Most of you have probably heard about the crass article that appeared in everyone’s favorite working mum- and immigrant-bashing rag (that’s me firmly in its sights, then, for embodying both evils simultaneously), the Daily Mail.
Which one, you ask? Because there are so many.
I’m referring, dear reader, to the columnist who took issue with BBC Newsnight having had as their guests two (gasp) women scientists, neither of which were (shocked double-take) white. Although chosen for their expertise, the columnist stated that it was only their gender and race that had scored them the high-profile punditry stint commenting on the big gravitational wave discovery.
Or in journalist Ephraim Hardcastle’s own charming words:
So, two women were invited to comment on the report about (white, male) American scientists who’ve detected the origins of the universe – giggling Sky at Night presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Sri Lanka-born astronomer Hiranya Peiris.
[Peiris] is a world expert on the study of the cosmic microwave background…[and] Aderin-Pocock is a highly-qualified scientist and engineer with an exceptional talent for communicating complex scientific concepts in an accessible way.
This whole thing is a bit of joke. The number of women and people of color who appear in broadcast and print media as science pundits is vanishingly tiny. Having two at once may well be conspicuous because of how incredibly unusual it is, but to imply that they were chosen solely for these attributes is just silly considering how every other time, it’s almost always white guys in the chair. If it had been deliberate, we’d see more of it, and we just don’t.
Besides, it’s obviously very insulting to the scientists in question, no doubt having spoiled for them what should have been a deeply exciting moment. It’s also insulting to the women and non-white members of the gravitation wave teams whose work contributed to the discovery – to have the Mail just airbrush them from the picture is astonishing. (Has good old-fashioned fact checking gone out the window along with any semblance of respect or human dignity?)
Anyway, I just wanted to alert you all to a petition that’s gone live from University College Union member and fellow UCL colleague Dr. Rachele De Felice, demanding that the Mail issue a formal apology to the two scientists. I just had a peek and it’s got over 1500 signatures already, which is great for its first day. If you feel as strongly about this as I do, sign the petition and spread the word!