The Dress (A Redress)
Remember way back during Nobel Prize season when I ruffled a bunch of feathers over disliking not May-Britt Moser’s Nobel Prize dress, but the fact that I feared it overshadow her achievements due to our focus on women’s clothing and less on their achievement?
Firstly, I would like to say that if that post was upsetting, I’m sorry. Fashion is great in science and the blending of the two is a decent means of adding science into everyday life (and despite my initial mood, I now gladly follow startorialist!) Just ask me and my obsession with any hexagonal prints or hexagon necklaces. I’ve even purchased fabrics simply because they resemble graphene. The fact that May-Britt Moser’s dress was made by another scientist is fantastic and I have no issue with these individual choices – the choice to make the dress, the choice to design it and the choice to wear at the prize ceremony are all perfectly acceptable and I hope that it helped make an already special day even more special. What I was, and am still, worried about was the response of both the scientific community and the world at large.
But the fact of the matter is, nobody cares what Edvard Moser is wearing. Ever. To anything. His work will never be overshadowed by the way he dresses and I’d wager, verging on poor hygiene, his manner of dress would not detract from the value of his work either. Scientists, and professors, wear all kinds of absurd outfits provided they are totally good lab safety wise. Trust me, I’ve been lectured to by a man wearing a Led Zeppelin shirt that looked like it was bought in the heyday of Led Zeppelin. Nobody says anything. I’ve seen male professors come into lecture wearing very ill-fitting garb. Nobody says anything and up to this point, I haven’t either…except to illustrate this point.
When a female process in my department shows up wearing a classic teacher sweater or something overly colorful, people notice. People make commentary. “Her clothes make her look so much older,” is one I remember. But you know what, screw that. If somebody can wear a shirt older than the students, she can wear a fuzzy snowman sweater to work. That’s how I feel but the fact of the matter is the undue attention is paid to women’s clothes over men’s clothing – even in science.
Today, I was looking up May-Britt Moser for an unrelated reason. Just searching on the trusty Google and I noticed what you see in the 3rd image. You ask Google, “May-Britt Moser?” and it asks you back, “Her dress, her Nobel, her husband, or her biography?”
Huh. Weird. The dress is the first suggestion. I wonder if the dress is overshadowing her research? Well, I’d want something to compare it to…somebody with similar credentials and who did similar work at the same period in history but is male….oh wait. She has a collaborator who is her husband. So, you ask Google, “Edvard Moser?” and it asks you back, “His lab? His Nobel? Do you want his CV or his biography?”
Oh. Wow. Nobody looks up anything
about Edvard Moser other than his work.
Furthermore, when you search for May-Britt, it suggests Edvard as well because that is what Google learned from us. But when you look for Edvard…it doesn’t suggest you learn about May-Britt. Even though they’re usually pictured together and they are collaborators, May-Britt’s work is being overshadowed by her clothing and her spouse.
I was also worried that on Tumblr’s
most popular science blogs if her dress would begin to overshadow her
work. And Moser lab did some incredible stuff – the morning of the
announcement my biology professor pulled up a video of their work and
the resulting grid and I was amazed. Check out the fourth image up there (Source).
This kind of thing is a problem. It is the reason I was less than pleased about learning about this dress though the piece itself is fantastic. We know there is gender bias in science at just about every level and of course, the scientific community and followers of the Nobel Prize continued to do what we keep trying to stop ourselves from doing – letting unimportant details overshadow women in science and undervaluing women’s contributions in comparison to their male colleagues. The dress has become a dreadfully obvious example of this and really shows us how far we have to go.