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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

Matt Taylor criticism exposes our ill-placed priorities

The great Confucius once said, “When a wise man points at the moon, the imbecile examines the finger” — a phenomenon that still clearly exists in this day and age.

On Nov. 12, history was made as European Space Agency’s Matt Taylor (a British physicist) and his fellow scientists landed a small probe called Philae on the Rosetta Comet as the comet whipped by at a crazy 84,000 mph.

A new age with respect to understanding our universe will come from where this comet will travel, and we will come closer to answering those great unknowns. However, the success of Philae’s landing was overshadowed by the swarms and hordes of our global populace that dwell at the edge of computer keyboards awaiting the subtle fault of greatness.

In other words, the masses felt the shirt — a shirt which is now infamous — that Matt Taylor wore during the Rosetta mission’s celebration was sexist enough to disregard his and the team’s accomplishment and instead ridicule him, negating one of the most important moments of Taylor’s life. The shirt was a bowling-style top with images of pinup-style girls all over it. 

Tweets such as, “ESA can land their robot on a comet….But they still can’t see misogyny under their noses” (Emily Drabek-Maunder) are spreading through the web, instead of acknowledging the great accomplishment that just occurred.

Full articles, like the one Hadley Freeman wrote for the Guardian, have declared that the shirt was inappropriate by using stereotyping and prejudice to prove their point. Freeman wrote, “Look, I didn’t especially like his shirt, but I also don’t think one can expect much more of a heavily inked dude with a well-established penchant for bad t-shirts. As a cursory search on Google Images (hard research here, people!) proves, this one, while not in the best of taste, was clearly part of that tendency.” 

How is it appropriate to dismiss the qualities of an individual, of whom the writer knows nothing, based on the ink on said individual’s body? Would it be ridiculous to assume that this kind of nonchalant prejudice should not exist when trying to promote one’s argument on a social issue? Or at least, is it not fair and would hurt one’s cause instead of help it?

This kind of political and social agenda is something that should be addressed, since the respect of women in the social sphere and the workplace is at the heart of it. However, to impose one’s personal insecurities and political agenda without all of the facts during such an event is ignorant.

The question that this issue should bring to light for this social equality movement is: is it misogynistic to wear such a shirt if it was given to him by a woman who appreciates this particular kind of art?

In fact, the shirt was made by Matt Taylor’s friend Elly Prizeman, who gave it to him as a gift. She created the shirt; her husband is the artist. Her husband is also Taylor’s tattoo artist.

What I find interesting is Prizeman’s response in an interview with Newsweek on complaining about sexism: “I feel all views can be expressed adequately if it’s done constructively. No one’s opinion is wrong or right. It’s the delivery of the opinion I feel should be considered.”

She is correct; there are ways to discuss such topics without lashing out unnecessarily at people. And on the topic of pinup imagery’s supposed inherent sexism, Prizeman had this to say, “It can be construed that way, I suppose. In its time, yes, but not in the modern day with women being more empowered and accepted in all walks of life. I love the female form, and these pinup prints and pictures are unique and beautiful.”

There are civilized ways to address the issues of sexism and misogyny, but that should be left to those with the education and skill to conduct themselves accordingly. Yet I suppose, when a brilliant man tries to look into the depths of space, the internet looks at his shirt.