This just in: Sexism now has extended past planet earth to actual outer space.
This week NASA announced it would have to cancel (or at least postpone) what had been billed as its first all-female spacewalk.
The reason? Not because of some scientific glitch or a massive mathematical problem but because it just occurred to the people who push the boundaries of human exploration that it has only one spacesuit sized to fit a woman. Now Anne McClain, one of the women chosen for the mission, will have to surrender her spot to a man. (Christina Koch will still do the walk.) According to The Guardian, McClain at first believed she’d be able to make do with a larger suit but realized that a medium is a better fit.
"Anne trained in ‘M’ and ‘L’ and thought she could use a large but decided after [last] Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” a NASA spokeswoman, Stephanie Schierholz, said in a tweet. “In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change space-walkers than reconfigure the spacesuit.”
A bit more detail was offered up in an official press release: "McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso—essentially the shirt of the spacesuit—fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it."
Frankly, I call bullshit, NASA.
Of course, the fit of the spacesuit is essential and no one would ever want to put an astronaut at risk, but how is that the people who put a man on the moon can’t (or won’t) imagine a world with more than one qualified woman in it? Earth to NASA (and men worldwide): Women need to be in the room where decisions get made. Otherwise, this ridiculous pattern will repeat itself over and over. It’s not enough to “include women.” Women need to be part of the process, or we’re bound to end up on the cutting-room floor.
The cancellation of this mission means women and girls won’t be able to witness a historic (and overdue) event. Instead, we’ll have just one more example of the extent to which the world (and the universe around it) isn't built for us.
As a woman who has spent a lifetime obsessed with the space program and its achievements—to the point that I convinced my parents to let me miss a week of middle school to go to Space Camp—this is more than an outrage. It’s a genuine disappointment.
Looks like I’m not alone. On social media the reaction has been fittingly ferocious.
As a government agency funded by taxpayer dollars, NASA simply has to do better. Representation matters—in the rooms where these plans are made and in the images we see of women taking historic steps forward, in space and on earth.