Jump to content

2-6-09 Are Women Shafted in the New Trek?

Posted by Terilynn, 06 February 2009 · 68 views

Over the course of the last few weeks I have come across some of the most jaw-droppingly corrosive minds and they're all trying to defend their own sexist/racist attitudes by saying that I'm being oversensitive.

Well, I'm here to clarify a few things.

I don't consider myself to be a prude. As long as men's and women's sexuality is treated respectfully, sex in movies, literature and television has its place. If it's genre appropriate, then fine. It's when I perceive a line being crossed that I get a little miffed. Okay – A LOT miffed.

Case in point – I have said and I will continue to say that there is absolutely NO reason a shot of Kirk grabbing Uhura's breasts in the bar fight scene is necessary for the development of either of their characters in the film. Uhura can be a strong female role without having to defend her breasts and Kirk can be just as big an phloxhole without showing what a letch he is.

Once again – a Trek female role is being defined by her place among the men – instead of being just another member of the crew. The shot was placed in the movie as a joke – a way to get the target audience (14-24 yr old boys) to giggle at the expense of the ONLY female bridge crewmember this film cast. (Remember – Number One is conspicuously missing.)

I've been phloxing about how poorly Trek female characters had been written in TOS, TNG, and to some degree ENT. (I'm holding out on DS9 because so far I like what I see from Kira and Jadzia – and I haven't seen enough of Voyager to render an opinion) but I guess I never realized the complete disregard for women a lot of the male fans have.

The one thing I really like about Uhura, was that for the most part – she avoided being defined by the men around her. She had a job which she performed well and was never unduly molested by her fellow crewmembers. Sure she kissed the Captain – but they were BOTH forced to. But she was treated respectfully and sure she was sexy as hell – but she didn't have to sleep with or pine for a coworker.

Troi: She was totally defined from first moment we see her as being "Riker's ex" and from that point on until season 5 she could be defined as the "whiny love interest for Riker." After Face of the Enemy – when she actually started to really contribute something other than "Pain, pain, pain" and holding Barclay's hand – did she start to really become a more meaningful character. The moment Jellico put her ass in the uniform she started to grow a little respect…I loved post season 5 Troi…she really evolved.

Same problem with Crusher! She was "Wesley's mom." Yes, she was a doctor – but she was the moralist whose morals twisted with every episode at the writer's whims. Worse yet – she was also defined from "the Naked Now" as PINING for Picard – a stereotypically female trait that the writers just couldn't resist giving her. So the two women who survived season one were defined by their unrequited love for the Captain and First Officer. Bleh. (I'm sorry – if my husband died under my boss' command, I don't think I would be wanting to jump into bed with him. And if I did – that tells you something about the quality of my marriage…dumbest character trait ever.)

Skipping DS9 and Voyager for now…

I end up in Enterprise. I loved both Hoshi and T'Pol. Loved them. T'Pol was an awesome Vulcan and her position on the ship was more than earned. Catsuit? Oh yeah – dumb as hell. She should have been in a uniform from day one. Personally, I thought she looked better in it. Hoshi? Talk about a well-written character….Hoshi's fear about space-travel, the shudders on the ship, the EVA suits, everything was a perfect example of reality. Her fears WEREN'T stereotypically female – they were stereotypically HUMAN. If Hoshi's character was a man who spent his life studying languages on Earth and got recruited to travel in a space-ship – I'm sure he would have suffered the same uneasiness of the new situation. The beauty was Hoshi grew from it – her character evolved. She was treated respectfully by those around her and not once ended up being defined as pining for love or being a mother or being a caretaker. She simply was a valued member of the crew…just like Travis, Reed, T'Pol and Trip…

Okay – so what am I off about?

Well – here on the TU threads I've had to explain why just the one shot of the new movie is insulting. To the point where somehow opinions about how women should just "get over it" and "deal with it" and that "they're only just boobs" has become the mantra of a few of the guys.

Then this morning I read this:


A discussion about who was a better character – Crusher or Pulaski…

And the discussion turned into well - who would you rather see naked.


It is precisely this attitude that I opine that Mr. Abrams is pandering to. There are more female Trek fans than I think people give credit for. I venture to say at least half of the people on this board and at The Omega Sector BBS are women.

Then to add to it – I was recently involved in a conversation wherein someone said that racism was worse than sexism because it just was. This person must have held the opinion that there are varying severities of discrimination and that it was more okay to discriminate based on sex than it would be for skin color or heritage. This person thought that I should just get over my sensitivity about treatment of women because they "didn't suffer" like blacks did through slavery and that no woman should be offended because guys find breasts hot. No. I'm NOT kidding. This person actually said that to me on the eve of the inauguration when they IMd to tell me that all white people were racist. I'm still waiting for the apology.

Another person told me that race was no longer a "taboo" subject – that EVERYBODY knows that racism is wrong. Well - I still say this is pullphlox and racism is still a HUGE problem.

Trek is supposed to be moving forward here folks. There are quite a few women who were drawn to into the male dominated work force by the mere presence of a black woman on the bridge of fictional starship.

Trek had these lessons at its heart and yeah – they learned to be better about them as time went on – Crusher and Troi evolved a little and Hoshi and T'Pol were leaps better…but I can't help but feel that somewhere those lessons are not only being lost – but that the stereotypes of women are being reinforced by 24 frames and that somehow I am being oversensitive because I see a whole new generation treating women disrespectfully.

So – here's the imdb link to Star Trek 2009 . http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0796366/

Peruse the cast list for a bit. See if you can find a female character that isn't stereotypical. Keep in mind Uhura "gets to" have her breasts in Kirk's hands AND "gets to" take her top off in the movie too! I don't know about you…the rest appear to be:

Mothers (Amanda Grayson and Winona Kirk); Wives (Nero's wife – Grayson and Kirk again); Caretakers (A Doctor and a nurse); Sex Objects (Orion Slave girl and Flirty Cadet); Or what appear to be toss-offs - a Lt. and a Transporter Chief….ooooh. Exciting; And get this: The ONLY females in command positions….Are Romulan. The enemy.

This is foul.

I want this to begin a real adult discussion. If you think I'm wrong – let me know the reasons why! I promise to be adult and listen to your point of view. I promise to really try to hear you. I may not agree with you, but if I really am wrong about asking for something better for women in Trek – I need to know why.

I can't believe you actually said nice things about Hoshi and T'pol. That's... wow. And here I was starting to think I was the only one who thought they were good characters. I think I can sum up my feelings on that with one emoticon: thumbsup.gif

Although I'll agree that the catsuit was ridiculous.

Oh, and the rest of the entry was very good as well. I'm not sure I have anything useful to add.

*Checks again.* You really said it. You actually do like T'pol's character.
  • Report
Yes. I admit it.

T'Pol grew on me in a big, big way. Even more so after I watched the episodes, let them sit and then went back and watched them again...I actually began to ....

ADORE her.

Conflicted, wanting something better for her people - and herself. Seeing beyond the politics but not so perfect as to keep from falling into the traps of drug dependency. At first I was angry - but then realized how much I appreciated seeing this particular weakness in a Vulcan.

And The Husband and I had a really long talk about Hoshi the other night and I had to say how much I appreciated her as well -


just so no one thinks I hate all female characters who show interest in coworkers, etc...

Crewman Cutler.

A woman who wasn't "model perfect" - a woman who seemed to have a natural attraction to Phlox, but didn't let it impede with her work...

I was so heartbroken that her character was lost with the actress...she could have been something REALLY remarkable... Sigh.

EE- You'd be happy to know I've re-watched many, many episodes of Enterprise...I really do love the show.
  • Report
Oh, yeah, Cutler! She was cool. It's such a shame the actress died. She had a lot of potential. sad.gif

I think T'pol may have be the first entirely realistic Vulcan. Star Trek has had a bad habit of making aliens one-dimensional. I'm glad the Enterprise writers realized that people, even if they're not human, rarely fully live up to their ideals of their culture.
  • Report
Exactly - which is why it's so important for me to come out and emphasize that I'm not looking for perfect female characters either - just ones that aren't stereotypical. smile.gif
  • Report
T, all I have to say is... "Here! Here!" worthy.gif
  • Report
Squidman...I can only say - I am honored. I am honored you read my blog and honored you commented. It's good to see you here!
  • Report
I agree wholeheartedly. It seems utterly beyond reason that a movie production of the 21st century would try to out-stereotype its 1960's source material.

I'm waiting to see the film before I pass judgment, but I'm hoping that the explosion-and-T&A factor that we've seen represented in the trailers and commercials are just over-emphasis in an attempt to market the movie to non-Trekkies.

I've found that many of the strongest female roles in Trekdome are to be found in fanfic, yet another reason I've grown to prefer fanfic over the 'offical' publications.
  • Report
Uhura certainly grew in stature is some of the Trek novels, and I guess that, not surprisingly, a lot of Trek novellists are women.

Nobody will surprised that I agree with most of what Terrilynn has said here. I too have been absolutely shocked at the responses I have had from some male trekkers who don't see the way that Abrams appears to have marginalised women (and hence female fans) as a problem. Unfortunately, there is also sufficient precedence in Trek for the determinedly sexist to support their points of view ~ alongside the outstanding strong female roles.

The guy who thinks that sexism doesn't make women suffer is not worthy of anyone's friendship or consideration. I hope he spends the rest of his life in lonely congress with wormholes, because with that attitude he deserves to spend the rest of his life alone buying Kleenex with his saddo ready-noodles for one. Not only is he an arsehole, but he also profoundly misunderstands the nature of racism that saw black women frequently suffer more than men, but I guess that phloxhead doesn't think that women suffer when raped either, and plenty of black women were raped as the bottom of the race/sex pecking order. They were abused by white men and black men, and they were hardly esteemed by the men in the Civil Rights movement either. See Eldridge Cleaver as a case in point. Is this guy an American citizen? How come I, as a Brit, know more about the American history than this guy? I just wish that ignorant people would shut the hell up until they get themselves a freaking education.

Back to Enterprise...

I can't agree that Hoshi and T'Pol were great female characters though. I feel that T'Pol was always compromised by the her status as the sex-attraction in the catsuit, and further compromised by her stick-on-peel-off pyjamas that made several appearances and the dull "love" story between her and Trip. After the first few epsiodes and a few one-offs in later seasons, they did anything interesting with her after that, and I hated the MU episode.

  • Report
Fair enough Jules. And it's easy to see where the problems do lie with T'Pol's character, but part of me has to say I think it's an inherent problem with the Vulcan character any way - how does one play an emotionless character with emotion? What a sucky job. I myself was never thrilled with the Trip/T'Pol thing and again...I blame the writers for falling back on the cliche...I was personally hoping to see more conflict/and potential resolution of her arranged marriage...wouldn't that have been a kicker?

But I would still agree that they were underutilized. But I also think they underutilized Phlox to a degree as well -

This was a show that had so much wasted potential...sigh.

And as far any the person who's having trouble discerning one form of discrimination from another...yeah - well - my heart is torn in two...
  • Report
They could have done so many more worthwhile things with T'Pol and her background. I reallycouldn't see the point of her once she became trapped in that dreary triangle with Trip and Archer. After all, they managed to sustain Spock through so many years ~ simply by giving him some really great interactions with other characters. There was some of that with T'Pol, but not nearly enough, and hardly any that was not somehow predicated on her physical attributes. I was really heartbroken about Hoshi, who ought to have been a mainstay for the series, but got more or less dropped along with Mayweather as they token ethnic crewmembers. I was a fan of hers even before I knew that she was dating Tom Hardy (although that relationship ended in 2005), and I used to post on her BB. She really got shafted by the writers and managed to be so gracious about her lack of anything to do in the show on her BB. Far more gracious than I would have been!

You would be interested to know that just today I was listening to the radio where two female pundits were lamenting the recent trend towards movies featuring really dumb women who live to diet, marry, and max out their credit cards. The male presenter made a tasteless tongue-in-cheek comment along the lines of "men like to see dumb women in the movies", but he was probably closer to the truth than he knew.

As for that jerk that can't discern one form of discrimination from the other; it's simply ignorance on his part, and I would suggest ignorance in both areas. I too often see such dismissive attitudes from people who have never really experienced discrimination themselves first hand. Or, if he has, make the claim that his form of being discriminated against is worse than anybody elses.

It also bothers me that there might be a generation of young women who are equally dismissive because they have never actaully been touched by sex discrimination themselves. It's cold comfort to know that one day they certainly will, and that when that time comes, their ignorance will make it all the harder to cope with it when it happens to them.
  • Report
QUOTE (JulesLuvsShinzon @ Feb 11 2009, 03:28 AM)
It also bothers me that there might be a generation of young women who are equally dismissive because they have never actaully been touched by sex discrimination themselves. It's cold comfort to know that one day they certainly will, and that when that time comes, their ignorance will make it all the harder to cope with it when it happens to them.

This is a very REAL fear Jules. Cultural and religious ideologies that have forever perpetuated women's roles to be at the beck and call of men - to be thin, to be sexy, to "give out" (or in the case of religion - makes life doubly difficult for young women who are being told they have to be virgin whores)...those problems still exist for the teens of this generation as they did for ours and the generations beforehand. It's terribly difficult when the messages these young women receive from all aspects of entertainment and their own culture support deference to men.

When they are confronted by sexual discrimination - it will be a cold, hard kick-in-the-teeth.
  • Report
^^^And they'll come running to their mums for help in coping!

What I find particularly worrying is how easily young women confuse so-called "sexual freedom" with "liberation". I belong to a facebook group that is endeavouring to ban the spread of Hooters "restaurants" in the UK. The girls who will happily wear tight tops and pose for photographs with customers actually believe they are expressing themselves sexually and being liberated. They will defend themselves in this way and decry anyone who suggests that it's pretty demeaning to do a low-paid job, low brow job and have to appear "sexy" at the same time, as prudish. What so many foolish young women can't understand is that women's liberation gave women the power to say "yes", but society and the media has made it an imperative that a young woman should say yes, and she has effecitvely lost the power to say "no". They simply don't understand that they are less liberated than we are because we know how to deal with sexism, and, most importantly, they don't even recognise it. These young women don't know when they're being objectified because they've bought into the idea that feminism is something that belongs to the past and no longer has any function ~ meanwhile, they wear their sexy clothes and feel obliged to become sexually active and at risk of STDs at ever younger ages. Naturally, men collude in this view because it serves them, and we've seen quite a lot of that attitude on the BBs here.

I'm glad I'm not a young woman today. At least we had some role models ~ who do they have to look up to? Paris Hilton? Britney Spears? And footballers' wives? I'm not that impressed with Michelle Obama since her admiration stems entirely from how she looks and what she wears.

  • Report
Well - I have a fine line here that seems to be the crux of the problem.

There is a fine line between expressing sexuality and being victimized. I don't have a problem with women expressing their sexuality. What I have a problem with is that fine line being crossed - where women become the butt of a sexual joke. It takes that form of expression and spits in its face.

Women who choose to make themselves the objects of sexual objectification for money? - Hey it's their stupidity if they're striving to serve buffalo wings to drooling idiots. I know a few women who used jobs like those to help pay their way through college and are now glad they don't have to sling chicken and celery anymore, but there are those who don't have the aligned synapses to think they could do something better for themselves as well.

In businesses where women are actually striving to become equals - like oh - financial institutions, brokerages, law firms, military and paramilitary, health care organizations, places where the requirements to show breast aren't on the list, then the message had better be...pay me the same for the same work and keep the hands and the EYES off the chest.

A woman on film, tv, etc who expresses sexuality - IN genre - doesn't bother me.

As far as Trek is concerned - having men and women expressing individual sexuality isn't my beef really. It's the fact that Starfleet is supposed to be a professional organization and they've got a bunch of adolescent reactionaries in a barfight scene. *rolleyes*

I would love nothing more than having a meaningful gay relationship being shown in Trek too - not as a token, but as an acknowledgment of the 10%+ of the world's population.

Ahhh...it's all just so frustrating...
  • Report
Expressing sexuality in the right place and at the right time is not a problem for me either, and, as you say, in genre, but here we hit a snag, because defenders of the slapstick boob gag in the new Star Trek movie are claiming that the objectification of women is "in genre".

I'm not awfully convinced by the "I'm paying my way through college and that's why I jiggle my tits in Hooters" argument that's being used by women to defend working in these dives. There dozens of other kinds of jobs ~ and waitressing jobs ~ that don't require that kind of acquiessence. Nobody has to do that.

And as for gay relationships in Trek ~ I've been arguing the case for that one for a long, long, time.

You know, I really don't think anything will ever change unless we stand by our principles and make our money talk by boycotting stuff that is peddling any kind privilege for one section of the community at the expense of another.
  • Report