Düsseldorf Science is now the focus more often. The American company Mattel has now sparked controversy with the Barbie Scientist Prize.
The ordeal of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to giant strides in vaccine development. Two new types of vaccines were released for international marketing within a year: mRNA vaccines and vector vaccines. It can be assumed that the developers of these vaccines will receive the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in the coming years. While the development of an mRNA vaccine has been driven by Biontech’s founding couple, Özlem Torrisi and Ugur Şahin, Britain’s Sarah Gilbert is one of the great minds behind the AstraZeneca vector vaccine.
Gilbert is a professor at Oxford University and has been developing adenovirus-based vaccines at the Jenner Institute for 15 years. They initially designed vaccines to combat tropical malaria and then expanded the range of pathogens to include viruses such as Mers-Cov and Sars-Cov-2. While it remains to be seen if Gilbert will be one of the few women to be honored with the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine (so far twelve women have been out of 222 award winners), she has now received another questionable award – the manufacturer Mattel has one dedicated to Barbie doll.
Barbie doll’s black glasses indicate that she is supposed to be an educated woman. The doll doesn’t look like Gilbert otherwise. However, thanks to Barbie, the scientist can imagine what she would look like if instead of doing research she devoted herself to working as a model and starved for a size 34. Gilbert smiles in return, tormented at the press photos. Six women in the healthcare sector have been ‘honoured’ with their Mattel Barbie doll.
It can be debated whether portraying these women as dolls with wrinkle-free skin, long, slender legs and flowing hair is actually an honor or a degradation.
Our author is a professor of infection biology at RWTH Aachen University. She alternates here with the philosopher Maria Sibylla Luther.
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