There I am, endlessly scrolling to avoid getting ready for vacation, and I see this. “Nuclear Plant Holds Bikini Contest for Internship!” Are you kidding? Shared on my Women in Nuclear Facebook group, indeed, a nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic has decided to hold an internship competition based on bikini results. Get the most likes and you’re in!
Of course, I click and my first response is….a little jealously. “But I want to have a bikini shoot in a cooling tower!” What? Like I’m going to lie to you and say a fashion shoot in a nuclear plant isn’t on my list of top five things to do in life? Come on. I continue on with the juicy gossip.
My assumption was these would be college students –makes sense, they’re looking for jobs after they graduate. Desperate for anything in this economy. But no, these are high school girls. Fresh out of high school girls. Whaaaaaaaaat?!
The denizens of the internet jumped on the company immediately. Despite their innocent claims that, “The combination of beauty and the industrial environment gives an interesting result.” CEZ quickly apologized after the world pointed out to them that having girls compete in a hotness contest to get into a nuclear plant for a highly technical vocation probably wasn’t the best means of assessing talent. And, oh yeah, why the hell are you making women compete for technical jobs based off their looks?
It drives me crazy for two prominent reasons. Firstly, the inherent unfairness that this is not something that happens to men. Secondly, why can’t we just be both? Why is it so often beauty or brains but the idea of both is appalling? Or, more often, the brains dismissed in favor of the beauty?
You may be inclined to disagree on the first point. For both sexes, being attractive gets you ahead. However, obtaining perks because of your pretty face is distinctly different than your company trying to liven its public image with a few half-naked girls. Do I see any “Vote the hottest mechanic into the office!” campaigns? No. I work at a nuclear plant. It’s old and crusty and no one cares about it (despite how great it is for the environment and energy). I get it. Flash some skin and people will get interested!
A perfect lead into my next point. We’ve established a rather advanced civilization. We’ve gone to the moon personally and explored other planets and stars with our gizmos. Can we as a species get past the psychological thrill of sex sells? It’ll be difficult with its being hardwired into our DNA, but we’ve cured cancer and nearly eradicated killer diseases. Maybe we could wrap our minds around being entertained and fascinated by things other than cleavage. Am I asking too much creativity of the world? Probably so, I regret it’s a habit.
Beauty is separate from brains. There’s no inherent connection. Being beautiful has never been tied to higher IQ, SAT scores, ACT scores, any quantifiable metric we have for testing intelligence. It comes into play with being more successful when psychological and social factors exist, which unfortunately is just about everywhere. But it shouldn’t because it doesn’t matter. Manicured nails and washboard abs don’t save you when you’re trying to figure out why your nuclear reactor tripped offline or how to treat an ER patient.. It’s only what’s upstairs which saves you.
And since brains matter so much, I want women to be remembered for them. Hi, my name is Hedy Lamarr. I’m remembered for being a beautiful actress. Oh yeah, I pretty much invented the foundation for Bluetooth and Wifi, too. How come you know Edison’s name and not mine? Don’t I affect your life as much?
Hedy, silently judging you.
You probably also know of Karlie Kloss, if not her name, at least her face if you saw it. Maybe you recognized her on Bill Nye’s new show as the leggy blonde who's taller than he is. Did you know she’s also super into coding and organizes “Kode with Klossy” to teach young girls coding? I’m betting you didn’t. Or Audrey Hepburn and Bridget Bardot, remembered for their distinctive looks, but not their serious activism.
I’m not saying I want women to eliminate beauty either. In last month’s National Geographic, Mayim Blalik of “The Big Bang Theory" talks with Neil DeGasse Tyson about the state of women in STEM where she recalls a question, “What do you think about [the sexy-scientist stereotype of] the white shirt open with the black bra underneath? And you know, I don’t knock women or scientists who want to do that. For me, that’s not the way that I choose to portray women in science.” That’s right. Don’t knock me if I do, don’t knock me if I don’t. I just want to stop worrying about what people are going to say when I get promotions. Hopefully not the spew of rumors I hear now.
You could frame it that it boils down to self-interest. Quite frankly I do want to be the sexy scientist with the crisp white collars and black bra. And I want to seamlessly float from “Damn, she looks good” to “Damn, she knows her stuff” with no hesitation or insinuations about how I got my success -the knowledge part. Maybe it’s just because I’m an antagonist and I like making people actually use their brains and struggle a bit to understand things. Only a little. It’s more I think the overwhelming majority of girls are like me and we would really just like you to shut up about it. And maybe, just maybe, get an engineering job for being awesome at engineering instead of losing to the second-rater who modeled.
Just a Woman in STEM finding her way