#Shirtstorm and #Shirtgate are Twitter hashtags that arose in reaction to a shirt worn by British scientist Dr Matt Taylor during livestream coverage of the spacecraft Philae’s comet landing during the Rosetta Mission in November 2014.
On November 12th 2014, European Space Agency spacecraft Philae achieved the first landing of a spacecraft on a comet in human history. During Nature Newsteam’s livestream coverage of the landing, Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor was interviewed in a colorful bowling shirt featuring patterns of scantily clothed female cartoon characters.
That day, Brooklyn-based journalist Rose Eveleth tweeted a photograph of Taylor with a sarcastic remark citing his shirt as an example of the male-biased work culture within the scientific community (shown below). Also on November 12th, Taylor’s friend Elly Prizeman tweeted she made the shirt for Taylor’s birthday, accompanied by the hashtags “#shirtgate” and “#shirtstorm.”
I made a shirt for one of my close pals @mggtTaylor for his b'day. Did not expect this!! #shirtgate #shirtstorm #Rosetta #Shirt #sewing
— Elly PriZeMaN (@ellypriZeMaN) November 13, 2014
In the following 48 hours, the tweet gained over 1,000 retweets and 760 favorites, while the hashtags #shirtstorm and #shirtgate were mentioned more than 23,000 times and 19,000 times, respectively.
News Media Coverage
On November 13th, The Verge published an article titled “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing,” which accused Taylor of “the sort of casual misogyny that stops women from entering certain scientific fields.” The debacle was reported on several news websites such as CNN, The Telegraph, Talking Points Memo, Daily Mail and The Guardian.
On November 14th, Taylor made a tearful apology for wearing the shirt during an ESA Google+ Hangout session.