grY&feature=related
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Aitch
    They are too, they're just missing the 'fe' bit....

    Yours look as though they are 'ironed up' for the job   LOL

    Isn't it amazing, since the phrase' Sex sells' was coined, it has been given universal application, so why should Science miss out?

    I just find it sad that women have felt a need to suppress sexuality, to be thought of as Scientists, or even to have sharp minds, whilst men have no such imposition on them

    Great topic, though  ;-)

    Aitch
    Gerhard Adam
    I just find it sad that women have felt a need to suppress sexuality, to
    be thought of as Scientists, or even to have sharp minds, whilst men
    have no such imposition on them.

    Why do you say that?  Do you really believe that when you look at a picture of a young male model you immediately think; scientist?  How about when you see a male athlete?

    Stereotypes abound in our society for both sexes, and it is hardly a one-sided phenomenon.  Part of the reason some stereotypes are so prevalent is because they are quite often true.  How do you view people of different races?  What do you think when you see piercings and tattoos? 

    Obviously nothing in an individual's appearance is an indicator of their minds, nor their capabilities.  However, it is naive to think that people aren't also making choices to intentionally provoke reactions.  If I'm a millionaire but dress like a homeless person, then I shouldn't be shocked if people treat me in that manner.

    If the point is that scientists are merely human and subject to the same variation of attractiveness as others, then that is no big surprise.  However, if someone wants to be taken seriously and be listened to, then it isn't wise (for either sex) to be sexually distracting.  That doesn't mean that people need to be cloistered or wearing shapeless robes, but don't dress in a manner to be provocative and then complain that you are.

    Brian May (the guitarist for Queen) just finished his PhD in Astrophysics.  Does anyone really believe that that achievement isn't going to be greeted with some skepticism until he proves himself?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    'If the point is that scientists are merely human and subject to the same variation of attractiveness as others, then that is no big surprise'.  However, if someone wants to be taken seriously and be listened to, then it isn't wise (for either sex) to be sexually distracting.  That doesn't mean that people need to be cloistered or wearing shapeless robes, but don't dress in a manner to be provocative and then complain that you are.
    Gerhard, in the general community there is probably a lot more societal pressure on women than men, through the media and societal accepted norms, to appear to be sexually attractive. Yet in the scientific community there is a lot more pressure on women than men to not appear sexually attractive and distracting, as you have just said yourself here.

    This dilemma puts women scientists in a Catch 22 situation, they want to be sexually attractive, 'normal' women like most women in society, spending time and money on their appearance, hairdressing, makeup, clothes, dancing, even cheer leading in their spare time etc but they also want to be able to be scientists and still be taken seriously as scientists. I think that Andrea is asking scientists and society to recognize this dilemma and allow women scientists more room to be both scientists and attractive sexy women and cheerleaders for this cause.

    Of course you can take this one step further. A lot of women find men in kilts very sexy, like me. If there was suddenly a new fashion in society for men to buy and wear kilts, say they look good and also help to improve a man's attractiveness, health and fertility or something. Men would naturally start to wear kilts at home and even to work. Would it be fair of me to accuse them of being sexually provocative just because I find these men suddenly very attractive in the work place? Should it take any scientific credibility away from men scientists in kilts that they are wearing a kilt, even though they know that most women find them very sexy and provocative? I don't think so.

    Above you say 'don't dress in a manner to be provocative and then complain that you are'. Well, naturally, if the men in kilts were belittled or ridiculed or not taken seriously or even worse groped by women for wearing kilts
    , then I think they would be entitled to complain, don't you? If the only men in society who couldn't wear kilts to work were scientists, only trousers and white coats for example, then it is natural that suddenly science would not be a very attractive field of work for some young, fashionable, impressionable, peer conscious, male science students. OK there would still be unfashionable science nerds working in Science who would still be happy in their nerdiness as always, and they would dominate Science as usual, is that what you want? Keep science for nerds and only nerds.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Helen, my experience has been that women tend to be the most sensitive and critical of other women.  While I'm certain that there are enough men that can be troublesome, I've found that it's the words that leave your mouth that make the most significant impression.

    There are numerous incidences where individuals are not taken seriously or have their credibility compromised by their personal appearance choices.  How would you feel if your surgeon came in wearing a tank top with tattoos and piercings all over his/her body?  While we can certainly argue that those trappings aren't indicative of their intelligence or skill, I want to meet the person that claims they wouldn't have a certain reaction to that.

    One of the problems that I've seen is that often people that are mediocre find all kinds of excuses for why they aren't taken seriously, instead of recognizing that it might simply be due to the fact that they aren't very good at their jobs.  Almost everyone has had difficulty in overcoming some prejudice or another (including just simply personality conflicts with superiors).  It's not fair, but it's not a conspiracy either.

    Sexual attractiveness is a difficult business because it sends a clear message by which the opposite sex is intended to respond and it creates a conflict if that isn't the message you want sent.  However, I would also argue that most women behave in exactly the same way as they accuse men of behaving.  As I mentioned in another post, if you saw a male model with no shirt sporting tight abs, I don't 'believe you would take seriously any claim he might have for being a physicist.  I also suspect you wouldn't initially think much of his mental prowess if he was a male stripper or dancer.  If you got to know the individual, then it might be different, but first impressions are first impressions and I don't believe that women are any less subject to stereotypical judgments than men are.

    In fact, I would argue that women are much more likely to be critical of each other regarding their sexuality than men are amongst themselves.  It's not much different than listening to women go on about what masculinity means and then proceeding to tell men what constitutes masculine behavior.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Sorry Gerhard, I don't agree with you. To argue against my analogy of men scientists looking sexy and provocative in kilts under their white coats in the workplace and them objecting to being groped or accused of being provocative and not being taken seriously, you come up with an even more extreme example of :-
    How would you feel if your surgeon came in wearing a tank top with tattoos and piercings all over his/her body?  While we can certainly argue that those trappings aren't indicative of their intelligence or skill, I want to meet the person that claims they wouldn't have a
    certain reaction to that.

    Well, I'm that person and I don't think its a fair comparison. I don't really care if the surgeon is wearing a kilt under his/her surgeon's gear, mask and hat or even if they have tattoos and piercings, makeup or false boobs, as long as he/she is good at their job and hygienic, but maybe I'm unusual. I would be much more concerned that the anaesthetist might have a drug problem, as apparently this might be quite common from what Sascha was saying elsewhere. Then you say :-
    In fact, I would argue that women are much more likely to be critical of each other regarding their sexuality than men are amongst themselves. It's not much different than listening to women go on about what masculinity means and then proceeding to tell men what constitutes masculine behavior.
    Where is the scientific evidence for women scientists being guilty of doing that? The opposite seems to be happening in this blog. Or are you just having a go at all women? If you are then I think that you are making unfounded claims and entering dangerous, unscientific territory where if you are not careful you could even be accused of misogyny though I am not doing that :)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Where is the scientific evidence for women scientists being guilty of doing that?
    Perhaps you're right that I shouldn't point to women scientists specifically  or even women in general, but it certainly does exist.
    http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/20/why-we-need-to-reimagine-masculinity.html
    http://skeptifem.blogspot.com/2010/11/masculinity-its-made-of-double-think.html
    As patriarchy self destructs and transforms men into irresponsible weaklings and mama's boys, masculinity has lost its aggression as a worthy opponent of the feminist revolution.
    http://www.nufeminism.com/home.php?id=127
    http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/2006/03/20/the-cult-of-masculinity/

    You can certainly argue that none of this is conclusive regarding women's attitudes, but the point is that women are no more exempt from such generalizations than men are.  
    I don't really care if the surgeon is wearing a kilt under his/her surgeon's gear, mask and hat or even if they have tattoos and piercings, makeup or false boobs, as long as he/she is good at their job and hygienic, but maybe I'm unusual.
    I don't think I disagreed with you, but quite frankly, I don't believe that you wouldn't have a certain reaction upon first meeting such a surgeon as I described.  The whole point is that you don't know whether they're good at their job.  If you already possess that knowledge and then judge by appearance then you're truly just being biased, which is a different problem.

    However, I don't believe that all things being equal, that people given a choice wouldn't choose someone that fits their internal image over someone that doesn't.  (Note I said ALL things being equal, so I don't mean that poor misunderstood genius that no one wants to give money to because he's got a bone sticking through his nose).

    The reason I used that example, was not to be more extreme but to remove it from the realm of sexual provocation.  Since the point is that men have one perception of a woman's appearance and women have their own regarding men, this was the one impression that most people could relate to regardless of gender.

    Your point about groping is irrelevant since that is simply inappropriate regardless of the context.  In other words, whether a woman/man is attractive or not, groping is not acceptable in the workplace under any circumstances (so science represents nothing special here).

    I guess what I'm missing in all this, is that I don't see how a scientist's appearance affects their research, their data, or their publication record.  It's a pretty safe bet to suggest that few people would recognize most scientists if they tripped over them.  So I'm trying to figure out whether this is actually an issue, or just another argument about a "glass ceiling".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I guess what I'm missing in all this, is that I don't see how a scientist's appearance affects their research, their data, or their publication record.  It's a pretty safe bet to suggest that few people would recognize most scientists if they tripped over them.  So I'm trying to figure out whether this is actually an issue, or just another argument about a "glass ceiling".
    I totally agree Gerhard, I also don't see how a scientist's appearance affects their research and their personal reputation. If they want to be a cheerleader, male stripper, kilt model, dominatrix, or belly dancer in their spare time or to promote a cause, or even under their lab coat, what does it matter as long as they are a good scientist? I haven't seen anyone arguing about a glass ceiling here but this blog is getting bigger than Ben Hur!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
    I'd do that.  If there is a Science Calendar for Men and anyone is foolishness enough to allow someone my age to be in it, I'd sport a kilt.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I think you would look great in a kilt Hank, have you any photos?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
    I don't own a kilt but my son does.   I am unsure if it is okay to post a pic of him but he can gripe later - so imagine him, except older, and that is me.   I don't have a belly so I can't pass for Scottish, but I have been known to headbutt people and then kick them when they are on the ground - why doesn't that propensity in people of Scottish descent show up in genomes?

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Your son looks great in his kilt, is it a Campbell Clan tartan? I've just  found this Sydney Men's Guilty Kilts fashion show where they occasionally dance, which is the nearest I can find to a my imaginary Men's Kilted Cheer Leaders for Science. I prefer the traditional tartan kilts but maybe I'm getting old fashioned in my old age, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqxwQJM8-sA&feature=fvw
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
    Yep.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well another good thing that's come out of this is that I now know what and where to buy the men in my life who seem to have everything except a kilt, for Xmas.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Cheerleading is an intense sport! People don't realize just how much athleticism actually goes into it. Plus rhythm, creativity, strength, balance, and you must engage the crowd... all done at lightning speed. Someone should blog about the physics of cheerleading, because tumbling (while I did it for years) has always been one of those mysteries of physics I wish someone would write a paper about. :)

    The kilt idea? GENIUS. I hope some guys bite on this one!
    rholley
    I remember reading somewhere that college cheerleaders were often less protected by group insurance than the atheletes, but were equally vulnerable to nasty accidents requiring expensive treatment.

    As for physics of cheerleading, at the time of the 2004 Athens* Olympics, I was helping a physics student with his Lagrangians, which I was mugging up myself at home.  She-who-must-be-obeyed and I were watching the gymnastics, when she asked me “is this anything to do with your mechanics?”

    *Question: in which year were the Olympics held about half-way between Athens and Rome?
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Hi Andrea,

    Good article. Like Tobias, I'm coming from a different culture (Australia in my case) where cheerleading is not very common (apart from Rugby League - but that's another whole story that most women would not be too impressed with anyway!). So I can't really understand why anyone would want to do it in the name of sport or science. This doesn't affect your argument though, just my personal opinion.

    I agree that everyone should be able to celebrate their sexuality, despite their career parth, and science should certainly not be an exception. We definitely want to break down the 'nerd/geek barrier" I think (which is why I kinda hate those terms - I grew up with them as insults, and frankly I never wanted to become a geek or nerd, though aparently I have...). So showing the normal range of people is good for that. Normal here includes those who like to 'cheerlead' (is that the right word?)

    What I'm not sure about (perhaps again from the culture difference here) is whether something like cheerleading, which is ostensibly about the crowd, is going to attract people to play the actual game? In other words, how are science cheerleaders going to make actual science cool? Isn't it just another bunch of attractive women being attractive? Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you (spoken like a true male). Ie, it matters not what their profession is, when they are playing cheerleaders, they are just that, cheerleaders.

    But, in the end, you have me on the living authentically bit - if it really is part of ones makeup/personality to do things like cheerleading, then science shouldn't stop them. Its just the connection b/w cheerleading and science that's unclear.

    Of course, coming from a non-cheerleading country, I don't expect my argument to hold much water.

    A well written, engaging article. Was quite tough to concentrate on the main argument though as I kept getting a b0ner. Is that wrong?

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Does it feel wrong, Doug? Only YOU can answer that question....
    rychardemanne
    Most people are average; not much they can do about it. The media preys on this by evoking a sense of envy towards anybody who is not average plus a sense of self-righteousness that nature loves mediocrity and abhors extremes.

    Hence, intelligent people should be ugly, attractive people should be stupid, the rich should be loveless, the poor should be noble, athletes need rehab, comedians need counselling... the list is endless. The list is also false; the product of the mediocre mind that sees the reversion to the mean as a natural law.... without even knowing what it means.

    Can we have a Sexy Scientists calendar for 2011?

    I love the chaos - it's more interesting than the alternatives.
    Huh. These "cheerleaders" ain't promoting science anyhow: they only promote, with their own example, that it's cool to wear less clothes and more makeup.

    If they're supposed to be a "role model" for young girls then I'm very sorry: the only thing girls will learn from such role model is to show up their legs and stupidly cry aloud "SCIENCE!!!".

    They however can easily attract BOYS into science, by associating science with other cool stuff like busted tits. For girls, their message is: "To be a scientist, the only thing you have to do (and should!!!) is to dance around stupidly and be sexy". And if you happen to be not as much sexy as these girls, then you shouldn't do science, hehehe.

    And finally, there is first time I hear about the stereotype "scientist = not sexy" these girls are fighting with. C'mon what you are talking about? Scientists are supposed to be sexy just by using white lab coats!
    So this show is not of any usefulness, but can very well have a bad effect by representing female scientists that way.

    rholley
    I do not see anything incompatible between science and cheerleading, although I do find the self-promotion a bit over the top.

    As for Sascha, he is now living in a country in which cheerleading is used as a weapon.  However, he is in for a shock.  If he has not discovered this already, he will soon learn that Women Rule the World.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Love it. This relates, in an odd way, to a thread over at Andy Revkin's DotEarth, focusing on how global warming researchers are losing the hearts and minds of the public (who, despite the evidence, grow ever more skeptical of global warming). The deal is this: Science exists in the world along with big business, Lady Gaga, mass media, and pro sports. All of these players, and many more, are much better than scientists at moving hearts and minds with words and images. It's called PR and advertising. If science wants to succeed with the public -- roughly, to capture attention and influence action -- scientists are going to have to loosen up and learn to communicate.

    Hank
    Heck, you are preaching to the choir here.   Communication - as long as it doesn't devolve into framing and spin, which is what got climate researchers into trouble whereas high energy physicists did not have these issues when people were concerned about the LHC - is the whole reason we exist.

    But for it to work, climate scientists have to shake the reputation of being activists fighting against Exxon and BP and get back to being trusted guides for the public on science issues.  That means no more gray literature and working groups that issue statements without enough evidence.
    Andrea Kuszewski
    This is the best comment I've read all day. Thanks, Tom!
    The difficulty with being a scientist is that to be able think scientifically in a certain field, you need to understand the science in that field. You need to know the data and how the data fits together. There are few of us who do understand science very broadly ;). The comments on global warming illustrate that very well. The AGW deniers either don't understand the science, and/or are lying, first to themselves and then to the rest of us.

    That climate scientists are losing the “hearts and minds” of the public is not a surprise. Scientists are not good at disinformation campaigns. They can't be. The first rule of being a scientist is to not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool. (Feynman). The first rule of being a good liar is to believe the lies you are putting forth. The second rule is to tell people what they want to hear.

    To the extent that science is perceived as a “contest” with “two sides”, only one of which can “win” is unfortunate. To the extent that human scientists bring their desire to “win” and to “beat” their human scientist “opponents” and use means other than facts and logic to assert their positions they pervert the course of science and cease doing science. To the extent that funding agencies foster this type of behavior they damage the acquisition of scientific knowledge.

    If you don't understand the science in a field, you can't do science in that field, or even think scientifically in that field. You can be a cheerleader for science in that field. But if you want to be a scientist, you can't just pick a side based on how you feel, you have to side with good science.

    If you are a scientist, then in a field you don't understand you can't “default” to non-scientific thinking. You can't pick a side based on your economic or political interests and still consider yourself a scientist because you aren't.

    All communication is two-way. The person speaking the message has to understand it, and the person receiving the message has to understand it. A failure to communicate can't be blamed on only one of the parties. The anti-science crowd is good at what they do. Humans have been practicing lying to each other since the dawn of time. Looking at the world scientifically is a very recent innovation.

    Andrea isn't suggesting substituting doing cheerleading for doing science. That is a nonsensical strawperson. What Andrea is suggesting is that scientists in one field can be cheerleaders for other scientists in other fields. That is when you can't do science in a particular field because you don't know the field well enough, you can still encourage the scientists who are working in that field.

    Science is an enterprise that all scientists share. There is no shortage of science that needs to be done, and won't be for millennia. There should be no competition over who does the science. Why is there so much “competition” in science? Because it is done by humans and humans are competitive. Because the funding agencies have tried to foster competition as a “divide and conquer” strategy.

    The physics community has been able to put together large projects because physics is pretty simple (compared to biology) so there can be consensus on what needs to be done next. There was consensus that genomes needed to be sequenced. Many have been, and the projected utility of those genomes was vastly oversold. Cures have not become obvious once the genomes were sequenced. In fact the genomes have raised many more questions than have been answered. Common disorders have inscrutably complex genetics.

    Those complexities are inscrutable only because people who understand them are not working on them. Right now, no one understands them. The only way to get people to understand them is by encouragement.

    Gerhard Adam
    The difficulty with being a scientist is that to be able think scientifically in a certain field, you need to understand the science in that field.
    I have to disagree.  Scientific thinking doesn't require expertise in any particular field, but rather it requires an ability to examine the data and determine whether the evidence supports a particular assertion (or hypothesis or theory).  Admittedly, there may be serious obstacles to a non-technical person in understanding all the data, but often this is also due to results being extrapolated beyond what the data can actually support.

    This is a very common problem when results or possibilities are hyped well beyond where the science is.  This is exacerbated by the media and those scientists that like to operate on the fringes.  I've heard all the arguments about the need to be "creative", but let's be clear that creativity doesn't translate into science until evidence actually exists for any proposed idea.

    Certainly science isn't about picking sides until scientists formulate that way.  It should be clear that the problem with AGW isn't the science, but the extension into policy for which the scientists are uniformly unqualified.  As a result, those that oppose a policy position have attacked the science as being exploited beyond what the data actually says. 
    What Andrea is suggesting is that scientists in one field can be cheerleaders for other scientists in other fields. That is when you can't do science in a particular field because you don't know the field well enough, you can still encourage the scientists who are working in that field.
    I don't know what that's supposed to mean.  Are you suggesting that science isn't progressing because scientists are discouraged (rhetorical question)?  Of course not, because science doesn't need cheerleaders any more than any other occupation does. 
    There should be no competition over who does the science. Why is there so much “competition” in science?
    Because someone else's money is involved.  Let's be clear that every argument about research, acceptance, and peer review is steeped in the impact it has on obtaining funds.  Beyond that, no one would be concerned about such competition.  In addition, it is a false argument to suggest that anyone labeling themselves as a "scientist" (regardless of credentials) is automatically qualified to perform science.  There are plenty of scientific snake-oil salesmen out there too.
    Those complexities are inscrutable only because people who understand them are not working on them. Right now, no one understands them. The only way to get people to understand them is by encouragement.
    What's the basis for this statement?  Are biologists discouraged from exploring the genome?  The answer is still funding and, as you stated, a promise of results that was oversold. 

    One common myth that is detrimental to science is that its reason for existing is to solve the problems of human society.  That is simply incorrect.  Science is about exploration and that's it.  Whatever other value you want to assign to it, will affect how it is practiced.  As a result too much time is spent on making promises that clearly can't be kept to advance an agenda that is too close to policy and too far from science.

    To understand genetics requires that you study genetics.  You cannot expect to acquire such an understanding if your primary motivation is to translate every nuance into a practical medical solution.  This leads to premature conclusions and actions that affect the public long before there is sufficient understanding to successfully utilize the knowledge.

    It is also important to differentiate what constitutes science.  I'm continuously amazed at some of the papers being published that are a restatement of the obvious, or seem agenda-laden.   Do we really need more studies to demonstrate that smoking is hazardous to one's health?  Of course, such studies are necessary if a scientist views it as their mission to eradicate smoking.  

    I do realize that scientists are human and have their own opinions, but it should be equally clear that when their personal opinion enters, then they are no longer practicing science and will not be taken any more seriously than anyone else. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hfarmer
    I identify with much of what you write here.  Science has allot of double standards in it when it comes to women.   On one hand we can look up to Richard Feynman who was known to frequent topless bars....or we can know that many titans of physics were womanizers...but a woman in science can't be sexual.  
    I post regularly on a website called hung angels under the name BrendaQG and I have worked as a web cam model, and I'm taking pole dancing classes.  I wonder how the physics comunity would feel about someone who, during the kind of times we are in now, worked in a topless bar, to make ends meet.  Would it seem quirky or would I have the scarlet letter?   I think we both know the answer. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    In the days of the Mercury astronauts, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. Star Trek only intensified this desire. Alas, because I was short, and *ick* female, I had no chance in chaos to follow that dream. By the time women were admitted to the astronaut corps, I was still too short, and hadn't continued in a science program. I never learned routines fast enough to get on the drill or cheerleader teams, and, as with Brownies/Girl Scouts, we didn't have to money for the clothes, equipment, travel, you name it. This is before Title IX.

    I remember reading an interview with SF/F author Marion ZImmer Bradley wherein she said "women don't deserve to be feminists, because they're all wearing makeup, using blow-dryers, and wearing long skirts". I wasn't wearing more than lipstick at the time, my long skirts were full enough to run in, and I knew more men than women using blow-dryers at the time. I looked at that statement and wondered what had set her off on those particular items, and what else she might have said that was cut.

    I'm not sure, without a detailed study, about how women scientist cheerleaders might be regarded, re: their professional life/capability. I know many belly dancers who are round, but relatively fit, and whether they might be deemed "sex objects" is not something I can say, either, but most of them are quite feminist. Not all belly dancers do the flashy cabaret/American restaurant style, and many larger women are found in the "Tribal" style, where more skin is covered than revealed.

    Certainly, science as a career choice for young women needs promotion and support--especially starting with math! I gave up on pursuing a pharmacy career because I was a year behind in the math needed, and knew I had no funding for a 5th year. If I'd only known in 8th grade that I'd need the highest level math class, that might have ended differently.

    Please show some evidence that feminists want to suppress womens' sexuality. You seem to be totally confused about what feminism is! I suggest you study it. Do you even appreciate the battles feminists fought for you? How has Sci or anyone suggested women scientists should suppress their sexuality? Of course they should not. The truth about feminism is the exact opposite of this.

    The science cheerleaders website badmouths feminists as "hating hot chicks" right on the front page. How can you justify teaching young girls to disrespect feminists?

    Newflash- shaking your booty and waving pom poms is not every woman's definition of sexual expression. It's just embarrassing. Stick to cheering for the football team, please.

    "The rehabilitation of the messed-up thinking about human sexuality and feminism begins by coming out of the closet—as human beings, sexual and all. "

    Huh? I've been a sexual creature and a feminist all my life. Please stop putting something down that you appear to know absolutely nothing about.

    It seems you are mixing up sexual exploitation, sexual stereotypes (which are limiting, not liberating) and sexuality. Big differences!

    It is heartbreaking that any woman would equate bopping around and waving pom poms in revealing outfits at a family event with expressing her sexuality. It's media-driven artificiality you are supporting, not sexual expression.

    Sorry you are completely ignorant about feminism, slandering the very people who fought for your freedoms, and swallowing the false stereotypes about them hook, line and sinker.

    This is a tragedy for women. It's especially sad because young girls are faced with pressures to be sexy at every turn.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Sorry you are completely ignorant about feminism, slandering the very people who fought for your freedoms

    You mean like the freedom to be a cheerleader or the freedom to dress in a feminine manner without fear of persecution?
    One last comment- this whole thing isn't about sexual expression, it's about the use of womens' sexuality for *another* purpose.

    And since you like Tom's comment so much, I will look forward to the promotion of women shaking their tits and asses for global warming. There's probably a Fb page already:(

    My friend Zuska wrote a critique of this piece over here on Scientopia, which is apparently where Isabel got drawn into this discussion. I'll repost my response here:

    "Zuska!! Haha I love your hairy-legged feminist self.

    Anyway, the point of mine that you quoted without quoting was not that cheerleaders should be role models for science or young girls (though there’s no reason why they shouldn’t), it was to draw an analogy between what cheerleaders are for football and what non-scientists who support science and use their social currency to draw people into science are for science. I also gave Chris Mooney as an example. He’s not a hot chick in short shorts, but I find his Science Rockstars campaign akin to Darlene’s in way. I know I didn’t do the best job of articulating this point (my coworker was pestering the shit out of me while I was writing it), and can see how it would be easy to get caught up on the first part though.

    Also, Isabel, you can suck it. If I want to shake my ass for global warming, I will."

    Actually I was part of the discussion at Sci's where most of my comments are. And I can 'suck it'?

    Nice. This is your complete response to my comments. What a role model you are.

    Hey nice tits 'Arika'. Can't wait to see you shake 'em, along with your undoubtedly hot booty in little kids faces for global warming.

    Some people have very weird ideas about 'sexual expression' is all I can say.

    I can't help wondering what the response would be to men shaking their dicks in kids faces "for a good cause".

    I never said anything about kids, or being a role model for them, or sexual expression. I was a cheerleader, and a scientist. Now I'm a person who facilitates scientific communication on the internet. I don't know what it is that you do besides complain and put down women for embracing their bodies, but I don't really want to know.

    Hank
    I am happy I got to read this on Scientopia, so the exchange had some value. 
    Scene: Friday lab meeting
    PI: “Jane, what results do you have to present this week?”
    Jane: “Goooooooooo SCIENCE! ”
    PI: “WTF?”
    Jane: “e to the x dy dx! e to the x dy! cosine secant tangent sine! 3.14159!”
    PI: “WTFingF?”
    That's funny stuff. the author there clearly disagrees but disagrees in such a way I am also inclined to agree, even though I agreed with Andi here. That's a sign of nuance in the discussion.
    You need to watch the video you're defending again. Now imagine the male equivalent.

    And now you are lying, I never said anything negative about women embracing their bodies. You are the one that seems to be looking for external approval.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Isabel: Those are actually my tits that are visible in the photo posted in the article, so "Thank you" for the compliment.
    I'm fat, scarred, and physically disabled. I'm also a scientist. Luckily, no one ever had to tell me that it was okay for me to be a scientist, because we all know that scientists are supposed to be ugly, like I am. This campaign is really awesome though. I appreciate the additional pressure that I will feel when women in STEM are supposed to be twice as good as the men, make the coffee AND be super-hot.

    Someone up thread said that this is about letting girls know that they won't be stereotyped based on how they look. That's bullshit and you all know it. This is about letting girls know that if they are compliant with contemporary beauty standards, they won't be stereotyped.

    I wonder why no one is concerned whether the sexuality of ugly people like me is being stifled as apparently is a disaster for attractive people.

    Gerhard Adam
    After reading many of the comments, it seems that the data is in on this topic. 

    Results seem to support the notion that, while this discussion created a large number of comments regarding sexuality, and the role/effect on women, there was little or no science being discussed.  So regardless of what anyone thinks of cheerleaders (which I don't understand why this has anything to do with anything), it seems clear that it has done nothing to promote the discussion of science for men or women.

    How does any of this help a woman interested in pursuing a career in physics or biology?  How does any of this generate interest in science?

    Sorry, but I find the self-indulgence a bit over the top, and any woman that's so concerned about whether she's "hot" or not is certainly not in a position to be discussing science.  The sad reality is that the primary difference between men and women on this topic is that men don't care how they look.  That doesn't mean that men are total neanderthals, but it does mean that most men don't let their looks or appearance define who they are (which doesn't mean ALL men either).

    Why is it that every time women want to express their sexuality, it always plays into men's stereotypes and does little more than tell other women how inadequate they are.  Virtually every woman's magazine is dedicated to promoting that idea that women are helpless to be their own people and must listen to the advice of everyone else to be considered "hot".

    Women complain about having to "dumb down" to get a man, but let's be honest.  They aren't trying to get the scientist-type.  They want the football jock that would be intimidated by their intelligence (how's that for a stereotype).  So women are doing exactly the same thing they've always accused men of.

    At the end of the day it comes down to being comfortable in your own skin, and women need to get over the concept that everything requires some external or societal approval.  Every woman that I've ever known that was strong, was also intelligent enough to recognize that these little discussions about sexuality were irrelevant.  If you want to wait for someone to give you rights or recognition, then you clearly aren't mature enough to handle them.  If you behave and recognize that these rights are yours by birth, then you don't need my approval.




    Mundus vult decipi
    [[[[Women complain about having to "dumb down" to get a man, but let's be honest. They aren't trying to get the scientist-type. They want the football jock that would be intimidated by their intelligence (how's that for a stereotype). So women are doing exactly the same thing they've always accused men of.]]]]]

    Well i think that encapsulates it right there. Kids don't want to be geeks, basically viewed as alienated, isolated, socially awkward from the other kids. They want to be cool, to hang with other cool kids, to be accepted and let's face it, science is for nerds and geeks (translation: kids who are above average in intelligence [aka "teacher's pets"] and who are more or less socially isolated). So why would any kid let alone a girl go into science unless they were already nerds/geeks while growing up? Yes, smart heterosexual girls want to "dumb down" and look "hot" to attract the alpha males, the guys that are the most popular, the most attractive, the most socially accepted, the most charismatic just like nearly all heterosexual guys (including the science geek guys) want to be with the most "hot" girls. And unfortunately, compared to the other fields such as business or politics, the rest of society regards science people as frumpy, geeky, socially awkward, having no real knowledge/power except what's wrapped inside their skulls. Being a feminist and in science, I applaud the cheerleaders for science. It's important to connect with the rest of society, not just relegate ourselves in our own little fields of science. Of course, they should do some scientific experients to show their knowledge but i don't think they're doing any real harm to what essentially is regarded by many as a dull field to begin with.

    [[[[Women complain about having to "dumb down" to get a man, but let's be honest. They aren't trying to get the scientist-type. They want the football jock that would be intimidated by their intelligence (how's that for a stereotype). So women are doing exactly the same thing they've always accused men of.]]]]]

    Well i think that encapsulates it right there. Kids don't want to be geeks, basically viewed as alienated, isolated, socially awkward from the other kids. They want to be cool, to hang with other cool kids, to be accepted and let's face it, science is for nerds and geeks (translation: kids who are above average in intelligence [aka "teacher's pets"] and who are more or less socially isolated). So why would any kid let alone a girl go into science unless they were already nerds/geeks while growing up? Yes, smart heterosexual girls want to "dumb down" and look "hot" to attract the alpha males, the guys that are the most popular, the most attractive, the most socially accepted, the most charismatic just like nearly all heterosexual guys (including the science geek guys) want to be with the most "hot" girls. And unfortunately, compared to the other fields such as business or politics, the rest of society regards science people as frumpy, geeky, socially awkward, having no real knowledge/power except what's wrapped inside their skulls. Being a feminist and in science, I applaud the cheerleaders for science. It's important to connect with the rest of society, not just relegate ourselves in our own little fields of science. Of course, they should do some scientific experients to show their knowledge but i don't think they're doing any real harm to what essentially is regarded by many as a dull field to begin with.

    Gerhard Adam
    Yes, smart heterosexual girls want to "dumb down" and look "hot" to attract the alpha males, the guys that are the most popular, the most attractive, the most socially accepted, the most charismatic just like nearly all heterosexual guys (including the science geek guys) want to be with the most "hot" girls.
    ... and this helps how?

    I can appreciate all the arguments about what attracts people, and how there's no inherent contradiction in being attractive and intelligent, etc. etc. etc.  So what?  What does this have to do with promoting an interest in science and/or scientists?  How does this draw society into a greater acceptance of science? 

    In one respect it almost seems apologetic, as if to say ... "well we realize there's a  lot of geeks in science, but there's also some attractive people."  Once again, so what?  How does this mean anything except advancing the cause of already attractive people?  Are we really saying that we have to "prove" to society that scientists or intellectuals can be attractive?  Is that going to make those disciplines more "mainstream"?  Who is this effort supposed to attract; the non-scientist, non-intellectual? 

    It may work as a PR campaign, but it won't do a single thing to make science any more palatable to the general public, nor will it generate one bit of interest in pursuing science as a career.


    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    One day my quite fashionable and academically gifted, eldest son told me that although he was very interested in physics he wasn't going to study it at university because scientists all looked like such geeks, which I interpreted as being intelligent looking but not very fashionable or attractive. Instead he said he wants to do a Bachelor of Animation, which requires the highest UAI score of any degree here in Australia, because so many other academically gifted kids also want to do it.

    So then I showed him the 'who's online' avatars at the bottom of the Science20 screen which happened at the time to have pictures of Bente, Andrea, Johannes, Garth, Hank and Gerhard displayed and I said 'these guys are scientists and they don't look like geeks do they?' He seemed quite impressed and then said, 'Yea, I'll probably go back to uni in my mid thirties and do a second degree then in physics'.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Andrea Kuszewski
    Thanks for that, Helen. :) And I wish your son good luck on his next degree!!
    Gerhard Adam
             Rock guitarist?  Singer?  Scientist?

    If you answered scientist you'd be correct ...
    Duncan Irving, LFHCfS
    Postdoctoral Research Associate
    Rock Deformation Lab
    Dept. of Earth Sciences
    University of Manchester, UK
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks for the photo Gerhard, however, I'm not sure that Duncan Irving's long haired look is really that fashionable or cool these days, because it looks good to me, an aging hippy, so that immediately makes it unfashionable probably to my son and his peers.

    Instead, I think this haircut on a scientist would have a better impression on them.

    Though it seems like a joke, the awful reality is that there are many capable kids who would probably love to do science degrees but the geek image, however stupid that seems to older people like me, is putting them off.

    So I think Andrea is bringing attention to a real psychological problem regarding scientists and their often negative image with the youth of today. Its easy to dismiss these kids as stupid but they're not really, they are just exhibiting normal teenager inclinations to want to be seen as being fashionable and attractive to their generation and to be studying and working in equally cool, attractive areas. Any chance of a few of you guys here at science20 updating your avatars with this haircut? I think it might suit you Hank, don't tell me you want to see where you're going?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    [[[[... and this helps how?

    I can appreciate all the arguments about what attracts people, and how there's no inherent contradiction in being attractive and intelligent, etc. etc. etc. So what? What does this have to do with promoting an interest in science and/or scientists? How does this draw society into a greater acceptance of science? ]]]

    Kids want to be part of the "cool" crowd. They only see things in 2 dimensions when they're young. You're either cool, attractive, part of the "in" crowd, interesting to them and their peers, etc. They're not thinking about exploring Space or space shuttles and if they are, they're usually hiding it from their peers. If a kid sees a popular/attractive role model and tells them they can be "cool" too, the kid gets interested and wants to be "just like that person" and gets interested in "what that person does" and will devote a lot of energy to be like that person. Think "beautiful" magazine models, jetsetting stewardesses and charismatic brave pilots, brave life-saving charismatic doctors on tv programs like ER, etc.

    [[[[In one respect it almost seems apologetic, as if to say ... "well we realize there's a lot of geeks in science, but there's also some attractive people." Once again, so what? How does this mean anything except advancing the cause of already attractive people? Are we really saying that we have to "prove" to society that scientists or intellectuals can be attractive? Is that going to make those disciplines more "mainstream"? Who is this effort supposed to attract; the non-scientist, non-intellectual? ]]]

    That's right. Most people are non-scientists, non-intellectuals and they don't see why they should spend so much time, energy and effort to learn about science. It doesn't have to be attractive role models but it doesn't hurt for them to be attractive to advance the cause. Of course, once they're more into science, they'll realize that everyone comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and looks just like in any field and they'll come to accept it. A lot of people go into a certain profession because they were influenced early on by someone close such as a parent or relative to go into medicine or law or business and perhaps that person wasn't attractive but they helped the kid become more engaged in the subject. This is just another way to do that using role models that will further their interest in careers in science.

    [[[[It may work as a PR campaign, but it won't do a single thing to make science any more palatable to the general public, nor will it generate one bit of interest in pursuing science as a career.]]]

    I think ANY tools that help generate awareness and interest for kids is a big help for the cause of science. They grow up to be aware of science topics and may even enter science as a profession. The keys for this to happen are engagement, awareness, and interest.

    Gerhard Adam
    I understand your point, but I'm not sure that it is workable.  If the interest is superficial, then it would be difficult to sustain the energy necessary to achieve anything in science.  Similarly, I'm not convinced that children are that susceptible to the "cool" issues, so it seems that when they're young you'd have a better chance of generating interest if the parents are engaged (which is always the problem).

    You could also have some blow-back if something like this became to prevalent in that you don't want to force people that are already committed to science to feel left out because it's suddenly become fashionable or "cool" to be into it. 

    The underlying problem isn't likely to be resolved, however, since it doesn't involve any of the things being discussed.  Why do people play football?  You can be assured it isn't because football players earn minimum wage.  So there's a perpetual fantasy that someone can play ball and gain a scholarship and a possibility of becoming a pro-ball player.  Without that incentive, there wouldn't be much point in sponsoring games. 

    To really overcome the "geek" issue, if scientific careers were paid more money, or respected (and valued) by society, then the rest wouldn't matter.  This is often the case in many other cultures, so even if they aren't wealthy, they have prestige within their communities.  Until something like that occurs, it's unlikely that PR will make much difference.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not sure why, but this discussion made me think of William Hung of American Idol fame some years back.  After a bit of checking, I've abandoned all hope of people being reasonable.

    Apparently William Hung now has three (3) CD's and 2 DVD's available, so I guess people will buy anything in this country.  Maybe people are right ... cheerleaders now ... a scientific red carpet for the Nobel Prize ... paparazzi chasing Stephen Hawking ... Nature (the magazine not the bitch) with a centerfold  
    http://www.williamhung.net/
    Mundus vult decipi
    Aitch
    Nature (the magazine not the bitch) with a centerfold
    Ouch!  Nature ...a bitch....wow, your colours are showing, Gerhard! ;-)

    Aitch
    Aitch
    .....Kids want to be part of the "cool" crowd. They only see things in 2 dimensions when they're young.....

    Oh, gosh...when did they lose all their imagination, then, .....I must have been seeing about at least 7 dimensions when I was young......and I thought others saw more than me, especially Scientists........how else did they arrive at all the answers they found, as I searched everywhere...even on other planets/universes...?

    Aitch
    Re: [[[[... and this helps how? I
    [[[[I understand your point, but I'm not sure that it is workable. If the interest is superficial, then it would be difficult to sustain the energy necessary to achieve anything in science. Similarly, I'm not convinced that children are that susceptible to the "cool" issues, so it seems that when they're young you'd have a better chance of generating interest if the parents are engaged (which is always the problem).]]]

    Well what if the parents are busy at work and/or have no science interest/experience/knowledge?

    [[[[You could also have some blow-back if something like this became to prevalent in that you don't want to force people that are already committed to science to feel left out because it's suddenly become fashionable or "cool" to be into it. ]]]

    i'd hardly think people in science would feel neglected since kids turned onto science would be looking up to them to answer all their curious questions. And what science professional could resist discussing their resarch and knowledge???

    [[[[The underlying problem isn't likely to be resolved, however, since it doesn't involve any of the things being discussed. Why do people play football? You can be assured it isn't because football players earn minimum wage. So there's a perpetual fantasy that someone can play ball and gain a scholarship and a possibility of becoming a pro-ball player. Without that incentive, there wouldn't be much point in sponsoring games. ]]]

    What things are not being discussed? Compensation? Yes, it's more profitable to be a football player IF YOU SURVIVE any injuries.

    [[[[To really overcome the "geek" issue, if scientific careers were paid more money, or respected (and valued) by society, then the rest wouldn't matter. This is often the case in many other cultures, so even if they aren't wealthy, they have prestige within their communities. Until something like that occurs, it's unlikely that PR will make much difference.]]]

    I agree wholeheartedly with you that the american culture doesn't value science like other cultures. Even teachers in other cultures are more valued than other more highly paid professions. And I agree cheerleading science isn't a be-all end-all cure, but in this type of culture, can it really hurt? Science, let's face it, is not an easy subject. Just to develop one simple specific conclusion means years of research and developing a drug can take years which may or may not mean success. But i've seen people without any type of exposure to science suddenly excel higher than other more experienced people within a VERY short amount of time just because they saw a 60 minutes program discussing stem cells and they wanted to "discover that new drug or biologic to help mankind

    Gerhard Adam
    I understand.  In my experience, all the flashy stuff aside, I've found that kids will pursue what makes them feel good about themselves.  Unfortunately, in school science and math are often presented in the most difficult manner, so that only a few grasp the subject and pursue it.

    I had my niece failing math in the 8th grade and she hated it.  I spent nearly a year tutoring her and she brought her grade up to an 'A' and was proud that she was in competition with one guy in her class that was considered the "best".  So instead of worrying about being a geek, she wanted to excel, because she suddenly discovered she could be good at this subject.  In the past three years she has never missed the honor roll.

    The point of my story is that I was surprised at how well she took to math, until I realized the sense of accomplishment she must feel to have raised her grades and acquired an understanding.  It is only with feelings like that will someone ever truly be motivated to pursue a difficult topic.
    Mundus vult decipi
    [[[[I understand. In my
    I understand. In my experience, all the flashy stuff aside, I've found that kids will pursue what makes them feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, in school science and math are often presented in the most difficult manner, so that only a few grasp the subject and pursue it.]]]]

    it's too bad we don't have tutors to help them with the math and theory and that we don't teach them also in a way where science is more digestible such as not just rote dull difficult textbook lectures but real interesting lab experiments that they can do at home like collecting items or organisms at home and being able to see them in class under a microscope. Or like mixing things (like milk and water OR lemon and water) at home and explaining why they don't mix easily or explaining their pH.

    [[[[I had my niece failing math in the 8th grade and she hated it. I spent nearly a year tutoring her and she brought her grade up to an 'A' and was proud that she was in competition with one guy in her class that was considered the "best". So instead of worrying about being a geek, she wanted to excel, because she suddenly discovered she could be good at this subject. In the past three years she has never missed the honor roll.

    The point of my story is that I was surprised at how well she took to math, until I realized the sense of accomplishment she must feel to have raised her grades and acquired an understanding. It is only with feelings like that will someone ever truly be motivated to pursue a difficult topic.]]]]]

    it's so true. i had the same problem with my own niece. she was failing in algebra but when i tutored her, i didn't just tutor her for the next exam but would always tutor her comprehensively on her basic understanding of algebra so there was never a time when she could just relax and forget it. science just like math builds on itself. you need to understand one step of knowledge before you can move on or else you get lost. my niece needed to understand concepts step by step before she could move on to the next steps. she needed to know how to balance both sides of an equation before she could even begin to solve for the unknown. She needed to understand and calculate the specific equations before she could graph them, and so on. one step on top of another...... but at the end of the semester she would always finish her tests earlier than anyone else and she scored #1 on the state exam and she loved it!! that lightbulb in her head would go off "oh, that's how it's solved!!" and her algebra teacher was so shocked at how far she came. when her public school basically placed everyone in algebra again the next year (from middle school level to high school freshman level), i advised her to go ahead and move onto geometry since she already understood algebra. she went ahead and did well, especially as she was the only freshman in her class. she's now studying for her CPA and working to be the next CFO of her bank - (well it's a darned shame she didn't go into science but you win some, you lose some. at least she understood her basic math and she knew that it wouldn't be a hindrance to her further development.)

    but as in my last example with the person who wanted to help develop the drug without having prior science or math experience, because of motivation and someone "being there for them," they're able to achieve so much more than could be imagined.

    Argh, this post equates sexuality and femininity with the image of it in the mainstream media. What you reference has NOTHING to do with being a woman or being sexual. What constitutes beauty and sexuality and femininity varies A LOT between cultures and time periods, and individual people. The sexuality presented by cheerleaders is one that is defined by men and corporate interests- do you not see a problem with presenting that as a model for girls?

    I'll be blogging this later, btw.

    Andrea Kuszewski
    Can't wait!!!! BRING IT. *\(^.^)/*
    WTF *\(^.^)/* ?????
    This smile looks like a pair of tits with a couple of hairy armpits around them. Oh-oh. You need to shave them.

    "I can't help wondering what the response would be to men shaking their dicks in kids faces "for a good cause"."

    Isabell, you always crack me up. If the troll doesn't know it's trolling, is it still a troll?

    So, we now conflate cheerleaders with me shaking my dick in your face while reading from the IPCC report? Seriously?

    You're an ass tideliar.

    Yes, I am. Your point? Or are you just going to scream male-bias, patriarchy and gender hate as usual?

    "Oh noes Tideliar was totes using white male privilege to put me down because I'm a woman! mew mew mew"

    Actually I rarely discuss patriarchy on the internet, so I don't know what you are referring to. I work in science outreach to kids, so this issue is important to me. Do you have a point that relates to the discussion at hand? Or are you an idiot as well?

    I have a point AND I'm an idiot. What you got?

    I'm sorry, but the quality of the language in this discussion has really put me off. I just discovered this site yesterday and I have read a number of very informative and stimulated threads. This is not one of them. No personal offense is meant to anyone. This is just part of my first impression of your site and I thought you might want to know how it looks to a newcomer.

    I apologize. That was the second time tideliar attacked me out of the blue recently, and I broke my vow to stop cursing on the internet. I will simply try to ignore him from now on. I realize now that he has no idea what a troll even is, and I think I understand why he is so threatened by me;)

    What do you mean Steve? Swearing? the writing? or the trolls? I hate trolls.

    I know it is difficult when passions run high, and passions often run high when one's identity is bond to one's thoughts/ideas. However, I would recommend adhering to what I call the "four C's" (phonetically speaking) - Civility, Sincerity, Soundness, and Succinctness" - in that order, when speaking of science or philosophy. It is the civility of this discussion that I am concerned about most here. Seems things have gotten too personal and too crude. I think it is more productive to address ideas, not individuals, in discussions of science and philosophy. When it gets personal, it can too easily spiral downward into ugliness. Yes, the crude language and the personal attacks put me off. Thanks for acknowledging my concern :-)

    Gerhard Adam
    Steve, you're absolutely right, and fortunately this isn't the usual tone in most of the posts you''ll encounter here.  However, when you get into such basics as sexuality, it's as if our biology invariably gets the best of us and we revert to raw sexual competition (albeit with our words).
    Mundus vult decipi
    Thanks Gerhard, I know you're right about the overall nature of this site and I look forward to spending more time here. Two threads especially have caught my interest so far: "Limits To Science: God, Godel, Gravity", and "Smolin Vs Susskind: The Judge’s Decision Part 1". I do hope to add some of my own thoughts, but it my take me awhile formulate them "soundly and succinctly". Communicating well is an arduous discipline in its own right on top of the disciplines of science and philosophy.

    And this thread as well, raises hugely important issues, that unfortunately have gotten unstaged by, as you say, "raw sexual competition". I refer to issues such as: What are science's obligations to society? Why should science need to promote itself? What are society's obligations to science? Is it good for science to be dependent on public funding? Etc, etc.

    Another whole line of inquiry inherent in the original post goes to the personal experience and sacrifice of committing to a career in science; ie., Why become a scientist? Why not to become a scientist? What does it mean to become a scientist? What are the obstacles and what, if anything, should be done about them? I think these are immensely important questions. These of course do invoke personal responses and I did not mean to imply earlier that the personal has no place in science. It was just the personal attacks, that I found unhelpful. I certainly would love to hear more along these lines of inquiry. I certainly did not mean to squelch the discussion altogether :-(

    The problem is Steve, the entire approach of the science cheerleaders is based on an unproven need, i.e. to convince girls they can be 'sexy' and scientists, and looking in to it has revealed many insulting attitudes toward feminists. Check out the cheerleaders web site- they are literally promoting the idea that feminists are "hot chick haters" - a quote from the site - so there is no denying that this whole thing has started off on an aggressive, insulting anti-feminist stance. And if you check out Sci's post referenced in the OP, and read the comments it is again made cear that the only possible reason any female may have for not liking the image that the cheerleaders are presenting is bitterness over high school rejection - another insulting, false, and anti-feminist stereotype!

    Even the title is questionable. How are women denied sexuality in science? Why does it need to be sexed up? And how does catering to media stereotypes of female 'hotness' (i.e. the exaggerated, almost cartoon quality of the emphasis on the cheerleaders breasts and buttocks) and the questionable practice of selling sex to young children accomplish either claimed goal: 1) helping women to feel freer about expressing their sexuality (except in a very narrow, exhibitionist, media friendly sense that is most visible when it is expressed for an unrelated cause!?) and 2) getting more girls to pursue science careers, especially when the current need is to help them be successful in those careers-we have already shown that just getting girls to sign up doesn't solve the problem.

    One thing we do know is that the efforts and sacrifices of a great many women pioneers and feminists have definitely helped women, and also helped women to 'own' and accept their own sexuality. So yes, the way this is all being presented as some counter to oppression and feminist 'hate' when for many of us it is exactly representative of that oppression is deeply problematic, and offensive when it is presented in the way it is, especially on the on the official website. And as far as the comments about men 'shaking it in kids' faces' that was to highlight what we accept as normal for women, I mean those women really are emphasizing their sexual characteristics and shaking them in kids faces. It's hard to imagine that little girls (or boys) need more of this than they are alreaay getting, that it is all somehow revolutionary and that this will liberate them.

    It's an odd article one that is essentially based on the claim of the author to be very attractive.
    Another odd claim is the one that "cheerleaders are there to support the athletes on the team", or that they want to draw attention to the athletes. I think that everybody know that cheerleaders are there to pursue their own career, and that they are just seeking attention for themselves, which is nothing reprehensible in itself, but brings no value to the sports (well, it does bring money to the entertainment biz, admittedly, so if one cannot tell the two...) . If you are a cheerleader, this is nothing to be ashamed of, but nothing to be proud either; it doesn't prevent you from being an athlete, but it doesn't bring you an inch closer to be one.

    Cheerleading is just another parasytical career leveraging the appeal of sports and the fact that men attracted by sports will be also attracted by a good selection of bouncing breasts. Again, there's no reason for blaming or banning bouncing breasts, but please don't try to sell us that you're doing that "for a cause". You may be doing that to get attention, money, narcisistic self-fulfilment, impressions on a blog post, or any other perfectly self-centered reason, but certainly not for the sake of science, or football, or whatever.

    Breaking the stereotype that Cheerleaders aren't smart, is like breaking the stereotype that Rich people aren't nice. No one really cares -- except rich people or cheerleaders. Being rich or beautiful is enough -- who cares if people think you are dumb or mean.

    That said, I don't think Science Cheerleaders is about breaking the stereotype of dumb cheerleaders. It's about encouraging kids to study science. Now, this obviously won't work if kids dislike cheerleaders, but so what? Lots of kids respect cheerleaders, so it may work for them. It's a good way for cheerleaders to devote their energy to something useful. And can be a positive step forward in schools where science nerds are ostracized.

    I do think part of the science cheerleader movement should be about figuring out ways to cheer for science that doesn't involve cheerleading.

    "What is wrong with being both a scientist AND a cheerleader? "
    Nothing! I think it's great to be a scientist AND a cheerleader. That doesn't necessarily mean I want the public to think of cheerleaders when they think of women in science- I don't want to be represented by you.
    This isn't necessarily a personal thing- as a Jew, do I want to be represented as a 'religious person in science' by Christians?
    It's a preference of mine based on my tribal identities, but not at all a judgment on you for your tribal identities.

    "Or being intelligent AND a sex object? "
    There's nothing wrong with being intelligent. There IS something wrong with being a 'sex object'. A 'sex object' is a dilldo, or a blow up doll. It is not a PERSON with intelligent thoughts and relevant feelings. And cheerleaders are objectified. This is not their fault, per se, but they would be terribly naive to not expect it given the screwed up society we live in.
    " Is there something inherently wrong about being perceived as attractive or sexy? "
    Nope. But see above. There is something very wrong with a culture when people in it think that being 'attractive' (which should literally mean people want to be around you, and *interact* with you) is the same as being ' a sex object'. I am extremely dismayed by this conflation.
    Now, I don't want you to back up now and try to say that it was imprecise phrasing, or that I misunderstood you. I don't think you *want* to be an object in exclusion to being a person. I do think that if you are a cheerleader, people will do that to you to some degree. People do that to most women. In science or otherwise. And it's wrong.
    " Why does one have to negate the other?"
    Being "attractive" doesn't negate being "intelligent". Being "a sex object" negates being "a person"- an intelligent one or otherwise.

    What is the fuss? Cheer leading is entertaining, projects joyfulness and a celebration of life. Great stuff Andrea, science probably good do with cheer leading because science is so often perceived as a dour and uninviting thing. If some feel cheer leading turns women into sex objects may I remind them that sport turns men into sex objects?

    What is the fuss? Cheer leading is entertaining, joyful and a celebration of life. As to the sex object issue, may I remind people that sport turns men into sex objects. For eg.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101124114540.htm
    Female Fish -- And Humans? -- Lose Interest When Their Male Loses a Slugfest

    What is the fuss? Cheer leading is entertaining, joyful and a celebration of life. As to the sex object issue, may I remind people that sport turns men into sex objects. For eg.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101124114540.htm
    Female Fish -- And Humans? -- Lose Interest When Their Male Loses a Slugfest

    dorigo
    Hey Andrea,

    maybe you will find interesting reading the comments threads of the sex scandal generated by a post I wrote on Lisa Randall a few years ago:

    http://dorigo.wordpress.com/2007/08/29/lisa-randall-black-holes-out-of-reach-of-lhc/

    In that post I was attacked for describing the physical appearance of Lisa. See the thread... and the following post I wrote, which generated more discussion on the matter:

    http://dorigo.wordpress.com/2007/08/30/am-i-a-sexist/

    Cheers,
    T.
    rholley
    The Telegraph, in recent years, has tended to give prominence to scientists who are “party animals”.

    Although probably only a drop in the ocean, I think that this, in a micro-Darwinian sort of way, tends to exert selection pressure against the serious-minded.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Paul Frank
    Not that I think that this should necessarily be the overriding concern in life, but to the extent that the leading concern here is to attract more students to the sciences, (or is it more scientists, or whatever), the goals should be clarified and market research done--(polls, focus groups, market testing, etc.), social psychological studies designed and performed, or whatever.  Will science cheerleaders break down barriers for high school girls that eschewed science as not cool, and/or scare away less attractive adolescents, or?  Will greater sexual expressiveness result in healthier sexual identities, unhealthy sexual relations, or???  And there are certainly many more questions to be considered.<br>
    Our rhetorical flourishes and exchanges thereof will not settle what are essentially empirical questions, and in addition to all the other vagaries here, may well be subject to the whims of the local subcultures and the psychologies of the particular individuals involved.  I think in many ways here the discussion is about individual rights and perogatives, and the rationales are typical of allusions made to support a rights claim.  Probably the better observation is that sexuality is going to cut deeply across all of these categories simultaneously.  For what it is worth, my impulse is in full support of what you are advancing.  But to the extent that there is a real concern here about the real world impacts on the whole variety of parties involved, a whole bunch of empirical work needs to be done.
    Posts like this frustrate me. You're a scientist and sexy. Okay. Great. Fantastic. Let's talk when the cheerleaders are male. If you don't see how promoting science in this way feeds into specific institutionalized stereotypes of women then I think you are being really blind. Why is it that no one ever thinks of sexing up the male scientists? And I don't see many portrayals of male scientists as sexy either. I'll fully support all of this when we have the Adonis scientists side by side with the scantily clad cheerleaders.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Michalyn, you've obviously missed the concept of the male scientist cheerleaders in kilts earlier on.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
     institutionalized stereotypes of women 
    Emotionally charged cliches like this are usually cause for alarm.   When everything is viewed through a prism of sexism and misogyny, people are going to find it whether it's really there are not.   It's no different than people on the far right throwing out the word 'liberal' and then claiming a whole boatload of problems that don't actually exist.

    Some people miss being born in the wrong generation - 40 years ago that might have had some validity but today, the only place it exists is in the minds of angry people and they seem to be angry because the previous generation won the fight.  Their counterpart are the aging men who think women are only getting jobs because of quotas.
    Hank, I'm more alarmed by the stereotypes than someone's posturing about the phrase itself. Some people have convinced themselves that sexism, racism and yes a bunch of other institutionalized inequalities do not exist but the people arguing most vehemently are usually the ones least affected by them. The fact that this is a topic of controversy at all points to the fact that yes, some inequalities between the sexes in the world of science do exist. You may disagree, you may choose to ignore it but it doesn't change that fact. Likewise, while individual women may have empowering experiences with cheerleading it doesn't mean that it does not or cannot in the big picture reinforce negative stereotypes of women

    I have no problem with scientists, sexiness, or cheerleaders in and of themselves. Heck, I have no problem with scientists cheerleading. The problem is, these women could have demonstrated sexiness in 10 million different ways--and they could have demonstrated it with 10 million different body types. What we see instead is the same old image of women we see everywhere. That the author and those promoting the cheerleaders didn't seem to consider that there might actually be other ways to be sexy or even to consider that women who don't fit this "ideal" can be sexy too is telling.

    All I'm trying to say is inevitably the emphasis for these campaigns tends to fall more on the feminine side and there is a reason for that. I'm not convinced we'll ever see as many male scientists in kilts as we will the female cheerleaders.

    Helen, the kilted men are great . The point I was trying to make was simply that the vast majority of these cheerleaders will be women. I'd argue that all scientists have reputations for being unsexy but I'm predicting that no male scientist will feel the need to write a long post about the fact that he was a body builder in his youth and strongly is advocating for other young men to come out and show that male scientists can be athletic babe magnets.

    Hank
    I'm predicting that no male scientist will feel the need to write a long post about the fact that he was a body builder in his youth and strongly is advocating for other young men to come out and show that male scientists can be athletic babe magnets.
    Well put.   It's the nature of people.  We had one intern here with degrees from Yale and then Oxford, but he was a rower and therefore massive in shoulders and tiny in waist.    The stereotype he faced from other scientists was that he was a dumb jock or had gone to good schools on an athletic scholarship rather than for his knowledge of biology.

    There are a number of people, male and female, who went into science because they are antisocial or unattractive in other ways - it is a stereotype for a reason.  And so people who are not those things are treated harshly in some cases.   These women are defying a stereotype but getting criticized by people who claim to care about not placing women into cookie cutter roles - ironically they are the ones doing the gender framing and not the cheerleaders.
    Hank, I mean this in the most respectful way possible but I really think you don't understand anything about "gender framing" or feminism but you are applying your *perception* of it to illustrate your points. Yes, attractive people may be defying the stereotypes of scientists being unattractive, but all of this is not happening in a vacuum it is happening in the context of a broader society in which certain brands of attractiveness are already rewarded and certain ways of expressing one's sexuality are considered more acceptable than others--and there are consequences for bucking the trend. Your male friend is certainly defying the "unattractive" stereotype as a scientist but outside of the scientific community I would be hard pressed to see what discrimination he is facing . Furthermore, as a man his sexuality will be less scrutinized than that of a woman. That is a fact.

    If the point of this post is that women scientists should be free to express their sexualities then all the women who are "protesting" against the cheerleaders are asking is why is it this particular form of sexiness (for which women already face harsh consequences for not conforming to) being held up as theexample of women in science expressing their sexiness? We are saying we are fat, thin, large breasted, small-busted, big hipped, athletic, freckled, chocolate-skinned, size 2 and size 22 and we are sexy. And here is a radical notion--we are saying you may be looking at us and assuming that we are not at peace with our "sexiness" because you have a preconceived notion of what sexiness and attractiveness means . We therefore think it's fantastic that cheerleaders are one way to feel sexy but we want girls to see the range of sexiness out there and to see that it is compatible with science regardless of whether they look like cheerleaders or not. We want them to know this because every other thing in our society tells girls we're not good enough if we don't look like those cheerleaders before we even get to thinking of science.

    So yes, let's bring the sexy back but maybe before we do we should ask what is sexy? and to whom?

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    So yes, let's bring the sexy back but maybe before we do we should ask what is sexy? and to whom?
    Good question Michalyn, maybe a scientific study is required?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    We want them to know this because every other thing in our society tells girls we're not good enough if we don't look like those cheerleaders before we even get to thinking of science.
    So whose stereotypes are we trying to break?  Scientists among other scientists?  Society's?

    The problem isn't unique to science and it isn't likely to change because it's in the nature of people themselves.  These stereotypes exist because there are a large number of people that fit them, even if we recognize that there are notable exceptions.  Therefore if a woman appears like she's "high maintenance", then she shouldn't be shocked when she is treated that way (regardless of whether it is fair or not).  Similarly if someone looks like a biker, or drug dealer, or model, they will have to overcome the initial reaction to the stereotype they look like.

    We can talk as much as we like about how unfair this may be, but it exists, because it is more often true than not.  We all know how a certain appearance will affect one's credibility or the impression someone else forms.  After all, if we go to a job interview, we don't show up as poorly dressed as we can imagine. 

    It would be wonderful if everyone simply waited to evaluate other people after getting to know them, but that isn't going to happen, and most often there simply isn't enough time to do that.  If I'm looking to hire someone for my team, I don't have months to get to know someone to determine that they're a good choice.  First impressions count, and unfortunately those first impressions are rooted in stereotypes.

    It is obvious that people can't change their basic appearance, but they can do more to promote the idea that the perspective they represent should be taken seriously.  If a man were to show up for a job interview and his clothing and mannerisms were intended to show that he was a bodybuilder, it shouldn't be a surprise if I formulated the opinion that bodybuilding was perhaps more important to him than the position he was interviewing for.  I certainly don't know that he isn't qualified, but he is going to appear less qualified than another candidate that comes in dressed as if he is taking the interview more seriously. 

    The point that seems to be forgotten here, is that it isn't about them.  It's about whoever you're attempting to convince, so a bit of common sense and marketing sense is in order here.

    The irony in all this is we all know and understand that this is how it works.  Few people are so oblivious that they don't consciously and intentionally choose how they look precisely because of the image it presents.
    Mundus vult decipi
    This was quite a long article just for the sake of one point. Obviously, girls should be encouraged to indulge in sexual pleasures and understand themselves sexually, without sacrificing education, intelligence, and scientific curiosity. The author seems to be confusing "sexy-ness" with being a sex object:

    "What is wrong with being both a scientist AND a cheerleader? Or being intelligent AND a sex object?"

    Being a "sex object" does nothing for sexual confidence and growth. The notion that is does simply conflates sexuality with being a sex object. This is a tired point....

    Fred Phillips
    Andrea, good on you for being a whole person.
    Yes science is innately sexy. It doesn't need spicing up with slutty women flaunting their bodies in the lab...

               

    ...and it doesn't need sexy cheerleaders for public relations. 

    Making science spokesthings look smart and attractive when interviewed or lecturing is another matter. We owe that to the public.
     
    But just as some people are tone deaf and will never appreciate music beyond feeling the oom-pah beat, the heartbreaking beauty of science is never going to be felt by everyone. 

    Just look at these two pictures. Be honest now. Which is the more beautiful?

                       
    Really?
    Are you sure?

    Huh! Well, as any scientist will tell you: you can't draw a conclusion from a sample of one.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry ... I missed the question.  Too busy checking out that microscope.:)

    It doesn't need spicing up with slutty women flaunting their bodies in the lab...
    Well, "need" may be too strong a word .... but then again ... it couldn't hurt...:)
    ...you can't draw a conclusion from a sample of one.
    Perhaps not, but then I doubt that most would object to sampling just one [sorry ... couldn't resist].
    Mundus vult decipi
     I doubt that most would object to sampling just one
    Chacun a son gout. I dare say the folk at CERN feel the same way.
     


    It seems to be a growing trend in religious circles to attract'em in with the sex and rock'n roll so you can then beat the hell out of them with firey surmons of damnation etc.When people find however that what you offered them on the outside to attract them in is not what they find on the inside,they are not going to stay,which is why Hillsong,a pentecostal church organisation which does this kind of thing,has a 50% turnover of members every 2 yrs.Besides isn't that fraud,unless Andrea you are going to live up to your promises.The response you have got here illustrates your point about "attracting attention" but the science here in this blog demonstrates mine.