Yesterday I continued my commitment to exercise by walking on our treadmill. The device resides near our big-screen TV with video recorder, so I can distract myself with the television while burning calories. My favorite show? TLC's What Not To Wear (WNTW).
For those of you unfamiliar with WNTW, the hosts (Stacy London and Clinton Kelly) make-over a fashion victim nominated by friends and family after secretly videoing the person for two weeks. If the victim agrees to throw out their wardrobe and shop by Stacy and Clinton's rules, they get $5,000 to spend on a new wardrobe. They also get their hair and make-up professionally done. Many of the victims have serious issues with body image to deal with. The most common victims include the barely-dressed bimbo and the frumpy mom.
Yesterday, I watched the dynamic duo take on a scientist!
Lizzie looks like she is ready to hike at all times (see before shot). She studies algae science and biofuels. Her career stage remains a bit unclear, but based on what her work friends said, she is finishing a post-doc and getting ready to enter the job market.
During the wardrobe review, her "conference presentation" outfit included black slacks, a button-down oxford shirt, and a mis-matched cardigan.
So what happened? First, everything she owned entered the trash (it's a symbolic trash can; they donate wearable clothing to charity). Much of the discussion focused on appearance in our society. Is celebrating beauty or caring about your appearance superficial, a sign of a weak mind? Or is it a realistic component of being successful? After all, people make judgments based on appearance; if you want to be a faculty member or an industry professional, you may get farther if you dress the part!
Lizzie ended up with a great suit paired with conservative, stacked mid-height heels. Her "after" wardrobe included tops and pants to get her through labs and lectures, and a few dressy pieces for those events in life. Losing all her geeky message tees makes me a bit sad; they could have left her 2 or 3 for hiking! Ted Gibson pulled her wavy hair straight during the blow-out; while the style looks lovely and professional, I suspect something more wash-and-wear might be in the cards as Lizzie evolves her personal look in the coming months.
Women in science often feel that they are one of the boys; if they look attractive, they will not be taken seriously. Looking at the two photos of this scientist, I suspect the opposite to be true.
I also believe a message gets out to girls that interest in science and math are incompatible with pretty. A friend recalls shopping for new eye-wear and hearing a teenage girl squeal, "I can't wear these glasses; they make me look like a scientist!" Clearly, scientists would never pick out cute, attractive frames. For some girls, this is a deal-breaker. They like clothes and being pretty, and they are not willing to sacrifice those interests for a career in science. I would argue that the drive to ornament one's body and be attractive runs deep; after all, beads turn up at very old archaeological sites. Do we really want to fight this drive, or embrace it?
I'm not saying that women MUST dress in the latest fashions, but they CAN do so without sacrificing their other talents. There is room in science for women in platform heels as well as hiking boots. Mascara has never been demonstrated to reduce IQ!