For Heavens’ Sake, Why? — Axe, Sexism and Space Advocacy


As you recall, I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago that featured the “Nothing Beats An Astronaut” commercials for the space contest being held by Axe, makers of men’s (and women’s) body wash, shampoo, body spray, etc.

In support of the contest, which will award suborbital spaceflights to winners, Axe has also created another advertising campaign with the tagline “Leave A Man. Come Back A Hero.” The implication of the ads is that going to space would help the winner get women.

Apparently, there are those who believe that the campaign is sexist.

These, presumably, are also the sort of people who believe that fire is hot and water is wet.

Arguably, there is merit to the allegation that Axe, a product which sells itself in an arguably sexist way as being able to help guys score chicks, is also being sexist in selling space as being able to help guys score chicks.

Further, they argue, Axe is downplaying the real important factors of spaceflight by focusing on this sexist angle. Where’s the discussion of science and spin-offs?

The fact that both sides are completely in the right speaks to the greatest challenge in space advocacy.

Yes, Axe is being sexist. As odd as it is to find myself defending Axe, so what? Their entire business model is aimed at men, and aimed at helping men get women. You can’t be surprised that a contest they are sponsoring supports their business model. Nine years ago, 7 UP offered a similar contest. I would imagine view people would be surprised that they used the contest to try to convince people to drink 7 UP.

And, here’s the thing, Axe isn’t wrong. There’s ample anecdotal evidence that back in the olden days of spaceflight, women might, in fact, have been scored via the mystique of spaceflight.

Like it or not, but Axe has a set focus that guides their business. They’ve applied that focus to spaceflight. They’ve depicted spaceflight in a way that reflects their focus.

Saying they are wrong to do so is like saying that deep-field astronomers are wrong for not talking more about the benefits of microgravity science, or that orbital science principal investigators are wrong for not talking about the potential of space solar power, or that the space-based alternative energy community is wrong for not talking about the lessons that could be learned from boots-on-the-ground planetary geology, or that human exploration advocates are wrong for not talking about how astronautics can help you get babes.

As author Douglas Adams once wrote, “Space is big.”

Big enough, in fact, that it can be many things to many people. Why should we explore space? It depends on who you ask. There are countless space advocacy groups, and equally countless reasons to advocate for spaceflight. It makes it an incredibly difficult thing to explain why we should explore space when the answer depends on whose doing the talking and who they’re talking to.

And that may be the best reason for exploration that there is — that space offers so much potential, so much promise, that no one group can explain everything space can enable us to do.

Including, but not limited to, scoring chicks.