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Geoffrey Beene and GQ: Only old, white men rock stars of science?

July 9, 2009

Geoffrey Beene Gives Back (the philanthropy division of the clothing company Geoffrey Beene) is sponsoring a new organization called Rock Stars of Scientists. It is running an ad campaign in GQ magazine with pictures of scientists (such as Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health) with rock stars (such as Seal and Sheryl Crow). When I first read about this organization, I thought that maybe I could feature a post today about a woman scientist doing awesome work. But guess what? All of the scientists listed are old, white men.

Rock Stars of Science Advertisement in GQ magazine

Rock Stars of Science Advertisement in GQ magazine

With my mouth dropped, I looked around the website for anything that specifically stated that they were focusing on “Men in Science”….umm, the answer is no. First of all, the campaign does include a woman rock star (Sheryl Crow). Second of all, no where in their mission did they explicitly state that this was a white mens-only affair. Here is their mission:

Our mission is to accelerate science from research bench to bedside.

Our motto: From cause to cure in our time.

Our most brilliant scientific minds are dedicated to finding cures for the diseases that threaten our future, and America’s most celebrated Rock Stars stand behind them.

In our lifetime, we deserve to see:

  • Our brain span match our life span
  • Early diagnosis improve our odds
  • Our DNA become the blueprint for health
  • Research funding as a national priority

The ad campaign is sponsored by Geoffrey Beene, a men’s clothing company and the ad campaign is going to be run in GQ, a men’s interest magazine. But seriously, where are the women/non-white scientists?

While Geoffrey Beene does donate 100% of their net profits to philanthropic causes that help underserved women (such as Family Violence Prevention Fund, Safe Horizon, and Go Red for Women), this ad campaign reinforces the stereotype that women do not excel at science and that science is not for women.

In response to this organization, I have my own list of “Rock Stars of Science” that include women:

You can also look on the website National Library of Medicine’s “Changing the Faces of Women” featuring women physicians by clicking here.

I also got in contact with Meryl Comer, the President of the Geoffrey Beene Gives Back® Alzheimer’s Initiative in response to an email I sent to the campaign. I asked her why this campaign only had white men rock stars of science. She explained that many people didn’t nominate women in science, and those who she tried to get demanded first class accommodations. Also, the ad campaign running in GQ is only the beginning of Rock Stars of Science: she hopes to get a larger breadth of diversity. Meryl and I went into a long discussion as to why women/non-people weren’t nominated. She acknowledges that there are women and non-white men who are considered to be “Rock Stars of Science”—but wanted to know how to make criteria that would allow for people of different races, ethnicities, and gender to be nominated? Comer wants to know, “How would this criteria satisfy the feminist view?”

I’m hoping to get back to Comer in a day or so about what criteria would include a vast realm of doctors who are helping to improve human health. While I have some ideas of my own, I’d like to hear from some of you as to what you think the criteria would be. Comment away!

  1. Yale permalink
    July 10, 2009 10:16 am

    If the reason for lacking women/non-white scientists were because not many people nominated them, it makes me wonder who they were polling…possibly the men buying Geoffrey Beene? The issue may simply be they were polling individuals who were mainly men and are quick to cite other male scientists. Is Geoffrey Beene’s selection criteria any worse than the nomination process of the Nobel Foundation? The Noble Prize winners in Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine have been dominated by white men, but does that keep women from pursing those fields? I view the Nobel Prizes as a sort of motivator and award for the greatest minds of the world who work to advance society; not as a deterrent.

    Granted, they don’t have it explicitly stated that they are highlighting men in science, but how much does this ad campaign really help to perpetuate the stereotype that women do not excel at science and that science is not for women? Since Geoffrey Beene is a men’s clothing store and the ad campaign is being featured in a men’s interest magazine, I don’t think the ad campaign is going to reach a significant amount of women. The campaign isn’t being taunted in front of women making them think they can’t excel in science. In fact, placement of such an ad campaign in a men’s interest magazine featuring men’s clothing seems relevant given that boys’ math/science scores are declining and boys now make up less than half of the college students.

    My suggestion to Geoffrey Beene would be to do either of the following:
    1) only use their nomination process as a guideline for choosing scientists and fill-in the voids on their own with women/non-white scientists
    2) make the ad campaign focused on rock stars of science with a focus on men’s health, which I feel is appropriate given they’re a men’s clothing store

  2. Quercki permalink
    July 12, 2009 8:41 pm

    even men need to see that women are also scientists.

    • Emily permalink*
      July 13, 2009 10:01 am

      I agree with you Quercki. Could you elaborate on your comment? What women scientists would you like to see in a “Rock Star Scientists” ad campaign?

  3. Bast permalink
    July 14, 2009 3:04 am

    Why must it just be the “Stars” of science? Why can’t you have ordinary scientists who work in scientific fields every day? Not everyone can discover a new cure and not everyone works in research. I think the public needs to be educated about scientific work as a whole, rather than picturing all scientists as eccentric socially retarded white men in white coats playing with strange coloured water. In addition “science” is not just health care or medicine.
    I am a female earth scientist who works for a consulting company investigating contamination in the environment.
    Most people I meet can barely comprehend that such profession even exists.

  4. Emily permalink*
    July 14, 2009 11:22 am


    I understand what you mean. All scientists should be recognized whether or not they are discovering a new cure. However, this particular campaign called Rock Stars of Science is asking for people to nominate scientists who are helping to improve human health. I am wondering why there are very few nominations for female Rock Star Scientists. Do you have any suggestions?


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