How incredibly sexist was the New York Times when its obituary for rocket scientist Yvonne Brill started out with her cooking a “mean beef stroganoff, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” They neglected to mention in the opening statement that she was one of the first female rocket scientists in the U.S.,who developed technology still used by phone companies. Would the Grey Lady have lauded a male rocket scientist who liked to cook in the same way? Sorry, but this was sexist and they wouldn’t have changed the introduction had they believed it was otherwise after widespread outrage. Obit scribbler Douglas Martin did Ms. Brill and women everywhere a great disservice.
Yvonne Brill, who invented a propulsion system to help keep satellites from drifting out of their orbits, died last Wednesday at age 88. Her system became the industry standard for satellites and her contributions proved so valuable that President Obama honored her with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2011. One would think, Douglas Martin, would mention something along those lines first, before throwing in the cooking and changing messy diapers.
Here’s the obit as it appeared Saturday evening:
I am sorry, but this isn’t the lede anyone expected from the New York Times, the New York Post, maybe. I suspect that an obit for a male scientist would most certainly have not opened lauding his great parenting skills. I still have to ask, why was it so important for the NY Times to remind everyone that Yvonne Brill went from job to job with her husband? Would they have said that about a male scientist who went from job to job with his wife? I am sorry, but this isn’t the obituary I would expect to read for a groundbreaking rocket scientist, male or female.