Where Women Have Gone Before
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m a big fan of Bitch magazine, having a degree in pop culture studies, but obviously I don’t take it as the be-all-end-all of feminist pop culture thought. Which is good, because then I read articles like Tammy Oler’s “Keep On Trekkin'” and can get slightly irritated.
I mean, I’m totally down with the point she’s getting at–how Star Trek established the tenets of broadcast fandom that we all know and love, and the various problems that exist therein. Not to mention the mentions of people like Bjo Trimble.
But then she has to go and dismiss everything that’s happened in Trek since then with a few pithy paragraphs about how all of it’s been the same old hackneyed sexist drivel since then, which highly oversimplifies the issue. It disappointed me because she seems, earlier in the article, to recognize the empowerment at hand within the original series, despite the clearly prejudiced viewpoints that were standard game in media back in the 60s.
And okay, Trek has a tendency to catsuits, and I’m anything but a Roddenberry apologist. But to gloss over entirely too much in order to oversimplify the idea that Trek is old hat boring sexist business…I can’t buy it.
Not with the fact that all of the later series had episodes centering around their female characters. That Beverly Crusher had command track skills despite her apparently overly feminine healer tendencies, and in fact took command at least once when she was the highest ranking officer. That Guinan was the rock of the Enterprise-D. That Kira Nerys was the survivor of internment camps and a former vigilante. That Lily Sloane scrounged titanium to get humanity into space and risked a terrible death by radiation poisoning to check on that last chance. That B’Elanna Torres kept Voyager running for seven years. That T’Pol, despite the catsuit, was the Vulcans’ commentary on the inherent sexism in humanity’s space program.
And the villains and morally dubious: the Duras sisters, Sela, Kai Winn, Seska, the Borg Queen, Commander Donatra. And fandom calling Captain Janeway a ball-breaker for her uncompromising attitude.
Tokens? Maybe. But I haven’t touched on every story in Trek. And the woman-friendly programs Oler seems so keen on have their own downer moments. From what I’ve heard, X-Files: I Want To Believe has a pretty domesticated Scully, and BSG isn’t afraid to have women play the occasional stereotype. Oler’s frustration is somewhat misplaced–it should be directed at JJ Abrams, perhaps, or the notorious playboy Brannon Braga, not at the whole of Trek itself.
I realize there’s a limit on space in a magazine. I realize that the canon isn’t the Best Feminist Thing Ever In SF. But don’t write off Star Trek. It may yet surprise you.
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Tags: reading list, sci-fi means science fiction, women on screen