Let me begin by stating that this is Frog writing, not Esther, and my thoughts are not necessarily our thoughts. This one is all me, she can respond if she so chooses.
The shirt thing is getting crazy. There’s an inflationary thing the internet does, where one person has a thought that might make coherent sense, and it is taken to its completely irrational extreme within the space of, say, thirty seconds.
1. That shirt was wildly inappropriate.
Come on, dude. You’re going on television. Have the sense to dress appropriately. I’m not talking about the women, by the way; I’m simply talking about representing yourself as a professional while wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Maybe it’s because I wear a suit to work every day, but really? Hawaiian shirt?
That said, it’s not like he really needed to impress anyone with his attire. He’d just led a team that landed on a comet. That was pretty impressive, and I’m willing to give him a pass on bad taste.
2. Sexual Objectification is, generally, wrong.
Can we agree to this? That treating people as sex objects and nothing more is a bad thing? Good. And there’s no doubt that shirt screams I likes me some ass and titties. It is one step away from simply glue-sticking the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition to one’s torso. The shirt, therefore, was doubly wrong; tacky and misogynist.
3. That said, the reaction to the shirt was over-the-top.
That shirt is undeniably tacky. But so was the response to it. I’m sorry, feminists, but there are better battles to pick. A passing comment along the lines of “Wow, dude hit a comet. Not a great shirt, but still, cool guy.” would have been about right.
That’s not what Rose Eveleth did. Her tweet, in its entirety, reads “No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt.”
That dude was not making any comments about women in the scientific community. He wasn’t there to engage in this conversation. And by referring to him as “the dude in this shirt,” she made it look as though his accomplishments were less important to her than the shirt. Which leads me to my next point:
4. Accomplishments do not justify misogyny.
Let’s start there. I do not believe “landed on a comet” means “gets to be a dick.” That said,
5. Minimizing accomplishments does not lend itself well to the cause of feminism.
Here’s the problem: It’s not that I support the shirt. It’s that ranting about the shirt without at least tipping the hat to the purpose of the clip in which the shirt was worn just looks ignorant. It gives the impression that you think your thing is more important than his thing.
His thing? It’s pretty massive. Referring to him as “the guy in this shirt” without even naming him? It says more about you than it does about him. Oh, sure, you’ve thrown some meat to the feminists who already agree with you, but what good has that done? None. At all. Instead, you’ve given every cockbiting asshole out there all kinds of ammunition to use against you. Bravo.
I don’t think that was the intent. I think this was a quick tweet, minimized for character count, and sent on its way. That’s all this is. But being very careful about how you phrase such things is pretty important, because it gave the impression to many that it was the only thing in that clip you cared about. And that clip? It was about some shit that may damn well change the future of humanity.
In other words, nobody who wasn’t already a feminist was looking at the shirt.
And when you refer to him as “the guy in this shirt,” as though that shirt is what he’s known for, it makes you look like an idiot.
6. As a result, #Shirtgate/#Shirtstorm has done more harm to feminism than good.
Look at all the feminist articles out there. They are in damage control mode. The one I linked at the top? Pure DC. Meanwhile, in conservative crazy land, the opponents of feminism are taking a victory lap.
7. Maybe pick your battles next time.
In short, I think feminists had a point on this one. This was a wildly inappropriate and offensive shirt. But in bashing the guy, and not trying to be polite and informative, they hurt themselves. They attacked someone for something in the zenith of his 15 minutes. Not a good call. Bad PR for feminism.
If you want to change the culture, you couldn’t have picked a worse way to do it. Pick your battles better, next time.