Prime Directive: MIT Librarian Declares Star Trek Posters To Be Male

downloadChris Bourg, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has issued a prime directive that “Star Trek” posters and nerdy cultural images should be removed to create a more welcoming workplace for women:  “Replace the Star Trek posters with travel posters, don’t name your projects or your printers or your domains after only male figures from Greek mythology, and just generally avoid geek references and inside nerd jokes. Those kinds of things reinforce the stereotypes about who does tech; and that stereotype is the male nerd stereotype.” It is not clear if the MIT seal is also problematic as a male dominated (and fairly geeky) cultural icon.

On her blog, Bourg insisted that

“There is research that shows that workplaces that are plastered with stereotypically ‘tech or nerd guy’ cultural images – think Star Trek – have negative impact on women’s likelihood of pursuing tech work and of staying in tech work in general or in that particular work environment.”

Bourg cites Ambient Belonging: How Stereotypical Cues Impact Gender Participation in Computer Science which does advance this view. The authors found that “simply changing the objects in a computer science classroom from those considered stereotypical of computer science (e.g., Star Trek poster, video games) to objects not considered stereotypical of computer science (e.g., nature poster, phone books) was sufficient to boost female undergraduates’ interest in computer science to the level of their male peers.”

As someone who was viewed as a dysfunctional nerd among a school of nerds at the University of Chicago, I beg to differ.  There are plenty of female nerds. I went to school with them.  As an academic, I find this low-grade analysis to be increasingly intolerable.  First, it makes a highly dubious association of the nerd culture to male domination.  Second, it seeks to deny geeks the right to express their cultural values and icons.  Finally, it treats women as emotional snowflakes who are discomforted by a picture of Spock.

How an individual woman identifies herself or embraces cultural icons vary greatly. In her bio, Bourg herself illustrates the diversity in such identifications: “Since my gender has been misidentified too many times to ignore, let me make it very clear here: I am a cis woman. I was assigned female at birth, identify now as female, and use feminine pronouns. I also identify as butch and queer.”  In other words, gender generalities are inherently dangerous propositions.

As for Star Trek fans, Bourg’s demand for male to assimilate seems eerily familiar:


50 thoughts on “Prime Directive: MIT Librarian Declares Star Trek Posters To Be Male”

  1. I scanned the underlying study, and it appears to be the usual wishy-washy nonsense. I posit, for example, that if the Marines showed a softer and gentler side in their advertisements, more women would sign up. However, would significantly more women become Marines? I doubt it.

    The whole thrust of the study is about the same as saying advertising will encourage people to do things they might not have done. Duh.

    The point is, is some chick who is advertised” into computer sciences, going to invest the long hours in it that a male would? I doubt it for any significant numbers.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  2. Such faith in people’s ability to make up their own minds! Nothing like a little Marxism with your engineering degree, eh? It is (Star Trek) Beyond ridiculous, and she deserves every drop of the scorn she receives, she is supposed to be a professional. I personally that believe young women are smarter and stronger than that, and I will not accept any narrative to the contrary from the victimhood culture.

  3. The M.I.T. icon figure needs to have a queer butch inserted. This queer butch needs to go to Stanford.

  4. The MIT Libraries Director’s Office has females holding 11 of 16 positions. It might be 12 of 16 but that would assume Pat Flanagan is female as well. I would say at least in her AOR that females are disproportionately represented.and a full investigation into her hiring practices should commence immediately.

  5. If your name is Bourg, it’s probably not the brightest idea to tell a bunch of Star Trek nerds to get with the program and assimilate.

  6. Don’t worry snowflake Bourg, Disney is destroying the Star Wars series to your liking I’m sure.

    1. Jim22 – JarJar Binks already ruined the Star Wars empire for me. After episodes 1-3 came out, I shifted my loyalty to the Empire. Basically, the Jedi are a bunch of whiners, except in 4-6. Even in 7-8 it is like a pity party.

      1. I don’t even consider the Jar Jar era Star Wars movies. There was nothing worse though than watching Luke get beaten by an untrained female in this last one.

      2. “Jim22 – JarJar Binks already ruined the Star Wars empire for me.”

        Bwahahaaaaa! Doggone Paul, you’re the party pooper! I really liked the Rogue One movie, made me forget about “wassamatta U Jar-Jar.” I didn’t think they were as whiny in that one. Didn’t like the new one much. It dragged.

        1. slohrss29 – I don’t think there were any Jedi in Rogue One. Did like that movie though. 😉

  7. I don’t get the connection between Star Trek and male dominance. The orignial Star Trek was exceedingly progressive for its time, i.e., the first interracial kiss on television, a positive view on miscegenation, strong female characters.

    I also don’t get the connection between Greek and geek. Perhaps it was just a misspelling.

    1. Software geeks have a tendency to name their programs from Greek mythology (my husband has done this).

      Argus is a monitoring software.
      Apollo is a music app.
      Pandora is another music program.

      My husband and I have named our hard drives things like Dante or other literary references (not Greek, but nerdy anyhow).

      1. Prairie Rose – I named my dog, but that is it. Now, if I built a super-computer I might name it. 😉

      2. I love the classics. When in doubt, stick with the classics. Greek, Roman, Chinese, whatever. If we are still talking about them thousands of years later, they must have been doing something right.

  8. The question is, are nerds also geeks? The answer will be fascinating!

    Bourg said, “I also identify as butch & queer.” Science Officer Spock replied:

  9. During the 1980s, the right was out to destroy Dungeons and Dragons. Now, the left is trying to destroy Star Trek. Next it will be the free pop at Microsoft. RFC 54-40 or fight !!

    It’s time to kick ass and take names.

  10. Wow, she really goes out on a limb with such daring opinions like this on a University campus!

    /sarc off

  11. “Since my gender has been misidentified too many times to ignore, let me make it very clear here:”

  12. Due to the lack of thought diversity in our universities over the last 30+ years, we are saddled with people like Ms. Bourg, who go through life with such a closed mind.

    So now Star Wars posters intimidate. I think of all the harm my Farrah Fawcett poster caused me that I hadn’t realized until today.

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