Jul 21 2009

Spinster aunt has no time to title post on Apollo 11

Any nerd, geek, dork, or other-type-genius of a certain age who suffered no pang of nostalgia this week during the wah-hoo over the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission might want to have her obstreperal lobe checked for leaks.

I offer a few unconnected remarks on the subject. The remarks are unconnected because in these grim days of round-the-clock puppy-raising and mandatory commutes to Austin, I am a blogger in name only. If you have not come to expect this sort of crappy slipshod essay from me yet, please do so from now on. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better around here, prose-wise.

Anyway, The Apostate says her blood is boiling over these blogular remarks by Paul Campos at Lawyers Guns and Money.

Agreed. If I read one more sentimental recollection of the lunar landing beginning with the word “I” and invoking a grandparent — Prez Obama is one notable perp — I’m gonna yak.

Apostate’s beef, however, is not with the painful tedium of Campos’ opening reminiscence. She is crabbed because of this paragraph:

Considered as an incredibly expensive and complex exercise in practical engineering, the Apollo program was indeed a stunning achievement. In many ways it was a paradigmatically American achievement, and specifically of American men, or rather boys as men (think of the most impressive neighborhood treehouse, times ten million). Aside from putting the Russians in their place, the most important motivation was probably the sheer desire to figure out how to actually make the thing work. And it was an intensely and peculiarly male project: I don’t recall ever seeing a single woman in that huge Houston control center, where hundreds of guys in short-sleeved white shirts and crewcuts ran the show.

That Campos goes on to observe that

“One measure of how much has changed in the last 40 years is that the very idea of a woman astronaut in the 1960s would have seemed outlandish to most Americans”

does not appease Apostate one whit. I’m down, Apostate! Campos’ tone in this summary is peculiarly male. He’s almost giddy about the good old days of dudely science, of the pissing contest with the Russians, of boys building rockets in the clubhouse. And he seems to be suggesting that women astronauts is no longer an outlandish concept.

That’s a hot one. How many women astronauts can he name, I wonder?

That the entirety of this week’s “I was wee lad watching the lunar landing with my grandpa” memoirpalooza is likewise peculiarly male is not lost on Susan Niebur, blogging at Women in Planetary Science (“Women make up half the bodies in the solar system. Why not half the scientists?”). She is “bothered” that dudes talking about Apollo invariably say things like “I remember every time an Apollo mission would take place that, like a lot of little boys, I’d gather in front of the TV for hours and hours and hours with my little brother.”

“What was it like to be a little girl at the time?” Niebur muses. “Was it the same kind of experience, or was there really a difference?”

In 1969, the difference between being a little boy and a little girl was like the difference between being a little boy and a little girl in 2009, except that in 1969, it was still believed by a stalwart few that feminism might fix some of that shit.

In 1969 some of us “little girls” didn’t yet realize that identifying with Captain Kirk instead of the green alien belly dancer chick was a crime against the binary gender mandate. We watched Apollo 11 on TV (I can’t remember who I watched it with, you’ll be happy to know, or whether, upon viewing the spectacle, they pronounced unto me any trenchant remarks concerning the magnificence of the human race) and thought, “cool.” But soon enough we figured out what time it was. Dudes were astronauts, women raised babies. Any ideas we had of chasing around the universe in space ships died a smelly, pirulent death. We would grow up to write patriarchy-blaming blogs and read nostalgic “when I was a boy” crap about Apollo on the internet.

It turns out that there were four women engineers working on Apollo 11, but apparently Walter Cronkite was too choked up about the magnificence of mankind’s giant leap to interview them. There’s a book about them, though. The Women of Apollo, it’s called, The Stories of Judith Cohen, Ann Dickson, Ann Maybury, and Bobbie Johnson, Four Remarkable Women Who Helped Put the First Man on the Moon. The book is crappy and written for children. Children who, apparently, need to be shown how women can help men do cool shit.

After pondering all this, it was with some delight that I watched a sensational “documentary” on TruTV (originally produced by Fox, naturally) explaining that the Apollo lunar landings were all a hoax. This show is great. It presents about 468 pieces of tantalizingly plausible anti-scientific evidence demonstrating that the moon missions were faked: doctored photos, inconsistencies and lack of verisimilitude in the video, how come there’s no blast crater under the LEM, etc. There are science guys saying, “It had to be fake because the challenges were just fucking insurmountable, otherwise the Russians would have done it, too.” And of course the obligatory roster of mysterious untimely deaths of people who knew too much, and an invocation of Area 51. Then there’s a guy from NASA who just keeps saying “no, the conspiracy theorists are wrong because they’re just wrong.”

Hahahaha. I laughed and laughed.

As cool as moon landings used to be, and as integral to my childhood narrative, it would totally lube my lobe if it turned out that the “intensely and peculiarly male” Apollo project really was a hoax. Just so I could say nyah nyah.

One last thing. How come the Americans were “astronauts” and the Russians were “cosmonauts”?


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  1. bzzzzgrrrl

    I am so thankful, again, that this blog exists.
    Criminy, but I am exhausted.
    The update is just lovely: “What? Obviously, I was just saying that people used to be so sexist.”
    The comments are more exhausting: “What? I don’t even notice my male privilege, therefore it does not exist.” “What? He looooooooves that women are clearly entirely equal now, therefore he did not say anything that could possibly be construed as worshipful of inequality.”
    Thank you, again, Jill, for this safe haven.

  2. sam

    I believe it was Marilyn French’s book “The War Against Women” where I picked up this nugget about women and the space program.

    Apparently the boys of NASA, on order from an emasculated JFK, were told to figure out why Russia beat America into space with the satellite Sputnik and putting the first man in orbit. After much gathering of evidence and evaluation, the report suggested that the Russian scientists pulled ahead in the space race because they were using a resource underutilized by Americans: women scientists.

    Without saying that’s how things really went down in Russian communism, better results can be predicted when the best scientists are chosen from 100% of the population instead of 50%.

  3. Narya

    Christ on waterskis.

    I am sufficiently old to remember not just the moon stuff but the previous space shots as well; at my grade school, we all trooped to the “auditorium” (a big room on the top floor, rather than the Media Center and Lab that would probably be there today, if my school hadn’t been profoundly and deeply working class) and watched them blast off on TV. The moon landing/walk I remember because my parents let me stay up to watch. And, you know, kinda cool. And the auditorium audiences were all the kids, not just the boys. (I have a friend who’s an amateur astronomer, and his complete and total geeky enjoyment of the stars is fun, not least because he likes to share.)

    But this notion that it is “peculiarly male”?? Well, yes, there WERE mostly men involved, because they wouldn’t let women actually play in those reindeer games at the time. What blows me away (even though I should know better) is how the people who make these statements don’t realize that it’s something akin to marveling how plantation ownership in the South was a peculiarly white phenomenon.

  4. ambivalent academic

    Word. Though it has to be said with respect to all the conspiracy theories, that with a big phallic enough telescope you can see all the little moon cruisers and shit that they left up there.

  5. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    In 1984, I was told I couldn’t be considered for a certain NASA job because they wanted a man for the position. I wanted to cry, but was damned if I’d let ’em see me do it. On my way home that evening, I remembered my attorney’s phone number. By then I was too angry to cry.

    The boys still grumble nowadays when a gal is promoted over them here at your Government-Sponsored Space Agency, no matter how eminently qualified she may be. And remember all that hoo-ha about the “stalker lady astronaut”? I’ll bet she got more ink and air time than Sally Ride ever did.

  6. Sophie

    You might check out this interview with a female scientist from the seti program. She says there was a female team trained for Apollo, who were better suited than men (smaller and better at some jobs), but ‘at the time women were not allowed into fighting units’ and ‘they didn’t want to have women die’… same old.
    She also tells how she fought to be able to study and work in this field.

    To tickle the lobe further, european in space are spationauts, and chinese are taikonauts. Use the noun for ‘space’ in your language, then add -naut.

  7. Apostate

    Yesterday, I was seething over this; today you made me laugh. Thanks, Jill.

    And yeah, that clarification by Campos was pretty fucking lame.

  8. Vera

    I wanted to be Spock. And I wanted to be an astronaut. The closest I got was when I was chosen to argue in a sixth-grade debate in favor of the proposition that “Women should be allowed to participate in the space program.” When I was preparing for the debate, one friend urged me to argue that women were better at wiring up those tiny little electronic devices on account of having smaller fingers.

    My participation didn’t last long, though. The teacher threw me out after my opening sentence, which was something like “There isn’t a single good reason why women shouldn’t participate at every level in the space program.” I guess that assertion was just too preposterous.

  9. humanbein

    I remember who I watched the moon landing with.

    My mom.

  10. hero

    Must be in the patriarchal air of late. Pat Buchanan was just bragging up white guys the same way with his “100 percent of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were white males!” etc. Shocking, isn’t it, how little respect and privilege and power and opportunity has come their way, for all the invisible, behind-the-scenes good work they’ve been doing all these millennia. Dear god, what about the MEN? The WHITE men!?!?! Rescue them, quick, from the dangers of oblivion and persecution at the hands of little black girls and domesticated animals, because white men are an endangered and beleaguered species with no hope for recognition or survival in this world squelched under the heavy and oppressive thumb of the all-powerful, racist wise Latina woman.

  11. Pinko Punko

    The funny thing about Paul is that whenever he posts over there, he usually gets piled on, deservedly. What can he say? It is clear that Ye Olde Moone Vibrations are simply better received with a Man-tenna, in fact the real hoax is that John Holmes secretly did work for NASA in the 70s trying to talk to the aliens with his giant shlong. Scientists, oy vey.

  12. RedHarridan

    I always identified with Spock. Of course, I was watching Star Trek re-runs in the 80s as a little girl, so maybe by then it was more expected that little girls would identify with the main characters who actually did something, even if those characters were male. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I just didn’t get the memo informing me that I was supposed to identify with the female characters who did almost nothing.

    As a girl, I loved the idea of going into space and me and my best buddy, a boy cousin, were fascinated with the space program. It didn’t occurred to me until I was a bit older that people would have thought he was more suited to it than I was, simply because he was a boy. Unfortunately, the memory of NASA that stands out from my childhood is the Challenger disaster, not the moon landing. That kind of put a damper on our enthusiasm.

  13. JRoth

    Born in 1972, I envied my sister for having been alive for Apollo 11, feeling certain that she must remember watching, even though she was 1 1/2 at the time. When my eyesight went bad (at age 8), my parents told her not to reveal to me that astronauts needed perfect vision, so I found out for myself a few years later. Gentle people.

    Interesting that, while the Russian word kosmos means “space,” the Greek “kosmos” means world/universe, and of course the Greek “astron” is star. So, although the Russian word has Greek roots, they just used their everyday word for space. We had to use the highfalutin’ classical Greek root. Probably why we made it to the moon.

    Campos is so freaking worthless.

  14. Stella

    ‘In 1969 some of us “little girls” didn’t yet realize that identifying with Captain Kirk instead of the green alien belly dancer chick was a crime against the binary gender mandate.’


  15. yttik

    I always love that joke, “we sent a man to the moon, why can’t we send them all there?”

  16. Zora

    This is precisely why I bought this book for my library:
    Almost Astronauts : 13 Women Who Dared To Dream
    ISBN: 9780763636111

    Kirkus Reviews
    The fascinating, dramatic story of the “Mercury 13,” a group of women aviators who proved to be as courageous, intelligent and fit as any man, but who were nonetheless barred from NASA’s astronaut program because of their gender. At the center of the story is Jerrie Cobb, a veteran pilot who successfully completed every test given to male astronauts. Her performance, and that of the others, proved women had the “right stuff,” but these findings were not enough to overcome the prevailing prejudices of the time. It took 20 years before NASA admitted women into the astronaut program. Stone poignantly chronicles how the efforts of Cobb and her colleagues were ridiculed and thwarted by everyone from Vice President Lyndon Johnson to Mercury astronauts Scott Carpenter and John Glenn and—in a bitter irony—Jackie Cochran, a highly respected, trailblazing female pilot who appeared to be motivated by jealousy and spite. The author offers great insight into how deeply ingrained sexism was in American society and its institutions. Handsomely illustrated with photographs, this empowering, impassioned story will leave readers inspired. (foreword, source notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

    Although it can be infuriating to read, I thought some kid out there might want to know about it.

  17. liberality

    I ordered that book for the library because I think kids ought to know that women do stuff too.

  18. minervaK

    Here’s what it was like, for me, as a little girl:


    And it still is.

  19. Nolabelfits

    Why is there one of those fetus photos heading up his blog post?

  20. Ayla

    Perhaps I am simply not informed enough as to the practical applications of space exploration for those of us eating and breathing on good ol’ Mother Earth, so please excuse me if my comment seems ignorant. It’s just that it seems a bit of a waste to me to pour billions of dollars into what is essentially (from my perspective) a giant Lego kit/Science toy for the wealthy and privileged while even in Earth’s richest nations, citizens starve, live on the street, and die from treatable illnesses.

    I figure the priority for exploring and possibly destroying other planets and parts of the galaxy should fall somewhere between feeding the masses and equipping every man, woman and child on Earth with the full line of Sculpey brand polymer clay products.

  21. aerdrie


    “Why is there one of those fetus photos heading up his blog post?”

    That photo is from the movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’

  22. Carolyn

    Thanks for that book recommendation about female astronauts–I’ll have to check it out. I’d been told women were not considered for space missions because LBJ though it would be a horrible PR disaster if they were killed (which of course the Apollo 1 crew were).

    One day after a client meeting I and my architectural team were walking back to our office. A woman in the group was wearing an ‘astronaut jacket’ which I complimented, then casually remarked that it seemed clear women were much better suited both physically and temperamentally to be astronauts than men–we’re smaller and lighter, we use less oxygen, we have higher stress and pain thresholds, we have more stamina, we make better decisions in emergencies because we don’t get a testosterone rush, etc. And the men in the group completely freaked out–this was just an offhand conversation-making remark on my part, but it genuinely upset them for days.

    I’d recommend Susan Faludi’s take on space exploration as an innately ‘feminising’ experience–interesting consideration of why ‘we’ bother, and much more nuanced than ‘we’re wasting money in space that could be used for useful things here’ (which is what people tend to think I’m arguing when I try to discuss her ideas about this).

  23. Dr. Righteous

    Under the heading of ‘the more things change,’ there was once a little boy in therapy who wanted to play with Matchbox cars one session. He picked vehicles out of the box, handing one to the female therapist, one to himself, another for the therapist, another for him, and so forth.

    When he came to a dump truck, he kept it for himself even though it was the therapist’s turn, because “girls can’t drive dump trucks.” His therapist calmly invoked Sally Ride, with whom he was familiar. That made no difference: Girls can go into outer space, anybody knows that, because it’s on tv. But girls cannot drive dump trucks. Whereupon, he handed his therapist a Cadillac.

    I blame the patriarchy.

  24. Katy

    @Ayla: Your point is valid, but consider comparing some federal budget figures: in fiscal 2009, NASA will spend $17.6 billion; HHS $78.4 billion; and the Pentagon $515.4 billion. I like the shiny space stuff: let’s order a couple fewer F-22s instead.

  25. yttik

    “Promised the Moon”

    the untold story of the first women in the space race


  26. Satchel

    “What was it like to be a little girl at the time?” Niebur muses. “Was it the same kind of experience, or was there really a difference?”

    Well, for one thing, we had to wear dresses or skirts to school. With shorts on underneath to protect against skirt-lifting boys (and to permit gymnastic antics).

    I watched most of the Apollo liftoffs, and the moon landing, although I was not inspired to any paroxysms thereby.

  27. nails


    The space program yeilded all kinds of useful technology. The technology developed to successfully blast people into space (which I don’t care about at all) has been applicable all over. Technology took a giant leap forward, and that does not happen without improving technology in general. Technology certainly makes it easier to help people who are starving or in need of other aid.

    I don’t doubt that technology used in space exploration will keep being useful. We have a huge climate problem that has a lot to do with having harmful gasses trapped in our atmosphere. Finding a way to export it into space safely and efficiently would save a lot of those people who are dying because of climate change now. Being able to send nuclear waste would be helpful too for obvious reasons, and I have actually heard talk of a space latter for that exact purpose.

  28. Hedgepig

    I’m with minervaK. I find the expensive pissing contests of self-congratulatory groups of dudes boring as batshit.

    On the topic of why there were no women in the crew: whatever the reason they were excluded, if one of them had snuck in somehow, there’s no way she would have been allowed to set foot on that rock before any of the be-penised ones.

  29. Hattie

    The disappointment to me was that something as potentially thrilling as going to the moon was so banal and so militarized. And that the horrible Vietnam War was in full swing and that the whole thing was about American prestige instead of about exploration and scientific discovery.
    On Friday I was outdoors at a music festival and saw the International Space Station sailing by way way up in the sky, and I was enthralled.
    I want to see us go into space. Yes.
    So I would never say space is a guy thing and therefore uninteresting to women, so let’s all stay right here on earth. I’m a woman and the thought of space travel and exploration excites me.

  30. Jezebella

    Being a not-very-materialistic sort of person, I chose a not-very-lucrative sort of career. I couldn’t imagine why I’d want to spend 80 hours a week doing something dreadful like stockbroking or lawyering so I might have a giant pile of money to play with. But then: I heard about space tourism. And, DAMN, do I want to go into space before I die. DAMN, do I wish I had 8 or 10 million bucks to buy a ride into space. Right now, being neither that guy from Virgin Records nor Lance Bass, I haven’t the scratch to buy a seat into space, but I’m hoping that it’ll get to be affordable before I kick off. Dog, YES, it’s an expensive habit, space exploration, but on the whole it amounts to a lot of science for the sake of “let’s see if we can do this cool thing,” and I for one think that’s the whole point of having opposable thumbs.

  31. tinfoil hattie

    a group of women aviators who proved to be as courageous, intelligent and fit as any man,

    Lucky them! No wonder they made it into the spacer program. They were as good as any man!

  32. Susan

    My parents dragged all seven of my siblings and me to the TV whenever any cool space shit was happening, girls and boys. He worked for NASA, and we were inundated with how amazing it all was. Two of my sisters and a brother are engineers, and I probably should have been one.

    It’s amazing (NOT!) how often this woman’s accomplishments are “forgotten.” Without her, we would have certainly lost the space race:


  33. ElizaN

    “The Mercury 13” by Martha Ackmann is another great book for anyone looking for more blaming. I prefer to re-read that and ignore all the backslapping.

  34. harmonicminor

    Forget Apollo 11 anniversaries!
    I just saw a full solar eclipse! (Yes, I am writing from China.)

    It was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had.

  35. birkwearingblamer

    All of the old white dude glory has been grating on me, too. The arrogance! You’d think that they had cured cancer or something.

  36. Amnesiac

    God this blog depresses me. But not as half as much as Campos’ blog does. So, thank you Jill.

    I’m lucky enough to have been born in a time where the notion of female astronauts is bandied around like a given so obvious that it obscures the fact that – yar – there ain’t any. Ta Patriarchy.

  37. madeleine

    Russian women kosmonauts: check out
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentina_Tereshkova, first woman in space, 1963.

  38. feminamist

    Thank you, Twisty, for your bloody darn near life-saving blog. You always make me laugh, but most often and hardest just at the point I think I’m never going to laugh again (humourless and all doncha know). Blame on, Sister!

  39. Susan

    What was it like to be a girl in 1969? It meant that while everyone else went to a house with a TV to watch, I as a “mother’s helper” stayed behind to babysit the children. So I’ve never had any romance about the moon landing because I didn’t see it.

  40. PandanCat

    Here’s a fun blog post about the space race from a girl’s perspective.


  41. speedbudget

    Well, to be fair to NASA, they probably took into consideration those bulky helmets and how hard it would be to primp with them on.

    Always looking out for us, those menz. Ain’t it grand?

  42. norbizness

    We’re Earthlings, let’s blow up earth-things.

  43. elisabeth

    Pirulent? Do you mean purulent?

  44. Jill

    Hey, teenage boy who keeps trying to comment on this post with long, dull paragraphs about scientific evidence for superior male brains: Keep’em coming, pencil-dick! Deleting you brings me a special kind of pleasure.

  45. Jill

    “Pirulent? Do you mean purulent?”

    The pleasure experienced by internet spelling cops, however, is unmatched anywhere.

  46. phiogistic

    “The thirteen women who were thoght to be prime astronaut material were grounded in 1961 when the woman-in-space program was abruptly and mysteriously cancelled. Until they read this book, the FLATs never knew why. At a time when a woman in space was regarded as “ninety pounds of recreational equipment”, in the words of a well-known space pioneer, it’s not surprising to learn that opposition started at the top.”

    from http://www.stephanienolen.com/moon.htm

  47. goblinbee

    harmonicminor, my daughters saw the eclipse too! They were so excited in their emails this morning. Where in China are you? They are in Hangzhou. I had been planning for 10 years to see this eclipse, but ended up not being able to swing it (financially). But I’m so glad to have representatives there!

  48. Bird

    This news clip from the CBC makes me sad and pretty much sums it all up:


  49. nacky

    When I was 6 or 7 or so (ca.1962) I would play astronaut. Get in the closet angle your legs up on a box astronaut style, close the door and take off. I was quickly informed by my elder brothers that girls could not be astronauts. That spoiled it a bit. I still loved NASA, they had really good PR and I remember being shown many pro-space films and other presentations in school, so I have probably been brainwashed.

    On the other hand as an officially declared ‘tomboy’ (whole other topic) my non-girly interests were accepted. One could, for instance, perhaps become a lady doctor (as opposed to a regular one). Thanks to the hippies dresses/skirts were no longer required by the time I reached high school.

    As mentioned above, definite identification with the male main characters in science fiction. I can’t recollect a single female main character in sci-fi from back then (except from the children’s book ‘A Wrinkle in Time’). ‘Witches of Karres’ might count, but I read that much later. I also wanted to be like Spock, and was quite surprised that the originators of the show wanted a female captain; they didn’t even let She who started out as captain, then was science officer, be the lady doctor, but relegated her to nurse.

    By the way, in German you have the choice of Astronaut, Raumfahrer or Weltraumfahrer, add ‘in’ to the end of the word for the female version.

    Oh, and what about super-heroes in comics? The women almost always had wimpy or soft powers (telekinesis, mind-reading. force fields, shrinking).

  50. Cottonpants

    “At a time when a woman in space was regarded as “ninety pounds of recreational equipment”, in the words of a well-known space pioneer,”

    Oh, God. I can’t even tell you how hard I just raged.

  51. JetGirl

    I’ve met at least two of the Mercury 13 women. Wally Funk was in my 99s chapter. Her experiences — and the bravery involved — actually make me even more furious when people say the moon landings were faked. These women were amazing pilots, just as good as the men (who in the first missions were ballast just as much as the chimps), but kept out because of sexism. In spite of the sexism they experienced, though, they fervently believed in space exploration and were excited by the moon landings. What if they had been allowed to go up? They would be just as offended by the hoax accusations as the men were. They put their lives on the line.
    And women were very involved in the Mars explorations in the late ’90s. Kickass scientist Donna Shirley headed up that project. Is she a fraud too?

  52. AngryYoungFemme

    “Lube my lobe” is my new favorite catch phrase. Right on, Jill.

  53. Jenna

    “Kosmonaut” means “astronaut” in Russian… perhaps the Americans thought it was the nicest way to differentiate themselves from the Russians without making anyone mad.

  54. slythwolf

    with a big phallic enough telescope you can see all the little moon cruisers and shit that they left up there.

    Nah, they paint all that shit on the telescope lens with a tiiiiiiiiiny little brush. Just to perpetuate their lies!

  55. Squiggy

    Honoring the astronauts slickly in print. Check out the Louis Vuitton ad that is to, they say,’Celebrate their odyssey into space at louisvuittonjourneys.com’
    It’s also the back cover of the brand new July 27th 2009 ‘New Yorker.’
    Anyhoo, the two male astronauts get to stand up tall on their swarthy two legs while the best place for Sally Ride is to be draped backward while perched on the hood of the truck- much like the ‘Flashdance’ scene with the water.
    High production value. Ergh.

  56. Barn Owl

    Meh, I had better and more diverse role models in the life sciences, including a female PhD biochemist (colleague of my father, also a biochemist) who lived across the street from us. Her husband worked for NASA, but he was a non-PhD engineer with conservative tendencies, and I always viewed him as a sort of glorified auto mechanic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but I just found natural sciences more intriguing, and now I’m a PhD biologist.

    In C.J. Cherryh’s “Chanur” science fiction series, there is a race of bipedal felines, in which the females do all the navigation, piloting, and space exploration. The males are considered too emotionally unstable and violent to be allowed to pilot spacecraft or to hold significant responsibilities in space missions.

  57. virago

    I was born the year after Apollo 11, but I remember growing up in the 70s and wanting to be an astronaut. I don’t remember any other girl having such big aspirations beyond being a nurse. I was absolutely in love with learning anything about space that I could. However, I remember that I had a third grade teacher (female) that totally ruined a lot of stuff for me. We were learning about the solar system and the nine planets at the time, and she never seemed to notice my interest or did anything to encourage it. Our textbooks at the time were somewhat outdated, and she hung up some current Weekly Reader articles on the bulletin board that talked about the universe and the planets. She told us “to be sure and read them.” I spent all recess reading these articles, and I saw some new information that was just recently discovered about one of the planets. Excited, I ran up to her to tell all about the new information that I read because it contradicted some of the outdated information in our textbooks. She listened and said, “That’s nice.”, and she turned away from like I never said anything at all. Later on, she asked questions during science class about what we were learning in our textbooks. She called on all the boys several timnes, but didn’t call on me at all even though I had my hand up the entire time. Finally, she asked a question that was directly related to the article on the bulletin board, but was not in the textbook. She called on me and acted like the information that I gave her was wrong even though I got directly from the article that SHE put up. Because it wasn’t in the textbook, she didn’t even bother to check the articles that NO OTHER KID even bothered to read, and all the other kids ((especially the boys) told me how stupid I was to go against the textbook even though I told them to read the article. Not one ever did. This teacher also humilated me on a daily basis because I was not good at math even though it was a patriarchally approved subject only for boys. I was good at reading (a patriarchally approved subject for girls), but she would say things like,”Your the best reader in the class!”, and I would feel really good about finally being good at somethings, and than she would say,”It’s too bad that your not as good at math as you are at reading.” She kept me in at every recess trying to force me to learn multiplcation and division while all the other kids got to play. All she did was make me hate math to this day, and any interest in science was put on the back burner for years. Basically, I lost a lot of my interest in the universe, and I liked biology a lot better. Unfortunately, I was never a very good student after that because I think I thought that it didn’t matter. Anyway, I would never have gotten to be an astronaut anyway because my eyesight was poor, but I think the way girls are treated in math and science was never very good.

  58. BoF

    “Cosmonaut” is a transliteration rather than a translation of the equivalent Russian word. The original Russian is ?????????? (kosmonavt) if the dictionary is to be believed.

  59. orlando

    It just struck me that Campos’s column is a neat illustration of a couple of ways that women are routinely erased from history. He characterises building tree houses as boy territory, showing how in situations where girls are undoubtedly present, memory makes them invisible. Then he observes the more documentable absence of women from the space programme, with an implication that this was because men chose it out of interest and women didn’t, missing the point that women were prevented from participating (see also Pat whatsisname and “100% of the people who signed the declaration of independence were white men”).

    Susan’s experience illustrates something else, which has had vast implications for the course of history, and which still holds true: men have done most of the extraordinary work, because women were doing the crucial day-to-day work to keep things running, and thus free them up for it.

  60. goblinbee

    Virago, your story is so touching and sad. What an awesome little girl you were. But in a world so treacherous for awesome little girls.

  61. yttik

    Oh Virago, yes, sad story. I think many of us remember things like that.

    Last yr I fell in love with a 3rd grade teacher who told some boys they better rethink the way they were treating a girl, because she might grow up to be their lawyer some day, and all that will stand between you and going to prison is a girl who remembers what a creep you were in 3rd grade. The girl was beaming, but the boys faces were priceless too, you could tell they had never considered the possibility that some girl may hold their life in her hands some day.

  62. Julia

    Mythbusters busted all the fake moon landing conspiracy theories this week. It was pretty cool. They even had some girls (!) operate the manly machines.

  63. Cranky Old Coot

    You were born the year Caltech FINALLY allowed women to attend as undergraduates. I started there as a freshman in 1971-a major part of my learning to question more and more the sexism this society teaches men.
    That and transfering to Occidental College in 1974 where they had a Dean of Men who stated explicitly he was a Misogynist and that women ONLY went to college to “snare a man” in marriage and he would do everything he could to protect men’s “rightful places” in graduate schools by NEVER giving a woman an A in his math classes no matter how well they did on the tests or homework (he primarily taught statistics-a course biology majors especially needed for med school). I just found out last year that this creep was allowed to retire and was so popular with (male) students that they named the student gym after him.
    I always took this example as a reply in my mind to the critics of Mary Daly-who has stated in writing how much she enjoyed teaching male students and also I’ve never seen any evidence offered that she has ever unfairly graded a male student just for being male.

  64. TwissB

    @Nacky who said “Oh, and what about super-heroes in comics? The women almost always had wimpy or soft powers (telekinesis, mind-reading. force fields, shrinking).”

    Go at once to today’s (Thursday) Google logo inspired by Comics-con to see that nothing has changed. Man in comics-hero skintight suit leaping into action, woman in minimal spacebabe dominatrix gear planted on static display at center of picture.

  65. Jezebella

    Sigh. Clicking on the comics-con google logo gets you to a new batch of comics-based Google themes. They are almost entirely male, of course. And the “women of the DC universe” theme is, like, all boobs, all the time.

  66. Caukee

    “Well, for one thing, we had to wear dresses or skirts to school. With shorts on underneath to protect against skirt-lifting boys (and to permit gymnastic antics).”

    Yeah, Satchel, as a 1970 high school grad, I love to horrify younger women with the skirt edicts – I never wore pants to school !?

    I was very struck by one difference in my world and yours on the playground: boys I played with were expected to behave, or take the consequences. We weren’t expected to wear extra clothing to protect them from that.

  67. Diane

    I had never heard the “ninety pounds of recreational equipment” comment until I read it here, but I distinctly remember sometime before women were “allowed” to go into space a little news story about the possibility of women in space. One of the dickheads who was interviewed was quoted as saying, “We’ll use women in space just like we use them here.” I remember it because I was already a feminist (maybe not quite radical yet) and I was appalled. IBTP!

  68. Carolyn

    I just read Cranky Old Coot’s story about the math teacher, and wanted to mention that while we might think these guys are relics who have or soon will retire unfortunately that isn’t true. One term three women engineering students from the nearby marine academy enrolled in my statics course. I asked them later why they were coming all the way to another city to take a course that must surely be taught in their own engineering programme, and they told me the teacher had stated flatly that he would fail any women students in his class, because they were taking places away from deserving men. I made some remark about how these old guys won’t be around for too much longer, and they told me the man they were talking about was in his early 30s and this was his first teaching position.

  69. Cranky Old Coot

    I had always hoped that one of the women had sued the school. How can this NOT have been fraud and/or breach of contract? Oh god, I can see how naive I am sometimes about patriarchal justice, but isn’t this just too blatant? especially since I believe the Oxy prof said it in front of witnesses, just like I imagine the 30-something ass did. Or is this just a clear instance of how arrogant guys feel they can easily get away with being.

  70. Carolyn

    My first reaction when I heard these women’s story was that they should report him to the university, since clearly his attitude was not only unethical but illegal. But they told me that they were just starting their professional careers, and getting the reputation of being bitches or ballbusters wouldn’t do them any favours. Students, especially female students in technical fields, really aren’t in a position to ‘do the right thing’ if they want to have any kind of chance of academic or professional success.

  71. virago

    “I always took this example as a reply in my mind to the critics of Mary Daly-who has stated in writing how much she enjoyed teaching male students and also I’ve never seen any evidence offered that she has ever unfairly graded a male student just for being male.”

    Cranky Old Coot, I hear you because I think that most female teachers are awesome. However, there were still a lot of female teachers who didn’t bother to encourage their female students at all like my third grade teacher. You know, what really hurt was when I was in the fourth grade, and my best friend and I decided to go visit some of our former teachers during the noon hour recess. We stopped by my third grade teacher’s classroom, and she had the same Weekly Reader article hanging up on the bulletin board that I tried to point out to her the year before. They were still using the same outdated textbooks, and again, I pointed out to her what it was in this article that contradicted the textbook. Do you know what she said to me? She said, “I know. SOME BOY just pointed it out to me the other day. I had to be sure to tell the class!” I couldn’t believe she said that after the hell she put me in while I was in her class. And what’s worse, when I started college, I ran into a woman who’s daughter had this same teacher for third grade, and the same old horror stories were being repeated, and this was in the early 90s. And that old bag just retired a few years ago. I wonder how many girls she ruined math and science for over the years? It’s pretty sad.

  72. Felicity

    It’s compulsory for engineering to have sexist lecturers. A friend of mine constantly moans about how sexist her teacher is – she’s moved to the environmental course now (and I wonder why). They’re complete dickheads, there are maybe 2 or 3 women in a class of 300? If the women haven’t latched on already to the female hatred in engineering, the lecturer assures them of female hate in the department in the lecture.

    A female philosophy lecturer says it’s definitely the norm for lecturers to talk about the students they’d like to ‘have their way with’ – and how she’d be lynched if she said the same about male students. Thinking about bringing this up in the uni’s paper but everything has to go through someone else! – Unfortunately too radical (right, i.e. too threatening to peace conditional with male dominance).

    Obviously the higher the status of the male, the more contemptuous he is of women. Why is it when high status men wanna big themselves up, women always get the brunt of it, and not some equally high status male opponent??

  73. Spiders

    Thanks for this, Jill. The malecentric back-slapping surrounding the moon shit has had me wanting to hurl. It was particularly disturbing to log on to one of my local “feminist” sites last week and see the same sort of fanzine shit that the msm were peddling.

    Great to come here and feel sane again.

    Oh, and I watched the whole shebang in the living room with my depressed and bored mother and my baby brother. No doubt my mother wished she were on the freakin’ moon herself or anywhere at all besides stuck in the house with two babies and years and years of the usual financial dependence and domestic drudgery to look forward to.

  74. harmonicminor

    goblinbee, I am also in Hangzhou, where the eclipse was quite clear. If you want, email me with your daughter’s contact info and we can start a patriarchy-blaming group in Hangzhou! (Assuming they have inherited your patriarchy-blaming ways.)

    I was teaching a 14-year-old student the other day and she said she didn’t want to be too smart, because she thought it was good for women to be a bit “silly.” Apparently other students at her school have said her mother looks too smart, and therefore, not pretty. Not a nice moment.

  75. speedbudget

    Susan’s experience illustrates something else, which has had vast implications for the course of history, and which still holds true: men have done most of the extraordinary work, because women were doing the crucial day-to-day work to keep things running, and thus free them up for it.

    Or they just flat out stole from the women researchers.

    Or they belittled what the woman discovered then “discovered” it themselves.

    Do you know what she said to me? She said, “I know. SOME BOY just pointed it out to me the other day. I had to be sure to tell the class!”

    Does this still happen today or what? I mean, I take my dad with me when I’m purchasing something major or getting major repairs done just because I’ve never done any of this before and my dad knows everything about everything. You would think I didn’t exist. Even though I’m the one with the payment in hand.

  76. nacky

    TwissBee, thanks for the tip, got to see a small version of it although it’s already Friday here. Jezebel, clicking the logo here only gets me to google sans comic logo, but I probably would have only gotten upset in a womanly hysterical way.

    I wanted to get rid of one more story. When he was in third or so grade, one of my sons asked me why there were no famous women scientists. After I caught my breath I realized that they had gone over some old greats like Newton, Galileo, Kepler etc. in school. I explained to him that it is pretty hard to be a famous scientist when you are not allowed to go to school, or later university, it is of course even harder when you are not allowed to read, or publish or work. He was quite surprised that not even 100 years ago women were not allowed to study medicine in these parts (they are just too fragile, never mind the farm and factory labor they were doing).

    Oh, and there were studies around the turn of the (other) century “showing” that women who studied or did sports were less fertile, and we all know that fertility is the most important thing. Occasionally some guy would admit that some women could be quite clever in their potentially soulless kind of way.

    Go ahead, ask me about the ca. 1983 German chemistry prof.(not completely representative of the genre German chemistry prof., but not particularly unusual either).

  77. goblinbee

    harmonicminor, sounds like you live in China! My girls are just on vacation. My older daughter (age 27–she just had her birthday while camping along The Great Wall) returns to Portland this Sunday, but my younger one (age 23) will stay in China for an extra month on her own. If you wouldn’t mind, I would love for her to be able to look you up! I haven’t heard from them since the eclipse, and I’m not exactly sure where they are right now.

  78. Cranky Old Coot

    I’ve been thinking and thinking about your two posts and haven’t said anything about the feelings they bring up in me because they just seem too inadequate to answer what you went through. It makes me think about how the privilege I had as a boychild to have a grandmother who encouraged me from the youngest age to enjoy learning made it so easy for me to do so (and we were working class). Same with all my teachers loving to call on me in class because I always knew the answers. I went to Caltech as an astronomy major and I can see how excited you were to relate to the teacher what you discovered in that article . To even imagine having a teacher so cruelly stifle your excitement brings me to tears.I want to apologize but that seems so inadequate and almost condescending and that’s the last thing I want.
    That stuff like this continues still is why I have no patience for MRA’s who whine about how boys get the short end in school nowadays.

  79. virago

    “I want to apologize but that seems so inadequate and almost condescending and that’s the last thing I want.
    That stuff like this continues still is why I have no patience for MRA’s who whine about how boys get the short end in school nowadays.”

    Why should you apologize? You didn’t do this to me. The sad thing about this whole thing is that it was a FEMALE teacher who did this to me-not some guy. I think she should have known better because in the 70s the women’s movement was really starting to take off, but instead, she chose to support the patriarchal notion that boys were somehow only suppose to be interested in this stuff. OTOH, all my teachers in elementary school were female except for one (6th grade), and I don’t remember HIM being like this. However, I had a really bad experience with a male math teacher in junior high, but I really think my hatred for math has it’s roots in that female teacher. Anyway, I appreciate what you’ve said about the MRAs whining about boys having the short end of the stick. I’ve dealt with these guys on many a blog, and I these guys are the proof that the patriarchy is alive and well. They just can’t see past their own privilege, and their women supporters have blinders on their eyes. Anyway, I think we could definitely use more men like you in the meantime especially in the younger generation.

  80. virago

    “Does this still happen today or what? I mean, I take my dad with me when I’m purchasing something major or getting major repairs done just because I’ve never done any of this before and my dad knows everything about everything. You would think I didn’t exist. Even though I’m the one with the payment in hand.”

    Speedbudget, yes, this does still happen. A couple of years ago, I bought a brand new car that for no apparent reason started stalling at intersections. I would be at a stoplight, and when the light turned green, I would give it gas and it would just die out. Sometimes, this would happen while I was accelerating through the intersection. It was scary because I almost got hit by oncoming traffic a few times. Anyway, I took the car back to the dealer at least 3 different times, and they never could seem to find anything wrong. In fact, they would just stare blankly while I was trying to explain the problem, but it was almost like their attitude was, “Oh great, her AGAIN.” One mechanic even went so far as to tell me that he couldn’t find a problem, and it must be the way I was driving it. He said, “You can’t accelerate with this newer cars like you could with the old ones. Maybe, you should have your husband drive it a few times to be sure.” What a stupid fucker! I was so pissed off that they were blaming ME because HE couldn’t diagnose what was wrong. Anyway, not long after this, I got a letter in the mail from the car company. It was a company RECALL because they’ve had so many complaints about the kind of car that I bought stalling at intersections. It turns out that there was something wrong with the computer inside the car, and it had to be reprogrammed. Once, I had that done, I never had any more problems. Go figure.

  81. Laurie

    I grew up in the 70s too, and no, the women’s movement definitely had not penetrated the public school system at that point. In my experience, female gym teachers were the worst. I had two who seemed determined to impress upon on us that girls could never, ever hope to be competent in sports. Which was weird for a woman who chose to go into a sports related profession. Maybe they thought they were exceptions to the general rule, but boy, were they nasty pieces of work.

  82. speedbudget

    I know what you mean, virago. I’ve had that situation before.

    Was it the choke? I bet it was the computer timing of the choke on your motor.

    I don’t know as much about the world as my dad, but I’ve picked up a few things. Enough so that if I go somewhere and I sense the salesperson or dealer or whatever isn’t taking me seriously enough, I can throw out a statement like that and watch the shock and dismay cover their faces.

    Like, if I were you, and I were getting that reaction when I explained the car problem, I would probably put a finger to my cheek, tilt my head, kind of smile in an embarrassed way and say,
    “You don’t think it could be the choke, do you?” Then act really nervous. It always blows their minds that I seem to have some clue about what is going on. Their attitude changes right quick after that.

  83. Denise

    @Nails: Among the wonderful technological advances to come out of the space programme is a device to remind forgetful parents that they just left their kid locked up in the car on a hot day. How earth-shattering and supremely useful is that? Truly, the space programme is improving the world we live in.

  84. incognotter

    The space program gave us power tools and a bunch of other cool stuff. I have never done a cost/benefit analysis on it, but I am inclined to believe it was useful. The problem is that when the P suppresses women in engineering it also suppresses the development of tech which is specifically useful to women. We have a lot of things which are good for women which could have been invented much earlier if it had ever occurred to a dude, or been a priority.

    And sexism stories – ugh. I think the worst is the sexism from guys who know me and know what I can do and ignore it anyway. Like the time the car died right after I got gas and I told the mechanic to check the fuel filter and why but he couldn’t be bothered for 2 days, though he knew I knew what I was talking about.

    Did y’all hear that the ERA has been reintroduced to the US congress? I’m trying to figure out whether it will be 1972 all over again.

  85. rootlesscosmo




    is another case of “guys who know what [a particular woman] can do and ignore it anyway.

    (The CWLU site has a lot of other good stuff, too. Naomi Weisstein’s “Psychology Constructs the Female” was written 42 years ago but is still very much to the point.)

  86. rootlesscosmo

    Sorry, CWLU has a link to Solnit’s article; the article itself is at


  87. jezebella

    As usual, I regret skimming the comments for that excellent article. Anti-feminist bingo inside of ten comments, I am certain.

  88. virago

    “Was it the choke? I bet it was the computer timing of the choke on your motor”

    I don’t know. Could be. The recall notice said the computer needed to be reprogrammed. What that means is anyone’s guess? OTOH, I did know that something was wrong with the car, but they wouldn’t listen because of that whole I-a-woman thing I guess. LOL.

  89. Kristel

    There was a Russian astronaut (oh sorry, COSmanaut) during the 1960’s or thereabouts, Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space or so I heard. Wonder what happened to her.

  90. antigeekess

    “In 1969 some of us “little girls” didn’t yet realize that identifying with Captain Kirk instead of the green alien belly dancer chick was a crime against the binary gender mandate.”

    YES!!! Me too, Twisty Spinster-type! James T(estosterone) Kirk runs around saving the universe with a little green alien nookie on the side, while Uhura’s stuck sitting there at her switchboard thingy like Ma Bell, circa 2250!

    Regarding that binary gender mandate, apparently
    Intergalactic = good thing.
    Intersex = bad thing.

    I don’t know if your TV watching ever includes Kathy Griffin’s show, but in the new episode, she finds out what the “I” in LGBTQI stands for. A most excellent development.

    “Binary gender mandate” be damned!

    (This Texan in California is most pleased to have stumbled upon your blog. Things like feistiness and sense — whether it refers to the common kind or a sense of humor — are in short supply out here.)

  91. Sophie

    Nacky: telekinesis is not a wimpy superpower. Look what Sylar does with it in Heroes (throws people against walls with a flick of a finger and then slices off the tops of their heads, for those who haven’t seen it). Destructive yet also practical, eg for getting beer from the fridge without getting off the couch.

    Sophie: Hi Other Sophie! I was quite confused to see your comment, had to do a little double-take to remember if it was me or not. But clearly no, unless I’ve been taking beautiful photos in my sleep. I’ll comment with a different name in future so I don’t infringe your copyright.

  92. iSoph

    Sophie: Hi Other Sophie! Also with a cat as gravatar…
    Let’s copyleft our name, I haven’t patented anything. I can try and remember to post as iSoph.

  93. nails


    I would imagine it is pretty important to children who are trapped in cars. I expected someone to use Tang as their example if they were going to try and say that my point is not valid. Or athletic shoes. Or scratch resistant lenses.

    Good technology like MRI, CAT, freeze dried foods, solar power, fire retardant materials, alternate water purification systems….all kinds of stuff. Probably would have yielded more if all groups were allowed to participate.

  94. Susan

    I think my head just exploded.

    See, I was out at BlogHer having all kinds of fun and all kinds of cringing horror and here you all are, talking my kind of talk.

    Thanks for that.

    There ARE very, very few resources or references out there to the women who have contributed to NASA’s space program. I’m out there trying to change that, both with the blog and a new research project, a series of oral histories with the women who have made the planetary science missions work. Excerpts will be posted for discussion at the Women in Planetary Science blog — so thanks for linking!

    We will have succeeded when tales of women succeeding in science are not exemplary, but commonplace.

  95. MarkusR

    Two out of 25 students in my fall engineering class are women (as far as I can tell, at this point).

    Not my fault.

  96. Jill

    “Not my fault.”

    Yes, you are entirely blameless. Good for you!

  1. About the peculiarly male nature of science… « The Apostate

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    […] 2009 Posted by antiplondon in Radical Feminism, quote of the day. trackback Just because I like it In 1969, the difference between being a little boy and a little girl was like the difference […]

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