2005 Musings

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"If women are expected to do the same work as men,
we must teach them the same things."
Plato

01.23.2005 - What about humankind?
Okay, I'll admit I'm really sensitive about a few things. One of those things is the notion that space is a man's domain. There are plenty of reasons for this. Some began with the first steps of the space race and, unfortunately, others continue into the 21st century.

On the first day of this year, CNN.com ran the following headline about the Deep Impact mission:

"NASA can't wait to smash spacecraft. The big, grown-up boys on the NASA team can hardly wait."

I couldn't believe my eyes! What about the women on the team? I asked myself. And yes, there are women. I checked. On the science team alone, there is Lucy McFadden, Karen J. Meech, and Jessica M. Sunshine. To find out more about them, click here. These are the women on the science team; there are many other women working on this project, and other NASA missions. Sadly, the media wants us to think it's all done by "big, grown-up boys."

Just this past week, Harvard President Lawrence Summers, speaking at an invitation-only economic conference, suggested that "innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers" (CNN.com, 01.18.05). This article went on to report that under Summers' watch "the number of senior job offers to women has dropped each year of his three-year presidency." He apologized for his comments two days later, however, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on here.

It's time we start thinking differently, and start thinking about the consequences of our statements, and using words that are inclusive. One word in particular causes me great ire. That word is mankind. Argh! What's wrong with using humankind instead? It includes man and woman.

During a conversation on this subject with my professor last semester, he asked, "What about manned missions?" My reply was, "How about staffed missions?" Same thing, and not exclusive. And, the list goes on...

There are many missions planned for humankind's travels out to the stars. There is much work to be done. Plato said, "If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things." Well, women have been taught; women are doing the same work as men. It's time it is acknowledged.

Clear skies!
Debra

 

Updated 01.01.2008
theWoman Astronomer 2001-2008

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