Weigh in on Shirtgate with Poll

What sparked the controversy “shirtgate”?

Rosetta's Matt Taylor's T-shirt sparked Shirtgate.
Rosetta’s Matt Taylor’s T-shirt sparked Shirtgate.

A male scientist, Dr. Matt Taylor, who is a leader of the Rosetta comet space mission team wore a shirt covered with cartoon depictions of scantily clad women (you can click on picture of Taylor to see a larger version of the image) during a TV interview.

Some people found the wearing of the shirt to be very negative, while others found the reaction to the wearing of the shirt to be the problem instead. Some people’s feelings fall in between.

There has been intense discussion ever since and taken together this all has been termed “Shirtgate” and “Shirtstorm”.

How do you feel about this turn of events?

Take our poll below on shirtgate. Please also weigh in in the comments section.


47 thoughts on “Weigh in on Shirtgate with Poll”

  1. There’s one point of view that I really haven’t seen expressed: wearing that shirt in that context was tacky behavior because it was not appropriate clothing for that setting. There’s a time and a place to wear a shirt with naked figures on it. A television interview is not that time and place. It would be exactly the same for a female scientist wearing a shirt covered with nude male figures in the same context. That shirt should be saved for happy hour at the bar with friends, a cover-up for a swimsuit at the beach, or hanging around the house. It is not something to wear for an interview, a business meeting, a formal occasion, etc etc etc.

  2. 1.) The initial debate was over the shirt and its inappropriateness. 2.) Then the debate was over the feminist backlash over the shirt and the bullying behavior by the feminists. 3.) The third event was the nasty threats leveled against the feminists.
    1.) I agree that the shirt was not a great choice. I do not agree that the shirt can be thought to represent oppression against women. I do not agree that it deserves outrage. I do not agree that it is wise to make a big deal about a shirt. 2.) I saw and experienced bullying behavior by feminists when I pointed out politely my points in #1 so it is simply untenable to argue that this did not happen. 3.) I fully agree that the nasty threats directed against the feminists were in appropriate, sickening, and illegal. However, to ignore #2 will not work, and to conflate a reasoned disagreement with nasty threats is incorrect.

  3. Wow, I never realized the mrAs would be all over in this blog, that’s offensive in and of itself. I believe we should concentrate of the accomplishments of the Rosetta spacecraft team. We shouldn’t be attacking anyone.

    1. “I believe we should concentrate of the accomplishments of the Rosetta spacecraft team. We shouldn’t be attacking anyone.”

      Tell that to the extremist feminists and SJW’s who started this whole ridiculous thing.

      The guys shirt shouldn’t be an issue at all. But they’re the one’s who ignored this amazing scientific accomplishment and instead focused on a shirt. A shirt made by a woman.

    2. they get around. all we can do is raise our voices to let other intelligent people out there know the idiots aren’t the only game in town.

  4. Just a copy and past of my reply on the other site:

    I don’t see the shirt as sexist and I feel awful that he was reduced to tears about it.

    Alot of the arguements used against the shirt and how STEM careers are sexist would fail if we reversed the genders.

    e.g. More men in STEM = Sexism
    More women in Teaching/Nursing/Social services = Not sexism

    Matt Taylor wears a shirt with women on it = sexism
    Female scientist wears a shirt with men on it = Not sexism

    It just doesn’t hold up. This whole notion of “casual sexism” is like trying to find sexism in every little thing, it’s like you are trying to be offended.

    Even if the entire population was the same gender, no matter what career you enter, there will be personality clashes, obstacles and challenges. If you enter a career thinking that every one of your co-workers and the company will go out of their way to accomdate your viewpoints and to not offend you. YOU DO NOT DESERVE THAT CAREER (and that is referring to any career, not just in STEM)

    No matter what career it is, I am sorry the real world is tough, but if something in life is worth having and striving for, saying “sexism” is what stopped you is simply an excuse.

    Challenges exist to seperate those who are willing to work hard and those who just keep finding excuses.

    This is why there is such a big backlash against the feminist who attacked Matt Taylor, it is hyprocritical and really does make women look delicate and easily offended.

    1. I, and probably a substantial number of people who criticized Matt Taylor, have compassion for the guy, as I would have for anybody who self-detroys an awesome moment for themselves by doing something stupid (most likely out of cluelessness, not out of ill-intent).

      As I read somewhere else maybe he was reduced to tears after realizing who his “internet supporters” were.

      I am compassionate of Taylor, but when reading such comments I also have a thought for all the scientists women at any level who were brought to tears by their sexists (whether they are aware of it or not) male bosses or coworkers. From what I saw or heard of in my quite restricted scientific circle, I assume this happens on a daily basis.

  5. It’s infuriating. The “feminists” (in quotes because they aren’t) drawing attention away from all the women involved in the project, to focus on one man’s shirt. Did you know so many women were involved in the project? You won’t hear about that from the “feminists” because their narrative is that women are frightened away from STEM because of teh evil menz, so it’s necessary to ignore this inconvenient truth.

    And it’s not just one man being bullied. It’s also the women in STEM speaking up and saying that shirt doesn’t offend them and it would never frighten them away from STEM. They’re getting as bad a bashing from the “feminists” who will tell them what they must think and feel, thank you very much.

    Unfortunately, the women in STEM are not full-time blawwwgers. They have science to do. So the “feminist” blawwwgers get the word out and claim to be speaking for ALL women, and who does the media listen to? “Oppression of Women” is a great story. “Misogyny in STEM? Are you serious? Excuse me, I’m late to the lab” (from a woman scientist) doesn’t make headlines.

    The falsely-so-called “feminists” oppress both men and women. THAT should be the headline. But it won’t be.

    1. you are an utter fantasist. hordes of women in STEM are on the ‘feminist side’ in this. i’m a woman in STEM; i’m a member of a very large group for women in STEM, and the absolute consensus is that the sexist response to this issue has been absolutely appalling.

    1. the guy who landed the comment had the intelligence to recognise the problem. apparently his ‘supporters’ don’t.

  6. Highly hypocritical, and harmful to women. If I want to join STEM, I will do it. I will be a scientist and a biologist or an engineer and that will be my passion. My passion will not be perturbed because one guy during one event wore a shirt that had women on it. I am not afraid of drawing of pretty or slutty women, because as a scientist, I would know that the drawings on a shirt does not fit reality.

    Dr Matt Taylor seems like an excellent guy, and even if he was wearing that shirt he seems like the kind of guy that i would hang out with and talk about astronomy with. I don’t take him to be a threat due to a shirt, and any women who considers him so much of a threat that they don’t want to get into STEM don’t deserve to be in STEM. I have dissected a pig before, so I know that STEM fields are not for the queasy.

    What do you think is more harmful to women who want to go into STEM?

    1. A guy wearing a shirt with semi-nude women
    2. A hoard of fear-mongering feminists who lie and manipulate the data to show that STEM fields are dangerous and unwelcome to women

    Obviously number 2. Now if Matt Taylor was nude himself, I would probably not want to be around him in the same department, or if he was rude, haughty, arrogant, or sexist. But he isn’t. Unlike these feminists, I don’t judge a book by its cover. I don’t consider anything subjectively considered “casual misogyny” a threat.

    Marie Curie and many scientists, numerous existing before feminism was even a thing, are rolling in their graves at the idea that something as minor as attire might have kept them from their fields of science. At least the women of the past fought their way in, and would not let anything stand in their way. These feminists are doing them a huge disservice by being, as Women’s Rights Activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali puts it, “Idiotic women.”

  7. “The women who have objected to the shirt (and to the comment that Rosetta was sexy but not easy) have been subjected to vile abuse and threats. This is not OK. At all.”

    The scientist in the shirt has been subjected to vile abuse and threats and bullied into tears. This is not OK. At all.

      1. It’s all over Twitter.

        Some people were even happy when the guy apologised and broke down in tears. Others said his apology wasn’t enough and continued insulting him.

        1. i’ve seen the tweets. i’d like a link to the ones that are vile abuse and threats because i haven’t seen any of those.

  8. I have voted.

    But I really don’t like your poll. Imagine the following situation.

    A press conference. A speaker makes a comment that is borderline. It could reasonably be interpreted as racist. Someone objects. That person is then vilified, attacked, ridiculed. Whatever we think of the original comment, a culture which treats concerns about racism or sexism in this way is disastrous because victims will feel, and rightly so, that silence is their best option.

    I won’t repeat the arguments. There are legitimate cause for concerns. See, e.g., these two very different posts:

    The women who have objected to the shirt (and to the comment that Rosetta was sexy but not easy) have been subjected to vile abuse and threats. This is not OK. At all.

  9. Yes, what a lot of people criticizing this don’t realize, is that it was made for him for his birthday by a lady friend. Who was deeply honored to see him wearing her gift on such a major occasion.
    You can read her blog entry about it here

    My update and ramblings! 🙂

    And her twitter feed is here


    I have a feeling that a lot of the people who criticized him would not have criticized if they had known this. Think of it as a sexist guesture by a man and they get hot under the collar. Think of the shirt as made by a woman, and the man wearing her gift to him on an important occasion – and that turns the whole thing around, and is clear also from his reaction that it was not a sexist guesture at all.

    There is nothing sexist and “anti-feminist” about pictures of women in nice clothes :). If there was, then many of our paintings in art galleries would need to be taken down, and many present day artists who delight in depicting the female form (male and female artists) would have to stop work.

    1. I read this “but the shirt was designed and made by a woman” stuff several times already, this is completely irrelevant, to be polite. I hate to use reducto ad absurdum strategies or analogies, but as it seems to be a weapon of choice of antifeminists, let’s go:

      from your point of view, is it ok to wear a shirt that is racist towards black people if it was designed and manufactured by a black person?

  10. My girlfriend, who is a feminist, is extremely pissed off at the entire thing.

    Let me clarify her position as a feminist (which she’s pretty much had to discard as a descriptive term publicly); she is sex-positive no matter the gender and egalitarian.
    The only reason she still claims to be a feminist and not a humanist is because she’s almost solely focussed on women’s issues as that’s her interest but she does not close herself off to the opinions of men or their issues. She feels it would be disingenuous to label herself any other way.

    The reason she is pissed is that while she wanted the accomplishments of planetary scientist Dr. Monica Grady, NASA’s Rosetta project scientist Dr. Claudia Alexander and lead researcher Dr. Kathrin Allweg of the University of Bern to not only be recognised but to be held up as inspiration for women looking to follow into their footsteps, instead all the focus was on a man and his shirt.
    She believes when feminism decided it was more important to attack men than to highlight the accomplishments of women that it took a wrong turn and became the monster which it has been battling all along.
    She doesn’t like the shirt, she thinks a formal setting requires a formal dress code but she respects his individuality and self-expression.
    She is dismayed that instead of promoting women as strong, smart and able to succeed in an environment that is incredibly stressful and taxing for either gender they made women seem like they’re too weak to succeed in anything if there is even the slightest thing that upsets their sensibilities.

    To quote her “feminism is dying and it is feminists that are killing it by choosing anger, bitterness and confrontation rather than engagement and dialogue”

    1. Yep, this was the last straw for me. And it pushed a lot of my friends over, too. Sex-positive feminism is great, but that’s not the one that’s prominent right now. I understand your girlfriend’s decision to continue identifying as a feminist. But for me, nope. Done. Was on the fence for about three years now, and I’ve seen all manner of atrocious, mean-spirited, hypocritical, and bullying behavior from feminists. And they’re just as awful to other women and feminists as anyone else.

      1. The bullying is what did it for me. Or to be more specific, the defending of the bullying! Not one of these people said “Hey, you have a point. Maybe it is bullying. We’ll have to look into that”

        They defended and denied bullying. Then dismissed it using exactly the same words and tactics that bullies do.

        It’s something I care passionately about.

    2. It is indeed a shame that the accomplishments of women scientists, male scientists (and maybe even those of Taylor himself) were overshadowed by the shirtstorm.

      However, I think that your girlfriend’s thinking process is flawed. The fact that she herself is a feminist is irrelevant.

      The (mostly reasonnable, even if some were out of line) criticism towards Taylor’s shirt and poor choice of words, which to my knowledge originated in a large part from scientists and science journalist, did not trigger the shirtstorm. The shirt and the poor choice of words of Taylor in this context triggered it. Violent reactions to the initial criticism turned it into a grotesque shirtstorm.

  11. His shirt is not harming anyone. The female body is something to be admired and celebrated. Is the Venus de Milo sexist now?
    Anyone can wear whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t depict anything illegal (like child pornography) it’s fine.
    And scientists that are advancing our species forward should absolutely be able to wear whatever they please, and feminist which fight for social regression should just deal with it.

  12. So, there’s a problem of young girls being driven away from, or at least not welcomed into, STEM fields.

    This shirt is not part of it. (If anything, it’s part of the solution – see for example the Tumblr post about a five-year-old girl saying the shirt made her think ‘real people can be scientists’ too.)

    Denying that this shirt is related to the problem of education discouraging young girls from pursuing tech, science, and engineering is not denying that a problem exists – despite how often I’ve been told that’s the case!

    It’s the desperation to make anything and everything about a feminist problem that makes us react badly. We aren’t saying you’re shrill for talking about women in science. We’re saying you’re shrill for stomping into an unrelated discussion and very loudly making it about women in science.

  13. I honestly find the whole issue completely hypocritical.

    When women are judged for what they wear they are considered victims of a sexist society. When they do the same thing to the opposite sex they now expect the judgement to carry a different meaning.

    How about we all let adults choose what they wish to wear and we mind our own business. This man helped spearhead one of the greatest scientific accomplishments of our generation and we are simply sitting here crying over a shirt.

    A shirt, which was made for him by a female friend.

    Completely idiotic and a waste of intelligent discussion on the program.

    1. I think the problem is that the women’s clothing you are talking about is showing their own bodies, not someone else’s. Although I don’t think he wore the shirt with malicious intent it was a bad move on his part. I think he just didn’t think about the backlash of it. It does start a good conversation though. As a woman in a STEM field I understand the difficulty of trying to enter the ‘boys club’. I have the amazing fortune to work with a completely encouraging department but it is not this way everywhere. It’s an issue that does need some attention if things need to change a bit.

      1. Those women on his shirt posed for that art willingly. They chose to use their naked bodies as a form of artistic expression.

        That by itself is fine and no one would dare judge it without facing a social backlash.

        Take that art and put it on a shirt and it suddenly carries a negative association? That is where the issue is with me. They have no issue attacking a man who is wearing a shirt depicting this art project but they would never attack the project itself.

        Those women did not feel stigmatized or used, if they did they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to be used in such a way. So if they don’t have an issue with it then why does he have to take it into account when it is non-existent?

        1. Take that art, put it in the context of “women are props” during a press conference in a field notoriously hostile to the contributions of women, and then you have a negative association. Context does indeed matter.

    2. When women are judged for what they wear, they are being judged as an individual.

      What Dr. Taylor’s shirt is being judged as, not him as an individual, as that’s a red herring in this case, is representative of social attitudes toward women being sex objects and props for the titillation of a male gaze.

      Your comparison is false and your charge of hypocrisy is thus invalid.

      1. “When women are judged for what they wear, they are being judged as an individual.”

        Gonna have to cite that. The fact is the whole argument against women wearing certain types of outfits is not an argument against an individual woman, it is an attack against a “type” of woman. “Slut-shaming” is an attack against a type of woman, it is not an attack against an individual. Women are not attacked as individuals, if you have a problem with one woman wearing a skimpy skirt and being sexually unsuppressed then you have that issue with all women.

          1. They’re different.

            “Slut-shaming” is a range of behaviours that are critical of a certain subset of women in general, usually for what they wear.

            This is targeting an individual. It’s relentless and won’t stop until he gives in and does what the attackers want. This is what we call “bullying”

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