I really like film Legally Blonde. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an sorority queen (think masses of pink) who chases her boyfriend to Harvard Law school. The movie starts off with a stereotypical girly girl, Elle, (very stereotypical of what people like to *think* sorority girls are like) whose boyfriend dumps her when he goes to Harvard. Elle, determined to get him back, studies really hard for a few weeks to take the Law Entrance Exam to get into law school to track him down.
My favourite line in the film is when said ex-boyfriend sees Elle at the registration desk in the Harvard Law School and says:
YOU?!? got into Harvard Law?
Elle replies: What, like it’s hard?
The film proceeds with Elle discovering she actually is really good at law school and that she doesn’t need that ex after all. It’s such a great stereotype-busting movie. Someone you *think* is this silly stereotype turns out to be an amazingly able tough character. Importantly, Elle studied to get into law school, she didn’t just appear there like magic.
This is a good message: you can be smart and able – NO MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE OR HOW YOU DRESS. In a world where sometimes we are still inundated with the stereotype that there are pretty girls (who are dumb) and smart girls (who are not pretty) this is a good, almost subversive, message for a Hollywood film.
Today – the EU launched Science: It’s a girl thing as a website today.
The front page of the website is horrifying. Its in pink (with lipstick for the i) with lots of pink everywhere and lets us know Why you’ll *love* science.
If that wasn’t bad enough there is a teaser video (yes they really called it that)
They could have shown a variety of women actually doing science, even beautiful actresses for all I care, but no, they showed a bunch of women prancing around in short skirts and stilettos giggling lots. Well OK, they did show one girl doing maths (of some description) on her Plexiglas see-through marking board (while pouting), but that was about it for science imagery. This video is really a happy romp through all of the *vacuous sex sells* stereotypes and has nothing whatsoever to do with science. In fact the only person shown to be really doing any science (if you want to call it that) was the male scientist at the beginning who looks up from his microscope to see the ladies comin’ to the lab. So girls when they do science don’t boringly stare into microscopes, they prance around toss their hair and do research on makeup, not the normal stuff of science.
Science needs female role models, absolutely, but the teaser videos had none of that. There are some other good videos on that website where actual scientists (who are women) are interviewed. Why the creators didn’t just splice bits of these together for their *teaser* video we will never know.
The message we need to be making to girls who like STEM subjects is the message that Legally Blonde makes. NO MATTER WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE OR HOW YOU DRESS YOU CAN LIKE SCIENCE TOO (or anything you want to like for that matter). The message I think we need to give teens and girls and even boys for that matter is:
Be who you are, like what you want and damn the stereotypes!
Showing everyone boys and girls alike that science takes all kinds is a much better message than pouting and prancing.