Saturday, February 12, 2005

Mars Doesn't Need Women

Unlike the movie , it appears that "Mars Doesn't Need Women"--at least according to the Russians.

This week, the director of Russia’s top space medical institute told students that only men should be allowed on the first mission to the Red Planet, because women are too weak to endure the flight's rigors. His comments once again exposed the internal contradictions of a country that put the first woman into space while having the reputation of being the last European bastion of male chauvinism.

How sad that in the 21st century there are so many morons of the male persuasion. I know many men who are "too weak to endure the flight's rigors"; and many women who would be far superior choices for a Mars Mission.

Women pioneers have existed throughout history. Think of Elizabeth Gunn, who with her four children braved the grueling 6 month trip around Cape Horn to California in 1851. Or you could go here, to read the profiles of the many other pioneer women, who--along with men every stage of the way--braved the new frontier of the American West.

Or, how about my own grandmother--Margaret Rizzi--who stowed away at the turn of the last century at the age of 16, and came to New York City, where, knowing not one soul, she established a business of her own and made her way in a new world.

Or you could look no further than Dr. Shannon Lucid, an American Shuttle astronaut since 1979 who served as a Board Engineer 2 on Russia’s Space Station Mir (launching March 22, 1996 aboard STS-76 and returning September 26, 1996 aboard STS-79). Dr. Lucid holds an international record for the most flight hours in orbit by any non-Russian, and holds the record for the most flight hours in orbit by any woman in the world. From February 2002 until September 2003, Dr. Lucid served as NASA’s Chief Scientist stationed at NASA Headquarters, Washington D.C., with responsibility for developing and communicating the agency’s science and research objectives to the outside world.

But hey, why spoil these male fantasies that women are weak and helpless? They make men feel so big and strong and virile and potent--especially when the men are really such pathetic wimps otherwise.

I remember a man pointing out to me that women weren't "cut out to be doctors"; and that "femininity is just the absence of masculinity" (I think he was referring to the fact that men have a "Y" Chromosome and women do not; or maybe he was referring to the somewhat overrated male appendage that is frequently called on to demonstrate some sort of superiority and is magically able to make men as a group better doctors, pilots, and probably garbage collectors and bloggers, too!).

I found it interesting (and hilarious) during my astronaut selection research, that the Russians, who used a stolen copy of the MMPI psychological test (which is proprietary) in their selection process; felt it necessary to change the names of some of the scales of the test. In particular, the "MALE / FEMALE" scale became the "COURAGE / DEPENDENCE" scale. No wonder Russian men feel so superior to women--they just defined it that way. More convenient for them probably.

Isn't it time we stopped this nonsense? Male or female; black or white; whatever. When it comes to space exploration or any other dangerous human endeavor -- only the BEST will survive. I believe there are inherent biological differences between men and women. Just as there are biological differences among individual women and individual men. So what? What counts is that we encourage equal opportunity for the most talented among us in every field--whether they be women or men.

Being the BEST doesn't depend on gender, race, religion, or creed. The factors it does depend on, I submit, women have in the same measure as men.

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