Difficult Women by Helen Lewis

Difficult Women a History of Feminism in 11 fights by Helen Lewis is a good primer on the feminist history of Divorce, The Vote, Sex, Play, Work, Safety, Love, Education, Time, Abortion, and The Right to be Difficult.

I read this book because I favour learning history from books rather than social media memes and videos. It also helps me better “mansplain” feminism to cis-men in my circle. This book was a captivating read, and every morning I was looking forward to reading it after my first coffee.

Hellen Lewis (Twitter: @helenlewis) is a staff writer at the Atlantic and former deputy editor of the New Statesman. She was also the 2018/19 Women in the Humanities Honorary Writing Fellow at Oxford University.

So three takes that I got from this book:

First, women had it bad, really bad, and many still do around the world. For thousands of years, they have been deprived of some of their fundamental rights and autonomy. They have been disgraced, persecuted, and killed. I honestly don’t see a future for humanity if we continue to oppress and exploit half of humanity in this fashion. Learning about the history of feminism puts many struggles that women have had to face in context, so please make it part of your learning curriculum.

Second, none of the historical characters in this book are morally pure and perfect. As the book’s introduction points out, you come across women who advocated bombings and arson, who opposed abortion, had ableist and eugenics beliefs, blamed women who escaped abusive relationships, or some didn’t even identify as feminists. Helen Lewis is unapologetically honest about sharing this imperfect history. It is a reminder of the messinesses and imperfections of human nature. Yet, these women got a few things right and played a lasting part in challenging and corroding patriarchy.

I am not suggesting that we do not aspire to be better human beings. Still, we need to realize that the idea of morally pure saints and messiahs who will come to clean up the society of its evils and impurities is very much an invention of the religious right. That is not how people function in real life. We have grown accustomed to seeing the carefully curated and refined version of people and events on social media, and I’m telling you, I doubt it if most of these historical characters would have survived social media’s court of public opinion.

Third, social change happens incrementally. It has always been that way. Unfortunately, we can’t just uninstall patriarchy like a legacy app that is hindering society. A revolution will unlikely fast-forward the process. It takes many small victories to shift the public’s mindset and restructuring systems that favour patriarchy. It takes everyone’s involvement and not just those who identify as women. Learning history and making adjustments to our immediate living and workspaces is a good start.

The Case for Mars by Dr. Robert Zubrin

The Case for Mars by Robert Zubrin

The Case for Mars by Dr. Robert Zubrin is a good primer about everything you need to know about humanity’s attempt to colonize Mars. The author, Dr. Zubrin, is an American aerospace engineer, author, and advocate for the human exploration of Mars.

As an engineer, his book has formulas and timelines, estimates, and analyses, so you’d need at least a Freshman college or university level of math, physics, and chemistry to make sense of them all. Don’t let that stop you; because the author offers you suitable history lessons and some good arguments favour tax-funded and commercial scientific endeavours to reach Mars. According to Dr. Zubrin, a human mission to Mars is entirely within reach even using late 1950s rockets, not computing, technologies.

Dr. Zubrin advises against building a Battlestar Galactical ship for this trip. Instead, he advocates living off the land and using local resources to make a two-way mission possible

It took about 250 days for the British navy to make it to Australia for the first time. Now with proper planning, we can go to Mars within only six months! Dr. Zubrin advises against building a Battlestar Galactical ship for this trip. Instead, he advocates living off the land and using local resources to make a two-way mission possible. We can send uncrewed spaceships and equipment to Mars in advance to use local Marsian resources to make rocket fuel and oxygen a round-trip to Mars possible.

If you follow NASA and SpaceX missions to Mars, this book will give you some good foundational knowledge to enrich your experience.

Vaccine passports aren’t a punishment

Vaccine passports aren’t a punishment. They are a means to protect the population from unvaccinated individuals who are potential hosts for pathogens and variants by removing them from public spaces.

In a pandemic such as this one, a population is only safe when 90% of the individuals are fully vaccinated. That is achieved by vaccinating as many people as possible and removing the individuals who won’t vaccinate. Otherwise, the virus will keep circulating in the population forever, making people sick, taking lives, and eventually bring down the economy and other infrastructures.

No vaccine is 100% effective, but it’s a very effective layer of protection in addition to the other layers of protection. Personal choice is for when you decide whether to take antibiotics, HPV vaccine or getting a nose job, where your decision only affects you.

In a pandemic, your choice of not getting vaccinated will put people in your community at risk. If it doesn’t kill someone in your immediate circle, the pathogen in your body will eventually harm someone a few degrees removed from you.

Your personal choice ends where other people’s safety starts. That’s how public health works.

Defying Limits by Dr. Dave Williams

Defying Limits by Dr. Dave Williams

After reading a dystopian novel such as 1984, I needed something more uplifting. Space travel is always uplifting, especially when it isn’t about billionaires flying to space. The book Defying Limits is by Dr. Dave Williams, an ER physician turned astronaut who was part of the first Canadian crew of astronauts.

This book is a super easy read and suitable for people of all ages, especially if they have big dreams. One of my favourite parts of the story is when they realized that their lab rats stopped feeding their babies in space, so the astronaut crew stayed up drip-feeding the baby mice. It turned out that mice enjoy playing in zero gravity.