Monday, June 30, 2008

Star Trek and Women

I am a huge Star Trek fan.  I have been watching it since I was child.  It is a show that I have never given much critical thought to, other than acknowledging its multi-racial cast. One of the useless tidbits floating in my brain is the fact that Star Trek featured the first interracial kiss.  It wasn't until I came across the following video, that I stopped and thought about Star Treks treatment of women. You see, it was just a show that I have become accustomed to viewing without thought.

It seems that Star Trek does not deserve the free pass that I have given it for all of these years. Watch and tell me what you think.

24 comments:

Daomadan said...

I love Star Trek too and it wasn't until I began learning more about feminist critique that I started seeing it with different eyes. While Star Trek was supposed to be a "utopia" where people of both genders and all races were supposed to be equal, it still suffered from the biases of its creators and writers.

Nichelle Nichols/Uhura and Leonard Nimoy/Spock are still some of my favorite actors/characters in the Trekverse. Do you watch Heroes? I really hope they do more with Nichols character since storylines were cut short because of the strike.

Danny said...

I assumed that this clip just flew under the radar when that episode of Enterprise aired a few years ago.

But one thing I do think that bears importance in this particular example is that at the end of that episode there is a big twist in the fact that those "slavegirls" are actually the ones in charge. Turns out that the women of that race have the men of that race completely under their control.

Now I'm not really trying to be sarcastic when I ask this but does knowing that those "slavegirls" are the ones in control change your interpretation of that scene?

Danny said...

And I have to say that the critique of Janeway was pretty unfair. Its true that she wasn't exploring space like Kirk or Picard (but compared to Sisko just sitting on space station she does a lot). But unlike Kirk or Picard she was out in totally unexplored (and many cases unknown) territory WITHOUT the safety net of Starbases, Federation colonies, or other Federation ships. And I have to say that it took a lot of guts and courage to destroy the device that would taken them home quickly and safely for sake of stopping an enemy that would have no doubt used that device to wage war.

Drowsey Monkey said...

lol ... well, I'm a star trek fan too, but it is pretty reflective of how women are treated in the media, especially the original version, sheesh. I still like the show tho. It got a bit better over time, just like anything on tv. I love the opening on that video ... pretty funny.

Erebus said...

As the creator of this video, I'm really glad that not only has someone found my work, but wanted to discuss it. I only posted this a few days ago for a rhetorical analysis final project and already someone has found it. Thank you for the interest in my work and I hope it starts a new discourse.

To address some of the concerns of the video, I was intentionally arguing that the conflict within Voyager was caused by a female captain. I'm not saying women can't be in charge, but that it wouldn't be 'believable' to have a female lead in a TNG-style series. Of course, Janeway's sex isn't an issue with anyone other than Q, but the quotes seemed too good to pass up.

Thanks again for discussing my work!

Renee said...

@Danny yes so in charge that they have to present themselves as slaves and use sex as tool, that's womans emancipation for you.

Renee said...

@erebus welcome to womanist musings..I couldn't resist the video the minute I saw it and not only did I post it, I personally forwarded to a few of my friends. I hope to see you on the Digg front page with this one.

SJU said...

I love ST and have since the beginning.

I never wondered about the roles of women on it. To me, the show was pure entertainment.

Erebus said...

@sju: as Derrida states, "Everything is a text." Any text can be analyzed through any lens, whether it be effective or not, and we must always be looking for meanings within these texts.

julie said...

You know what amazes me the most about the gender war?

It is that somehow, people think that women are not in control and that they never were.

Now let's just think about this for a moment.

A beautiful, sexy woman has a man jump through ever hoop imaginable. Unknowing half the time to her, because she is young and has 100 men after her and she tires of it.

But these guys who are full on with testosterone will walk miles in the dark home, risking their lives against the unknown men in the area you are just wanting to find a sole man walking alone.

I mean, these guys will do anything for her. They work 40 hours a week in a job and yet they will spend all their money on her just to please her for one night. And he doesn't even mind if he doesn't score.

When did we start looking at this as the female has no control? I don't get it.

.....

But then women before didn't get it. Until they aged. So they made sure the man would give his life for her. No longer could the man run after other young women as his testosterone wanted. He was shamed into caring for life for the one woman he fell in lust with.

She of course like all the other animals on the planet has children. In the animal world the man walks off and goes and finds another young woman. But not in the human world.

So who made the Patriarchy?

I have more than enough debater in me to prove it was woman. hehehe

Danny said...

@Danny yes so in charge that they have to present themselves as slaves and use sex as tool, that's womans emancipation for you.

Well at least your stance is the same when women are using sex appeal as a tool or when women are treated as sex tools. I wonder if you position would still be the same if that material had been written by a group of mostly female writers...


I'm not saying women can't be in charge, but that it wouldn't be 'believable' to have a female lead in a TNG-style series.
I get what you're saying which makes it almost funny that she ended up in an almost TNG-style situation (a large expanse of unknown space) where the difference is Picard was exploring whereas Janeway was surviving. In the long run I think Janeway more than proved herself in that series and is a good a captain as Sisko, Picard, or Kirk.

tara said...

What a great video! Man Trek really is what it should be called, haha. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek and sci-fi in general, so I'm used to giving it all a free pass from the feminist glare.

In response to Danny, I don't think it changes the interpretation of the scene much. What you describe is a very common patriarchal nightmare: that women will control men through their Sex Powers or whatever nonsense. So I think the interpretation that it is not feminist still holds, even though technically women are granted power.

I think my only slight objection would be that Q is always saying horrible things. Some of the horrible things are painfully true, but he is also a lying trickster who likes making people angry. Essentially in this scene, he's a troll who is feminist-baiting Janeway, right? I don't know. Q was always my favorite character though.

Danny said...

So I think the interpretation that it is not feminist still holds, even though technically women are granted power.
I'm curious. How exactly could that seen have been different to warrant a "feminist" interpretation?


What you describe is a very common patriarchal nightmare: that women will control men through their Sex Powers or whatever nonsense.
Maybe since I don't have that nightmare I'm thinking about this the same way everyone else does.

And I still say the critiuqe of Janeway was unfair. The comments about Q are on point though.

Renee said...

Maybe since I don't have that nightmare I'm thinking about this the same way everyone else does.

WHo is the everyone else that you refer to? Clearly people have different understandings of this issue.

Danny said...

WHo is the everyone else that you refer to? Clearly people have different understandings of this issue.

I think I'm the odd one out on this.

That everyone else (and that was a bad choice of words) would be the people that do have this patriarchal nightmare ("that women will control men through their Sex Powers or whatever nonsense") tara speaks of.

While I can see why men would be afraid of a woman's sexual power (that in and of itself isnt the problem, the problem is how the fear is dealt with) I just don't feel that fear.

tara said...

Danny, the problem is that it isn't a pro-woman form of power. Their power isn't portrayed as legitimate, but as insidious and probably evil. The conundrum for patriarchy is that it can strip women of all power (make them into sex slaves), but damnit men like having sex with women so women still retain a teensy bit of control, and ohnoes they might use it to take over. Do you see how this model of female empowerment isn't exactly feminist?

Livingsword said...

Hello Renee, nice to meet you….

I think there is some truth in what you hint at here…

One of the interesting parts of the Orion dancing girl scene is that it leads us to believe that the male Orion is in charge but in realty he is a servant of the females. The viewer’s presuppositions are intentional exploited. They are not slaves but the owners… The clip that was shown provides inadequate context for that episode.

The show does unfortunate provide few dominate positive images of women; much of this driven by the factor that sci-fi is predominantly enjoyed by males (not my views but that of the ratings).

However if you feel that females are hard done by in Star Trek (a view I would support to a degree) try finding even a sniff of any current mainline religion being represented in the show...never mind in a positive form….

Cool blog I have bookmarked it for future visits…

Anonymous said...

I think it would be wrong to completely take gender out of something like Star Trek. Obviously they need to make different cultures so some may treat women bad and some may be run by women. As well, each character has their own personality which gives it the flair and entertainment. Like how Tom Paris is a bit of a flirt while Torres and Seven were very strong female roles in their own right (not forgetting Captain Janeway).

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