So, moving into my new house was incredibly awesomely exciting and all, but the downside was that I was completely without Internet and cable TV for TWO WEEKS.
We managed to get a computer set up in the living room, and after a late-night trip to Wal-mart for some speakers (I should make another First World Problems… “My expensive gaming headset only allows one person to hear anything”) we were able to pass the time by watching one of my very favorite TV shows — Star Trek: Voyager.
And let me say here and now, if I ever have a daughter, one day when she’s old enough we will sit down together and watch that series from start to finish, because those are some of the strongest female characters and the most gender-equal setting I’ve ever seen in Sci-fi or fantasy. My own writing included.
In my fantasy world, there’s an assumption of gender equality and the characters put little bearing on whether someone is male or female when they get into sticky situations. However, as much as I try to rid my writing of any gender stereotypes, I still find myself writing sympathetic males who dote on the females. And although I have one really strong kick-ass woman, I also have another that needs a lot of rewriting to be the strong woman I know she should be. Voyager, however, doesn’t have these issues.
First and most obvious is Captain Janeway. She’s the only female Star Trek captain, but she’s notable for other reasons, too. She drinks coffee (black) instead of tea (earl grey, hot.) She is pretty quick to throw out the Prime Directive (doing so in even the first episode) and she sees the potential in every being. In TNG, when a borg drone was stranded with the crew of the Enterprise, Picard refused to name it and talk to it or even call it by a gender, lest they get attached. Janeway, on the other hand, embraced Seven of Nine and used her unique capabilities to strengthen her crew.
Speaking of, then there’s Seven of Nine. Okay, so she’s a little bit of fanservice with that skin-tight suit of hers, but she’s also an ingenious scientist. She has an incredibly strong personality and never fears to speak her mind, even if her opinion doesn’t jive with Janeway’s. She’s vital to Voyager, getting them out of as many sticky situations and B’elanna, and even though she has no one back in the Alpha quadrant to talk to, she helps to set up communication networks between Voyager and Earth.
And oh, B’elanna Torres. She’s probably my favorite. What an awesome character. If she has a tragic flaw, it’s anger…but she’s so much more complicated than that, too. From day one, B’elanna shows her incredible knowledge of engineering and her ability to compete with any man in her field. She’s not a graduate of the Academy – she was thrown out – but she’s a better engineer than anyone else on the ship. She wrestles with her identity throughout the series, with her Klingon blood giving her grief and also providing her a certain amount of pride. In an episode where she’s separated into a Klingon B’elanna and a Human B’elanna, she wants to remain fully human but finds herself unable to survive without the klingon – all the flaws included. Oh, and speaking of the klingon half of her, one thing I love about B’elanna is she’s not a stunning beauty. She’s pretty enough (it’s not like you’re going to find an out-of-shape starfleet officer, really) but with the klingon ridges on her head, she simply doesn’t have a very pretty face. But that doesn’t stop her for a second, nor is it ever a focus of the show.
Finally, Kes. She’s probably the weakest woman on the show, but her weakness isn’t attributed to her gender, but rather, to her age. She’s only two, thanks to the Ocampa’s incredibly short lifespan, so when she’s sweet and naive it sort of makes sense. But she also contributes to Voyager’s well-being from day one, starting the hydroponics bay that allows them to conserve replicator energy and eat fresh vegetables instead. She harnesses her latent psychic abilities, doing something no one on her homeworld had managed for years. And when given the option to leave Voyager to be with her own kind, she chose to stay. Oh, and her dying act was to propel Voyager four years closer to the Alpha quadrant – a place she had never seen.
Before I wrap this up, there’s one other aspect of Voyager that I love. Throughout the first few seasons, the main enemy the ship faces is the Kazon. The race is war-like and violent and looking to destroy Voyager and take its technology for some, admittedly, pretty good reasons. But they’re undeniably the enemy, undeniably evil. It’s hard to sympathize for any of them, even the young children who are being innocently indoctrinated into that culture. The other enemy, the Vidiians, are at least after a cure to a disease that’s been killing them all, right? Not the Kazon. They just want to kill and pillage.
And they HATE Janeway because she’s a woman. The Nistrim Maje, Cullah, says repeatedly that he hates how much power the humans give to their women. That Seska (ding, another strong female) is overstepping the bounds put upon her by her womanhood. They look down on all women as a whole, and treat them as lesser beings.
They are evil. Everyone who watches Voyager sees these people and thinks “These are not good. These are not my role models. These are not the people I want to be like.” The show unarguably makes the quality of misogyny a bad quality. If you think women are lesser, you share that with the Kazon. And no one wants to be like the Kazon. So you should treat women the way the crew of Voyager does – with all the same ways you’d treat a man.
I just love that message.