Look, we’re all human, and we all have eyes and brains and things, and as such one may as well admit that if you look at the pictures that Shelly has of herself on her blog, there’s a bird. Also, it’s a flattering image of the blogger. I suppose, while we’re at it, we might as well take a look at the banner, and as long as the image of scissors near a brain doesn’t make us squirm too much with discomfort, we can be amused by the humor. “You’ve come a long way, baby!”
But there’s still some distance to cover, clearly.
While Shelly’s pictures would seem to indicate that she may have an attractive visage, that is highly, highly irrelevant to any issue involving fair use, the reproduction of data, etc. The whole recent kerfluffle over Shelly being threatened at lawyerpoint for use of an image from a scientific journal caused an explosion here at scienceblogs because Shelly wrote intelligent, thoughtful, and informed commentary on the article. Not because somebody thinks she’s cute. And, yet, that seems to be the first thing that the blogger at Scientific American thought was worth mentioning about Shelly.
There’s very little point in me going on at length about this, because Zuska has already unloaded on them in the way that only Zuska can. (And, yes, I guess I am orb-friendly. Depends on the orb, though. You bring a Sphere of Annihilation to my house, and I’m probably going to be a little irate.)
The point of all of this is not that there is a crime involved in recognizing that Shelly looks good in the picture she has in her profile. The point is that by mentioning that first, the tone of the Scientific American article changes from “grad student attacked by publisher for scientific commentary” to “look at the little woman! Ain’t she pretty!”
At least in the physical sciences, women remain the minority. But at this point we are far, far past the point of women being the exception. Too many people (mostly men, but sometimes even women) seem to first react to women as carriers of a potential quantity of physical attractiveness rather than as scientists. If we’re ever going to get over the ingrained sexism in our communities, we have to stop that. It shouldn’t be, “oh, a woman scientist; is she cute?” It should be, “oh, a scientist; does he or she have something interesting to say?” We have to catch ourselves when we see ourselves about to say something about the physical attractiveness of a scientist, because it really is a majorly sore topic in society right now. Go ahead and notice; we’re human. And, even, at times, it might be reasonable to comment on it. But be very careful about that, because most of the time the comment will be inappropriate, belittling, demeaning, and will completely and utterly undermine any more serious point that was to be made.
We like Shelly as a blogger because she’s articulate, intelligent, knowledgeable, more congenial than most of us, and writes with a tone that is more confident and self-assured than one might expect from a graduate student. I.e., because of her blogging characteristics. And, yeah, I have to admit I like hearing about the birds. But her picture– that’s irrelevant, whatever you might think about it.