Saturday, June 13, 2015

Enough to Make me Get a Twitter Account!

All it took was an enormous large Nobel foot in the mouth for a wonderful outpouring of female pride in their technical work this week.  The Twitter hashtag #distractinglysexy is a fascinating outpouring of humor filled protest over Sir Tim Hunt's speech to journalists in 'honor' of women in science last week.  If you have been following this current event, Sir Hunt managed to trivialize his experiences with women in his laboratories as one long soap opera event that would justify single-sex laboratories to take the pressure off their male colleagues.  It was an astonishingly stupid set of comments, which after resigning today from his post, he said he stands by - as having women in the lab results in too many tears.

I have found pouring over the now 10,000+ tweets fascinating.  Young (and old) women scientists and engineers are taking pictures of themselves at work and posting them to #distractinglysexy with
comments like "Sorry guys, I know this clean room suit is so revealing #distractinglysexy".  Not only are the comments pithy, but the shear range of careers where these women are working is just AMAZING.  There are pictures of women in the bush tracking cheetahs, doing liver transplants, sitting inside giant solar death rays, fixing the Giant Hadron Collider, knee deep in archeological digs, in hazmat suits, as firemen, fighting ebola, taking core samples, in scuba gear, on icebergs with huge emperor penguins behind them, and it just goes on and on.

In some ways this would an amazing anthropological or sociology project collecting their images and how the world doesn't see these women at work.  Very empowering for anyone who has ever donned a bunny suit (the dust type), had to wear a respirator to work, owns a hard-hat, or tried to explain to a little girl how exciting, adventuresome and sometimes dangerous being a scientist/engineer is.  Not the typical image.

Today I was watching a NOVA Science Now where the host was testing out alternative gravity situations for a hypothetical Mars mission.  He was placed in a spinning room.  My son was there and going 'COOL, I would love to try that'.  I laughed and said - 'you did,  I was in that room in while pregnant with you'.  Of course when I was pregnant with the second and my job required me to jump out of a low helicopter in a swamp, we had to draw the line... I was already 8 months along.  My kids see me as a much more staid person now - but I think I have ridden in more real-flight simulators than they have played.  So I love this twitter feed - while they might not look glamorous, it sure is showing that there are some major bad-ass ladies out there.

I just might have to get a Twitter account now....

Doing embroidery with a microscope,
traditional women's work very #distractinglysexy.
Taking a break from embroidery to do some paintball
with my robot team.  #distractinglysexy in that full face mask!


  1. There was another one about shoes, after a little girl was disappointed to be told she couldn't have the dinasour shoes she wanted because they were "just for boys". Check out #InHerShoes (I think)...

  2. As the one in this household who climbs on or in the roof, fixes the plumbing / electrics, tinkers with the IT, and cleans and fillets the fish, whilst still finding time for embroidery, I am delighted to be considered an ephemeral distraction!

  3. Tim Hunt is trying to get the ladies to take the blame for his problem with being overly interested in them. The classic 'blame the victim' syndrome, of course. He really ought to take a look in a mirror sometime, as I can't imagine the women are beating down his door.

  4. I've been having the best time seeing/reading those #distractinglysexy pictures for the last couple days. So glad to see you have a couple photos too.

  5. What a great post. As a chemist working in male dominated industries (oil, auto, and defense), I can certainly tell you how we are constantly looked down upon. I have seen a enormous improvement over the years of male attitudes towards women in science and engineering, but there is still work to be done. Many of the ladies i know who are hard core engineers and scientist still love to work on the "gentle arts" of sewing, embroidering, knitting, etc. I'm glad he resigned, what stupid comments.

  6. Love it. I'm a proposal writer specializing in engineering technology (infrastructure, nuclear, high end routing, now robots). For much of my career I've been the only non-admin woman in my R&D group. It has gotten better since the days a boss forbade me from displaying handwork in my office. But not a lot. Many of the women scientists and engineers I've worked with have had "soft" creative hobbies - mostly needlework and knitting, although many do keep that a secret. My hard engineering handwork heroine is NASA Flight Engineer Karen Nyberg, who stitched a stuffed dino toy for her kid while posted on the International Space Station:

  7. In the US there are about 3400 board certified neurosurgeons. About 130 or so are women. I was the first woman in my residency program and was trained by a very forward thinking chairman. I was one of the founding members of Women In Neurosurgery. I've encountered some sexism along the way, but not much. Of course it helps that I have a knife in my hand most of the time! Unless the guy is a complete idiot, if you're the best at the job, (and most of us had to be), then he usually comes around. As for the "gentle arts", anyone who has hung with Trisha for even a little bit knows how much science, engineering and academic smarts she brings to "our little hobby". I work in a high stress medical specialty and doing needlework helps me manage that stress. The male jerks who can't function around women because they can't control their own libido should try it.