Hey, Saturday Night Live: I’m a Black Woman. Why Did You Turn Me into a Man?

What Women Really Think
April 2 2014 12:20 PM

Hey, Saturday Night Live: I’m a Black Woman. Why Did You Turn Me into a Man?

This post originally appeared in Skepchick.

Last week, the American Chemical Society’s Reactions podcast released a video called “Zombie Apocalypse Survival Chemistry,” which featured yours truly talking about two of my favorite topics: chemistry and zombies. Because everybody loves chemistry and zombies, or because The Walking Dead was wrapping up its season, this video got a bit of media attention. Even the folks at Saturday Night Live noticed, mentioning zombie chemistry on the most recent Weekend Update. Here’s the SNL joke:

A chemistry grad student in Nebraska is creating a new perfume he calls Eau de Death, which mimics the smell of decaying flesh so people can avoid being eaten by zombies. Meanwhile, his professor is creating a new grade he calls “F minus.”

I would like to speak directly to SNL for a moment: SNL, I like this joke; it was well-delivered and got some laughs. However …

  • You made me into a male graduate student. I am a female postdoctoral research fellow and a member of the teaching faculty at my institution. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a magical unicorn, so it’s odd you did not notice that. “Magical unicorn,” you say? I am a black female chemistry Ph.D. But as I said on Twitter, SNL doesn’t have the best track record with black women, so … oh snap!
  • You made my boss—a tenured professor and principle investigator—a man. She is not a man. Yes, Virginia, there are lady scientists! Oh, and she loved the video, so no “F minus” for me! Like a lot of scientists, my boss is passionate about outreach. Talking about the science of sci-fi is one way to get people interested in science.
  • I did not invent a perfume, which will also come as a shock to the Daily Mail. In the ACS Reactions video, I just talked about a “death cologne”—a bit of a thought experiment, if you will. Like a lot of other organisms, we could use chemical camouflage (“Eau de Death”) to evade a predator. Sure, the predator in question is a zombie, but whatevs. Science is a way to look at the world, a way to solve problems—even fake, silly problems like a zombie apocalypse.

In the future, SNL, if I’m ever sorta the punchline of a joke, could you just use my true identity? Unless the joke involves hookers and blow. For those jokes, please use my male grad student cover.

Correction, April 2, 2014: Due to an editing error, the headline of this post originally stated that a Saturday Night Live sketch turned the author into a white man. when it just turned her into a man.

Raychelle Burks is an analytical chemist and STEM outreach advocate.


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.