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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

View Poll Results: Rate Harbinger.
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Old March 6 2012, 11:18 PM   #16
Patrick O'Brien
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Just for fun I watched the TOS episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before". It is the mission Enterprise was on before they visited Vanguard Station in Harbinger. Spock is wearing a yellow command shirt in the episode and Scotty is in a light Orange? They both look odd in them
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Old March 6 2012, 11:23 PM   #17
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

I found myself grinning at how frequently Mr. Mack drew attention to "the new miniskirt uniforms for female officers" in the book, going as far as making Uhura feel uncomfortable and self-conscious in Kirk's presence due to wearing one. Yet the Whyyyyyyyy would they make uniforms like that? question is never actually asked by anyone .
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Old March 7 2012, 12:22 AM   #18
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sho wrote: View Post
I found myself grinning at how frequently Mr. Mack drew attention to "the new miniskirt uniforms for female officers" in the book, going as far as making Uhura feel uncomfortable and self-conscious in Kirk's presence due to wearing one. Yet the Whyyyyyyyy would they make uniforms like that? question is never actually asked by anyone .
To be fair, there's really no rational justification for why the 23rd Century Starfleet would create such blatantly sexist uniforms, especially given the embrace of sexual egalitarianism that our society has made in real life in the decades since TOS was produced. The closest you can come would be to say that the miniskirts are optional and to then depict plenty of female officers still wearing trousers.
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Old March 7 2012, 12:41 AM   #19
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Yeah, that's why I appreciate how the book poked fun at the matter without going as far as having the franchise impeach itself by someone actually asking the question .

Of course, the approach TNG later chose was to have men in miniskirt uniforms in Farpoint ...
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Old March 7 2012, 12:45 AM   #20
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
To be fair, there's really no rational justification for why the 23rd Century Starfleet would create such blatantly sexist uniforms, especially given the embrace of sexual egalitarianism that our society has made in real life in the decades since TOS was produced.
But in the 1960s, miniskirts weren't seen as sexist, but progressive and liberated. Previously, women's sexuality had been kept hidden away and women were expected to be so demure and scandalized by anything remotely sexual that they basically had no power over their bodies at all. Part of the sexual revolution in the late '60s had to do with women embracing their own sexuality, choosing to express it actively rather than being passive and overwhelmed in sexual interactions. Yes, they were still defined as sexual creatures, but they made their sexuality something under their own control, something they pursued for their own pleasure, when before the men did all the pursuing and controlling.

Remember, the push to put the women in miniskirts didn't come from Roddenberry or some chauvinist-pig executive. It came from Grace Lee Whitney. She wanted to wear a miniskirt and go-go boots. I think it was Nichelle Nichols's preference as well.

Maybe in the 23rd century, the fashions happened to be similar to those of the 1960s. Maybe it wasn't seen as sexist at all for women to wear short skirts (or actually mini-culottes). After all, that's the era of IDIC. They recognize that two groups do not have to be identical to be equal. So if women of the era choose to express their gender identity as distinct from men's, that doesn't have to mean the society sees one as superior to the other.

So the only question is whether there's a major practical problem with that uniform design. Are there fundamental drawbacks? Perhaps; the exposed skin would be more vulnerable to sparks from damaged equipment or the like (although the women do generally wear hose, which might be made of some very durable 23rd-century material). And both sexes' uniforms are equally impractical in their lack of pockets.

TNG tried to take the gender out of it by putting some male crewmembers in "skant" (skirt-pant) uniforms that were essentially a unisex equivalent of the old mini-culottes. But TV viewers were too mired in their own 20th-century gendered assumptions about fashion and found it silly. (And really, why must the solution to sexism be to make women's clothing more like men's? Why is it okay to put a woman in pants but ridiculous to put a man in a skirt? Isn't that just a deeper layer of sexism, assuming that the male way is automatically the better one? At least TNG made an attempt to meet in the middle.)
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Old March 7 2012, 12:51 AM   #21
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Christopher wrote: View Post
(although the women do generally wear hose, which might be made of some very durable 23rd-century material)
Flexible transparent aluminium, smoked.
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Old March 7 2012, 01:51 AM   #22
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Christopher wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
To be fair, there's really no rational justification for why the 23rd Century Starfleet would create such blatantly sexist uniforms, especially given the embrace of sexual egalitarianism that our society has made in real life in the decades since TOS was produced.
But in the 1960s, miniskirts weren't seen as sexist, but progressive and liberated. Previously, women's sexuality had been kept hidden away and women were expected to be so demure and scandalized by anything remotely sexual that they basically had no power over their bodies at all. Part of the sexual revolution in the late '60s had to do with women embracing their own sexuality, choosing to express it actively rather than being passive and overwhelmed in sexual interactions. Yes, they were still defined as sexual creatures, but they made their sexuality something under their own control, something they pursued for their own pleasure, when before the men did all the pursuing and controlling.

Remember, the push to put the women in miniskirts didn't come from Roddenberry or some chauvinist-pig executive. It came from Grace Lee Whitney. She wanted to wear a miniskirt and go-go boots. I think it was Nichelle Nichols's preference as well.

Maybe in the 23rd century, the fashions happened to be similar to those of the 1960s. Maybe it wasn't seen as sexist at all for women to wear short skirts (or actually mini-culottes). After all, that's the era of IDIC. They recognize that two groups do not have to be identical to be equal. So if women of the era choose to express their gender identity as distinct from men's, that doesn't have to mean the society sees one as superior to the other.

So the only question is whether there's a major practical problem with that uniform design. Are there fundamental drawbacks? Perhaps; the exposed skin would be more vulnerable to sparks from damaged equipment or the like (although the women do generally wear hose, which might be made of some very durable 23rd-century material). And both sexes' uniforms are equally impractical in their lack of pockets.

TNG tried to take the gender out of it by putting some male crewmembers in "skant" (skirt-pant) uniforms that were essentially a unisex equivalent of the old mini-culottes. But TV viewers were too mired in their own 20th-century gendered assumptions about fashion and found it silly. (And really, why must the solution to sexism be to make women's clothing more like men's? Why is it okay to put a woman in pants but ridiculous to put a man in a skirt? Isn't that just a deeper layer of sexism, assuming that the male way is automatically the better one? At least TNG made an attempt to meet in the middle.)
Or maybe the only plausible reason to put anyone in a miniskirt or a skant is to sexually objectify them, which seemed liberating at the time but is now recognized as just another mechanism for patriarchal control. And maybe the skant looks ridiculous because people aren't conditioned to think it's okay to objectify men the way they objectify women, and that thus the answer isn't to "assume the male way is automatically better," but to recognize that a means of fashion designed to objectify is impractical, unprofessional, and sexist.
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Old March 7 2012, 04:02 AM   #23
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
Or maybe the only plausible reason to put anyone in a miniskirt or a skant is to sexually objectify them, which seemed liberating at the time but is now recognized as just another mechanism for patriarchal control.
I don't agree. I think it's sexist in itself to assume that a woman is automatically a victim in any sexual situation. I think it's insulting to women to dismiss their choice to embrace and control their own sexuality as just another sign of their helplessness and lack of agency. It's not objectification if you're choosing to express and employ your own sexuality in pursuit of your own fulfillment. That makes you the subject, not the object.

I think that in a truly liberated, non-oppressive society, sex would not be seen as a source of vulnerability at all, and no one would be seen as diminishing themselves in any way by choosing to present themselves sexually. So any present-day concerns that a woman or a man is somehow victimized by showing a little skin would seem bewildering in that context.


And maybe the skant looks ridiculous because people aren't conditioned to think it's okay to objectify men the way they objectify women, and that thus the answer isn't to "assume the male way is automatically better," but to recognize that a means of fashion designed to objectify is impractical, unprofessional, and sexist.
Isn't it ethnocentric to assume that trousers are automatically superior to a draped garment, or that the only possible purpose of a short draped garment is to "objectify"? Look at all the cultures around the world where people have worn togas, saris, kimonos, kilts, and other draped garments. Trousers were an invention of Central Asian horse nomads, because they were more practical to ride in than a draped garment. But since most people today (let alone in Starfleet) don't depend on riding horses for their livelihood, there's really no practical necessity for wearing trousers instead of draped garments. There's no good reason other than fashion for Scotty not to wear a kilt, the traditional male garment of his people, on a regular basis. Would you consider that objectifying?

Personally I think it's ridiculous that Trek-era fashions aren't more bizarre and outrageous to modern eyes. If we find the fashions of the 1960s and '70s so incomprehensible, those of the 2260s should be downright shocking.
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Old March 7 2012, 04:26 AM   #24
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Christopher wrote: View Post
(And really, why must the solution to sexism be to make women's clothing more like men's? Why is it okay to put a woman in pants but ridiculous to put a man in a skirt? Isn't that just a deeper layer of sexism, assuming that the male way is automatically the better one? At least TNG made an attempt to meet in the middle.)
At the beginning of the 20th century, clothing was heavily gendered--certain clothes were exclusively worn by men, other clothes exclusively by women--but over the course of the century, wardrobe expansion happened in only one direction (at least as far as mainstream acceptance is concerned).

By 2364, I imagine fashion will be unrecognisable to our eyes, but I appreciate early TNG's efforts to imply that changes had taken place. It'll be interesting to see if the movie version of The Hunger Games depicts anything along these lines.
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Old March 7 2012, 04:27 AM   #25
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Christopher wrote: View Post
Sci wrote: View Post
Or maybe the only plausible reason to put anyone in a miniskirt or a skant is to sexually objectify them, which seemed liberating at the time but is now recognized as just another mechanism for patriarchal control.
I don't agree. I think it's sexist in itself to assume that a woman is automatically a victim in any sexual situation. I think it's insulting to women to dismiss their choice to embrace and control their own sexuality as just another sign of their helplessness and lack of agency. It's not objectification if you're choosing to express and employ your own sexuality in pursuit of your own fulfillment. That makes you the subject, not the object.
Sure -- if that's how you personally choose to dress in your personal life.

But if you're part of a military organization that literally forces you to wear revealing clothing (and on pain of court-martial)? That's not a choice, and that's objectification.

And Vanguard: Harbinger made it very clear that numerous female Starfleet officers were not comfortable with the miniskirt uniforms.

I think that in a truly liberated, non-oppressive society, sex would not be seen as a source of vulnerability at all, and no one would be seen as diminishing themselves in any way by choosing to present themselves sexually. So any present-day concerns that a woman or a man is somehow victimized by showing a little skin would seem bewildering in that context.
I want to emphasize that I respect you, Christopher, but I think that argument is premised on the supposition that somehow these hypothetical people can divorce their egalitarian present from the historical patterns of patriarchal oppression that led to it. But you can't divorce yourself from history.

And maybe the skant looks ridiculous because people aren't conditioned to think it's okay to objectify men the way they objectify women, and that thus the answer isn't to "assume the male way is automatically better," but to recognize that a means of fashion designed to objectify is impractical, unprofessional, and sexist.
Isn't it ethnocentric to assume that trousers are automatically superior to a draped garment, or that the only possible purpose of a short draped garment is to "objectify"?
No, because there's a big difference between the garments you just discussed, and the TNG "skant" or the TNG and TOS skirts. Those garments aren't designed to be practical or useful or project a professional image. Those garments are designed to show off skin, to advertise the wearer as a sexual object.
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Old March 7 2012, 05:04 AM   #26
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

I don't remember if I ever officially reviewed Harbinger, so thanks for the thread. At the time I first read Vanguard, my overall enjoyment of the 23rd Century and the characters and situations presented in the original Star Trek paled in comparison to my enjoyment of and familiarity with the characters and situations presented in Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek DS9, and Star Trek Voyager. I had seen most of the original ST movies starring Shatner and Co. and knew who the characters were, but had little lingering interest in the Original Series and its setting.


David Mack changed all of that with Harbinger. The novel not only got me interested in the 23rd Century and the situations and setting of the Original Series, it also tured the feel and tone of my all-time favorite Star Trek series, DS9, by creating a world and characters that were recognizable, interesting, and flawed (something that the characters of the Original Series lacked), with standout characters for me being Quinn and T'Prynn (with whom I was already familiar due to her supporting presence in the DS9 Relaunch novel Mission Gamma: Lesser Evil).

I really enjoyed this book, and, with it (as well as with the other Vanguard novels he's written to date), Mr. Mack cemented himself as one of my favorite Trek Lit authors (company he shares with his fellow Vanguard authors Kevin Dilmore and Dayton Ward, DS9 Relaunch author S.D. Perry, and Christopher [L. Bennett]).
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Old March 7 2012, 05:22 AM   #27
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Sci wrote: View Post
But if you're part of a military organization that literally forces you to wear revealing clothing (and on pain of court-martial)? That's not a choice, and that's objectification.
Again, is it any worse than Scots in a Highland regiment having to wear kilts? Lots of things in the military are mandatory, but that doesn't make them sexual repression. You're too caught up in your own assumption that skin equals sex equals subjugation.


And Vanguard: Harbinger made it very clear that numerous female Starfleet officers were not comfortable with the miniskirt uniforms.
And reality makes it clear that Whitney and Nichols preferred wearing them. People aren't uniform in their taste in uniforms.


I want to emphasize that I respect you, Christopher, but I think that argument is premised on the supposition that somehow these hypothetical people can divorce their egalitarian present from the historical patterns of patriarchal oppression that led to it. But you can't divorce yourself from history.
No, you can't divorce yourself from your own prejudices and preconceptions. You are so very quick to launch self-righteous attacks on other people's biases, yet so incapable of questioning your own.

Why the hell should women who've lived their entire lives without knowing sexual oppression or domination be forbidden to dress in certain ways because their ancestors were mistreated? Isn't that just perpetuating oppression?

There are plenty of people in the present day who are practicing nudists. There are plenty of people who live in tropical cultures where it's normal not to wear a lot of clothes. The assumption that showing skin is offensive or demeaning is the bias of a particular culture, hardly a universal truth. You're being very ethnocentric in your assumptions.

And you're still perpetuating a double standard. Why aren't you railing about the objectification forced on William Shatner when his shirt kept getting ripped off? Was he a victim of "patriarchal" oppression too? Your unexamined assumption is that only men are oppressors and only women are victims, and I find that insulting to both sexes.


No, because there's a big difference between the garments you just discussed, and the TNG "skant" or the TNG and TOS skirts. Those garments aren't designed to be practical or useful or project a professional image. Those garments are designed to show off skin, to advertise the wearer as a sexual object.
You're arguing in circles -- they're objectified because they're dressed in a way that's objectifying. That's not valid reasoning. And you're still hung up on this unhealthy assumption that being sexy is the same as being objectified. No. That's the case when it's done wrong. It's not the only way to do it.

And you're too caught up in the false assumption that the only possible reason for a woman to look good is to appeal to men. Plenty of women like to look good for themselves. Being sexy, looking good, is not just about objectification, about how you're perceived by others. A lot of it is about how you perceive yourself, about wanting to feel good about yourself and just feel good. Many women like to be desired, not because they want to please a man, but because they want to have the power to attract men who can give them pleasure, and because just knowing that they could do that, even if they don't act on it, is a source of pleasure for them. Women even like looking at other women who are presented sexually, because it lets them imagine themselves as desirable and makes them feel good. So women being sexy can be as much for their own and other women's benefit as for men's.

So you're being very dismissive of the female point of view by assuming that the only possible reason for a woman to dress attractively is to serve a male agenda. You're unable to consider that a woman can be sexy without being an object or a victim of men, and that is incredibly sexist.

You're supposed to be a liberal, right? So presumably you defend a woman's right to make her own choices about her body without having men go around telling her what to do. If that applies to whether she gets an abortion, surely it has to apply to something far more trivial like whether she wears a miniskirt. My attitude is that it's up to the woman. If a woman tells me that she feels empowered by wearing a miniskirt, or by wearing an all-concealing burqa, or by going completely naked in public, I'm not going to tell her that she's an idiot and needs to believe what I tell her is true, because then I'd be the oppressive patriarch. If she finds empowerment in it for her own reasons, then it doesn't matter what past generations of oppressors intended for it. She's taken control of it and made it her own, and since it's her body, I don't have the right to deny her that choice.

And we're getting way off topic.
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Old March 7 2012, 08:14 AM   #28
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

i think men in kilts look ridiculous too. i just wouldn't tell a Scotsman that to his face.
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Old March 7 2012, 11:03 AM   #29
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

^ I am going to find you captcalhoun

Is this thread still about Harbinger?
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Old March 7 2012, 02:40 PM   #30
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Re: Vanguard: Harbinger by David Mack Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Well, I've said my piece, and I don't want to drag the thread off topic any further.

I actually wasn't crazy about Harbinger when I first read it, because I felt it was too dark. But I think it works better in the context of the books that follow, once it becomes clear that it's just the beginning of a journey of redemption for most of the characters. They need to start out in that initial bad place so they can rise above it. So I'm not sure how to rate the book in isolation.

Once I get the final book, I'm going to have to find time to reread the whole series from start to finish.
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