#BBCtrending: Rosetta physicist's 'sexist' shirt

  • 14 November 2014
Matt Taylor wearing a shirt covered in half-dressed women Image copyright @roseveleth

One of the leading scientists on the Rosetta Project gave a string of TV interviews in a shirt emblazoned with half-dressed women. The angry reaction online spawned two hashtags, spoof images and has now led to a tearful apology as well.

The eyes of the world were focussed on Matt Taylor this week. The British scientist involved in the Rosetta Project - to land a spacecraft on a comet - was at the heart of media coverage of the event. And so was his shirt. On Wednesday he appeared in front of the cameras wearing a bespoke short-sleeved number, plastered in bright cartoon images of scantily-clad women.

People on Twitter were not amused. "Women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt," tweeted a female tech journalist, sarcastically. She was sent abusive tweets in response. Science is seen by many as a male dominated world, and so the shirt only reinforces the notion that women aren't accepted on equal footing, claimed his critics. "For clarity -- No, the shirt is not "cool" or acceptable in a professional setting - on an engineer, scientist, or anyone," tweeted another user.

The hashtags #ShirtGate and #ShirtStorm appeared, and have been used more than 3,500 times. South African cosmologist Renée Hložek wrote a blog addressed to budding female scientists: "Yes, you are capable of being taken seriously," she wrote.

Pressure mounted on Taylor to apologise, while others lightened the mood by spoofing the photo. "Fixed it," claimed one tweeter, who posted a new image showing famous female scientists photoshopped onto the shirt. That image alone has been shared more than 2,700 times on Twitter.

Image copyright @SMLXist

The scientist wasn't without his sympathisers, however. "Poor Dr Matt Taylor. He landed on a comet and the only thing people seem to talk about are his tattoos and his shirt," wrote one.

BBC Trending contacted Taylor for comment but has not heard back. The outcry has evidently hit him hard though. During a press briefing this morning, he broke down in tears and apologised for his choice of clothes. "The shirt I wore this week, I made a big mistake and I offended many people," he said.

Media captionScientist Matt Taylor has apologised for any offence caused by his shirt

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