Hey everybody. Sorry for omitting a post about going on vacation. Regular posts will now resume.
So the other day I was looking to illustrate an article and googled “sexy scientists”. I was looking for the girls in those Trojan ads before remembering where I’d seen them. The first hit displayed a fine collection of researchers courtesy of Business Insider. And by “fine” I mean mighty fine. I spent the better part of twenty minutes checking out brainy babes, delighting in the facts that not only were the genders represented in roughly equal numbers, but the sample included two men and a woman in their fifties. Plenty of ethnicities graced the list as well. All in all, it seemed a well-rounded and respectfully-presented list.
The message seemed clear: these attractive people are leaders and innovators in their respective fields, so can we please give the cliché of the of the wild-haired goof in a lab coat a rest?
Then I read the comments. And sighed.
An annoying large number commenters and bloggers took offense. “The things this site posts sometimes are just so juvenile” wrote one detractor, whose comment got 81 likes. And although science communicator and blogger Theresa Liao has better-reasoned arguments for why she doesn’t like the article:
But regardless of whether they are sexy of not, scientists should be celebrated for their achievement in scientific discovery and the communication of science. The list emphasizes “sexiness” that is irrelevant in science . . .
I nonetheless disagree. BI’s list does celebrate scientists for their achievements. It lists their positions at various companies or institutions. It describes their achievements. By adding fun facts, authors Dina Spector and Jennifer Polland really do make these attractive, intelligent folks more accessible to the business world. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard successful entrepreneurs call science and math arcane at best.
Also while sexiness is irrelevant to the objectivity that and painstaking care required to do competent research, it becomes very relevant when scientists interact with each other and with people outside their fields. Science, just like anything else, is a human endeavor. Sure, we’ve become better at redirecting our stone-age urges, but they’re not so far away. Sex is important. Sex is part of our daily lives in a hundred overt and subtle ways.
So even though I’m coming late to the discussion, my conclusion is: up with sexpots of science! If all it takes the word “sexy” to maybe change people’s views a bit then I’m all for it.