Computer! Hello, Computer!
Ah, well, born in the lousy 20th century, I have to use a keyboard- how quaint!- to communicate. Welcome to the first edition of Trekette – An ongoing mission to explore the Star Trek universe for positive female role models!
Now, I am not the world’s biggest feminist. Personally, I enjoy the big hair and cat-eye liner, soft pink lighting and skimpy uniforms. I am not here to denounce Star Trek as sexist. However, I think most would agree that at least the Original series lacks female perspective. The show was as sexist as the era it first aired in and the viewers’ expectations it played to. As a result, the most important females of the cast were relegated to traditional roles- a nurse and a glorified secretary. If a female was taken seriously for the skills she brought to an away team in the original series, she would probably end up having to make out with Kirk by the end of the episode. Even Uhura and Nurse Chapel were not immune. Uhura, for instance, did indeed share the first interracial kiss on TV – with Captain Kirk struggling and writhing to get out of performing the kiss at all! Nurse Chapel, demoted from her more serious role in the Menagerie episodes, instead gets to play the nurse overcome by a silly, unreturned passion for Spock. Silly females! This seems to imply. Trying to do men’s work! The ideal female on the show seemed to be Janice Rand- “More coffee, captain?” (Simper! Wiggle! Bat Eyelashes!)
Only in later versions of Star Trek do females start to have more equal opportunities, allowing them to develop real and more nuanced onscreen personalities. It must have comforted Majel to know that her role as a nurse would pave the way for a female doctor on The Next Generation, one who could take command from the big boys in times of crisis- and that she could do it all wearing pants! Meanwhile, Dianna Troy was seated to the left of the Captain, on the bridge, and her counsel was always respected by the commanding officers of the ship. She wore whatever she wanted and always had a kind word, but her empathic abilities made her a force to be reckoned with that had nothing to do with her beauty.
When I was a little girl, I idolized Dianna Troi and Beverly Crusher. My parents, mindful of gender roles, made sure that all of my childhood toys were feminine in nature, and as a result I still fondly remember my Guinan, Crusher and Troi action figures, my Ensign Ro Bajoran earring and my Dr. Crusher tricorder. To my brother went the cooler toys, the phasers and the transporter, the light-up shuttlecraft Galileo. I remember being wildly jealous of his Spock pajamas, begging for a Dianna Troi blue dress.
My grandmother knew how I felt about Troi, and one year she bought me an autographed photo of Troi from a convention. It still hangs on my wall. Dianna seemed to be to be the ultimate woman: beautiful, graceful and above all, respected and confident. Here was no Sleeping Beauty or Ariel waiting for a man’s kiss to make their dreams come true! Troi could do it all and eat her chocolate sundae too. I did not realize it at the time, but the women of Star Trek had a much more profound effect on me than any Disney princess.
From Star Trek I have learned:
… that sometimes you’re just the Yeoman, and your captain is a harassment suit waiting to happen, so make sure to scratch him up good so that you can identify your attacker.
…that empathic tendencies and a friendly smile can neutralize disagreements, even interplanetary ones, faster than any phaser or photon torpedo.
…that it’s OK to indulge in some fudge or a nice Earl Grey as long as you are performing your role competently and fairly.
And most of all… that females are just as capable of making command decisions as males, and they can do it wearing low-cut dresses and heavy makeup with grace and ease. Set phasers to stunning, because we make this look GOOD!
“Trekette” is an ongoing series by Victoria Wright looking at Star Trek through a female perspective.