Clothes Maketh A Man: Dr. Matt Taylor’s Controversial Shirt.


In a parallel universe Dr. Matt Taylor is in a white laboratory coat, being applauded for his connection with the successful landing of the first ever spacecraft on a comet. With a snap of fingers he comes back to reality, finding himself enveloped in diatribes of misogyny and sexism. A British astrophysicist, member of the European Space Agency, Dr. Matt Taylor is the project manager of the Rosetta mission. Working on a spacecraft for ten long years, this scientist has been playing a major role in the mission’s Philae Lander which, finally, touched down on Comet Churyumov- Gerasimenko simply known as Comet 67P.

To announce this historic event, Dr. Taylor appeared in a televised press conference wearing a bowling shirt extolled with scantily-clad, curvaceous women carrying guns. Marring the four billion mile victorious journey, he became the butt of accusations due to his wardrobe. The lack of women in the realm of science has been attributed to Dr. Taylor’s choice of “garish” clothes, which disrespects women, viewing them only as coquettish figure displaying lust. Since then, Dr. Matt Taylor has been infamous throughout social media sites such as Twitter where the incident has been referred to as #shirtgate or #shirtflap among various others. Two days after his wardrobe malfunction, he appeared again, issuing a public apology for his “big mistake” followed by his emotional breakdown.

Agreed, the scientist was dressed in inappropriate attire for a formal occasion, but, isn’t giving a feminist or anti-feminist angle to a wardrobe malfunction, an exemplary of judging the book by its cover? Ideally, one should put the whole matter to rest after Dr. Taylor’s sentimental apology. However, the fact that Dr. Taylor’s shirt has wielded more attention than his groundbreaking achievement has been an area of debate since he made his apology. The “offensive” shirt that this scientist wore had, in reality, been a gift to him by his friend and artist, Elly Prizeman, a woman. In Taylor’s defense, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, drew a parallel between his shirt and Kim Kardashian’s recent nude photo shoot. He made a remark that if Kim’s nude act can be seen as “noble and pure,” why is the scientist’s shirt (which has no scatological display of female body parts) a subject of shame?

Since when is a tasteful display of a woman’s sensuality viewed as an act of sexism? The associations of Kim’s photo shoot and the hapless astrophysicist’s shirt has put celebrating femininity and revealing the beauty of female body in question. Also, the scientist’s tattoos and clothes depict him as breaking away from stereotypes. So, if this scientist appeared in his geeky glasses and sober clothing, would his achievement be neglected just the same as it has been done recently? In the present day, when one comes across the mention of Dr. Taylor, one immediately correlates him to his “sexist” shirt, oblivious of his brilliant contribution in the field of science. If clothes maketh a man, should one discount the fact that appearances can be deceptive?

Sangeeta Purkayastha

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