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Many of y’all have heard of the furor over the tacky — and I think, unprofessional — shirt worn by the Rosetta comet mission’s Project Scientist. Various feminists took offense at the cartoon women on the man’s shirt as being misogynistic and claimed that this kind of thing is what keeps women from going into the physical sciences as a career. The pile-on got so heavy that the man was nearly reduced to tears in an on-camera apology.
Yet even now, it hasn’t stopped. Among my fellow astronomers, there is a lot of talk about writing an official condemnation of Matt Taylor by the American Astronomical Society on the issue, as the Astronomical Society of Australia has done. While I think the shirt was in poor taste, the volume of ink being spilled talking about it is way out of proportion to the offense, and the claim that this is evidence of astronomers’ “misogyny” is ridiculous.
Now, a few days later, our biggest professional discussion group had someone post a link from Media Matters to a joke making fun of Fox News. While the joke is mildly funny and only made me roll my eyes a little, it demonstrates the comfort my fellow academics feel in making fun of those of different beliefs. In the discussion that followed, we were told that it’s actually justifiable for us professionals to openly make fun of people of particular political beliefs or religions. (For the record, this joke didn’t bother me; I’m really talking about much worse behavior I have seen in this crowd.)