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Women in Space

by Briandra Turner 4 years ago in star trek

Going Where No Man Has Ever Gone Before

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

I grew up watching Star Trek. My father watched it almost religiously whenever it came on TV. I, as a kid, thought it was awesome. I thought I was so cool watching this show about over-dramatic people traveling through space and, occasionally, shooting lasers at each other and alien lifeforms. My phaser was always set to kill.

There were female characters galore and even a black woman, who was a lieutenant by the way, with the occasional line. As a young, queer, geek-in-training, I was in a candy shop. It was exciting and I was a Trekkie through and through. As we all know, the original Star Trek came out in 1966. So here I am, a baby bred in the 90s, watching reruns of this show about space travel; all I wanted to do was go to space.

Recently, I decided it would be fun to watch all of Star Trek from the beginning. It's early afternoon on a Tuesday and instead of looking for work to do, I decided to watch Star Trek, because it seemed like the most logical thing to do. Like many people, I get into what I’m watching, which leads to talking to the screen; I ask questions, even though I know there won’t be an answer. What is Spock up to? That crazy girl is killing people, Kirk why are you trying to console her? Why in the world are all the dresses on the women crew members so short?

As a child, I never thought about this; regarding the female characters, all I saw were pretty women in space and I wanted to be an astronaut. A bit shallow of me, however I didn’t know any better. Watching Star Trek as an adult, I can’t help but ask this every time I see a woman on screen. In the Star Trek universe, the female characters are always swooning and fawning. They have the mentality of a classic “fainting-woman” down pat. And, for some reason, they dress in slightly elongated t-shirts with tights underneath, and something akin to spankies over that.

The uniform for the women in Starfleet is completely absurd. It’s almost as if they are meant to be eye candy. I love Star Trek as much as the next geek, but it is inherently misogynistic, despite its progressive nature.

It is wonderful that there are women crew members and they occasionally have guns and push buttons. It’s a great feat, but, why is it that they are still presented as decoration? They even go so far as to create a halo, a billow of soft light, surrounding the female crew members when they are on screen or when the male characters are interacting with women on other planets. It resembles a presentation, a reality-styled display case.

They are served to the viewer as pretty, complaisant, overly dramatic, emotional creatures. The music for a woman on screen is even more romanticized than the male characters to match the glow. It draws attention to her beauty and away from her actions. A soft glow such as this, tells the viewer that this is a dreamlike state; it tells us that this is a fantasy. This is what women should be like—beautiful and agreeable. That soft glowing light distracts the viewer from what isn’t being said. We don’t notice the lack of female character development—or dialogue—because we’re focused on the light that is highlighting her beauty. One of the only times that there isn’t a soft glow surrounding the female characters is when they are standing next to the male characters.

As I’m writing this, I looked up at the television screen to see Captain Kirk, the boss, having a female crew member massage his back. Is that not inappropriate? Was a massage in her job description? It’s such a strange thing to see. I’m sure some people will believe that I’m reading too far into the content of this show or that “it’s just because of the times,” but we need to talk about the times and we need to talk about the fact that this is still happening to women in film and television today. Hell, this is reality for many women outside of the entertainment industry.

Don’t get me wrong, we have come a long way. Women have made strides in the entertainment industry. There are some incredible “girl power” films and shows out there. However, a lot of the time, women are still being treated as part of the background. They are part of the décor. They are for show and, the characters are, often, underdeveloped and lacking any actual lines that aren’t merely to support their male counterparts. Women are still being seen and not heard, especially, women of color.

When women are given power in television, they are portrayed as being a bitch for being in charge. They are shown as someone that the men have to “take down a peg” to get to the sensitive center of her tootsie pop. What people don’t seem to realize is that women do not need to be complaisant to be in a relationship. Spoiler Alert: Women can be powerful and in love at the same time. They can be a boss without being deemed a bitch because of it. And yet, for some reason, people still have a hard time trying to understand that. Women can, and will, go where no man has gone before.

star trek

Briandra Turner

Creative Writer. Artist/Designer. A bit of a misanthrope who hides out in Michigan.

I'm just here to gay up the place, really.

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