Lynx adverts show their products as having the power to mesmerise and enchant the ladies, instantly drawing them like moths to a flame. They call this “The Lynx Effect”. Today, I confess, I have perhaps been caught under its spell myself.
I’ve spent the day completely absorbed by the idea that the Lynx Space Academy could take me one step closer to space. I know that the odds are stacked against me – not only would I have to beat 249 other people for that chance – but I’d have to do so in a competition created by Lynx, a male grooming brand who’ve made it pretty clear from the start that as a woman, I was not exactly who they were expecting in the competition.
So why did I persist? Why did I stand up to the sexism apparent in their adverts and work to get them to change the global competition rules?
Simple. I really really really want to go to space, but even more importantly, I want to Keep Sexism Out of Space.
In the past month we’ve celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova), the 30th anniversary of the first American woman in space (Sally Ride) and, most excitingly, NASA announced their latest astronaut class which is 50% female – for the first time in history. It’s all so exciting! So positive.
On a smaller scale, the Lynx Astrogrrls have been supporting each other in the Lynx Space Academy Competition from the voting stages – encouraging more women to apply – to this second stage. I cheered for each of them as they dashed through the #LSALive course today and was especially proud of Gillian Finnerty when she was interviewed at the start of the day. She was the first I heard who spoke with genuine passion about going to space. She had it all going for her – the astrophysics, her sporting prowess, her handy rock-climbing hobby – c’mon girl!
Sadly it wasn’t enough.
As I watched more of the coverage I started to worry. They kept talking about the 24 people with the best times on the assault course going through to the next round. A drastic cut from 125 down to 24, purely on the basis of the “Launch Pad” trial. It’s a physical trial. We know that there are physical differences between men and women. Nevermind the Olympics, even The Krypton Factor took this into account for their assault course, so surely Lynx would too?
Apparently not. As a result, not one female made it past the first hurdle.
Despite an official statement previously sent to me from Lynx UK which stated:
“As an advertiser we strive to be responsible, the competition adheres to strict internal and external guidelines. Women can enter this competition, if they were to make it through to the second round they would not be at any disadvantage”
I’m not sure that this is the case. (Though of course I look forward to being proved wrong tomorrow.)
I’m quite upset to be honest. I was getting excited about the competition – nervous, hell yeah! – but excited too. I had some incredible support from people on Twitter after my blog post last night explaining just what it would mean to me to win. Even the LynxEffect Twitter account noted it! Now I don’t know what to feel.
I was going to go all out and embrace the Lynx Space Academy – do it for the fun of it, do my best, and really strive to make it through – but now I’m worried. The fastest time any female got today (even on second attempts later in the day which didn’t count) was 42 seconds. The marathon-running female presenter, Charlie Webster had a personal best of 47 seconds. These are great scores, but I’m hearing you had to be sub-35 seconds to get through. If your specially-selected super-fit presenter wouldn’t make it through to the next round surely that rings alarm bells?
I’m struggling to think of a physical activity on a competitive level that doesn’t have different class for men and women. Because we are different!
The LSA Live presenters said that the inflatable assault course is the same as one used by the army (though at one point during the day they also stated that Uranus was no longer a planet), so couldn’t they look at the average time for men and the average time for women and just take the difference in time off all the female scores? That would be a simple way to balance things out a bit wouldn’t it?
I want to be excited about tomorrow, I am excited about it, I’m just hoping that Lynx haven’t made the mistake of making this physically impossible for a girl to win.
I still get butterflies thinking about how close I am to my dream… I’d do so much with it. I’d be their PR dream of a story if they let me, and I would share the experience and hopefully inspire other girls to aim for the stars too.
I guess I’ll just do my best, I’ll give it all I’ve got, and I just hope that I do you proud (especially you Granny) – whatever the outcome.
Hi there SpaceKate…
I’m a friend of Gillian’s and I too agree with the fact that the first stage is biased in favour of men.
I do not know if it helps but there is definitely a technique involved in attacking an inflatable course such as this as I discovered today. I am not particularly strong myself particularly in relation to many of the participants today but I did fairly well once friends and family were allowed to try…here’s what I did…
Go down the left hand side to start
For the first section use one arm to move the small pillars out the way, the other guiding you through the arch and then pulling whilst driving with your legs.
The large pillars that follow can really destroy your momentum…try to disturb them as little as possible, turn slightly sideways and literally use your arms like a snow plow to divert them around you…
Use the inflatables bounce to help you get over the walls and the same technique as the first section for going under the arches…if you get turned around by the pillars then don’t correct yourself before throwing yourself over the final wall…it’s pretty hard to hurt yourself
Going through the holes go in a diagonal line to the right and try to get a knee through at the same time as diving as you can then push off for diving into the next one…a knee is particularly helpful for the last hole as you are then in the right position to tackle the final wall…
Do use the pegs but don’t treat them like a ladder and use every one…your feet should be fairly grippy on the rubber anyway and don’t reach stomach height but get at Lear one foot on top of the wall before diving over…there’s less friction in the air and ignore the buzzer…it’s a light gate that you have to break so use the bounce of web you hit the bottom of the ramp to throw yourself forwards… it’ll be crowded enough that someone will break your fall if you really over do it!
I know words on a page like this are not much help and I’m certainly not an expert but it’s all I could think of to support your cause!
I wish you all the best of luck for tomorrow…and as I said to Gillian…this has nothing on MarsOne so take it with a pinch of salt…it is a publicity stunt after all!
P.s. The two of you should collaborate on the MarsOne entries (perhaps?…I’m not fully clued up on how it works!) but it’d show the panel that you’ve begun teamwork before any kind of selection process has even started… Just a thought…I can’t sleep
I’m sorry you didn’t get through – however i disagree about your analysis. The assault course was an equal footing for men and women. This is how it has been done in all countries all over the world and many women have got through. At the end of the day going to space requires the best physically and mentally – whether man or women. I don’t think you should turn this into a gender equality issue. I know many women who are faster than men and physically fitter too.
I haven’t not got through yet! I’m up today!
While you need extreme fitness to be a professional astronaut that’s not the case for the XCOR or Virgin Galactic flights.
I thought each country was doing it differently… For some it was entirely down to the vote. Please do link me to stories about the women who got through…would like to celebrate them if true.
Good luck today. I was the fastest girl yesterday (42 seconds) and am pretty fit. Not a chance in hell I could have got sub-35 which is what you need. I spoke to them about letting me through based on allowing a proportionate number of the female participants through (or even just the top two) but it wasn’t to be. It is unfortunate for us, but I do understand that it is a male brand and they quite simply do not want females in the running. It is costing them a fortune and they want their marketing campaign to pan out as they planned, so fine. It’s not a proper space trip where you’ll experience 9G etc etc. It’s a 60 minute trip up a la Virgin Galactic, experiencing 4G on the way back. It would obviously still be epic.
James – surely you know that it’s not an equal footing. Which sports can you name that pitch men against women? Mixed doubles etc don’t count – it’s not men against women. I’m fine with it as it’s a male brand, but don’t talk rubbish.
Kate – keep low and focused so you don’t get disorientated. Watch other people carefully and don’t wear socks!
I’m Sorry Helena but I disagree with you. I saw plenty of males that attended that were far above the physical fitness of the other contestants. Yet they did not get through. Why? Because I found that there was an advantage in being small and light, and this held a lot of people back from keeping low, and getting through the holes of the assault course.
Yes the Lynx product was designed to be sold to a specific audience, but it was no where stated that a MALE was wanted to go to space. To assume otherwise is prejudice. If lynx wanted a male, then it would be a male only competition. I saw Casey make it all the way to the top 4 on Sunday. The 4 physical tests in round 2 showed much more physical endurance than the assault course, yet she came into the top 10 . She passed the judges with flying colours and they showed no hesitance in the fact she was a women. To make these assumptions is not a way to argue or justify your points.
I’m not sure they would have been allowed to have made it male only in the UK (plus unilever’s own advertising guidelines discourage sexism), that said, in eight countries that were running the competition they did make it male only- A point I fought against, and with help from other people, including a journalist at Forbes, we made them change that rule. Just sayin’.
I have been watching this morning’s trials on the live feed on Youtube. I don’t agree that this course favours men over women. If it was a long course where you have to sprint or run distance or lift heavy weights, then I would think that men would be favoured.
From what I can see, there is a lot of ducking under things, this would favour short people over tall people, there is a lot of climbing through holes which seems to favour thin people over fat people, and several bits where you need to squeeze through gaps, favouring people who are dextrous and agile rather than inflexible.
Someone who is short, slim and agile doesn’t necessarily mean male.
I note that Helena claims to be the fastest girl yesterday on 42s. The fastest girl today so far is on 36 seconds.
The big difference I notice if anything, is that the girls seem to be more nervous or maybe intimidated, whereas a lot of the guys are saying “I’ll give it everything I’ve got.” A difference in attitude.
To be fair, sexism is a two way street. In todays culture and society most items we have thrown in front of us are for women, not men. Television programming is now catered, in large part, to women (Lifetime, OWN, WE, W, NBC (after they bough Oxygen), Bravo, etc., etc). Shopping is the same with some stores even referring to their guests as ‘she’ (Zellers and now Target). These are broad stroke examples that certainly have exceptions, but the base point here is that we have female versions of things as well as male. As you have so aptly pointed out, men and women are not the same (which means we are also not equal, which by definition means ‘the same as’). We are different. Neither is better or worse than the other. We should celebrate these differences, not try and hide them or pretend they are not there.
AXE is a male brand. They want to send people to space, probably men. Cool. Before you start claiming sexism, why are the female brands not doing the same? There are far, far, far more female brands of grooming products than there are male. There are entire swaths of retails stores, heck even entire stores dedicated to them!
The problem here isn’t with AXE. They are one of the few grooming brands targeting men, which is *countering* the sexism of women’s grooming brands (while at the same time being uber sexist in their own branding, so I realize the irony). The real issue here is that there are no female brands helping to get women in to space. At least the male brand is letting females compete. The female brands *are not even trying*. And that’s the real issue here.
In my opinion, before calling AXE sexist because they are male brand, it may be better to call out all of the other female brands for not doing something similar. Like many of these: http://www.theperfumeshop.com/fcp/departmentbrand/brand/fragrances?resetFilters=true
The female grooming industry is far, far larger than the male grooming industry. There is a lot more money there to send you or any women to space aboard a Lynx or SpaceShipTwo. The failure here isn’t the men from AXE is targeting men to send to space to promote a male product, the failure is with the women for not sending other women to space *even though they have the resources to do it*. The real sexist idea in this is that men should be required to send women to space on a male brand to ‘keep it fair’. Why can’t women send women to space? Why must men do it for you? That is the real sexism here. Female brands are just as capable as male brands, and in many cases more capable. Yell at THEM instead.
I am all for you going to space. I have little doubt you’ll be able to do it. But calling a brand sexist because they target men for a male brand… That’s crossing the line IMO.
And here are a few other ways to win a trip to space (some may have expired):
I think that Benjamin has a fascinating perspective. Spacekate so far has been mainly talking about sexism in the context of the competition rather than at the larger level of other brands.
I note that Unilever have brands like Sure and VO5 which sell to both men and women but they also have Impulse, which they describe as:
“Since its launch, each Impulse variant has been founded on the brand’s core values of fragrance and romance – its slogan, “Men can’t help acting on Impulse” reaffirms the brand’s mission to inspire spontaneous, romantic gestures from men by helping women to smell and feel gorgeous.”
In other words, Impulse is the “spray this, get laid” product for women that mirrors the Lynx / AXE product for men (I think).
If this is the case, then having convinced Unilever to change their mind about allowing girls into the Lynx competition, I think that maybe you and some Astrogrrls should suggest to Unilever that they run an equivalent competition, and see if you can get Unilever to change again.
Just a suggestion.
I’m not on Twitter otherwise I would tweet this at you. The London Evening Standard is holding a competition in association with Camelot, to win a flight on the XCOR Lynx into Space.
To enter go to standard.co.uk from October 2nd onwards. The competition is open until October 20th, and apparently all you have to do to enter is buy a Lotto ticket within that timeframe.
Best of Luck.