GOOD

Women Astronauts Struggle To Break Earth’s Glass Ceiling

Interstellar progress is slow to come

Getty Images

Gender imbalance isn’t something limited to earthly realms such as computer science, physics and aviation. Its nefarious reach also extends into outer space. Just look at the stats: of the 540 people who have journeyed out of this world, only a measly 11 percent were women. Nearly all of them—50 of 59—were in NASA (USA! USA!). But don’t get too excited—that’s still less than 20 percent of the total number of people that the agency has sent to space since 1961.


That’s bad news for equal rights, bad news for science and safety. Because we’ve sent so few women into space, we know little about how they may respond differently to that environment than their male colleagues. Differences could include risk of developing cancer or cardiovascular disease, or frequency and severity of urinary tract infections. As the possibility of sending men and women to Mars begins to look more and more likely, “it’s critically important that we understand how [women respond physically and mentally to life in space,” Motherboard writes. “Otherwise, a female astronaut might get halfway to Mars only to develop the world’s worst UTI (or something even more awful), but be unable to turn the ship home.”

In many ways, women are ideal space travellers—it’s only societal factors that have kept them grounded for so long. Even in the 1950s, aerospace researchers recognized that women were lighter and smaller than men—an asset in cramped spaceship quarters—and from the beginning many women were outperforming their male counterparts in rigorous physical trials meant to select the best possible candidates for space travel. Yet sexism was rife. In 1962, commenting on the fact that male astronauts might want nookie over the course of long missions, German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun noted that NASA was “reserving 110 pounds of payload for recreational equipment.”

In the end, this kind of backward thinking likely cost NASA a world record. In 1963, the Soviet Union became the first nation to put a woman into space—a whopping two decades before NASA’s Sally Ride took to the stars. Indeed, in some ways, the Soviets trumped the U.S. on women’s rights. By the end of the 1960s, 80 percent of Russian women held jobs outside of the family household, according to a paper published in Feminist Review. Compare that to the U.S., in which just 22 percent held jobs at that time (Bureau of Labor Statistics data).

But as anyone who watches “Mad Men” knows, the 1960s and 70s were a fraught time for women generally, full of cocktail dress-wearing airhead secretaries, ads endorsing domestic abuse and commercials depicting female airline stewardesses imploring customers to “Fly me.” (Not that women are depicted much better in ads today.) One might reasonably argue that the lack of female astronauts in those early days was just a reflection of the times. Indeed, by the end of the 1970s—amid second-wave feminism and equal rights activism—NASA finally got around to appointing its first female astronauts, including Sally Ride, who ended up being the first woman to go into space. And despite statistics weighed down by years of boys-club mentality, NASA is doing much better today: its most recent class, selected in 2013, is half women. NASA has also appointed two female Space Shuttle Commanders, in 1999 and 2007.

That’s not to say that female astronauts have completely escaped the mires of sexism, however. In an experiment simulating the environment on Mars, for example, a male participant made unwanted sexual advances to a female in another group. This prompted the woman and her colleagues—as if in a dystopian sci-fi thriller—to shut the hatch between the two groups, as Suzanne Bell, a psychologist researching group dynamics on extended missions for NASA, described to Glamour.

Female astronauts also routinely face more insidious sexism, with frequent questions from reporters and others about how they’ll take care of hair and makeup in space; what they’ll do without men for a week; and how they plan to be good mothers in space. Female physiology also continues to be overlooked by clueless males: the International Space Station, for example, still doesn’t have a system for disposing of menstrual blood, the Atlantic graphically notes.

Additionally, Motherboard points out that female astronauts have yet to visit the moon; yet to spend a year in space; and yet to travel beyond low Earth orbit.

So while we have made tremendous strides toward gender equality in space, we’re surely not there yet. Until then, badass female astronauts will no doubt continue provide inspiration, not only for women, but for all earthlings. To quote NASA astronaut Anna McClain: “If we go to Mars, we’ll be representing our entire species in a place we’ve never been. To me it’s the highest thing a human being can achieve.”

Articles
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Tonight's Democratic debate is a must-watch for followers of the 2020 election. And it's a nice distraction from the impeachment inquiry currently enveloping all of the political oxygen in America right now.

For most people, the main draw will be newly anointed frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, who has surprisingly surged to first place in Iowa and suddenly competing in New Hampshire. Will the other Democrats attack him? How will Elizabeth Warren react now that she's no longer sitting alone atop the primary field? After all, part of Buttigieg's rise has been his criticisms of Warren and her refusal to get into budgetary specifics over how she'd pay for her healthcare plan.

The good news is that Joe Biden apparently counts time travel amongst his other resume-building experience.

Keep Reading Show less
Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert

This election cycle, six women threw their hat in the ring for president, but is their gender holding them back? Would Americans feel comfortable with a woman leading the free world? Based on the last election, the answer is a swift no. And a new study backs this up. The study found that only 49% of American men would feel very comfortable with a woman serving as the head of the government. By comparison, 59% of women said they would feel comfortable with a woman in charge.

The Reykjavik Index for Leadership, which measures attitude towards women leaders, evaluated the attitudes of those living in the G7 countries as well as Brazil, China, India, and Russia. 22,000 adults in those 11 countries were surveyed on their attitudes about female leadership in 22 different sectors, including government, fashion, technology, media, banking and finance, education, and childcare.

Only two countries, Canada and the U.K., had a majority of respondents say they would be more comfortable with a female head of state. Germany (which currently has a female Chancellor), Japan, and Russia were the countries least comfortable with a female head of state.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.

Culture