This past week we were witnesses to a major breakthrough event in human history.
Penned as the Rosetta Mission after the stone that helped transcribe ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, a team of English scientists successfully landed the Philae lunar module on a passing comet.
The module transmitted data from the comet back to Earth, where the hope is the landing will help discover new information about our universe and its formation.
I’m no expert on outer space or what landing on a comet does to help advance our knowledge, but I’m smart enough to pay attention to the news, and this event caught a lot of headlines over the past couple days.
Unfortunately, this column won’t be about the mission itself, or what it means for the scientific community. This will be about the events that came after the successful landing, specifically surrounding one of the mission’s contributors, Matt Taylor.
During the live stream of the Rosetta Mission, Taylor was seen wearing a shirt depicting “scantily-clad women firing guns." He was labeled a sexist by the media and multiple feminist groups for wearing the shirt, and during a press briefing on Friday, offered a tear-filled apology for his offensive behavior.
You heard me right. We just landed a lunar module on a comet going 84,000 miles per hour. Don’t you think that should be controlling the headlines?
It was — for a couple of days. Now it’s been overshadowed because a contributing scientist was harassed so much he broke down during a live interview.
It’s situations like this that make me wish we would rethink the whole feminist movement. Not to say that the movement shouldn’t be happening. Women deserve just as much respect as men do, and anyone that tells you otherwise doesn’t deserve your respect in the first place.
But there are certain groups that go about making change the wrong way. Lashing out at individuals who clearly don’t mean to disrespect anyone is a senseless act, and if anything it flashed a negative light on the movement as a whole.
It’s time to step back and remember what feminism really is. It’s about treating men and women the same. As equals. And while it may seem counterintuitive, the road to equality is paved with moments like this one, where the best course of action is to let small things go and focus on the bigger picture.
Blasting Taylor until he wept during a live press briefing didn’t bring us closer to gender equality. It overshadowed what should have been a proud moment for him as he celebrated what was likely one of his finest achievements as a scientist.
The path to gender equality is going to be rocky, though the end destination is common sense. We must learn when to address bad behaviors and when someone is being purposefully disrespectful.
If we continue to lash out at those who merely made an unconscious poor wardrobe choice, we will continue to struggle with moving closer to the equality men and women deserve.