Speaking truth to power
I was recently doing some online shopping for adult-sized replica NASA flight suits (not space suits, flight suits) and I found a website with a focus on military and military-related replica clothing. This seemed promising, and indeed, they had both orange and blue NASA flight suit options for adults, in various sizes.
Before I placed my order, I noticed that they also had children's sizes and I was intrigued! I directed my internet browsing over to the kids section, and found a whole bunch of things which were either really cute or disturbingly militaristic toddler outfits, depending what you mood you're in and where you come down on that front.
What really ruffled my feathers though, was that the child-sized NASA flight suits were listed only as boys clothing, and not as girls clothing. This put me in an awkward position re: my larger purchase and any next steps to take with this merchant, but first let me review the ways in which this is a weird decision on their part.
First, we are talking about a flight suit for children that is being sold in a pretty wide range of sizes which start at "2T" on the low end (if you don't have children, picture a child who is about 2 or 3 years old, about 3 feet tall, and weighs about as much as a small dog). At this age there are not really any physiological differences between the sexes which would merit the need for separate flight suit designs. You could easily sell both categories of children the same suit and no one would know the difference, because there isn't one.
Second, it is likely that without a very elaborate permission slip from their parents, that any children wearing this flight suit are probably wearing it as a costume and not for actual NASA flight training. It seems like both sexes of children would be equally capable of pretending to be NASA flyers, even if this was more or less statistically plausible for some of them vs other of them in their actual futures. For example, it does strike me as more likely than not that there will be a day not too far in the future where my daughter and I are called to serve our nation (nay, our whole planet) in a capacity which will require us to travel into space and fix something up there that someone else botched, and it would be convenient to get ahead of that curve a little bit right now with some flight suit training in the backyard.
Finally (but not exhaustively), this is a NASA-themed flight suit, not a Navy or Air force flight suit. For national security reasons I can't list the true numbers here, but it is accurate to say that there are more men than women serving as fighter pilots across all armed services divisions. For NASA however - back in the 60s you had to be a Navy fighter pilot to get into the NASA programs, but we are now in a modern era where you basically just need to be a scientist with some free time on your hands to get in, so to be accurate in this timeline you'd probably want to sell your flight suit to everyone, since almost anyone is capable of floating around the ISS and doing stuff on laptops.
Here's the awkward position this puts me in. On the one hand, I'd like to inform these people of the error they've made re: the categorization of their child flight suits. It seems like an honest mistake and not part of some malicious patriarchy campaign. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure I can't stand those people who believe their children are unique snowflakes and must constantly correct any decision the outside world has made about things which does not 100% align with their own tastes and preferences and happiness. There's a lesson you can teach your children about tolerating other people's screw-ups that's not being embraced by enough people, but should be.
The solution I arrived at was to send a message to this e-commerce operator which stayed away from a lecture on Title IX (which allowed women to compete in space sports), but informed them that they had an issue with their database tagging algorithms, and left it up to them to decide which side of history they wanted to be on, or whatever higher or lesser the stakes might be here.
To date I have received no reply and the product listing has not been updated, so I'd say this approach is going pretty well so far.
We have two iced mochas at the bar please!
Because we have a culture with property rights and we like to do things slowly and carefully, there are often community hearings before a new thing gets built somewhere. This is pretty nice, because otherwise some guy would just show up at your house and be like "yeah we're putting the new thing here and you need to leave". I suspect that their different approach to both property rights and politeness is part of what enables China to move a little faster on the building new things front (fun China expansion fact: China used more concrete for building new things in the 2011-2013 period than the US used during the entire 1901-2000 period), but that's sort of a side issue here. These hearings are open to the public, and boring as hell, but a great opportunity to listen to people with nothing better to do complain about things that are probably not totally within the power of the committee they are addressing to do anything about.
During this public hearing process, there is frequently a "NIMBY" contingent who oppose whatever the new thing is. This is an acronym for "Not In My Back Yard", and there's an implication that the NIMBYs might simultaneously agree that the new thing we're trying to build would be nice or would be useful ... but they just don't want to be the ones to bear the cost of having the new thing right next to them.
An example here might be a new nuclear power plant (astute readers will note that a previous newsletter solved the nuclear "problem" by inventing locally-sourced artisanal nuclear power, but this will take decades to catch on) that has been approved but needs a place to be built. Once you know the approximate region that the plant will be servicing, the general dynamic of the NIMBYs in the population will be one of incredible excitement that there is going to be a new nuclear plant built (after all, who doesn't enjoy sustainably sourced kilowatt hours!) ... but one of resistance and trepidation about it possibly being built in their town.
I think municipalities could probably solve this problem a little better by having some combination of local government and whoever is building the new thing just start writing cheques to the people who are scared of the new thing in exchange for their calming right the hell down about the new thing - but, if someone was literally proposing to build the new thing within the confines of my actual backyard (which is about 300 square feet, and would make a horrible site for a new thing to be built), I think I'd ask them to not do that, and it would be very expensive to pay me off.
Speaking truth to power