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WHAT IF THAT ASTRONAUT WERE A MAN? To the editor: While I applaud Debra Bruno on a well-reasoned, sympathetic analysis of Lisa Nowak’s misadventures, I am troubled by the shifting of responsibility for these actions from Ms. Nowak herself to a mere manifestation of the so-called Good Girl Syndrome [" Lisa Nowak's Mission Impossible," March 19, Page 26]. The column suggests that Ms. Nowak’s stellar accomplishments — top grades in high school, admission to the U.S. Naval Academy, selection as an astronaut — were due to her desire “to please people” and to do “everything she’s supposed to do.” According to this theory, the Good Girl, after years of repressing what she actually wants, snaps and does some “crazy” thing, which apparently includes committing adultery followed by trying to kidnap or murder her rival for the adulterous lover. While I’m not well versed in the theory, I suppose the person is still nominally classified as a Good Girl even after the snapping event, the adultery, and the attempted kidnapping or murder. While it’s no doubt a handy theory for professional women to discuss “at dinner parties, in book clubs, [and while] waiting to fetch their kids at school,” one nagging question remains. When a man at the top falls scandalously to the bottom, he is usually portrayed as some monster who (thank God!) finally got his comeuppance. If a male astronaut with a wife and children fooled around and then tried to harm his younger rival for the coveted mistress, it would be explained that these macho, egocentric astronauts believe the normal rules of society do not apply to them. I doubt it would be viewed sympathetically as just another example of the Good Boy Syndrome. Without knowing her personally, I would assume Ms. Nowak succeeded again and again not only based on her abilities and hard work, but also because she wanted those achievements and knew how to beat the competition. The belief that women are not as competitive as men is beyond outdated. Absent any compelling evidence to the contrary, the successes of women should not be degraded by being ascribed to some amorphous female need to please others. One should assume that they want to succeed. The same way men want to succeed. Any subsequent falls from grace need to be treated similarly. Steven Bennett Arlington, Va.

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