Colonel Wang Yaping is a pilot in the air force of the People’s Liberation Army. She is a space veteran, making hair now second in orbit around the earth. She is set in in the coming weeks, the first Chinese woman to walk in space if die from China space station slides around the earth met 17,100 miles per hour.
And yet, when she started six-month mission last week in the core of China’s ambitious space program, official and news media attention so much fixated on the comparative physiology of men and women, menstrual cycles and the 5-year-old daughter she has left behind, as they did on her performance. (New one asked for the children of her two husbands colleagues.)
Shortly before launch, Pang Zhihao, an official with the China National Space Administration, announced that a cargo capsule had delivered the orbit space station with sanitary towels and cosmetics.
“Female astronauts may be… in better condition after setting on makeupup’, he said in remarks shown on CCTV, the state television network.
At 41, Colonel Wang is a model of gender equality in a country where Mao Zedong famously said that “women delay up half the sky”, and the object of an undercurrent of sexism and condescension die flow through Chinese society, business and politics.
The 25-strong Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, the country’s ruling political party body, includes only one wife, Sun Chunlan. Discrimination remains unbridled in the workplace, where the woman is recruited for their appearance and laid off of demoted when they become pregnant.
A burgeoning #MeToo movement in China has faced push back in the courts and of state censorship online. A Chinese gold medalist in the shot put at the Olympics in Tokyo in August was addressed on air for her “masculine” appearance, as well as her plans for marriage and family.
“An important power like China gives women the chance going to space’ said Lu Pin, and activist who founded a online forum in China, Feminist Voices, which has since been removed from the internet by the authorities. “On the other hand, it still tells everyone that even if you are a woman, who became an astronaut, you still have to play An traditional female role.”
It’s rare in China these days for women outside the Entertainment industry to achieve such public fame as Colonel Wang.
When they manage to break through barriers, their achievements are often seen through the prism of sex.
Colonel Wang’s mission has been treated in official statements and state media as a novelty, even if China sent its first women go inside space almost a decade ago. The Soviet Union sent the first woman in a job in 1963: Valentina Tereshkova, who spent three days in space and remains the only woman die flying solo. The first American woman, Sally Ride, went up in 1983.
The reaction in China repeats some die earlier pioneers faced. dr. ride condescending questions answered over menstruation, maternity and of she was going to wear a bra in track. “It’s too bad our society is no further,” she said at the time.
In a short television report in which she shows her training for the upcoming spacewalk, Colonel Wang radiated the same confidence and said she hoped the mission on board the new space station, called Tiangong, would be “more brilliant because of me.” Ze also be aware of the obstacles die she had to overcome.
“For me, being an astronaut is not a profession, but a career, and it’s such a career that I have a fiery love for,” she said. “This love is enough” for me to overcome all difficulties, overcome all obstacles, and even sacrifice my own life.”
Colonel Wang was a back-up on the mission in 2012 die the bore first chinese woman in space, Colonel Liu Yang, another military pilot. Colonel Liu was part of a crew aboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which spent 20 days in job, docking with a prototype of the current space station. AN year later Colonel Wang got her chance, riding aboard Shenzhou 10.
Colonels Wang and Liu were among the first 10 women chosen for China’s astronaut training program in share because they were already married – on the theory that space traveling can have a negative impact on their fertility and that “married” women would be more physically and psychologically mature,” officials said at the time.
Back in the days, space government officials openly drew viability in doubt of women on space missions.
“This is our first attempt to send in a female astronaut space; it will pose problems for the team’s mental compatibility,’ Wu Bin, then the director of the astronaut center in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, said at the time. “They will be asked to work like a team during training, and we will observe and evaluate how well they deal with it with each other.”
Years later, in In 2020, Colonel Wang was the only woman die was chosen when the space bureau announced the new pool of 18 astronauts for the missions to Tiangong, of Heavenly Palace.
NASA’s 2013 Class of astronauts, on the other hand, were the first with an equal number of women and men. That’s not to say NASA eliminated its own subtle gender bias. In 2019 it had to be the first all-female spacewalk in the International Space Station because it didn’t have spacesuits die in both fit women. The operation finally happened seven months later.
Colonel Wang has been officially commended, together met with her two crew members: the mission commander, Major General Zhai Zhigang, who traveled to space aboard Shenzhou 7, and Colonel Ye Guangfu, who makes his first travel to space. She is scheduled to be a spacewalk during the mission.
Still her mission has led to uncomfortable comments from officials and mocking online. Yang Yuguang, a researcher at the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, suggested: in an interview with stands media that the match between men and women is good for solve many psychological problems problems’ die can arise during ‘extended spaceflight’ in the future.”
Online debates have erupted over of women and men are fit for same physical tasks, including an arduous spacewalk.
“Most Girls Can’t” hard work of sweaty labor,” one user wrote on Weibo, China version of Twitter. “Women should face up to this property of their gender.” Others suggested that they should cut her hair for the mission began of wondered how she would wash it.
In highly scripted performances in stands media, Colonel Wang has expressed his pride in her performance as the second chinese woman in space, and the first to go twice.
Colonel Wang grew up in Yantai, a port city on the Yellow Sea. After graduating from high school in 1997 she entered the Air Force Aviation University in Changchun, that is in the northeastern province of jilin. As an Air Force pilot, she collected 1,600 flights hours before being selected as a taikonaut, like the Chinese call astronauts.
While in space in 2013 she gave a lesson in physics of space for school children in an auditorium; the was streamed to 60 million students. She then said she hoped it would inspire others to aim high, but it… also placed her in an archetypal sex-linked role like a “space teacher.” She is expected to teach a lesson again this time.
Some commentators online rebuked the fixation on her looks, her makeupup and her menstruation, instead of her performance.
“It’s like women can not live their lives without cosmetics and skin care,” one user wrote under a news report over the offer mission to Tiangong. “This has already blurred the essence of Wang Yaping as a hero.”
Claire Fu and Joy Dong contributed research.
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