Google Images, I have a bone to pick with you

A short sleeved tunic-style shirt is not a proper lab coat. A butt-length white coat is not a proper lab coat. A lab coat should not have a belt, nor should it be worn with a skirt or tights, nor should it be worn hanging open in the front. It should not fit tightly or be tailored to the wearer’s body, nor should it have decorative slits.

Lab coats are, by design, long shapeless knee-length button-up smocks. The reason they are designed this way is because if you get something dangerous on you, it will most likely hit your lab coat first, which you can then remove to get the dangerous thing away from you. This goes for pathogens, biohazards, and chemical hazards, and is why the lab coat is ubiquitous in medicine and the sciences.

So please explain, Google Image Search, why women and girls should apparently throw safety out the window in favor of looking good when wearing our lab coats. All of the bad labcoat wearing I mentioned above? Aside from photos where the coat was left hanging open, all of the above examples have women and girls as models.

Women and girls need safe lab safety gear, damn it. If I were TAing, I’d reprimand or send home all of those models. You need to keep your lab coat shut. You need to make sure your legs are covered. Bare legs won’t look so good if you spill acid on them. You need to change your pants into something loose fitting. Tight clothes don’t protect your skin from splashes. Short sleeves look great! Unnntil something catches fire and the flames hit your arm instead of the flame-resistant coat. Etc.

It pisses me off that if some little girl decides to look up lab coats, she’ll see dudes being all safe and professional-like…. and women and girls playing at scientist with lab coats that sacrifice safety for fashion. That, folks, is bullshit.

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9 thoughts on “Google Images, I have a bone to pick with you

  1. Alana says:

    I found this intriguing. I’ve really never thought much about lab coat fitting, except most lab coats I had were way too large for me (as in non-functionally large where the sleeves went over my hands and would have contaminated my cultures. Thank you. That was interesting. Although, I suppose there are probably some reasons for incorrectly fitting, less safe lab coats. I think some of them are for medical doctors or medical students (and those are the ones who have the short ones, since I think the length reflects your status), who wear lab coats, but often more as a symbol of being doctor or a uniform (I believe) than for protection from caustic materials/burns, like they are in chemistry. (And also, in these circumstances, dresses or fitted lab coats wouldn’t be as much of a problem for those same reasons, and so that isn’t as much of a problem).
    (And also, I never wear a labcoat correctly, but I worked in a biology lab, and I didn’t really have any large quantities of dangerous chemicals, but mostly used it to keep my clothes clean when making fly food, or to utilize the wonderful, amazingly large pockets that my clothes seem to lack).

    • autisticook says:

      Oh yes POCKETS! Wtf is up with women’s clothes never having practical pockets? I have several pairs of trousers that have FAKE pockets. Seriously. WHY? And wearing men’s trousers is simply not an option for me because I have very wide hips and a very narrow waist. But I want POCKETS.

      • ischemgeek says:

        Same here. 26″ waist, 38″ hip is hell to try to find fitting trousers for even in women’s sections. If it fits in the hip, it’s about 4″ too loose in the waist, and if it fits in the waist, I can’t get it over my hips! And that’s leaving aside the fact that, despite me having an average inseam of 30″, no clothing store sells for a 30″ inseam. I can get 32″. I can go to a petites store and get 28″. But 30″, despite being a very common inseam length considering the average woman’s height here is 5’4″, is apparently a no-woman’s land that nobody cares to cater to.

        But, yes, I second you on wanting real pockets. I was tipped off by someone that Dickie’s sells 100% cotton (important for my line of work – synthetic and most natural fabrics are hellishly flammable) trousers with real pockets, and now I’m saving up. They’re rather expensive ($50+ CAD, not sure what that converts to in your currency), but if they’re more durable than the crappy cotton trousers I can find here, it’s worth it. Hell, just if they have real pockets, it’s worth it.

        We have a place that’s supposed to specialize in heavy labour and construction gear here. Their women’s wear section left me shaking with anger, because apparently being a woman means you need half as good fabric for jeans that could be painted on as they’re skinny jeans and no pockets for more than men pay for good quality, sturdy work pants with good, 100% cotton fabric and pockets.

        I was incensed, and will not be giving them my business any time soon. I came to their store because I wanted utility over fashion. Not only are they giving me fashion instead of utility, but they’re charging me more than the men get charged for a better product that actually does what they’re looking for. Fuck. That.

      • autisticook says:

        28″ waist, 43″ hips, 26″ inseam. Petite and pudgy? šŸ˜›
        Especially in this country, the country of crazy tall people. It’s why I usually just wear dresses and skirts because it’s easier to find something that fits (and am lucky to work in a profession where dresses and skirts are a possibility, but not required). They don’t sell clothes here for people under 5’4″ because hardly anyone is that short (except immigrants).

        It’s probably why the fake “construction wear” was more expensive as well. Because it doesn’t sell. Supply and demand and all that. It’s grrr-worthy but I do understand it from the manufacturer’s point of view as well.

      • ischemgeek says:

        Actually, where I live, I’m exactly average height for a woman. Literally, 50th percentile for height. Which is why it’s so silly that I can’t find trousers in the right length for me – I’m average height. Literally average! I should be the most common height they’re buying for! Why do I have to either buy clothing 2″ too short or 2″ too long? This makes no sense.

        And I have a short torso, so my legs are actually a bit longer than the legs of most people my height, so it really makes no sense.

        As for mens’ and womens’ price differentials, it’s actually fairly well-documented that in North America, at least, women get over-charged for everything. Stuff marketed to women is of poorer quality and we get charged more for it. So if I buy a shirt, I have to pay $25 for a shirt that is of similar quality to a shirt a dude would pay $10 for. And men’s shirts use more fabric, so it’s not that womens’ stuff costs more, and women are expected to have more variety in our clothing so it’s not like they sell fewer, either. They just charge women more because they can. Because if everyone charges women more, women have no choice but to pay more. Also helps to perpetuate the sexist trope of “womminz be so irresponsible, they spend so much on clothes!” Well, we spend so much on clothes because we have no choice. The stores have seen to that.

      • Alana says:

        Or when they sew pockets shut! (At least then you can reopen them with scissors). But it is the worst when you buy clothes that have pockets, and don’t realize until you wear them that the pockets are a LIE!

    • ischemgeek says:

      I admit this may be a cultural thing, but it doesn’t make sense for doctors in my country – the only docs who wear lab coats here are ER docs, surgeons, and other docs who deal with the “messier” side of medicine – they’d want proper lab coats for the same reason you do and to help protect from biohazard exposure (I’m related to some ER medical practitioners and they all tell me they usually go through at least a change of clothes and two or three lab coats a night from the kids with stomach bugs alone – some kids have bad aim, apparently. Big part of why I chose not to go into medicine right there. I can deal with blood and pus and other gross stuff, but vomit makes me ill). I admit that might be different in the States or the UK or someplace with a more old-fashioned medical culture.

      • Alana says:

        I’m not really sure why they do it in the US, either, and not where you are. It’s something I’ve just learned recently since a lot of people I graduated with now are just starting medical school (the hazards of majoring in biology–being surrounded by pre-meds), so I’ve heard a lot about white coat ceremonies. I’m not really sure if everyone wears them or when or how (my knowledge of medicine is rather limited to pediatrician visits a while ago, random medical tv, and the things I hear from my ex-classmates in med school, since I haven’t had any desire to go into medicine once I learned how much tendons and ligaments strangely disturb me) (you’re right, they do seem important for messy stuff, although I think people just wear scrubs for the messy stuff, but really, I am just rambling at this point so I shall stop now).

  2. Alana says:

    (But I also still see the issues with it, too, even if it seems like I just tried to explain them all away)

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