Who goes to a historical space conference only to ask mundane questions about how the astronauts intend to keep up with foundation and blush?
That was the situation when a Russian reporter asked Yelena Serova, a Flight Engineer with the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), on board the US-Russia space mission, to elaborate on her day-to-day routine, particularly, ‘how she’d get her hair and make up’ done.
Serova calmly shot back at the offending journalist for him to ‘ask Alexander’ (her flight mate) about his hair routine. She smiles wanly as she says this, but she’s made her point.
Why do people have to belittle women at every turn with insulting questions such as this just because they’re doing things thought to be traditionally ‘male’?
The irritating questions came during a press conference organised by the Russian State commission after approving the launch of the Soyuz aircraft for Expedition 41/42. Seroya was taking questions alongside her colleagues Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev and NASA Flight Engineer Barry Wilmore, and their backups, Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko of Roscosmos and Scott Kelly of NASA, on the 24th of September in Kazakhstan.
Some of the reporters also wanted to know how Serova’s 11-year-old daughter would cope in her mother’s absence as the team will be gone for about 6 months. She was the only one quizzed about her family life even though her co cosmonauts all also had family…double standards?
It appeared that reporters simply failed to recognise that this was a woman who had worked hard to achieve something really incredible by becoming only the fourth Russian woman ever to fly in space and the first woman ever on board the ISS and her work is just as important as any other member of staff on the mission.
Let’s hope her reaction puts people in their places and more importantly, that gender becomes less of an issue where merit and expertise are being celebrated.