When the owner of the most popular science page on Facebook revealed her identity the other day, the reaction was sadly predictable. "OMG GIRL," came the crescendo of comments from dumbfounded men (and a few women). It was as if Elise Andrew had infiltrated a 19th century scientific conference and suddenly ripped off a fake mustache in front of the assembled muttering menfolk. Cue pipes falling from open mouths. Shock! Awe! A woman!

Indeed, the whole scenario provides a fine case study in the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes in the sciences that still persist well into the 21st century.

The reveal was inadvertent. Andrew, who works for the publishing group LabX Media, simply wanted her 4 million Facebook fans to follow her on Twitter, too, where she tweeted under her real name. So she posted a link to her account on her I Fucking Love Science Facebook page. Her Twitter account includes a photograph that shows her face, which also appeared in the Facebook post.

She got a bump in Twitter followers, but also a flood of unwelcome comments about her gender and physical appearance.

Here's a sampling:

  • "You're beautiful."
  • "wow, your a hottie!"
  • "you mean you're a girl, AND you're beautiful? wow, i just liked science a lil bit more today ^^"
  • "You're...a woman...?"
  • "OMFG! You are a beautiful GIRL!!!  I admit I never expected you to be a girl and on top of that a beautiful one. My sincere apologies."
  • *points, mouth open* GIRL!!!
  • "For you baby, I ll become a sceintist. "
  • "Holy crap I pictured. A 30 sumthin harvard geek lmfao thanks for makin science more enticing ;)"
  • "wow who would've thought!! you're a girl and kindda pretty! LOL"
  • "Hey, the I fucking love science girl is fucking cute!"

And so on. The whole thread has devolved into either comments discussing Andrew's gender and looks or comments complaining about those comments. It wasn't pretty.

Andrew tweeted this in response:

Why does anyone care that Andrew is a woman? What's far more interesting is the story behind Andrew's success: How has she turned a simple science page into a Web behemoth and became the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of Facebook? Gender is by far the least interesting part of the I Fucking Love Science story.

Too bad Andrew's fans don't realize it.

Photo via Elise Andrew/Twitter