All-Female Russian Space Crew Asked About Hair and Makeup At Press Conference
It's a sad fact that accomplished women get asked a lot of sexist questions, no matter what they've achieved — but as we all learned from a recent press conference with an all-female potential Russian space crew in which the crew members were asked how they'd live without makeup for a week during their planned mission, even taking a trip into space won't keep people from thinking your greatest focus as a woman should be your looks. You'd think that there would be more interesting things to talk to these women about than hair and makeup, but alas, apparently not.
The six Russian women in question are currently trying out for a space mission to the moon in 2029, and all have a background in medicine or biophysics. In order to assess their fitness for the trip, the women are currently spending eight days in isolation together in a suite of rooms at Moscow's Institute of Biomedical Problems, simulating the flight to the moon and back, and conducting 30 scientific experiments as well — all of which is super cool.
Less cool is the fact that at a press conference prior to entering isolation, the women were asked how they planned to cope for eight days in space without men or makeup. Anna Kussmaul, one of the potential crew members, replied that given how busy they'll be, they won't "have time to think about men."
"Those who will take part in an experiment are not concerned there won't be any men in their crew," she said. "We are here to do our job."
Although male and co-ed crews have participated in isolation trials before while training for space missions — including one 520-day isolation experiment to simulate a mission to Mars and back — this is believed to be the first such program involving an all-female crew. And it seems to be bringing out the stereotypes in some people's minds — and not just cliches about hair and makeup. Some comments on the crew also seem to play into the notion that women are inherently catty, competitive, and unable to get along. Igor Ushakov, director of the Institute of Biomedical Problems, said in a rather odd comment that, "They say that in one kitchen, two housewives find it hard to live together."
The crew, on the other hand, don't seem concerned. The team leader Yelena Luchnitskaya said, "I'm sure we all have the education, personal qualities and the upbringing, at the end of the day. ... So far I can't imagine what would rattle us."
Gee, it's almost like the idea that women can't get along with each other is entirely fictitious!
Although this is the first all-female crew to undergo isolation training, it looks like it probably won't be the last. In fact, it looks like women might become a bigger part of the Russian space program in the near future. As Sergei Ponomarev, the scientific director of Moon-2015, explained it, "We consider the future of space belongs equally to men and women and unfortunately we need to catch up a bit after a period when unfortunately there haven't been too many women in space."
So hopefully, ladies like these will soon become the norm, not the exception. And maybe then we can stop asking about makeup.