Where are all the moonwomen?

Illustration by Ben Steele.

By Anna Holmes

Note: Inspired and based on the research in the 74th edition of the Griffith Review 

When man first landed on the moon the world watched. Generations after can still recognise the first words Neil Armstrong spoke as he became a “moonwalker”. 


‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ 


I wonder, what will it be like for the first female astronaut to step foot on the moon? I have some theories. I can imagine that the first footprint of a moonwoman will become a similarly celebrated icon as her male counterpart. I imagine the male crew will have been instructed to let her go first, a gesture to prove chivalry isn’t dead. I imagine her having to think carefully about her first words, as they will resonate for generations into the future. Neil Armstrong got to choose his ‘one small step’ spiel. I wonder if they would let our first female moonwalker choose her words, or if she’ll have an advisory council behind the matter. I imagine her standing there, still for a few moments before she carefully steps onto the moon. The rest of the crew will be tasked with taking photographs of her. Social media will repeat her words and circulate her image endlessly. There will be a camera rolling, sending a live transmission back to Earth, for those of us who have waited for this moment for all too long, to watch and listen.  


The Apollo 11 astronauts had an audience of 600 million people. I wonder if this moonwoman will have an audience the same size. There are nearly four billion women on Earth – will they all watch? And for each of these women, they have a father, brother, partner, son, uncle, friends … will they all watch too? Or will her audience instead dismiss her as a hoax, her life-changing journey a stunt – just as Valentina Tereshkova was called when she became the first woman to leave Earth in 1963, six years before a man went to the moon. 


When she returns, she’ll be a hero – a heroine – right? And she’ll be a media sensation, famous enough to be invited to the Met Gala. When she returns, she’ll be the new it girl, the one Jimmy Falon and the likes of him will be interviewing. Will she be asked different questions from her male counterparts? 


Were there mirrors in the spacecraft for you to do your hair in? 

How do you balance work and family? 

Who was looking after your children? 

Why don’t you have any children? 


We can imagine the responses. The feminist outrage on the socials.  


I wonder in what ways she will be changed by the experience. Many cultures have believed that women have long been governed by the moon, our menstrual cycles linked to its waxing and waning. If so, will she have her period the whole time she’s there, or will she turn into a werewolf? 

Now, I do not purport to know the full scientific context as to why there hasn’t been a woman on the moon. However, it may have something to do with how some of humanity’s greatest minds do not know how periods work – NASA engineers literally offered astronaut Sally Ride 100 tampons for a 7-day space mission. 


It may also have something to do with the blatant ignorance of some, and the misogynistic behaviour of many. For example, another excuse for the lack of moonwomen was the belief that the speed and movement of the spacecraft compromises fertility, or that a woman’s weak body cannot withstand G-forces. When we look deeper into this myth, we find that it’s not based on science or experience, but just a myth. One that suggests high-volume exercise is harmful also to the female reproductive system and fuelled decisions such as that of the Olympic committee when they withheld women from Ski Jumping because jumping down from about two meters off the ground about a thousand times a year seemed not to be appropriate for ladies. From a medical point of view, of course. There has been no credited medical research to back this claim. This was when the Summer Olympics had included female wrestlers and weightlifters for decades. Yet even after research into military women continuously disproving this age-old belief, the effects of its hold over decision-making remain.

Space is not the only context in which women have been held back – where society deemed women unsuitable, our needs too complex. Our government, our world leaders, and our sports and STEM industries reflect this. There are other truly inane examples of misogynistic myths that have held women back since the beginning of human existence. Early trains were thought to make a woman’s uterus fly out. Space is just another area where we see the need for change, just as the trains did.  


As our Earth crumbles around us; as glaciers melt, and our country faces bush fires and floods, maybe it’s time to start sending more people into space. As governments promise to do nothing, space is looking more and more like an alternative living solution, actualising that Planet B that all the environmental activists say we don’t have. Maybe our next generation will be the ones to colonise Mars, and maybe they will watch our now home implode like a Death Star-esque spacecraft. But before we dream of starting our new cliticisation, which I assume concerns people of all genders, we need to get a woman on the moon.

The US has proclaimed that it will send the first woman to the moon by 2024. All I have to say is…what the fuck took so long.


Anna (she/her) is a QUT student currently studying a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (Drama) and Education. More of her work can be found in past issues of Glass magazine or in issues of RARA magazine.

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