Yesterday, Jerry Coyne had a post up “on the sexualization of selling science“, addressing the show-skin style of science popularizers such as Yvette d’Entremont (SciBabe) and Debbie Berebichez (Science Babe).
It is a long post, but Jerry’s main arguments can be summed up in two:
I don’t like to see science sold salaciously. Nor does it have to be: there are plenty of women science popularizers who do an effective job without dragging sexuality into the mix: these include Jennifer Oulette on Gizmodo, Joanne Manaster at Joanne Loves Science, and people like Carolyn Porco, Pamela Gay, and Lisa Randall.
So Jerry doesn’t like it — well, to each his own. And he says science doesn’t have to be sold ‘salaciously’ and gives examples of non-salaciously women popularizers. I think he’s right: it doesn’t have to be sold ‘salaciously’… but as it turns out, it doesn’t have to be sold not-salaciously either.
Like I said, to each his own. And the more, the merrier: if you like the ‘salaciously’ kinda stuff, then you can have it your way. And if you dislike it, you have plenty of non-salaciously popularizers as well. It’s a win-win.
What I wouldn’t like would be if there was only ‘salaciously’ or non-salaciously popularization.
Jerry’s second argument is this:
Second, these images are certainly going to turn away part of the demographic who need the message of science. I know this because several people have told me so over the years.
Well, yeah, and maybe the lack of ‘salacious’ popularization is driving readers away from Why Evolution Is True but, in either case, there’s science going to people willing to listen and learn, and having prudish and salacious popularization and all the in between can only increase the demographics. This is something to be celebrated, instead of antagonized!
I don’t even know why this is a thing. Everyone’s entitled to write and blog however they see fit. If some people don’t like it, no one’s forcing them to follow that blog — as a matter of fact, I don’t write for everyone and I think acknowledging it is a good thing! Maybe d’Entremont and Berebichez don’t blog for everyone either — we can’t rule that out.
Now, I can’t help but remember that time Neil deGrasse Tyson criticized Richard Dawkins‘ popularization style:
And I must say, Dawkins —as well as Christopher Hitchens— always had the sensitivity towards my state of mind, and that’s why they had such a great impact on me. Why is my experience dismissed in this fashion?
And speaking of Neil deGrasse Tyson, guess who was voted the Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive… I’d love to know what Jerry thinks about that!
Anyway, the bottom line is: what’s the big deal if you’re learning science with some skin-showing or not? As far as I understand it, you can’t do science popularization wrong unless you’re not being honest or knowingly deceiving in any other way.
As long as you’re honest, whether to show some skin or not is for every blogger to decide… and there’s no wrong choice.