The rules for going into space (for women) according to The People’s Republic of China

I know that most of you are aware of my feminist roots and my own personal beliefs and because of that I hope that you find this as shocking as I did. 
I came across this article today that highlighted some of the rules that China has put in place for their female astronauts (also known as taikonauts) and I was appalled at the blatant discrimination!

Rule #1 Female Taikonauts must be married

Rule #2 Female Taikonauts must have given birth naturally

These first two rules are intended to ensure that female taikonauts have experienced enough that would guarantee them the heightened level of maturity necessary for going into space. Are immature men allowed to go into space, or are they deemed to have a naturally higher level of maturity without any comparable test required?

Rule #3 Female Taikonauts must not have any scars (or must have perfect skin)

Rule #4 Female Taikonauts must not have any decayed or imperfect teeth

Rule #5 Female Taikonauts must not have any body odour

Rule 3 exists under the belief any scars or skin blemishes could open up while in space and bleed. Rule 4 just seems to speak to the photogenic quality of female taikonauts and perhaps may contribute to Rule 5, which has no basis other than to ensure a more comfortable journey for the male taikonauts (who have no requirements on odour or lack thereof).

Women were also given only 3 years of training, compared to the standard 14 – perhaps because they couldn’t have possible gotten married and had children during the same time frame if expected to go into space in their early to mid 30s. 

It seems to me that women are being chosen for the ways in which they represent the ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ Chinese woman and how they will appear while doing so instead of on their actual ability. Why not choose to represent the nation with the most capable and talented taikonaut? Since when does childbirth, perfect skin and teeth, and an unnatural lack of body odour contribute to one’s technical ability?



4 responses

  1. I think this was a lot like that exercised we did in the WUSC day. Progress can be both absolute and relative. In absolute terms, it’s already a huge step forward for space exploration. I actually find “communist” countries to be more gender equal compared to capitalist countries. She’s part of China’s 4th manned mission to space compared to 6th manned mission for the Soviet Union, and about 20 years after the first man in space for the US. A quote from Mao Zedong “Women hold up half the sky”

    But at the same time, some of the things that the Chinese Space Agency’s representatives have said can be said to be sexist. I think you’ve highlighted them well and I concur. The biggest issue for me was the fact that they actually bothered to put 2 toilets on spacecraft as a very impractical decision.

    However, I must make a few comments on your source article. None of those rules listed above are official. They were quoted from a former project member. The quote about the issue about marriage + children is blatantly false: She is married but she does not have any children (quoted from her mother in law). Overall though, the physical and mental requirements are the same, although men have been involved with it for longer.

    • Thanks! I guess I made the classic mistake of assuming that news agencies have done their fact checking. I think it is a huge step for space, and for women in space, its just unfortunate that it had unrealistic expectations.
      I think the kids rule had been previously set in place, but was overruled when they made the final decision? I’ll have to look into it. The article was published but did not announce the name of the chosen astronaut at the time, it just announced the finalists.
      And I agree that many communist nations are more gender equal in some ways, just not in all.. China is actually failing on a lot of accounts for gender equality at the moment, but Vietnam is making some of the most notable and impressive strides. I’ll do some more research! :)

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