Sometimes I worry that I am some sort of emotional masochist, because I knew that reading the following blogpost would make me sad but I still went ahead and read it.
From the blog:
“Ride, who had a warm, radiant smile and is said to have served ably in her two missions in space, died Monday at the age of 61. For all the fanfare that once surrounded it, Ride’s story will likely fade into history and her life ultimately inspire very few girls. This will be so not only because women do not excel at space science or the physical demands of space travel as men do but also because, as Ride’s obituary proved, she did not lead a full life. Ride was in a lesbian relationship with a childhood friend for 27 years.”
The author also goes on to make the claim that the only reason a woman would go through the rigours of training to be an astronaut is because it is a good place to meet men. Yes that is actually what she said. I’m not bullshitting you.
It is important to say these things over and over again. Yes being a wife and a mother is a valid choice and one that is woefully undervalued by society, but it should never be the only choice that is a available to women. Ever. Women are diverse, some of us love children, some of us hate them. Our uteruses do not define us.
It is a fallacy to believe that there are less women in fields like the hard sciences and engineering (or astronauts) because women are innately less good at those things. You cannot separate the vast history of the specific and structural exclusion of women from these fields from the lack of women.
While Sally Ride, did not have her own children she inspired thousands of children, boys but especially girls because she was living proof that being a woman did not have to limit your choices in the world. The thinking housewife seems to believe that a life that is not spent as a wife and a mother for women is a wasted life, a life not lived to the full. While that may be true for her it is certainly not true for many many women.
Nothing makes me less inclined to have children than the assumption that because I am a woman I MUST want to have children. My uterus and its capacity to bear children is not the most important part of me. It is just one aspect of my complex personhood.
It is time to stop making such sweeping generalisations about women that are patently not true. Sally Ride was a trailblazer in her field and I think we should give her the credit she is due.