Month: July 2014

Science Magazine Uses Transgender Sex Workers As Bait

By A.V. Flox

This post first appeared on Slantist

Science magazine’s July 11, 2014 issue unleashed a firestorm on social media today. The issue, a special focused on ways to stay ahead of HIV and AIDS, prominently features two transgender women sex workers on its cover. While relevant to the focus of the issue — transwomen sex workers in Jakarta have been largely ignored by the Indonesian government in its efforts to combat HIV and AIDS — the focal point of the photo is incredibly problematic. Instead of showing viewers a humanizing glimpse into the lives of these women, the reader’s eye is drawn directly to their thighs, which are placed almost dead center on the cover. Indeed, their legs take up about half of the cover, and their heads have been cropped out of the picture.

Photographers who are sensitive to the privacy of their subjects use a number of techniques to capture a moment without revealing the identity of people involved. One of these techniques is the cropping of the face — most often before or after the nose, in order to convey some emotion through the mouth, but occasionally the face is cropped in its entirety.

This isn’t necessarily dehumanizing, but the context is extremely important. When you are dealing with members of a highly stigmatized population who are at risk of systemic violence and murder, it is unacceptable to commit the metaphoric violence of beheading for the purpose of staging. If this is somehow confusing to you, look up Gary Ridgeway.

When dealing with members of a highly stigmatized population who are at risk of systemic violence & murder it is unacceptable to commit metaphoric violence.  - A.V. Flox on Science Magazine using transgender sex workers as “reader bait.” (Original photo Jennifer C., CC 2.0 Adapted by StemWomen.net)
When dealing with members of a highly stigmatized population who are at risk of systemic violence & murder it is unacceptable to commit metaphoric violence. – A.V. Flox on Science Magazine using transgender sex workers as “reader bait.” (Original photo Jennifer C., CC 2.0 Adapted by StemWomen.net)

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Small Molecules, Big Ideas: Julia Greer

Professor Julia Greer is a materials scientist at Caltech. Her research focuses on creating and studying lightweight nanomaterials. These nanomaterials have a wide range of applications, such as energy, construction, transport, prosthetics, and electronics. We spoke to Julia about her work, and also touched upon some of the challenges she faces as a woman in STEM. Watch the video below, or keep reading for a summary of our conversation!


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