You are a male physics professor, and you want to improve science education. What could possibly be a better idea than to team up with a bunch of professional cheerleaders and make a video of them shouting out science tidbits while they shake their pompoms? Science cheerleaders!
I know, right? You wish you’d thought of it first, don’t you?
The only thing worse than this loathsome idea is the Chronicle of Higher Education reporting on it with the headline “Blonded By Science”. Seriously.
I am not sure whether James Trefil, of George Mason University, seriously thinks that women students would be attracted to science in this manner, or whether he even bothered to think at all about the possibility that the students he ostensibly wants to recruit to science might, just possibly, include both women as well as men. And no, don’t bother commenting to tell me how the former Sixer-cheerleader-turned-science-journalist collaborating with Mr. Trefil makes it all okay. Women are perfectly capable of being complicit in their own objectification.
These god-awful videos are akin to the long-standing practice of sexist science dudes including cheesecake photos in the middle of their science slide presentations for “comic relief” or to “entertain the audience”. In fact, they are just an extension of that practice. “Look! Sexy babes ‘n’ science! Did I get your attention?”
This truly craptastic pedagogical experiment is no better than the current repugnant series of ads for T-Mobile “Mobile Makeover” ads with Catherine Zeta-Jones. You know the one where the “team of economists” go out to try and sell “average Americans” on a mobile makeover, only to be soundly repulsed. So they try a different approach – sex. The message of this ad (and another in the series, where a husband and wife listen to C Z-J’s sales pitch, husband drooling at the mouth, wife clearly unhappy with husband) seems to be this: men are too stupid to purchase our product based on the clearly superior economic value. But we can sucker them into it if it is accompanied with a hot pair of tits. Women? Are we selling to women? Who knows what motivates them? (Interestingly, in the ad with the married couple, C Z-J actually speaks to the wife about the facts of the plan, but her dress and posture is designed to “speak” to the clearly besotted husband, thus sowing discord between the couple. Not a very good overall sales pitch.)
The unarticulated assumption underlying the ad series – and the Brain Makeover videos – is that the main target audience is comprised of heterosexual men who will respond favorably to having the product (science, cell phone plans) pitched to them by hot, hot babes. Women are the afterthought audience and the pitch to them, if there is one, is a confusing one. If women are encouraged to identify with the cheerleaders or C Z-J then they aren’t really picturing themselves as scientists or consumers. If they attempt to place themselves in the target audience, then the sexy-babe-sells-you-science/product doesn’t make sense to them, except perhaps for the lesbians. And one has to wonder how much the caricature of femininity designed to appeal to straight male fuck fantasies really turns on the majority of lesbians. I can’t speak for that demographic, so I don’t know.
Mobile Makeover or Brain Makeover, it’s all the same crap. Just because one is gussied up as physics pedagogy doesn’t make it any less puke-on-your-shoes worthy.
N.B. Mr. Trefil’s website is here, but I was not able to get it to load. You can find plenty of the stupid videos on YouTube by searching on “brain makeover”.