The Lynx Apollo competition has been exceptional at showcasing the commercial spaceflight industry to the public but apparently lacks in the gender equality department. The recently opened competition will allow 22 winners to experience a suborbital flight on the Lynx SXC space plane. Open to participants in over 60 countries, entrants are being asked to discuss why they should be chosen to fly to space, with their entries voted upon. 22 winners will be chosen at the Lynx Space Academy challenge weekend, held this summer in Orlando, Florida, after conducting “space-stimulation challenges”. Though this brings human spaceflight to the forefront of the public eye, it has unfortunately also highlighted a major misconception in the aerospace industry.
In this fantastic post by @SpaceKate she brings to our attention that when applying for the competition and choosing a picture, she had the choice of herself in an astronaut suit, generic Lynx Space Academy branding, or “pictures of a (presumably) male astronaut with a hot girl swooning” or shockingly “of the hot girl’s clothes all over the floor of the again (presumably) male astronaut”. Though, as she clearly points out, the majority of the consumers targeted by Lynx (Axe) are male, the competition is open to everyone. By providing these male-focused avatars, this actively discourages women from applying to such competitions, rather than inspiring them, which I hope would be a bonus of such a high-profile competition and company. The reasons behind Lynx using such avatars for the competition are somewhat understandable [but not necessarily honourable] considering their targeted demographic, however XCOR Aerospace and Space Expedition Curacao are unlikely to be intentionally supportive of such an anti-female perspective.
SpaceKate’s post also describes the Lynx Apollo TV advert which shows:
“…a pretty woman who needs rescuing from a fire, cue good looking male fireman to save this “damsel in distress”. Then an astronaut appears, and our fickle beauty changes her affections to him: “Nothing beats an astronaut, ever”.
She also brings up a good point mentioning that she’d:
“…like to see a remake of that advert, but as the astronaut raises their helmet it turns out to be Cady Coleman, Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, Peggy Whitson, Valentina Tereshokova, Sally Ride, Eileen Collins, Soyeon Yi, Samantha Cristoforetti, Nicole Stott… (I could go on) and the fireman goes swooning over to her instead! (In fact, if you’ve some video ninja skills let’s make it happen.) Women are more than sex objects, women can be smart, and women can be astronauts too.”- spacekate.com
One of the most important questions asked are “Where are our female role models?“. This question is one of the reasons that I started RocketWomen, for women to be aware of and inspired by our female role models.
SpaceKate’s post has got great response by women in the space industry, the significant points addressed leading to statements released by both NASA and Lynx UK. NASA writes that:
“Even today in 2013, many images of women (and stereotypes of men) in the media show that we still have a lot of work to do regarding the role of women and their importance to fields like STEM. We need to do as much as we can to project a much more realistic and positive image of women, as well as encourage more girls to enter into STEM fields. We are working hard at NASA on this effort and we hope to do even more.”- NASA
Hopefully this will highlight major misconceptions held in the industry and unfortunately actively promoted. Women are astronauts too and I hope that in the future this will be remembered, especially when concerning public global competitions such as this with the unparalleled potential to inspire women around the world.