In a time where much of the world is trying to tackle issues such as inclusiveness and gender equality, some parts of the media just don’t get it. It was exciting at first when Russia announced that six female astronauts would live in a mock-spacecraft in Moscow for eight days to test the psychological effects of long-term space travel, but it all went downhill fast. So fast, that at one point, one member of the media asked them how will they manage without make-up and men.
The disrespectful tone was set early, when Sergei Ponomarev, the scientific director of the experiment said:
“It will be interesting to see how well they get on with each other, and how well they are able to perform tasks,” said Ponomarev, according to The Guardian.
Quite the sweet-talker, Ponomarev seems. He then added, as if to make it even more edgy:
“We believe women might not only be no worse than men at performing certain tasks in space, but actually better.” Women might be no worse than men. That’s the bold claim they set on to disprove.
But even that fades in comparison to what came out of Igor Ushakov, the director of Moscow’s Institute of Biomedical Problems, where the experiment is taking place:
“I’d like to wish you a lack of conflicts, even though they say that in one kitchen, two housewives find it hard to live together.”
OK, OK – arguably, this passes through translation, and translation is sometimes imperfect. I’m willing to give Ponomarev the benefit of a doubt, although at the very least, his statement seems out of place, but this is just in-your-face sexism.
Hey, and as if that isn’t enough, the media is there to save the day (insert sarcasm here). The crew members were asked how they would cope without men or makeup for the next week. Hey, on that same note, I wonder how the guys on the ISS are coping with no beer and no Sunday football game – except oh wait, no one asks them that, because it’s idiotic and promotes fake stereotypes. No one really asks how the guys will get over things, because we just assume their education and professional preparation is enough to get through it all – is it that hard to assume the same for women? Come on!
But even when things were getting embarrassing, it didn’t end there – one journalist also found the time to ask how they will manage to take care of their hair.
“I don’t know how we’ll survive without shampoo,” Anna Kussmaul, one of the astronauts, said sarcastically; at that point, it was obvious she had had enough “Because even in this situation, we really want to stay looking pretty.”
It’s commendable that Russia is trying to achieve gender balance for their space program, but these men show very clear why this imbalance exists in the first place. Russia sent the first woman in space in 1963, and since then, there have only been four (4!) female astronauts in space. The most recent one, Yelena Serova who became the first female Russian astronaut to visit the ISS in 2014, was also asked how she would be able to take care of her hair.
“Can I ask a question, too: aren’t you interested in the hairstyles of my colleagues?”
Of course, all her colleagues were men.
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