A Letter to Washington Post Columnist Monica Hesse about “A Woman on the Moon” Article
Dear Ms. Hesse,
I respectfully ask that you take the time to read this admittedly long letter about your recent article, A woman on the moon: How has one small step taken so long?, and to thoughtfully consider what I say here.
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Please note that I’m a proud lifelong reader of the Post, who nevertheless has long noticed the paper’s gender bias, most notably its imbalanced coverage of domestic violence.
But my pride in the Post turned to quiet outrage after the paper published two undeniably gender-biased articles in 2018: Why can’t we hate men? and Amber Heard’s infamous op-ed that ultimately embarrassed the Post¹, cost Heard millions, and proved beyond doubt that men can be victims of violent women.
As I believe you must be aware, I’ve been sending letters to Post columnists who have written articles that perpetuate this same gender bias.
Your article is another example of, if not outright bias, than at least of an unbalanced, feminist-inspired perspective. In your enthusiasm to hail a first woman on the moon, you’ve conveniently ignored or misrepresented many important parts of the story.
Please don’t misunderstand. As a lifelong supporter of expanding opportunities for women, I was inspired by Sally Ride’s historic space flight and look forward to having a woman and an astronaut of color walk on the moon.
But with that said, here’s why I say that your article provided an unbalanced, feminist-inspired perspective:
First, the article opened with a misandrist anecdote that mocked NASA’s male engineers in charge of equipment who were helpfully trying to determine how many tampons they should provide in case Sally Ride had her period while in space.
Note that these men were engineers, not doctors. They were also men. Is it reasonable to expect “half the population” (to borrow a phrase you use in your article) who, never having had a period themselves, to know everything about the monthly menstrual cycle? Do you know everything about being a man?
You may say that it’s merely a humorous story and that I should “lighten up”. But what if, for example, I started an article about the Titanic sinking with the following riddle:
“What’s the definition of a feminist?”
Answer: “She’s the one in the lifeboat complaining that she can’t hear the band playing.”
I believe that your opening anecdote is meant to mock men and masculinity. That it took the first fifth of the article (yes, I calculated it) that otherwise celebrates putting a woman on the moon seems to confirm its real purpose.
Next, you wrote that it was reasonable that the first astronauts “… should be drawn from a pool of military test pilots …”, but because women couldn’t be test pilots, this requirement “… eliminated half the population”. (As one commenter wrote, the requirement “…eliminated approximately 99.9999999% of the population” … why focus only on women?)
But what your article conveniently overlooked is the underlying reason why this female half of the population wasn’t considered: for all of human history women have been protected from many of the burdens and extreme dangers placed only on men.
In particular, women have long been safe from hazardous military service that ultimately produced NASA’s male‑only military test pilots.
Women, with very few exceptions, have also been completely exempt from military conscription, whereas men for all of history have been conscripted, often unwillingly and even under the threat of death, to risk their lives in war. (The conscription of Russian men to fight in Ukraine provides a ghastly current example.²)
Finally, women have never been expected to work in dangerous coal mines or in most of the “death professions”, where men are many times more likely than women to be killed.
I imagine that this massively unequal sharing of life’s risks between the genders is what John Glenn was alluding to in his statement that you quoted: “The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order”.
In both war and work, women have always been the protected sex.
I believe that Supreme Court justice and three times-wounded Civil War veteran Oliver Wendell Holmes best summarized this inequality between the sexes:
“All societies rest on the death of men”.
If you really think about it, he was right, don’t you think?
Why can’t you and other feminists see the enormous hypocrisy when women, who have never been expected to share the same burdens as men, then self-righteously claim, almost as a birthright, to be included in the glory of space exploration?
Or the hypocrisy of being accepted to the nation’s military academies without the same draft cards required of the other “half of the population”?
Or the hypocrisy to be the recipients of a feminist-driven “preferential equality” in the nation’s colleges and universities via a twisted Title IX, where male students’ civil rights are being annulled in campus kangaroo courts in the name of “equal educational opportunity”?
Or the hypocrisy not to insist on having equal numbers of both men and women working in coal mines?
Why haven’t feminists demanded a “Title IX for Coal Mines” or an affirmative action program for equality in the death professions, where the male-to-female occupational death gap is 13 to 1?
The answer is “feminist hypocrisy”.
You were so focused on the unfairness that women weren’t eligible to become astronauts, you and other self-righteous women, both then and now, have blinded yourselves to an obvious fact:
The early space program was no place for novices or women without test flight experience.
Two near-disasters in space that were averted only by Neil Armstrong’s many years of test flight experience clearly show why:
As described in How Landing the First Man on the Moon Cost Dozens of Lives, Armstrong’s first trip to space nearly ended catastrophically:
“Armstrong himself encountered near-disaster during his first space mission, Gemini 8. After a critical onboard failure, Armstrong and pilot David Scott began spinning out of control in space. After struggling to resist blacking out, Armstrong eventually regained control and landed safely.”
This YouTube video vividly shows just how Armstrong’s skills avoided disaster.
What if it had been two women without test pilot experience flying in Gemini 8?
We would have had two dead women floating in orbit around the earth.
How many people are aware of the harrowing first landing on the moon as Armstrong manually took over the controls of the lunar module Eagle as he struggled with multiple simultaneous problems that occurred during the final descent to the moon’s surface?
This scary landing is vividly described in a space.com article, Apollo 11’s Scariest Moments: Perils of the 1st Manned Moon Landing. A small excerpt conveys only a portion of the sheer terror of the landing — and the cool-headed flying skills of Neil Armstrong:
“‘Give us a reading on that program alarm,’ Armstrong said. He sounded tense, but no more so than during the simulations. It was hard to grasp that a life-or-death struggle was playing out 240,000 miles (386,000 kilometers) from Earth, in a small, fragile machine descending rapidly to the moon. Communications were spotty; the computer was threatening to quit, and Gene Kranz, the flight director for this first lunar landing, felt Mission Control slip a bit further behind the power curve.”
What if it had been two women without test pilot experience landing on the moon?
We would have had the corpses of two women still sitting on the moon some fifty years later.
Finally, your article describes NASA physician William Lovelace’s own independent, privately-funded program where he gave 13 selected women the same physical and psychological tests administered to the male Mercury astronauts; how none were admitted into NASA’s official program; and how the Russians were first to put a woman into space.
Unfortunately, your account leaves out some really interesting details.
First, the Russians put the first woman in space only because they became aware of Dr. Lovelace’s renegade program.
This is described in an Atlantic magazine article, The Soviet Space Program Was Not Woke:
“The effort to bring women into the Soviet astronaut corps began when Nikolai Kamanin, the head of cosmonaut training, heard [about Dr. Lovelace’s wayward program].
“We cannot allow that the first woman in space will be American,” Kamanin wrote in his journal. “This would be an insult to the patriotic feelings of Soviet women.” A search began shortly thereafter, and the first female astronaut candidates reported for training in 1962.
“Kamanin couldn’t have said it any more plainly. The impetus was nationalistic — any [gender] egalitarian impulse was in service of that primary motivation. Soviet women would fly to space for one of the same reasons that the rockets carrying them did: to beat their Cold War enemy.”
So, despite your article’s insinuation otherwise, the Russian’s weren’t “blazing trails for gender equality” any more than the Americans were.
Second, you omitted the real motivation for Dr. Lovelace’s wayward program — it wasn’t for gender equality!
The real reason is described in another Atlantic article, Why Women Weren’t Allowed to Be Astronauts
“[Dr.] Lovelace may sound progressive for his time, but his reasoning for including women wasn’t. Lovelace imagined a future full of space stations circling Earth, carrying people busy at work. ‘He was thinking that if you’re going to have dozens of people on space stations, then you’re going to need secretaries, you’re going to need telephone operators, you’re going to need lab assistants — and that means you need women,’ … ‘So he’s thinking about the women for very much traditional, pink-collared, gendered jobs.’”
So, despite your article’s insinuation, Dr. Lovelace wasn’t “blazing trails for gender equality” any more than John Glenn was.
Third, you wrote that Valentina Tereshkova, the Soviet’s first woman in space “… hadn’t been a test pilot either”, which strongly suggested that the “test pilot” requirement of the U.S. program was too restrictive against women.
However, this implication ignores a crucial difference between the Soviet and U.S. space programs. As described on this NASA website page,
“Although piloting was not a requirement for the female candidates (the Vostok spaceship was more or less automated), parachuting was, especially because after reentry Vostok cosmonauts ejected from the capsule and parachuted to the ground separately.”
So, Tereshkova not having test pilot experience was irrelevant. She was chosen because of her skydiving experience.
Ms. Hesse, I can only hope that you’ve read this far. If so, I thank you. I pray that I’ve opened your mind to the unbalanced, feminist-inspired perspective that many of your articles embody.
I know that your position as a “gender columnist” at The Washington Post really means a “female perspective gender columnist”, but you seem to forget that there are two sexes. In the interest of true — and fair — gender equality, won’t you please consider and start writing about the other “half of the population” and the burdens and extreme dangers placed only on men?
You know…the ones that feminists don’t want to acknowledge.
For other letters to Post columnists see my Letters to The Washington Post list:
1. Especially with articles like this online:
“A publication with any semblance of ethics might have asked Depp for comment about the sexual violence claims before running with the allegations — then subsequently spiked the op-ed or sicced its reporters on the case for more fact-finding. But not The Washington Post.
“That paper, which loves to blather in its self-important tone about how “democracy dies in darkness,” didn’t bother to turn the lights in the direction of Heard’s claims. Instead, it gave her a free pass to air her dirty laundry against her ex-husband and consequently enabled her to paint herself both as a victim and a crusader of the Me Too era.”
2. As just two of hundreds examples of Russian male military conscription, see Russia deploying soldiers ‘as old as 60 and giving conscripts 19th century rifles’ or Battalion of Russian mobilised men wiped out in days, survivors claim
By Stephen Bond on February 10, 2023.
Exported from Medium on February 28, 2023.
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