The patriarchy of space exploration

February 26, 2018 • 11:15 am

When will the madness, the postmodern nonsense, the academic analyses indistinguishable from parody, end? Well, not quite yet, if you read this new article by Marcie Bianco. It appears on the NBC News website, of all places.

First, a bit about Bianco. According to Stanford University’s website, she’s

the Editorial & Communications Manager at the Clayman Institute at Stanford University. In this role, she oversees all editorial and communications work pertaining to the translation and dissemination of the Institute’s gender research, for in-house, on-campus, and mainstream publications. She also manages the Institute’s Gender News Feminist Writing Fellowship program, the only university fellowship in the nation that aims to train students how to become feminist journalists.

I have no beef with feminist journalism per se, or a fellowship that trains people to practice it. But of course you know that when it comes from the academy, you’ll get some bizarre simulacra of real journalism. Here, for your delectation, is one of them (click on screenshot to go to piece):

Well, just looking at the title, the first thing you’ll ask is, “Is this satire?”

The answer is “no.” It’s NBC News, after all. I’m not pulling articles from obscure predatory journals to mock feminism. And if this is the kind of writing that Bianco pushes in her program, I do fear for the future of feminist journalism, which has the potential to call out real inequities and present womens’ points of view.

A few excerpts from the piece:

These men [Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk], particularly Musk, are not only heavily invested in who can get their rocket into space first, but in colonizing Mars. The desire to colonize — to have unquestioned, unchallenged and automatic access to something, to any type of body, and to use it at will — is a patriarchal one. Indeed, there is no ethical consideration among these billionaires about whether this should be done; rather, the conversation is when it will be done. Because, in the eyes of these intrepid explorers, this is the only way to save humanity.

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.

It’s there, so just grab it because you can.

. . . 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.

. . . 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.

. . . This means that while men compete with each other over whose rocket is the biggest, fastest, and best, and send playthings off to become flashy space junk, women around the world are fighting to stay alive against violent assaults on their personhood — and their planet.

. . . Right now, there is a robot dummy propped up in the driver’s seat of a red Tesla convertible, flying through space, away from the manmade garbage fires devouring Earth.

Houston, we have a problem.

And it’s the patriarchy.

Do I really have to enact the emotional labor of deconstructing this rant from a very privileged young woman? Do I have to point out that there are women astronauts, and many women excited in space exploration, and. . . and nobody lives on Mars!?  Does she know that a planet is not a human body?  And it’s not like there will be aliens on the planet that will be confined or placed on reservations. Yes, those who despoiled the planet are largely men, but that’s the result of capitalism, not because of some penis-induced desire to wreck things for their own sake. And now, as women begin to assume power, they, too can start wrecking stuff. Has Bianco heard of Anne M. Gorsuch?

No, what we have here is a simple episode of mindless male-bashing, a ridiculously hyperbolic comparison stretched so far that is is without content—or merit. Though I pay attention to feminist arguments, this is not one of them. It’s what the Germans call Wahnsinn, with all the usual tropes about patriarchy lined up like horses in a corral, ready to march in Bianco’s parade. No serious person can take this seriously.

But remember, this isn’t a piece in Everyday Feminism, Feministing, or even HuffPo. It’s on the NBC News site! What would behoove a supposedly reputable organization to publish this? Might it really be satire after all—a kind of satire that fails because it’s indistinguishable from serious academic writing?

When I saw the tweet below on Bianco’s site, at first I thought, yes, it could be a parody, one designed to upset men. But then I decided that no, it is a serious piece of writing that does upset men because it’s nasty and vicious and untrue—and Bianco is glad that she’s upset “the menz.”

Here she is, inked to the gills. I feel sorry for her students, and for Stanford.


h/t: Olen


105 thoughts on “The patriarchy of space exploration

      1. It’s like an exercise in feminist free association, weaving between reality and metaphor in an unprincipled way. It gives the impression of someone who couldn’t form a valid syllogism if her life depended on it.

    1. Flying saucers are otherwise, and were identified by Jung as feminine due to their resemblance to a circular mandala.
      Long after Jung passed away, a Jungian psychologist noted that Star Trek’s Enterprise has both a saucer section and a “cigar” section, suggesting a harmonious union of the masculine and feminine.

      (Clearly, we just need to change the shape of our spaceships 🙂 )

      1. “Flying saucers … were identified by Jung as feminine due to their resemblance to a circular mandala.”

        Surely it is not without significance that men have built thousands of phallic rockets *and no flying saucers*!

        Blatant sexism, without a doubt.


        1. Indeed, it was; I stand corrected.

          Knew from the title alone, it wasn’t a memoir by Jane Wyman or Nancy Reagan, née Davis.

      1. Is that the one that’s sort of a Sci fi Severn Samurai/Magnificent Seven with John boy Walton in it?

  1. This sort of feminism is so much a religion. Something happens, or is likely to happen, and out come the same old condemnations of the same old villains.

    I can’t say that colonizing Mars especially appeals to me, but doing it could do a lot for our knowledge and capabilities.

    Too bad she’s too ignorant to get interested in the science and technology of spaceflight. Lacking that, she just the tiresome charges of some of the privileged few–the equivalent of chimps throwing excrement.

    Glen Davidson

  2. She has bought the Twittersphere down on her head, at least from the comments I read. Had not realized, until I read them, that the President and COO of SpaceX (that major branch of the patriarchy), is female.

    1. Gwynne Shotwell, who you are referring to, is a large part of SpaceX’s success. While she probably sometimes has to reign in the ambition of Elon Musk she too has visions. Gwynne wants to start looking at interstellar travel(!) while Elon is fully focused on Mars. But don’t tell Marcie Bianco that.

      1. “While she probably sometimes has to reign in the ambition of Elon Musk she too has visions.”

        Perhaps she can do better than Musk’s former wife who, if I read correctly, had her fill of dealing with the negative domestic side effects of such monumental ambition.

  3. I think she needs to learn that competition for resources has nothing to do with gendered power structures, unless a matriarchy plans to let everyone starve to death in squalor.

  4. You ask “When will the madness,….end?”. It won’t. These charlatans have become entrenched in the education system and have now produced a new generation of graduates who buy into this nonsense. Some of them get really good jobs like being Prime Minister of Canada. The rot is even extending into the Science and Engineering faculties – witness “feminist glaciology” and the like.

    1. The Prime Minister of Canada is a natural, he didn’t even need to graduate from some laughable postmodernist field.

  5. The potential folly of colonizing Mars was fairly well argued by Ray Bradbury in his novel “The Martian Chronicles” without resorting to a lot of ideological jargon.

    (Columbian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez regarded the two best American novels of the 20th century to be Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles”. RB generally has a much higher literary reputation in South American and Europe than in the USA.)

    1. I’m not sure how Bradbury’s novel argues about colonising Mars since the colonists are the only survivors of the human race, the rest of us having destroyed ourself in a nuclear war.

      Bradbury’s vision of Mars is a disaster for the original Martians but he transplants small town America to the Red Planet. It’s ultimately a pastoral utopia for the survivors.

      1. Well, prior to the nuclear war, Martians are mostly wiped out by human diseases, and humans are engaged in other potentially destructive things.

  6. As soon as one reads ‘patriarchy’, ‘gender research’ or ‘gendered power structures’ one can rest assured it is, with a very high probability, garbage. As this is.
    The equating of Mr Musk with Mr Trump as a pussy-grabber is not just ridiculous, it is deeply unconscionable.
    Note, I do think that Elon Musk underestimates the problems of establishing a colony on Mars, he appears to think that getting there cheaply is the main problem, but comparing it to the colonisation of inhabited lands in our history is neither here nor there (as our host makes very clear).
    And Musk is right, sooner or later the Earth will become uninhabitable. His efforts with electric cars and Solar power (etc) are great efforts to keep it inhabitable for longer. He is not one of those who ‘rapes’ the Earth, on the contrary.
    Ms Bianco’s aspersions on Mr Musk -as her whole ‘thesis’- are not just ridiculous, they are mean, shortsighted and ignorant, not to say evil.

    1. For women like Bianco the attitude is, “If a man did it, or said it, or even thought it, it must be wrong.” They seem incapable of critical thinking whenever a man has any kind of power. Otoh, anything thst comes from a woman is, by definition, good and right. Unless of course the woman is on the political right, then she doesn’t have a chance.

      A couple of years ago a former leader of NZ’s Labour party started off a speech by apologizing for being a man. It was effing ridiculous, and he was soon to realize what a mistake that was. Imo, he’d spent too much time in an echo chamber, and I suspect Bianco has too.

      1. Perhaps a scion (Thomas Sowell?) of Stanford’s (conservative) Hoover Institute will care to debate her in public.

        1. It just frustrates me. She’s obviously a smart articulate woman who could do so much for the feminist movement. And the ideas in the article aren’t wrong in a different context. But applying them to things like this is just effing ridiculous and gives ammunition to those looking for an excuse not to support equality for women.

    2. And Musk is right, sooner or later the Earth will become uninhabitable. His efforts with electric cars and Solar power (etc) are great efforts to keep it inhabitable for longer. He is not one of those who ‘rapes’ the Earth, on the contrary.

      Colonising Mars is not the answer to the Earth becoming uninhabitable.

      Mars has a minimal atmosphere with no oxygen in it and water is conspicuous by its absence on the surface. Furthermore, Mars is much further from the Sun than the Earth meaning the available energy is vastly less.

      Any species that has the technology to make Mars habitable, almost by definition, has the ability to keep the Earth habitable. The Earth is bigger and more pleasant. You’d be insane to abandon it for Mars.

      Elon Musk is a showman. Why did he use his rocket to put a piece of junk into space instead of something minimally useful with some scientific instruments on board? Because it’s all about advertising Elon Musk. In the meantime, down here on Earth,, he can’t build cars in a financially sustainable way.

      1. Musk is a showman but when launching a rocket with a low chance of success it is evidently customary to use some sort of concrete weight as a substitute payload. No one wants to risk a valuable payload on a risky rocket. His sports car is very soon to be obsolete as Tesla is coming out with a new sports car model very soon. The boss can’t be seen driving around an old model! Of course, he could have donated it to charity.

  7. . . . This means that while men compete with each other over whose rocket is the biggest, fastest, and best, and send playthings off to become flashy space junk, women around the world are fighting to stay alive against violent assaults on their personhood — and their planet.

    Yeah right, men doing these things in order to compete for the women who demand much from them.

    She doesn’t know the first thing about how men and women actually interact (assuming she’s not lying), which isn’t surprising since she’s a professor in a reality-denying “discipline.”

    Glen Davidson

    1. In my experience, most women don’t make those demands of men these days, though I acknowledge some still do. It is society that places that pressure on them, and men who place it on themselves.

  8. The current 100 candidates for the first humanz to go to mars are 50 menz an 50 womenz, with a wide range of nationalities and ethnicities. Just a quick check on google showed me that. Not that she bothered doing a twit of research.

    1. The whole point of colonisation is to populate the planet. If you don’t have kids you aren’t a colonist, you are a tourist. Men aren’t going to populate Mars alone, no matter how insistent they are on changing their pronouns. That’s not the kind of logic that they understand in gender studies departments.

  9. Someone who things this world is that awful should be excited about the idea of setting up shop on another planet. I’d even throw in a few bucks to help make it happen.

      1. In case you were serious – The Academy is a general term that is often used to describe the entirety of the academic community. Usually it is used in reference to higher education and its focus on teaching, scholarly activities and service.

  10. Re-reading it, I have ‘Second Thoughts’. This can’t be real. Can not.
    Jerry just states it is no parody, but how sure we are of that? Is it not reminiscent of Feminist Glaciers and Conceptual Penises? I think Ms Bianco took us for a ride, and we took it hook, line and sinker. I bet she’s laughing straight in our faces now.

    1. The fact that she is glad people are upset about the article shows that it doesn’t matter if it is genuine or not, her goal was to make men angry. She is supposed to be an academic not a troll.

      1. Gender studies and such are about ideology, not knowledge.

        Being an “academic” means little in that context, beyond the fact that you are likely capable of expressing yourself fluently; there is no mechanism by which the *meaning* of what you said is checked for correctness.

        Wasn’t that the takeaway of Sokal’s hoax, after all ?

  11. Hard to believe this is coming from the same school that gave American letters the Stegner Fellowship and all the great writers to come through it.

    Think you’re being a bit snarky about her tatts, though, boss. Not my fetish, but they look pretty good on her, you ask me.

    1. I don’t think he felt sorry for her students due to the tatts, but for the lack of rigor, substance, thought, etc., in her writing.

      The juxtaposition was a bit odd, granted.

      Glen Davidson

    2. The tattoos stop short of the gills from what I can see in that pic. But aren’t they a form of cultural appropriation from Western Pacific Islanders? Or is that allowed because they were mostly sported by men?

      1. Polynesian rather than western Pacific. And in NZ Maori women were tattooed too, traditionally only on the chin though (moko). Moko are not so common now, but NZ people are the most likely worldwide to have a tattoo. For an example of a moko see current MP and Minister for both Maori Affairs and Local Government, Nanaia Mahuta.

    3. When she discovers, down the road, that the tensile strength of collagen is not infinite, it’ll be men’s fault too.

  12. The self delusion is strong it that one.

    those who despoiled the planet are largely men, but that’s the result of capitalism,

    Is this an example of mindless capitalism-bashing? As an analysis it fails.

    Since, say, communism was far more inefficient it despolied more per capita. And depending on what you mean by “despoiling”, the human footprint per capita started to increase 20 kyrs ago with the advent of agrarian practices. Interestingly, arguably the CO2 increase may have ended the then ice age and constituted the first sign of anthropic global warming.

  13. The article is just ad-fodder. Interesting poll at the end though, asking readers whether we should colonize Mars. After 10,000+ votes, it is overwhelmingly in favor of colonization.

  14. There is one big downside of Mars exploration, not mentioned in this article (perhaps implicit in some of the suggestions about The human/male desire to sow his seed), but nevertheless worthy of consideration and seemingly ignored by Elon Musk, which is that it would be hugely interesting to know whether life (microbial, bacterial, probably not little green wo/men) has existed or still exists on Mars, before we humans place our footprints – and more importantly – our bioprints there.

    1. If life still existed on Mars it would be everywhere, much as it is on Earth. If there’s a niche evolution will populate it. The moons of the gas giants currently seem a more likely source for extraterrestrial life.

    2. There’s a good chance other unmanned probes arriving before Musk’s mission will help answer this question. Also I would think that Musk would take this into consideration.

  15. Someone should point out that the British colonising project began under a woman, Elizabeth I, and reached its height under another woman, Victoria.

    1. I think Bianco would reply that they were trapped within patriachal gender roles, and so could do nothing else, even if female monarchs. Really this is all just warmed-over, college Marxism. It’s neither new nor rigorous, and fails for the same reason, its pre-defined conclustions.

  16. Sometimes it is what fills the ‘space’ between the ears that ‘mars’ the ability to think and say something useful.
    A ‘rocket’ needs to be deployed to get her act together for clearly she is in deep space and in need of one.

  17. This reminds me of the “conceptual penis” causing global warming. That article turned out to be a hoax… I wonder if this one will as well.

    How can there be no price for Stanford to pay employing people like this? Can you imagine if instead this was an article blaming all women for some social ill? Or Jews? Or Blacks? There’s no way someone would keep his/her job in that case.

  18. Yes, the menz are “freaking out” about the article. Well, try shaking their heads at something that trite and infantile.

    But the main point is, that the men might “freak out” at her dull propaganda is what suggests to her that she’s done well. Must be true, or no one would respond to complete nonsense. That’s the plaintive bleat of the creationist, the ancient aliens “theorist,” or any other pathetic pseudoscientist.

    People respond to inane BS because it has a certain appeal to the ignorant, and the one spouting the BS claims victory. It’s the pretense that mere antagonism is what matters, rather than any kind of deliberate and substantive argumentation.

    Glen Davidson

  19. Peter Boghossian, Helen Pluckrose and Dr. James Lindsay did a masterful analysis/deconstruction of this phenomenon. Well worth your time.

    1. There is a 66% probability that the discussion in this video reinforces white supremacist cis-het normativity.

  20. Beyond the gender crap, I’m always amused when people talk about space like it’s an unexplored continent. Do they have no sense of scale?

  21. Marcie Bianco has unaccountably neglected to give us the feminist, post-modernist line on the colonization of earth BY Mars. We certainly need Ms. Bianco’s slant on this issue, particularly as it was presented in the 1967 movie “Mars Needs Women”. IMDB sums up the film as follows”

    “After receiving a series of messages from outer space all decoded to be “Mars Needs Women”, the United States Decoding Center in Houston receives a visit from Dop, the leader of a group of five Martians on an experimental voyage to Earth. Because of a genetic problem, Martians are producing virtually only male offspring and thus need to import women for the survival of the species. The Martians’ non-hostile mission is to bring back to Mars five fertile and single human women. Those at the Center see the mission as a hostile one and as such the Martians decide to carry out their mission as inconspicuously as possible without the cooperation of the authorities by posing as Earthlings. Of the potential women they spy which includes strippers, co-eds and flight attendants, the one they believe is the most conducive to success of the project is the beautiful Dr. Marjorie Bolen, an expert in space genetics. In pursuing her, Dop falls in love with Dr. Bolen.”

  22. To be fair, Elon Musk did line himself up for this kind of criticism by sending a red sportscar into space. I mean, c’mon …

      1. It’s odd by any standard. That it happens to be the classic symbol of the male mid-life crisis or compensation for a small member is the relevant point here.

  23. I think there’s some decent counter arguments for not putting a lot of humans on mars. As one of the other posters said, there’s essentially no realistic scenario in which making Mars habitable is easier than making Earth more habitable. Another: even on Earth, we now try not to build over what we deem to be important archeological sites. Mars may have a lot to tell us about early evolution of planets and possibly even life…but not if we change it’s ecosystem in ways that make this information unrecoverable.

    Having said all that, neither of these counters require any sort of Pomo sexism to make, or to respond to. There are good arguments for noncolonization – she is not making them.

Leave a Reply