July 18, 2024
1 Solar System Way, Planet Earth, USA

The Space Review: Review: Space Feminisms

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Space feminisms: people, planets and power
by Marie-Pier Boucher, Claire Webb, Annick Bureaud and Nahum (eds.)
Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2024
hardcover, 260 pp., illus.
Paperback from The New York Times.
120 US dollars

The space community has become more diverse as it has grown in recent years, both in terms of the people in it and the opportunities to pursue different activities in space. That diversity is welcome, but it is not without conflict. Some want to move faster, trying to right historical wrongs, while others feel bewildered or even threatened by these changes.

As with any compilation, there are hits and misses, although different people will have different opinions on what's right and what's wrong. However, most people will find the interviews interesting.

Those changes came to mind as I read Spatial feminismsa compilation of works by artists, scholars, and others. The editors define “feminisms” as “theorizations, techniques, and political activations that challenge, dismantle, and subvert white, Western, heteronormative, and masculine gender-based dominations that are at once structural and personal.” That definition alone is enough to excite or displease some readers.

The book is an eclectic collection. It contains essays on social sciences as well as art and architecture related to space and feminism. There are also interviews with astronauts Jessica Meir, Nicole Stott and Soyeon Yi, the first Korean woman to travel to space. A panel discussion featuring engineers, academics and a former director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs discussed topics ranging from colonizing Mars to how to bring more underrepresented communities into the space arena.

As with any collection, there are hits and misses, though each person will have a different opinion on what was hits and what was misses. Most will find the interviews interesting, though: Meir, for example, talks about her time on the ISS and how she became a mother after that flight. Yi talks about overcoming sexism both in her training in Russia for her flight to the station and on the station itself, and one cosmonaut acknowledged after the flight that he had misjudged her: “You are smart and a real astronaut.”

The book seems aimed primarily at an institutional and academic audience, and is priced accordingly. However, flipping through it is useful to gain different perspectives on space and society. The art may seem strange and the concepts discussed odd at times, but it reflects the growing diversity of those who engage with space and how they do so.

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