Monday, 17 November 2014

And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear

When Dr Matt Taylor gave the good news about the Rosetta mission, and with every right to be proud of his achievement in space exploration for the European Space Agency,  there was a disastrous failure of PR which nearly wrecked the project. The project that day was not space exploration. That's what they do on all other days.  The job that day was to engage the public to gain support so that  funding remained and might be increased.

Dr Taylor walked into the world media's eye in a graphical shirt made by a friend and Twitter went kaboom.  The component which failed was the head of public affairs. Instead of insisting that the Mission was the star of the show and that a key presenter would be wearing a plain, comfortable, casual shirt with long sleeves, Dr Taylor was allowed to toddle out eupohric in his party wear.

The public face of the European Space Agency (ESA), at the point it was talking to the people who pay the bills, had accidentally fallen in to the hands of a kindly tattoo artist's wife in Chelmsford, and she  had chosen a fabric design based on popular cover art for classic science fiction. 

Amongst friends, at a barbie, maybe at the gala session of a professional conference, or all day at a comic con, that shirt is OK.  But it was wrong in the context of the job to be done that day, which was to represent the ESA to the public. 

Women who deconstructed the theme of the shirt shirt were immediately accused of being too fugly to understand the science and anyway, how come they had judged a man on his clothes? To which the reply was 'Welcome to my world'.

The vituperation ramped up with the usual cries of  'it's all the fault of the feminists' but, as with the rape threats against Jessica Ennis-Hill in a separate context, the purpose was to attack any woman who voiced a criticism, how dare she.  Women complain they are attacked for voicing an opinion, and thousands of people leap up to patronize and threaten them for saying such a thing. Or telling a man what to wear in a professional context, the bitch.

Like yelling 'raaayyycist', a quick shout of 'feminazi' is used to marginalize the criticism to lazily avoid having to face it. The point is not whether some people were offended, but whether they are right about the message which goes out if you turn up to a major PR event wearing a softporn-themed shirt. There is little to argue about in PR terms; that was no way for the ESA to present itself. To be fair to the ESA, they made him change his shirt in later segments, so somebody was trying to get a hold on the bolting story as it galloped off with real science story clinging on to its back like a terrified monkey.

Provided Dr Taylor had not ignored dress instructions (we do not know if he was ever told what to wear) it was cruel of the ESA to require him to make the apology; somebody could have done it for him in a simple statement, but the criticism stands. The point of the day was the Landing, and a shirt has no business undermining that. 

The moral of the story is that if you ever wondered what use a PR is, this is what happens when PR fails.

If you must do retro ironic print shirts, please follow the master:


JuliaM said...


JuliaM said...

But.... I do take issue with this:

"...but, as with the rape threats against Jessica Ennis-Hill in a separate context, the purpose was to attack any woman who voiced a criticism, how dare she."

I didn't attack them because they were women voicing a criticism, I attacked them because their point was yet another stupid piling-on of a cynical identity politics-driven 'cause'.

Why not assume that most of the male comments were also the same thing?

Still a shoo-in for 'Post Title Of The Month', though.. ;)

ageing man said...

the reality is, it has nothing to do with telling another person what to do/wear..... male or female.... the fact is, wearing the shirt was crass and embarrassing.... it probably seemed like a good idea in between pints 6 & 7.... urrr look at me the kooky quirky space scientist bloke....everyone loves an english eccentric..

I look a twat in my cycling gear whilst on my bike.... would I wear it for a public business gathering ? no.

Someone should have pulled him aside and said.... tats we can go with.... now let's have the shirt off ya back.... that is unless you really are the true messiah that is Mr Bowie.

Martian said...

If you honestly think the uproar was because the man in the stupid shirt was representing the ESA unprofessionally, then I think you may be losing your grip. It was a horrible exercise in man-bashing because he dared to wear a garment that the self-righteous, politically-correct, professional offendees disapproved of.

andy5759 said...

Sometimes girls wear clothes which reveal more flesh than necessary. Occasionally the clothes don't meet in the middle. That's fine, if you're not a Member of Her Majesty's Parliament. This is where I wish I could link images, or perhaps not in some cases.

MTG said...

I wore a shirt beneath my white lab coat. And, hopefully without provoking feminist outrage, a smooth cotton vest beneath that. There! Got it off my chest.

call me ishmael said...

Never mind landing on fucking space junk, looking for the origin of whatever it is we now call it, how about all the brown children having a drink of clean water, first?

Time to make way for the homo superior.

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