Feminists have extended their fight against sexism and racism into the final frontier: space.
Martin Robbins, inspired by another feminist thought piece in Scientific American, wrote a piece for The Guardian on Wednesday called "How can our future Mars colonies be free of sexism and racism?"
In the column, the "Berkshire-based researcher and science writer" who "writes about science, pseudoscience and evidence-based politics" argued visions of future space programs are dominated by white men."
To paraphrase Douglas Adams: "Space is white. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly white it is." It’s also very male and European. Women in space-colony fiction have generally been presented as sexy walking vaginas, whose main purpose is to provide the male astronauts with a place to dock their penis at night. This being necessary in order to "ensure the survival of the species".
If you think that attitude doesn't exist in the real world, it’s worth recalling the comments of Prof. Anatoly Grigoryev, a doctor and key figure in the Russian space programme. "Women are fragile and delicate creatures; that is why men should lead the way to distant planets and carry women there in their strong hands."
Robbins went on to say that social justice must be included in any discussion of future space colonies or the consequences would be dire.
And it’s there, unspoken and unchallenged, at the heart of our current aspirations for space. There’s no room for discussion about social justice or equality when it comes to planning our future Mars colonies because we all just assume that decent educated scientists and engineers – the "right kind" of people – won’t have any problem with that sort of thing.
Except every available single scrap of historical experience tells us that this is an incredibly naive and dangerous assumption to make. Colonies and outposts are portrayed as lights in the darkness; hot spots of progress, ingenuity and adventure. That may be true to some extent, but they’ve also been places of crime, vigilante justice, tyrants, rape, pillaging, abuse and war. It’s true that when things get hard we can see the best in people, but oftentimes we see the worst too.
A commitment to ending sexism and racism is key to ensuring Gamergaters don't control space, Robbins said.
It’s early days, but if we really want to create a progressive new world then issues like these should be at the hearts of our efforts from the very start. I hope Musk and his peers open up that discussion sooner rather than later, and I hope that people like Lee can take part in it. The last thing we need is to wake up in 50 years and find that a bunch of #gamergate nobheads are running Mars.
However, National Review's Katherine Timpf did not find the argument persuasive and said we should focus on getting to Mar before worrying about potential microaggressions that might arise once we arrive.
I just cannot help but think that maybe we should keep our focus on actually getting to Mars before freaking out about its hypothetical colony’s hypothetical microaggressions.
Published under: NASA