What kind of questions would you ask to a cosmonaut ready to go the International Space Station (ISS)? Probably a mix of technical and daily life questions, that is fair. But would you make a difference if the cosomonaut was male or female? It seems that some would. That is what Yelena Serova experienced a few weeks ago. This young Russian cosmonaut, the first Russian female who will go to the ISS, worked undoubtedly very hard to be in that position. It takes years and years of studying and training to be sent to space.
So what kind of questions did “journalists” ask Yelena Serova during a press conference involving the whole cosmonauts team? While her male colleagues were asked technical and serious questions about the mission, Yelena Serova was only asked about her private life. How would her daughter live without her mother during ten months? Yelena answers simply: her daughter happens to have a father! Yes, we tend to forget that children have fathers who can also look after them. Through that question, it is obvious that Yelena should feel guilty about her career, her success. When she cleary should be at home taking care of her daughter. Well, that question would be relevant only if the same question was also raised for her male counterparts. How the male cosmonaut’s children are going to cope without their dad that long? But that is never a question men are asked. Because we are in 2014 and the child care is still a woman’s issue.
Yelena did her best to reply calmly, but she loses it when another stupid question about her hairstyle and make-up is asked. “Aren’t you interested in the hairstyles of my colleagues?” she asked back. A brilliant and talented female cosmonaut is reduced at being a woman, with fickle interest, and above all a mother. Can’t a woman be a good mother and have a successful career? If women are still asked those silly questions and therefore made to feel guilty, it will be more difficult to actually want to have a career!
The social stigma for women is still a reality, all over the world, maybe it is even stronger in Russia. In our case, I am proud of Yelena Serova, for what she did so far, and for the hope she represents for a whole generation of young women who are asking themselves “Can I do it?”. Of course! No matter of your hairstyle and your desire for kids or not, stay focus and work hard. Work hard. And work hard. And maybe one day, women like Yelena Serova will be seen as the professionals they are.