Cheerleading For Science! July 14, 2012

Cheerleading For Science!

Remember that awful PSA video that the European Commission put out to encourage girls to get into science?

If you don’t, that’s okay, too.  But if I had to sum it up in an image, it would be the following:

It’s not what I would call “good” or “effective” or “a thing that doesn’t make me want to vomit”.

I came across a video with a similar message, but perhaps done a bit more effectively. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a woman making her best “smart face” and writing gibberish on a clear dry-erase board:

The Science Cheerleaders are a group of 175 former NBA or NFL cheerleaders who are working or studying in STEM fields. The following video is the ladies performing in front of lots of enthusiastic girls:

According to the Science Cheerleaders website:

These women aim to playfully challenge stereotypes, inspire young women to consider science and technology careers, and get people from all walks of life involved in formal and informal research projects demonstrating that science *is* for all!

So what do you all think?  I think its a great message and fairly well done.  Do I wish that we didn’t need something like this to “give girls permission” to want to be into science?  Of course.  But I like that these women are actually working in the field as opposed to being models with glasses and lab coats.

High kicks for science!

(via Jezebel)

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  • Annie

    Attracting girls to STEM fields is an important message, and requires lots of avenues to present that message.  I don’t think this should be the only way to make girls aware of the opportunities and choices available to them, but rather, it should be one of the many.

  • I’m loving this.  My niece is going on 13 and a cheerleader.  I’ve noticed her falling into the mentality of “Eww, not nerdy stuff!” and falling away from all the science she’s always enjoyed. A lot of it is peer pressure. I think this video will be a great way to start a conversation with her and bridge the idea that you can’t be a cheerleader AND like science. Maybe I’ll be the totally uncool grown-up that posts it on her facebook wall. Can’t hurt!

    It’s a good start and definitely (as I stated above) can help parents and family members bridge that gap and start a conversation. I love that these ladies are showing that stereotypes saying women scientists can’t be girly are ridiculous.

    So thank you to the Science Cheerleaders for giving us a jumping off point and I hope they continue to show more and more girls that science is awesome!

  • There is definitely a pervasive, cultural pressure on young girls to choose from a binary of being “girly” or being “nerdy.”  People do tend to react strongly and negatively to conventionally attractive women who have the gall to also be incredibly intelligent. Or women who like to drink beer, go fishing and get dirty as well as wear pink, high heels and makeup. It’s this idea of women who are smart/less feminine are supposed to be “better than” all that girly stuff. It’s incredibly frustrating, but what’s more frustrating is when I see women I work with or are friends with propagating that nonsense. 

  • Philbert

    The European Commission also had some similar videos with actual scientists. Unfortunately none of them got any attention because everyone was too busy denouncing the stupid one. A shame, but the EC brought it on themselves.

  • I wonder if we are letting our emotions get in the way of our reason here. I have two daughters that I have tried to raise with an interest in math and science. Hazel, 10, is right at what seems to be the critical cut-off age. While she usually seems to like science, she often says that math and science are boring. Violet, 8, has no interest in math and science at all. If it isn’t princesses, dancing, dressing up and makeovers it is not on her interest horizon.

    When I watched that EC PSA from Jessica’s earlier post I could not believe what and awful, stupid, disgusting, condescending piece of crap it was. I played it again in an act of morbid fascination. Violet walked by and saw it. She liked it. It is the only thing that has ever managed to generate any interest in science in her and she has continued to show tentative interest in science since.

    I still hate the add and what it represents, but I know of one girl who has been reached by it  where all other attempts have failed and there must be at least a few others. As long as is not the only or dominant approach but just one small facet in multi pronged strategy, isn’t it better to have those few girls be reached than to ignore them just because it offends our sensibilities?

  • Feckin’ great idea.  Breaks multiple stereotypes too.  The “hot” girls are not only smart, but scientists and engineers and more.  Also, that you can do so much with your life that may seem incongruent.  Role models one and all.

    Plus, there’s more than one teenage boy who might just go to see cheerleaders and have a really good wake up call.  Kudos to all involved

  • Kim

    I am a female scientist and I have mixed feelings about this video. On one hand, it seemed very memorable and impressive to the kids, and the cheerleaders represented various branches of science. It also showed that you can be attractive/girly AND interested in science (a message that should have been realized long before 2012!).

    On the other hand, the cheerleading show didn’t seem to contain much information  about science or science careers. I’m just not a big fan of cheerleaders in general, because I would rather see these athletic and talented women actually playing sports rather than supporting a team of male athletes… plus, it seems like the cheerleaders’ ability to wear tiny outfits and look hot is as important (if not more important) than their athletic skill.

  • What’s missing from the ad is the suggestion that these women are atheists. Too bad, since that detracts seriously from the message.

  • Kodie

     I think you have to start with science they like or would like. I was terrible at science and had no idea what was so cool about it. All through school, it was my worst and least favorite subject, and it was presented fairly boringly. I remember some glimpses of “hey, that’s pretty cool” but we were skimming over the surface. Not that I was a girly girl or anything, I didn’t think it was “for boys” because I was (and still am) pretty good at maths, I just didn’t like or understand what it was.

    A couple weeks ago, I took myself to the Museum of Science in Boston – most of it is for kids, frankly. I’d been to the Museum of Natural History in NYC a couple times as a kid, but… I don’t know, too much stuff for one day, and again, skimming the surface. Outside the museum, you have to figure out what they like, lure them into it, let them like it, let them be curious about it, and don’t tell them it’s science. Kids play at science all the time – seesaws, kites, collecting seashells at the beach, drawing rainbows but remain at that superficial stage where they don’t know that’s science, and don’t associate it with any science they’d heard of, nor anything more complex. I saw one extremely enthusiastic kid (although it was a boy) at the MoS who wanted to stay in one area and his mother urged him to keep it moving, like… missed opportunity? Maybe not. He said “I love it here, I never want to leave!” I don’t think you can give a kid who isn’t already fascinated in science ALL science and then say “isn’t that fascinating?” You observe them and what they gravitate toward. Like that one kid, let them stick to one thing, and get themselves dug deep in it and spreading out into other nearby areas. I think that might have worked for me.

  • Elise

    This one:

    She says that “Evolution should definitely be taught to our children.” Yes, some mixed feelings, but mostly I dig it. Also, do you guys not notice all the women of color? Important stuff!

  • kaileyverse

    One comment I have on this issue is that not all women leave science or are discouraged to be in science because of the treatment they receive based on their sex and perceived abilities.

    I chose NOT to go to a PhD program in chemistry when I realized I liked doing other things more.  Though I did experience sexism, I felt more pressured by my parents and academic adviser (a man) to pursue a career I wasn’t interested in precisely because I was a woman and it was a big deal (And The only chemistry major in my year to get accepted to a PhD program).

    The fact of the matter is, I was dang good at chemistry (and I still love science), but I found other intellectual work and other professions infinitely more interesting and personally fulfilling. 

  • Michael

    I remember hearing a very interesting deconstruction of this binary view from Katrina Hodge, Miss England 2009, who competed in Miss World while on leave from Afghanistan.

  • Traveling Txn

    So my wife’s getting her PhD in microbio (but working in a cancer research lab) and she and the other woman in her lab loved the EC’s video.  They’re reaction was something along the lines of “Yes!  This is exactly how our lab is!”  I get how it can be seen as offensive because it plays off on the girly stereotypes, but I think the part they liked was that it embraces being girly and sciencey.

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