With few exceptions, politicians and their carefully staged photo ops are cringeworthy creations.
The latest entry into this ignominious, pointless pantheon of pageantry comes courtesy of Ivanka Trump. While over in Iowa to promote the President’s wobbly infrastructural schemes and ambitions, she was given a tour of a local educational program. At one point, donning a lab coat, gloves, goggles and some glassy scientific paraphernalia, she gave a science experiment a go, one involving fluid used in vaping devices.
Behold, for on that day, a new meme was born.
It should go without saying that anyone can show an interest in science if they wish, no matter who they are. In fact, some decidedly sexist responses to this photograph are clearly out of line.
Ivanka Trump, however, is different. She plays an active role in her father’s administration, one that is, quite infamously, censoring federal scientists, blocking vital research on climate change and pollution, overseeing an industry-led coup within federal agencies, and constantly threatening to defund major scientific research programs.
In fact, a record number of scientists are now running for office to stop this insanity before the damage becomes irrevocable, just as plenty of others are joining an exodus to Europe. That’s hardly a sign that everything with federal science is tickety-boo right now, is it?
Although Ivanka has occasionally dabbled in talking about or referring to science over the past few years – primarily women in STEM, and computer science – you could very well argue that it’s nothing more than superficial. An advocate for science she is most certainly not, and the miasma of the Trump administration’s war on politically inconvenient science follows her silence on such issues around.
Although far from the first government official to problematically pose with or as a scientist, this deeply unfortunate photo op has only amplified such hypocrisy. Like watching a caterpillar try to conduct an orchestra, your brain instantly recognizes that there’s just something not quite right about it – and plenty have taken to Twitter to voice their incredulity, including plenty of scientists and science advocacy groups.
Forget this tone-deaf photo op: If Ivanka et al were truly interested in supporting science and scientists, then perhaps they could start by not defunding or censoring it, or perhaps even trying to sort out the systemic discrimination of women in STEM field jobs. Call us crazy, but there are plenty of actual role models for American scientists out there right now that deserve highlighting – from Jess Phoenix, a volcanologist running for Congress, to Jasmin Moghbeli, the first person in NASA’s astronaut candidate program with Middle Eastern roots.