spaceSpace and Physics

Cosmonaut Rebuffs Sexist Questions


Stephen Luntz

Freelance Writer

clockSep 28 2014, 04:47 UTC
2260 Cosmonaut Rebuffs Sexist Questions
NASA/Stephanie Stoll. Yelena Serova with her co-astronauts Barry Wilmore (left) and Alexander Samokutyaev during their qualification exams

Sadly, it seems that no matter what a woman achieves, some people will only be able to focus on her looks. That's if they're not talking about her breasts

In the case of Yelena Serova, her achievement is to become the first Russian woman on the International Space Station. She is also the fourth Russian woman in space, despite the fact that the first, Valentina Tereshkova was in 1963, twenty years before Sally Ride


Journalists could have asked about her role on the station, or whether she thought her degree in economics (to go with one in engineering) would have applications in zero gravity. 

Instead, one chose to ask about her make-up, and when Serova ignored that question, attention moved to her hair. At which point Serova gave the response this deserved.


Maybe the “journalist” was confused by the word Cosmonaut.


Other questions have focussed on how much Serova's daughter will miss her, something that seldom gets asked of fathers going into space. Serova has previously pointed out that, “We can now say without any doubt that compared to previous years, fewer women are even applying for the (cosmonauts) group.” No doubt this has to do with more than the questions asked at press conferences – the former head of the Russian space agency joked that women on board a spacecraft are bad luck – but this sort of thing can't help. Studies have noted the pattern leads to research institutions being less likely to put women scientists forward for "serious stories".

spaceSpace and Physics