Perhaps you didn’t know, but the record for the first woman in space was not held by an American (gasp!) but a Russian woman the Chicago Tribune dubbed “The Russian Blonde in Space”… even though she wasn’t even blonde.
Despite how “modern” we like to think America is, there is still much stereotyping and bias for women in science, technology, and combat-related fields. These stereotypes are pervasive and foundational to how many Americans approach women in, well, anything. So let us take a pause and remember this moment when America was not the leader of equality movements during the space race- and think on how we still struggle to put women at parity to men.
In her time, Valentina Tereshkova challenged American bias on what was a Russian Woman and, I would argue, what constituted “an astronaut”. Because she was not a shapeless, sexless, androgynous being, it was sensational news in the United States that a feminine woman was sent to space.
The irony is that women may actually be better suited for space flight than men, according to iGiant research. Women do not suffer the same effects to their vision as men do as research on launches has discovered, and there are certainly more differences and advantages to be determined once our society fully embraces the efficacy of including both genders in the space race- especially in the development of our nations “Space Force“.
In order to get to gender parity, however, we have to see everyone as a contributing member to society, which, unfortunately, I think we are far from. Women are different- not less than (as society reinforced by Darwin and De Beauvoir would have us think) than men. These differences are advantageous in some areas, if we are willing to consider these possibilities. It just takes imagination and open minds to discover what we are missing. We have to thank pioneers like Valentina Tershkova for enlightening and encouraging us.