Or rather, go scientists. The Science Cheerleaders are 175 former NFL and NBA dancers who are scientists and engineers, mathematicians, IT professionals, molecular science Ph.Ds. That is, these ex-professional cheerleaders all have now had to “lower their standards” and work in the STEM fields, in science, technology, engineering and math, as Chris Matyszczyk tongue-in-cheekly puts it on CNET.
Here are the Science Cheerleaders performing at the US Science and Engineering Festival in what Jezebel describes as the “perfect antidote for that crappy EU Science: It’s a Girl Thing! video we all rolled our eyes at a month ago”:
According to their website, the Science Cheerleaders aim to “playfully challenge stereotypes, turn everyone onto science by encouraging participation in citizen science activities, and inspire young women (including 3-4 million U.S. cheerleaders) to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math,” while making the point that, yes, “science is accessible to ALL!”
It’s no secret that women are under-represented in the STEM fields. Just recently, a student (an English major) sat in my office and said she regretted that she hadn’t had a stronger foundation in science in high school and earlier, as she could see that jobs in the STEM field (vs. in journalism) were numerous and well-paying and, even more, seemed interesting. She was well aware of the numerous courses in math, biology, chemistry and physics she had never taken and, two years into her college studies, cannot suddenly change her major and stay beyond her scholarship.
But I do have to agree with Jezebel that
It’s a shame that it takes a team of dancing Disney Princesses to give girls permission to want to enter the fields of science and technology (you can do it because conventionally beautiful women do it!), but it’s also a shame that smart women can’t be pretty, and pretty women can’t be smart.
Why does it even need to be said that “yes, smart women can be pretty!” or “women can both be professional dancers wearing skin-tight spandex-y cleavage revealing outfits AND chemical engineers!”? It shouldn’t be news that women can look good and be smart.
As some of the commenters on Jezebel note, their 7-year-old selves would have loved the idea of Science Cheerleaders. Isn’t it at such a young age that we hope to get girls interested in science? Even more, the image of cheerleading as all pom-poms and short skirts has changed much, with many arguing that cheerleading should be a sport in its own right.
Are Science Cheerleaders what we need to get young women interested in the STEM fields? Or, even as they seek to fight stereotypes about “beauty vs. brains,” are they only reinforcing these?
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Photo by ShashiBellamkonda