Nowadays, there is a distinction of sexy as encompassing more than just sex. To be considered sexy is to be considered desirable, alluring, and intriguing. Individuals have different criteria for what they consider to be sexy, which is often influenced by the representations of sexy that we encounter on a daily basis.
It seemed fair that a Business Insider article wanted to show the drive, creativity, intelligence, and overall coolness that is required to be a scientist as sexy. However, when the article featuring 50 “sexiest” scientists hit the internet, there was a collective side eye from many of my fellow Black women scientists. In the process of attempting to show that smart is sexy, Black women were left out. We were not found at this intersection of being intelligent and alluring. While most Black women whose rebuttals I read were not surprised, they were, to say the least, annoyed – Black women are rarely represented as beautiful or as smart. The many stereotypes associated with Black women are painful and demeaning, and omission – intentional or unintentional – from this list seemed like just another reflection of how deeply those stereotypes impact what we see (or don’t see) of ourselves in media.
In response to the article, Kyla McMullen (#BLACKandSTEM PhD) put out the call for Black women scientists to be featured in her own list. And I have to say that, after watching the documentary “Dark Girls – A Look At Colorism And Internalized Racism” this past weekend, I noticed something even more resounding about McMullen’s list. The Black women who she featured represent a defiance of the notions of beauty and allure that are common both inside and outside of the Black community. McMullen amassed a broad representation of gorgeous Black women of different tones, features, and shapes whose resumes rival their beauty as the “thing” that makes them sexy.
Read Kyla McMullen’s list for yourselves and answer today’s #BLACKandSTEM question: How does #BLACKandSTEM redefine sexy?
Don’t forget to use the #BLACKandSTEM hashtag!