CHARMing in Physics Today: Why are his eyes trying to bore into our SOULS?

Every month or so, I end up perusing Physics Today (I’m not a physicist but I am around their magazines pretty often). I’ve been really impressed by their apparent commitment to diversity along racial/ethnic, gender, and sexuality lines. Which is why I was so surprised to see this advertisement, just yesterday, in the print edition. At first, I was just like: who is this guy looking so strikingly and calculatedly intriguing? Then I was like, what IS this? I’m going to be honest. I was able to figure out that this was an advertisement, but I have no real idea what it’s for, because I have no experimental physics training. It seems to be something about avoiding mode-hops. They sound pretty bad. I get why anyone would want to avoid them (sort of) (not really) (okay, not at all). Apparently, the product is a unique “CoHerence-Advanced Regulation Method”. If you’re wondering why that H in CoHerence is capitalized, that’s because they are so witty and tricky! The acronym, which they helpfully spell out for those of us not acronymically-oriented, is CHARM.

So, the man was meant to be intriguing. CHARMing even. Har har!

Wow, I thought. Kind of weird, but whatever. Then, I looked closer at the image because I was a bit surprised to see that this CHARMing man had such a professional french tips manicure (those who know me will be impressed that I know what this manicure is called). For a split-second, I started thinking: Rock on CHARM! Way to challenge the gender status quo! But even I, with all my feminist optimism, couldn’t sustain that one for long. The CHARMer is holding a woman’s fingers, about to kiss her hand, like the gallant CHARMing guy he is. He’s looking at us with a slight smile, to let us in on his not-so-secret CHARM.

Of course, because I don’t really know what the CHARM machine does (other than kiss lady hands, woo woo!), I can’t be sure that the image is just using antiquated gendered imagery with women as passive objects. I mean, it’s totally likely that this image has nothing to do with pairing semi-outdated notions of gendered courtship with male-dominated physics to sell completely unrelated physics equipment, as if physics equipment was – say – beer, or steroes, or cars, or food, or clothes, or – well – most anything. Right?

This has nothing to do with gender.

This has nothing to do with gender.

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