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[personal profile] julieandrews
I was reading through this lengthy article about women in science and I was finding it interesting and informative. Until I got to page 3 and her discussion of Big Bang Theory.

I will readily admit, and could even be induced to rant, about the sexist.. everything in Big Bang Theory. I do not disagree that that show has problems, as entertaining as it may be. (And it's more entertaining when it's doing geeky things and not relationship crap, btw.) But WOW! WOW! For an article that's supposedly about how we should have more women in science, she is incredibly harsh about the women on Big Bang Theory!

"For proof of the stereotypes that continue to shape American attitudes about science, and about women in science in particular, you need only watch an episode of the popular television show “The Big Bang Theory,” about a group of awkward but endearing male Caltech physicists and their neighbor, Penny, an attractive blonde who has moved to L.A. to make it as an actress. Although two of the scientists on the show are women, one, Bernadette, speaks in a voice so shrill it could shatter a test tube. When she was working her way toward a Ph.D. in microbiology, rather than working in a lab, as any real doctoral student would do, she waitressed with Penny. Mayim Bialik, the actress who plays Amy, a neurobiologist who becomes semiromantically involved with the childlike but brilliant physicist Sheldon, really does have a Ph.D. in neuroscience and is in no way the hideously dumpy woman she is presented as on the show. “The Big Bang Theory” is a sitcom, of course, and therefore every character is a caricature, but what remotely normal young person would want to enter a field populated by misfits like Sheldon, Howard and Raj? And what remotely normal young woman would want to imagine herself as dowdy, socially clueless Amy rather than as stylish, bouncy, math-and-science-illiterate Penny?"

The men are 'awkward but endearing'. And one isn't a physicist by the way, but an engineer and an astronaut. And dude, he is not particularly endearing. He's kinda gross. Also, two of them aren't Penny's neighbor.

Penny is 'an attractive blonde'.

Bernadette speaks not just in a 'shrill' voice, but one with a metaphor attached.

Amy is only 'semiromantically involved'? And Sheldon is 'childlike'. Presumably because he's asexual and their relationship hasn't progressed much in sexual directions, it gets characterized as 'semiromantic' and Sheldon as 'childike'.

Amy is then described as "hideously dumpy"! Which is not at all like what Mayim Bialik looks like, by the way, in case you were worried!
Amy is then additionally described as "dowdy" and "socially clueless".

She really has it out for Amy! I assume because she couldn't find anything to say about Bernadette's appearance.

Look. Bernadette has her quirks, because they ALL DO. Her voice is a minor thing compared to Raj's inability to talk to women or her husband's lecherousness. Amy has her unique style of dress, again, because they ALL DO. I could show you the outfits of any character on the show, devoid of their actors, and you'd know who wore them. They're so distinctive that I NOTICED. The only other time I noticed something like that was Smallville's color scheme.

Why is she giving the men a pass? Why are they "endearing" in their awkwardness, but Amy isn't?

I guess geeks and myself included are not "remotely normal", because I see myself and fellow geeks in the characters on Big Bang Theory. It's lacking diversity -- someone overweight, someone not-straight, someone older, someone with a beard, someone disabled, more non-white people, etc etc. But I could readily imagine all of them at a local con and not being surprised by how they appear, how they act, or how they speak.

But I ALSO wouldn't be surprised to see Penny! She is geeky in her own way, and interested enough in what her friends are doing to try to learn more about it. Would I be surprised to see her alone at a con? Probably.

Do I want to be her? No. I don't want to be a waitress, or an actor, or a blonde, or a sports fan, or more of a slob than I already am. Oh, wait, you mean Penny has personality traits beyond "stylish" and "bouncy"? *gasp!*

I guess the author of this piece wants her female scientists to be pretty, stylish, "normal" women. All others need not apply.

Sorry, Bernadette, you didn't work your way through school in a lab like any respectable scientist would. And you talk funny. You're out.
Sorry, Amy, you don't dress pretty enough, and you didn't spend enough time socializing with the right people. You're out too.
Penny, you're in! Just apply yourself harder to that math and science you don't like all that much!

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May 2014

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