It’s certainly something you would expect to come out of an “institute for gender research”: The latest leg in the space race — traveling to, and then eventually colonizing, the planet Mars — is the personification of … patriarchy.
So says Marci Bianco, the communications manager of Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, whose article titled “The patriarchal race to colonize Mars is just another example of male entitlement” is featured — ironically — on the NBC News website’s “Think” section.
Bianco derides the efforts of mega-rich Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Richard Branson (Virgin) to get into space, and makes an all-too predictable jab at President Trump in the process (because, again, patriarchy!):
“It is the same instinctual and cultural force that teaches men that everything — and everyone — in their line of vision is theirs for the taking. You know, just like walking up to a woman and grabbing her by the pussy.”
So overwhelmed with the amorphous academese of gender “theory,” the basics of space exploration and colonization elude Bianco. She refers to Musk’s comments about colonizing other worlds to save humanity as a “Columbusing attitude” (Christopher Columbus), meaning that only “rich white men like himself” will stand to benefit from such.
But again, this impulse to enter the “space race” isn’t simply the embodiment of the American spirit of invention or forward-thinking entrepreneurship. Neither is it driven by the kind of nationalist Cold War fervor that inspired the creation of America’s space program in the 1950s.
Rather, the impulse to colonize — to colonize lands, to colonize peoples, and, now that we may soon be technologically capable of doing so, colonizing space — has its origins in gendered power structures. Entitlement to power, control, domination and ownership. The presumed right to use and abuse something and then walk away to conquer and colonize something new.
The Friday before SpaceX’s launch, legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin reiterated to me over lunch that it is imperative that we talk about space exploration in terms of “migration,” rather than using words like “colonize” or “settle” when talking about going to Mars.
Through a feminist lens, Aldrin’s deliberate word choice revealed an important reality of the space race: This 21st century form of imperialism is the direct result of men giving up on the planet they have all but destroyed.
As if history hasn’t proven that men go from one land to the next, drunk on megalomania and the privilege of indifference.
The raping and pillaging of the Earth, and the environmental chaos that doing so has unleashed, are integral to the process of colonization.
“And then walk away to conquer and colonize something new”? Unless we humans have really missed something, “conquering and colonizing” Mars — or the Moon or any other planet in our solar system — is akin to “conquering and colonizing” a small boulder at the base of a foothill. There’s nothing to it except, perhaps, some valuable metals and minerals from which we can all benefit.
Our expansion into the final frontier will not be, as Bianco seems to believe, an Avatar-like destruction of an already populated Earth-like world. Asteroids, barren moons, and comets will provide humanity with what it needs, even when (if) we obtain the capability to travel at interstellar distances.
But hey, whatever — Bianco is relishing all the “menz’ freak outs”:
All the menz are freaking out about this article.
Mission complete https://t.co/Wf0x80uMvF
— Marcie Bianco (@MarcieBianco) February 21, 2018
Freak outs? More like eye-rolling guffaws.
IMAGE: Christopher Dombres/Flickr