Female Astronauts Rebel at Stereotypes : Sexism Receives Rebuke From on High
Two female astronauts are fighting sexist language and stereotypes in communications between the space shuttle and Mission Control.
Discovery astronaut M. Rhea Seddon, a physician, helped make a device that was supposed to hook onto and activate a switch on the side of the dead satellite launched earlier in the mission. Included in the work was some stitching with string and a sail maker’s needle.
Astronaut Dave Hilmers, acting as Mission Control communicator with Discovery, complimented Seddon on her “seamstress” work Tuesday and later told her she would hear “the dulcet” voice of astronaut Sally Ride.
“That’s a sexist remark,” Seddon replied.
“Thank you, Rhea,” said Ride, the first American woman in space. “And, Rhea, just to let you know we’re looking out for you down here, when he called you a seamstress . . . we corrected him and told him that was the work of a surgeon.”
Later, Seddon thanked astronaut Robert Springer for a batch of teleprinter messages radioed up to the orbiting shuttle.
“Just think of it as a daily run by the mailman, excuse me, mailperson, mailperson,” he replied.