Martha Thomases: Kardashian Kulture & The Comet Landing

What’s the latest pop-culture kerfuffle? Glad you asked.

Last week, while everyone on the planet was obsessed with Kim Kardashian and her ass (no, I’m not linking to it), European scientists landed a satellite on a moving comet. It was an amazing achievement, and I don’t know why it didn’t get more attention except that:

1) It wasn’t an American project, but the work of the European Space Agency.

2) It didn’t feature someone’s gigantic naked ass.

Maybe in an attempt to get some of that Kardashian crowd, the man who spoke to the media on behalf of the project, Dr. Matt Taylor, wore a shirt with an illustrated pattern of women in various kinds of bondage gear – and not the covered-up kind.

Here’s what I think happened: Dr. Taylor wanted to look like a regular guy when he was interviewed in order to make himself seem more approachable to the reporters who interviewed him. Rather than wear a lab coat or a business suit, he looked for something casual. The shirt was bright and comfortable, like a Hawaiian shirt. A woman friend of his had made it for him. It made him feel good.

And then there was outrage. And outrage about the outrage.

Now, I don’t think Dr. Taylor made a good choice when he wore that shirt. When you speak in public, you have to consider all the ways you will be perceived. Dr. Taylor was literally thoughtless about this situation, in that I don’t think he thought it all the way through.

A good publicist would have fixed that.

I mean, what if a female scientist, acting as spokesperson, had come out wearing a shirt with a pattern of semi-clad men in bondage, with amplified primary and secondary sexual characteristics. Would we consider that a simple fashion faux-pas, or a political statement?

Would we think she was welcoming men into careers in science?

This is relevant to comics because women work in the industry in ever-increasing numbers. We have benefitted, all of us, because women provide a different perspective, not only as creative talent but as editors, marketers, lawyers, art assistants and accountants.

And yet, the people most often interviewed about the graphic storytelling media are white men who frequently make jokes about rape, violence against women and other kinds of sexism. Often, they do this at press events that feature demeaning images of women, taken from the pages of the comics they are promoting.

They don’t represent the entire industry, but, by making women feel unwelcome, they damage the entire industry.

Dr. Taylor has apologized and I take him at his word. He made what I consider to be a minor mistake, recognized it, and did the right thing.

And also led the team that landed a satellite on a comet. Let’s not forget that.