The Sexist Side of Space Suits
During 2019, the first all female space walk canceled one of its two women. They only had one spacesuit for a woman and even that was a poor fit.
But all will soon change.
Space Suit History
Custom made for men, the first 1960s space suits came from the makers of Playtex Bras. A decade later, the second batch again favored the men. Since the suits had broader shoulders and narrow hips, the women that wore them were uncomfortable.
Hoping to remedy the past (and discard 40-year-old space suits) NASA tried during the past 14 years to design new suits. Unsuccessful, they’ve now offered the private sector a $3.5 billion deal that ends in 2034. The goal is sizes that range from women in the 5th percentile to men in the 95th and suits that feel like “…a rugged-ized set of extreme sport outerwear.”
Our Bottom Line: Choice Architecture
A behavioral economist (and plain old logic) would say choice architecture defines your policies. In other words, our decisions depend on the environment in which we make them. Sort of like a building’s blueprint, the design of a project shapes what we decide to do. If the elevator is hidden, we take the stairs. Similarly, through their choice architecture, restaurant menus nudge us toward a particular decision.
I would suggest that especially because NASA was dominated by men, their choice architecture led to gender inequity…
And to space suits that did not fit women.
My sources and more: Thanks to my NASA email for the space suit update. From there, it got much more interesting with The Atlantic’s sexism facts and The Washington Post’s update. Finally though, just for some fun, I recommend The Apollo Murders. (Some of the action takes place during a space walk.)
Originally published at https://econlife.com on June 5, 2022.