Sunday, September 24, 2006

Historical footnote to the breast-blogging flame war

The recent breast-blogging flame war (summary and links here) was a real blast from the past -- from a time when women and their breasts were seen as so provocative and seductive a distraction they had to be kept away from men with serious work to do.

Little more than a month after Richard Nixon resigned, Time magazine published a letter to the editor from science fiction writer and visionary Arthur C. Clarke, agreeing with astronaut Mike Collins on an important matter of public policy.
Collins had told Time that women could never be in the space program, since in zero G a woman's breasts would bounce and keep the men from concentrating. Clarke proudly claimed he had already predicted this "problem." In his novel Rendezvous with Rama he had written, "Some women, Commander Norton had decided long ago, should not be allowed aboard ship: weightlessness did things to their breasts that were too damn distracting."
A certain blogging law professor would have been in her twenties back when NASA suffered from its hang-up about breasts. The space program has moved on since then. Too bad she hasn't.

Note: The passage appears in Julie Phillips' memorable biography of Alice B. Sheldon a.k.a. James Tiptree, Jr. (pages 330-331).


Scorpio said...

Well, instead of banning women, banning distractible assholes is a *much* better idea.

Dr Diablo said...

I, too, can remember a time when nubile young breasts seemed to hang before one like ripe papayas, suffused with juice and pleading to be cradled, fondled, and nibbled. Thank God that, but for a benighted few, we have grown beyond that.

Mike said...

Mmmm... breasts...

Blue Gal said...

Oh, you boys. I remember catching a guy staring at my, well, not making eye contact. "You know," I said, "they're not going anywhere."

"Yeah, thank God they've got nowhere to hide."

Pfffft. And then they get to be a feminist issue, too? Feh.

Dr Diablo said...

Blue Gal, I want to apologize on behalf of my gender for the visual abuse you were subjected to.

I also tend to focus my gaze below a woman's eye level, but it's only because I'm looking for a Mensa pin or Phi Beta Kappa key. Intelligence is what matters to me. Nothing excites like a National Honor Society pin jiggling from a pendulous ovoid.

Dr Diablo

Alexander said...

I guess it was a joke -- both Collins and Clarke told that

> in zero G a woman's breasts would
> bounce and keep the men from
> concentrating

in the ironical context...