Tuesday, November 18, 2014


That guy is one of the scientists (Matt Taylor) who made the (stunning) comet-landing mission work. He is literally one of the people who has made a humanity-next-level achievement possible. He was one of the guys who was chosen to do the PR interviews with the scientist team.

During his presser he was wearing the shirt seen above. Yeah: apparently the European Space Agency has no dress code? The Omnivore doesn't know. Anyway, he caught some flack for it from women who felt he was dude-broing up the sciences and issued a choked-up apology.

He Was Attacked By Feminist Bullies
The Omnivore could see the dust-up in Twitter with the #hastags #ShirtStorm and #ShirtGate but a quick analysis of these showed almost no anti-Taylor bullying. That's okay: The Omnivore knows that Twitter is an anti-feminist hive of scum and villainy. The Omnivore hunted for the truly bad things that were said to him.

Here is a good round-up of The Horror. The back-lash, however was swift. The Federalist decides it's time to stand-up to the Feminist bullies. In the list of grievances  it gives us:

  • Outrage about The Verg's article's headline "Your Bowling Shirt Is Holding Back Progress." Oh, The Federalist references the revised click-bait headline (which differs from the URL-name indicating it was added after publication).
  • The Federalist comes down on 'shrill' Jezebel's article complaining about people telling an anti-shirt tweeter to "jump off a cliff" (that's right: the grievance  is that Jezebel is calling "jump off a cliff" and die comments death threats--that's the bullying).
  • It links to a list of "outrage-tweets" with a Trigger Warning that may make you ashamed to be human. The tweets are tame.
  • It quotes London's mayor likening the above to the "Show Trials of Stalin."

The Show Trials of Stalin? And this is the The Omnivore went hunting for anti-Taylor articles that could be seen as personal attacks. It's hard because (a) The Omnivore is on slow hotel-room Internet and (b) Google is fairly stuffed with pro-Taylor backlash--but here's what we've got:
This is not the Show Trials of Stalin. Even the hate-tweets are just ... mild. Even the comments are generally mild.

What's Going On Here?
Part of what's going on here is political opportunism. Gender-dialog is seen as decidedly Democratic which brings the Right out in force but part of the fire comes from less politically polarized men who feel under-assault from "feminism" or, perhaps, women in general. The same tectonic cultural forces that are shifting (rapidly) in favor of gay marriage are also having an impact on men's places in the world. Combined with a decline in social capital for men--especially less credentialed ones--this creates a climate of fear.

Fear, as Yoda tells us, leads to anger.

Anger ... leads to hate.

What does that even mean? Consider the following: A woman who dresses in something less than a burka goes out and is, let's say, verbally harassed by a man. We are told that no matter how revealing her outfit, the man is 100% responsible for his choice to, let's say, call her 'a slut.' It's not how she dressed--it's how he responded to it. The harassment is 100% his fault.

On the other hand, women/feminists find Taylor 100% responsible for the hostile climate created by his shirt. He's responsible for his mode of dress--'she' isn't. Is that a double standard?

What if Taylor was an out-and-proud gay man wearing a shirt with half-clad beefcake on it? It seems unlikely the same people would have complained about the shirt in the same way, doesn't it? Certainly the religious right would have had something negative to say--and their libertarian allies might have been 'okay-with-the-gay' but would want to know if gay-Taylor's sexual preference really had to be in-our-faces-all-the-time, right?

Maybe that's a double standard too?

The reason why these things are not the same isn't because it's explicitly an issue of work-place appropriate clothing (although that does come up) but because fundamentally society treats women and gay men differently in many, many ways from straight-white-males--and the specific instances of these hypotheticals happen within those contexts. As society (that's mainstream western society) as a whole treats straight-white-men on the whole better, this is called 'privilege.'

Today that concept, whether in use by that name or not--and whether sometimes used as a rhetorical battering ram or not--is both important and highly controversial for a lot of people. Outside of specific social-science 'technical discussions' it creates an opaque wall that a lot of people when faced with both can't climb over (the presence of 'privilege' in the argument is sometimes treated as a kind of 100% assignment of right and wrong) and can't see through (the hetero-white-male who is awkward around and rejected by women and can't get a job will rightly have a hard time understanding how "he's got all the social capital.")

On the other hand, it defies logic that people on the right really think that feminists bullies are roundly crushing the egos of space-scientists or meaningfully ruining video games or whatever. Anti-violence social forces did damage a swath of Saturday Morning cartoons in the 70's ... Prohibition was a nanny-state style movement that disrupted society for a while. We're not seeing anything like that with video games or hard sciences or anything period. If you stretch it, you could get the CEO of Mozilla stepping down--but you've really got to stretch it.

If you want a line in the sand, here's one: Can you imagine a woman scientist in Matt Taylor's place wearing a similar shirt? Really? The answer if you are being honest is: No, you cannot. A woman scientist, appearing on international television to show off a humanity-level achievement would be as conservatively and professionally dressed as physically possible.

You can point to celebrities for whom exposure (in both the literal and cultural sense of the word) is currency as having had various "wardrobe malfunctions" or appearing with a, ahem, full-moon--but a woman scientist? No--you can't.

And that's your litmus test. It was, really, pretty boggling that a guy-scientist would show up in his bowling shirt too--it's really hard to know what he was thinking and difficult to figure out why no one had a talk with him before the cameras got there--but the fact that he made it through the front doors, in front of his colleagues, and on to TV with no one (including his bosses?) saying anything? That speaks to a certain level of privilege in attire choices that--well, find a woman in your work-place and ask her. See what she says.

See if she thinks she could get through the prep in a sexed-up Hawaiian shirt without someone intervening.

And if she did?

Her clothing choices would be the topic of the mainstream press conversation instead of the further-left.

If you don't think that's true (ask Hillary Clinton), you have your head in the sand.


  1. Thanks for the summary.

  2. [veronica]

    Yep. Look, I'm an actual Twitter feminist. I follow most of the big names. I even follow @shanely, for the love of Pete! And *literally no one* on my feed was tearing this guy up -- at least not that I saw.

    (Okay, honestly it would not surprise me if someone found a @shanley tweet attacking this guy hard. But, you know, @shanley).

    Anyway, the point is this: the feminist response to this guy was pretty damn measured. I'm not sure why. I think maybe we just read the guy as more hapless than hostile. Which seems actually to be true. Furthermore, his apology did seem pretty genuine. Which, yay!

    The point is, he IS NOT LIKE the terrible shitlords charging to defend him, who in fact mostly just want to attack feminism. Those people suck.

    Plus he landed a fucking spaceship on a fucking comet like OMG!

    1. SHIRTlords.

      For the record, I was going to give people trashing him some grief for [ reasons ]. I actually came into this with a theory that there had been an over-reaction / dog-pile. The (changed) Verge headline was what got me thinking that until I (a) read the piece and (b) could see in the URL they changed the headline for improved click-bait.

      Then I went hunting for tasty, tasty flaming I'd assumed from the #hashtags just *had* to be there. I had to change my whole write-up strategy after actually doing the research (when The Federalist's lists of attacks is super-lame one has to assume that the evidence for real abuse is nearly non-existent). This, let's just say, did NOT happen with #GamerGate.

      -The Omnivore

    2. [veronica]

      Right. I'm actually trying to figure out why the feminist response here was so measured. Now, I am glad it was. As *a Twitter feminist* I get rather depressed at how quickly my side reaches knee-jerk conclusions and then proceeds to go full rage-hate against whichever hapless "misogynist-of-the-day" has earned their wrath.

      Which, usually these guys are pretty terrible and kinda deserve it, but this is not *effective activism*. And sometimes we get it wrong and then the anti-feminists have a big huge pile of fail to point at and squawk.


      But anyway, this time we didn't do that. Are we learning?

      I hope we are learning.