The European Commission is getting grief over a flashy ad meant to get girls excited about science that looks more like a lipstick commercial. The teaser video, "Science: It’s a girl thing!" is pegged to a European Commission campaign to bring more women into the field, which skews heavily toward men.
But for many galled viewers, the feminist goal was drowned out by the stereotypically girly images of women giggling and strutting in skirts, jumbled in with bubbling flasks.
The perky video bounces between shots of nail polish and petri dishes, sunglasses and goggles over a techno beat; it even swaps out the "i" in "science" with a tube of lipstick. Appalled scientists said the video was a sexist bit of advertising based on the idea that only fashion could get girls interested in test tubes.
"It's as if Disney channel male execs do ‘science Barbie,'" geologist and blogger Sharon Hill tweeted in disgust. "Terrible."
Ben Goldacre, author of the Guardian's "Bad Science" column, joked, "The EU have funded a campaign to make women in science wear shorter skirts."
Could the ad be "a fiendish ploy to highlight the stereotyping of women and scientists?" University of Bristol climate scientist Tamsin Edwards quizzed the campaign through Twitter.
The "Commission doesn't really do irony," European Commission spokesman for science Michael Jennings replied. "Hope was to get young people onto site. That seems to be happening!"
Quite. Though the outpouring of attention may have brought more attention to the campaign, the girly video caused such an outcry that the European Commission eventually pulled it from YouTube -- only to find that Internet users had already copied it elsewhere.
"An epic fail, and waste of public money," one YouTube viewer commented. "Pity, really."
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: A YouTube copy of the European Commission teaser ad, "Science: It's a girl thing!"