The movie Hidden Figures was apowerful movie about women who were in NASA and were fighting to put forththeir efforts in saving the Space Program.
This movie portrayed a strongmessage about a historical struggle of three African American women who faceddiscrimination working in the West Computing Group of NASA in the 1960s. Theprotagonists, Katherine Goble, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson didcalculations for the engineers’ experiments by hand instead of using acalculator. They were undermined for their skills because their superiorsrejected to acknowledge them as engineers or mathematicians even though theyperformed all of the calculations necessary before the use of machinery. Instead,they were dehumanized by the title of “computers” given to them by the whiteadministration. This movie took place during a time where there was stillsegregation through the Jim Crow laws.
The women amongst other AfricanAmericans were kept at the bottom of the racial hierarchy and experienced manyvarying degrees of prejudices. There was day-to-day segregation and sexism thathappened in the 1960s that was considered normal. During this time, PresidentJohn F. Kennedy said that “any problem that is man-made, has a man-madesolution”. Hidden Figures exemplifiedthat saving the Space program was substantial enough for removing theprejudices that these women encountered. In efforts to save the Space Program,social, administrative, and personal prejudices were overcome throughsimultaneous act of teleological and deontological reasoning. In particular, some of thesocial prejudices that these three women encountered were racism and sexism.
For example, Katherine Goble dealt with racism when working in in the EastComputing Group amongst all the white males where she had to drink from a coffeepot designated only for colored workers. It is proof that the people of NASAwere narrow-minded and were not going to let this “colored computer” gounnoticed of her appearance or her presence in the current work environmentwhere she was not treated as an equal. Another racist issue that was commonwithin this facility was separation of bathrooms that made it difficult forpeople like Katherine to go as she pleased. Her only option was to use the WestComputing Group bathroom that was half a mile away which took her time awayfrom completing her work. This was a daily inconvenience that was unnecessaryand time consuming. When she was confronted by Mr. Harrison, she expressed heraggravation and the injustice that the people of her race faced every day. As aresult, Mr.
Harrison realized the effect that this type of prejudice can haveon individuals who are hardworking and trying to make it under theserestrictions. Both of these instances were the types of segregation that neededto be removed to allow women to contribute to the Space Program and beaccepted. There was also sexism prevalent at NASA that all of the AfricanAmerican women had to face. For instance, Katherine Goble asked to join ahigh-level briefing to understand better for her calculations, but a white maleengineer rushed to shut down the idea. He said, “There’s no protocol for womenattending.” The white male engineer’s response to her efforts undermined hersignificance as a female.
This exemplifies sexism because the male engineerwanted to demote her, let it be known that women are not held to the same levelas men and should not attend the briefing. Not recognizing her worth as amathematician for the sake of the Space Program and only as another woman showsthe nonexistent standards that the male engineer is trying to create to stopher from succeeding. This prejudice is then overcome when Mr. Harrison allowedher to attend the briefings and play her part in the process. Speaking up whennecessary and doing the work were essential strategies for the colored womenworking at NASA when dealing with these prejudices. Katherine Goble experiencedracism and social prejudices that were overcome later on when Mr. Harrisonremoved the labels.
At this particular time, NASA suspended some of its racistand sexist behavior. Therefore, for women of color in the Jim Crow era it was adouble jeopardy dealing with race and gender in the workplace. Furthermore, there were manypersonal and administrative prejudices that added to the struggles of coloredwomen at NASA.
A personal prejudice that is represented in this movie was aninstance where one of the white women that worked in the East Computing Group,Mrs. Mitchell, had to recruit another human “computer” from the WestComputing Group (specifically colored women) to help with the calculations.Mrs. Mitchell said, “Didn’t think I’d come all the way down here.”This indicates the fact that she does not think of the colored women as theequals that they deserve to be viewed as to conquer the prejudices for thesuccess of the Space Program. With these personal differences put aside, thecontributions as a tolerant group would be more prosperous.
Hidden Figures depicts administrativeprejudice when Mr. Harrison constantly gave Katherine stacks of work to doknowing that she was incapable of providing an accurate completion of the workwithout updated information described in the meetings. Mr. Harrison did notinclude her specifically in the briefings, even though that could have helpedher catch up with the information needed for the calculations. This instancedemonstrated prejudice because he excluded Katherine on the basis that she is awoman and African American. The prejudices would eventually be overcome throughher inclusion in the briefings.
In order to be successful, there was a need forKatherine’s help and a national prejudice needed to be overlooked to achieveNASA’s utmost goal.