No female starship captains in the 2250s-60s?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - Original Series' started by Noddy, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. Noname Given

    Noname Given Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Star Trek production reason: Yes, it was written in the 1960ies and yes (all GR's claims top the contrary) - the production was done with a 1960ies mindset meaning that even in 200 - 300 years, no one had any issues thinking a military organization would still keep women out of the command structure.

    That said, because GR tried to give his (at the time girl friend) a lead role, he put "Number One" in a spot where she would have occasional starship command; and in a worst case scenario, full command for an extended period of time.

    Thus, in Universe, we do try to rationalize those two lines to give the 23rd century Starfleet the 'benefit of the doubt' regarding female captains, regardless of the real world reasons of the produced TV show script. It's all in fun, and not an attempt to re-write the real world social/political climate of the 1960ies.
     
  2. T'Bonz

    T'Bonz Romulan Curmudgeon Administrator

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    Understood. The real world of the time influenced the story. I can't see why some fans just can't accept that instead of doing all sorts of convoluted explanations to make their fictional world perfect.

    Plenty of stuff in TOS was sexist - "I'm scared," the many times women held on to the captain when something bad was happening, the unprofessional showing of their matching panties many times (how many people in professional jobs go around showing off their asses without getting fired? Zero), women in 1960s traditional roles even though it's futuristic (telephone operator, secretary, nurse), etc. etc.

    I don't like it from this time frame, but it was what it was. Lester wasn't excluded from being a captain because she was insane/unfit, the blatant discrimination made her so after years of frustration and that makes sense. The story back then to some of us was MORE POWERFUL that way because it reflected a VERY REAL REALITY at the time (emphasis, not shouting). To try to retrofit today's preferences on yesterday's realities is just dishonest to me.

    Sure they can - and I can easily deal with the female captains that came along as writers and such evolved. However, trying to rewrite the story that was written at that time to make it sound less sexist/limiting is wrong, IMO. It was what it was and it is just silly to say that it wasn't.
     
  3. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    No one is rewriting anything. There is simply enough room for a broader interpretation. We needn't give credence to the rantings of an unstable fictional character who is obviously disconnected from reality. What she says cannot (or at least need not) be accepted as fact. And the rest of the anecdotal evidence throughout the series reinforces our dismissing Janice Lester as a overly bitter individual completely disassociated from reality.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Because the audience for a work of fiction is under no obligation to "accept" it passively. Readers or viewers should apply their own intelligence and imagination and interpret the work. Beng a member of the audience is supposed to be an active engagement with the work, not a passive submission to it.

    And as we've covered in this thread, it takes even more convoluted explanations to posit a scenario in which females are somehow barred from being captain yet simultaneously permitted to be first officer and to command a ship when its captain is missing and possibly dead. We're not talking about something that was consistent throughout TOS -- we're talking about a claim in one episode that creates a continuity problem when taken in the context of the whole. So the choice to hold that one episode up as overriding everything else is itself a convoluted rationalization, and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

    The fact is that we're dealing with a problematical text, which is usually the case with a text created by multiple people over the course of years. Either attempt to reconcile the inconsistency in that text -- whether by disregarding TI's claim of a ban on women or by retroactively applying it to the rest of the series -- is a choice on the viewer's part to impose a particular interpretation, to selectively favor some parts of the text over others. And it seems to me that disregarding TI is by far the more desirable of the two choices.


    I can see where you're coming from, and if it were a story set in the 1960s, I'd agree. But it wasn't. It was a 1960s attempt to project forward into a more egalitarian future, and there were some things about it that fell short of that ideal, because it's difficult for creators to transcend the prejudices of their time. I prefer to respect the ideal the creators strove for rather than dwell on the ways in which they fell short of it.


    But again, we're not. We're not saying that wasn't in the story. What I'm saying, at least, is that the story is merely an interpretation of the conjectural reality underlying it. The television episode "Turnabout Intruder" is one thing, the event it purports to depict is another. If we wish to engage in the pretense that Star Trek represents a real, consistent sequence of events, it is often necessary to gloss over the many, many contradictions and mistakes in its various episodes and films. Is it dishonest to ignore the fact that Data used contractions routinely up until it was suddenly alleged that he didn't use them? Is it dishonest to ignore the fact that Saavik or Zefram Cochrane was recast, or that Khan's followers in TWOK were way too young to have been stranded 15 years before? No. It's glossing over the mistakes and problems in a work of fiction so that we can pretend -- pretend -- that it represents a consistent reality. If we were engaged in a critical analysis of the real-world scripts and productions, then of course we should acknowledge their flaws, because then we're dealing with reality. But when we're treating Star Trek as a conjectural "real" universe, then we're pretending that there's a purer, more consistent whole than what the episodes actually give us. And that's not dishonest. Pretending isn't lying, because everyone involved knows it's not real.
     
  5. CrazyMatt

    CrazyMatt Captain Captain

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    Like the Eugenics War in the 1990s (must have missed that on CNN), and the Klingons without bumpy foreheads, "No women Starship commanders" is just another uncomfortable situation most of us would just like to quietly sweep under the rug and forget.
     
  6. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    I accepted the Klingon physical change at the time as just the improvement of special effects make up. The Eugenics Wars, I also assumed that Star Trek was an alternate universe from our own where some things were different.
    Both of those issues have been explained, Klingons on Enterprise, and Greg Cox made the Eugenics War a secret from the public in his novels. Both explanations worked well with dealing with the reality of what was said on screen.
     
  7. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I see the point and agree about the background of the time, but in effect that is also "rewriting" the directly contrary evidence of Number One in "The Menagerie." The series contradicts itself sometimes, and how a viewer resolves the contradictions is an individual thing. Personally, as I've said above, I don't see any advantage in dismissing events seen onscreen in one episode in favor of one character's hearsay in another, aside from the issues of inconsistency with the real world and later Trek.
     
  8. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    But on this issue its not an inconsistency. In real life people say things all that time that are exaggerations or even flawed opinions or perceptions based on personal bias. Janice Lester is a bitter and mentally unstable personality who because she couldn't hold the man she wanted and was possibly barred from a career in Starfleet labelled her former lover and the entire organization he was an integral part of as sexist.

    Some people are choosing to parse Lester's words to prove what they seem to want to see is there. But her words do not specifically lay out that Starfleet bars women from command.

    She says, "Your world of starship Captains doesn't admit women." or close to that. Yes, one could interpret that to mean Starfleet doesn't allow women to command, but look at how she says it and the context of the conversation. She goes on to lament, "We could have roamed the stars together." She's evidently bitter that Kirk chose his career over her because if she had a Starfleet career or particularly her own command path its quite likely they would have been apart and not together. So it sounds much more like she is stewing over Kirk rejecting her and in extent blaming Starfleet for keeping her former lover from her side. That Kirk replies with essentially, "Yeah it's not fair and you tortured me for it." is not an admittion of the validity of her accusation. Kirk replies in a resigned way of once again facing an old argument and choosing not to further upset an obviously ill individual any more than she already is.

    Later Kirk (in Lester's body) states Lester didn't qualify for command because of her lack in training and temperament. That statement could be interpreted narrowly as saying she was barred from command because she is a woman. But again try to see it more broadly. If the statement is implying that Lester actually tried for command that suggests it isn't actually barred to women. Kirk/Lester's statement sounds more like Lester herself was ill-suited to command because of her lack in training and temperament. And this is reinforced by other elements in the story. Thorughout the episode she shows herself to be erratic, unstable, self-centered, petty and vindictive. And she claims she studied/trained for months to replace Kirk. Months? It takes years and experience to become suited for command. How could she possible believe a few months training would sufficiently prepare her? And from the get-go she begins to show how ill-suited she is for the position. This underlines the statement of her lack of training because she's inclined to cut corners rather than understand what it really takes to rise to command rank and position.

    The whole context of the story reinforces that it is Lester herself who isn't suited for command and not women in general.

    This isn't rewriting what's in the story. It is the story played out on the screen.


    The bigger failing in this story is how it plays out. If we saw a man who tried for command and failed (which we did with Merrick in "Bread And Circuses") we could see that Starfleet screens for the right candidates. We saw it even earlier with Ben Finney in "Courtmartial." Finney made a mistake early in his career that derailed or delayed his path to command. But instead of learning from it and striving to rise above it he chose to blame Kirk (for catching and logging the mistake) and planned to exact revenge.

    Were Tracey and Decker unstable? Well look at their circumstances. Both men had their entire worlds shattered when hundreds of men and women under their command died horribly from errors in judgement. Would Kirk have done any better? Would anyone? They didn't become unstable because it was already in them to be so, but much more likely because of a life shattering event that messed up their entire life perspective. And in both cases they were looking for a way out. Tracey saw discovering a supposed elixir of eternal life as some sort of exoneration for loosing his entire crew. Decker saw the sacrifice of his own life as the only way to make up for his errors in judgement.

    Much is made of Uhura once admitting she was afraid. More specifically she says she was frightened. So what? Ask anyone who has seen action in service or faced a dangerous situation if they've ever been afraid. Only a lying jackass would claim to have never been afraid. Experiencing fear is not a personal failing. Admitting fear is not a personal failing. Being paralyzed by fear could be seen as a failing depending on individual circumstance. For an individual in military service or as a doctor or fireman or police officer then being frozen by fear could be a problem. But we never see Uhura paralyzed by fear. She may be afraid and even privately admit she's afraid, but never did we see it paralyze her. That is the distinction of an individual who can persevere in the face of danger and fear. Besides didn't we once here Kirk say "We're all frightened" to Janice Rand in "Miri"?

    A real capper for this story would have been for us to see Lester being transfered to another starship for transport to starbase and to see the Captain of that ship was a woman.

    The stigma of women being perceived as inherently unstable and erratic is (or should be) past. TOS itself argues it's past by showing us women in positions of authority. The fact that one individual woman is shown as extremely unstable and erratic doesn't sufficiently argue that Starfleet sees all women being intrinsically that way.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    On a factual level, you're right. But I do think there's a subtext in "Turnabout" that the feminine mindset is temperamentally ill-suited for command. I think the idea at the time was that some women could adopt traditionally masculine roles, but only if they were sufficiently masculine in their personalities. Recall Pike saying he couldn't get used to having a woman on the bridge, but Number One was "different." You see the same undercurrent in a lot of '60s and '70s shows, where you do see career women succeeding in normally male roles, but usually by being stoic and tough and asexual, and being torn between their careers and the lure of embracing their feminine side and falling in love and quitting their jobs to get married.

    So if there was an unifying theory underlying TOS as a whole, it wasn't that women were formally forbidden from command; it was that command was an atypical role for a woman and required a more masculine temperament than most women were believed capable of. So Janice Lester failed because she had the wrong temperament, yes, but the underlying assumption in the script was that she had that temperament because she was too feminine, too prone to "hysteria" and lacking in emotional discipline. She didn't have the "mannish" qualities that allowed someone like Number One to be "different" from most women.

    So I think that both sides in this debate are right to an extent. Yes, there were sexist assumptions underlying the script, but no, they don't represent a literal ban on female commanding officers. They just meant that female captains would've been rare outliers, that femininity was seen as a handicap that only an exceptional woman could overcome.
     
  10. Chemahkuu

    Chemahkuu Admiral Admiral

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    Storming Heaven has the Endeavour captained by a woman and serving roughly the same 5 year mission duration as the Enterprise as of TOS.

    We know of only half the Constitution Class ships nevermind the rest of the fleet, and we only get their names in passing, not the names of the Captains so it's entirely likely there were others.

    One badly written episode of one series hinging on the testimony of a sectionable homicidal lunatic should not determine anything for an entire century of the franchise's internal history.
     
  11. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    And this could serve as an anology for today as well where certain fields might be predisposed to view women in authority cynically because it's rare but not that it's impossible or not allowed. I know a few individual men personally who hold this view despite being the same age I am and despite lots of evidence to the contrary. Their thinking goes, "If women were suited for authority we'd see more of them." But that sidesteps the fact that not all women (or men) will persevere to get into a field or position already predominated by a given gender.

    Bias has a way of persisting even in the face of law overriding it. Pike, for all his qualities, might never have served directly under a female commander or had many women in rank positions around him and hence has a small bias against women (or perhaps certain women) in his crew. He could also be picking up on Yeoman Colt's attraction to him and her obvious awkwardness which irks his sense of professionalism compounded by some element of his own attraction to her. Mind you "The Cage" itself is inconsistent---Pike says he's not used to having a women on the bridge even though Number One is right there as second-in-command and later we see a woman manning one of the bridge stations. From our contemporary perspective this is sloppy writing, but that mighn't have been so apparent back when "The Cage" was written and filmed.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Right, that's my point. The assumption at the time was that a woman had to be "different" from the feminine norm, to be essentially asexual, in order to fulfill a traditionally male role.

    Again, though, I'm talking about the real-world assumptions of the people writing the scripts. It doesn't have to shape our interpretation of the underlying "reality" of the 23rd-century Federation. We can ignore the sexism just like we ignore the special-effects errors and the papier-mache boulders and the obvious stunt doubles -- they're artifacts of 1960s production rather than integral parts of the fictional world being simulated.
     
  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Well said.

    We also tend to hew to our own biases. Our heroes are supposedly fearless and generally stoic. But look at the diversity of men in positions of authority. Yes, they can make the hard decisions, but they can also be witty and playful and cantankerous and obnoxious and all sorts of other things. Haven't we ever seen Kirk or Spock or McCoy or Scotty afraid? Sure we have, but it never paralyzed them or undermined their ability to do persevere and do what they needed to do.

    Indeed Kirk seems to be a more well rounded individual than Pike when it comes to women in his crew. Kirk's interactions with Janice Rand (even with the situation being somewhat similar to the Pike/Colt circumstance) are different. Part of that is Kirk and part of it is Rand's behaviour. Rand doesn't get awkward or flustered around Kirk except for two brief instances. One is when they all think they might not make it in the face of the first Romulan salvo in "Balance Of Terror." The other is when Rand has a weak moment in "Miri." And in neither case does Kirk chastise her for it.

    Part of what makes Kirk such a cool character (and rather credible) is us being able to see the different facets of his character. Yeah, he's brave and heroic and resourceful and a quick thinker and all that. But he also has a sense of humour and can tease and be impulsive and all sorts of other things. He's not a one-dimensional or even two-dimensional character. He's fleshed out. And this can be inspirational to his crew because they can see they are led by a genuine person and not an unfeeling asshiole. He's accessible to his crew just as he's accessible to us a character. And this mimics real life examples I think all of us can cite.

    I have had women as superiors like many if not most of us have. I never saw one of them have their femininity as a problem to their authority. And only one do I recall trying to overcompensate by being something of a hardass. The rest were able to let their individual qualities come through without losing respect or authority. Being tough doesn't mean being insensitive or unfeeling. Being tough is being able to persevere in the face of difficulty and adversity.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But that's a modern perspective. I'm talking about the assumptions that TV writers living in the 1960s would've held, assumptions that we've now outgrown. As I've said before in this thread, gender equality has advanced so far in the past 40-50 years that what seemed like a progressive attitude toward women by '60s standards looks sexist to modern eyes. We can't understand the mentality of TOS's writers unless we realize how much the goalposts have shifted.
     
  15. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    All this is rather amusing in light of Lucille Ball owning and running Desilu Studios in the era where male chauvanism was so blatant in society. :lol:
     
  16. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    True. But as you have said we don't have to let that taint our view of TOS' fictional universe which itself leans to fitting our more contemporary perspective.

    Individual experience counts for a lot. I started watching TOS when I was 11 in 1970. Since day one it never occured to me that women could not command a starship. I did see some examples of male chauvanism in real life in the '70s and '80s, but society had already begun to evolve and it didn't come across as blatant and rampant as it must have been when TOS was in production. I was inclined to be more open minded unless proven otherwise about people's motives. More recently I have seen more blatant sexism in action even if it was played mostly under the radar so to speak. At first I couldn't believe I was seeing such an attitude from men I actually thought were more well rounded. It taught that what these men had learned was they couldn't be obvious in their sexism and had learned to be more subtle about it. I saw them try to hinder the advancement of two particular individual women simply because they were women and having nothing to to with their qualifications and abilities. These guys simply believed women were not suited for management. And this despite numerous women already being in management positions throughout the company nation wide.

    Now if I had spent my formative years in the '40s or '50s or '60s then maybe I might have had a different perspective. I also benefitted from having parents who didn't teach us that women could do only certain things. My mother was generally stay-at-home, but my father never treated her like a second class person. I've also never really experienced a female supervisor who was generally incompetent so I have no real basis to generalize and say all women could likely be the same.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Right. I didn't realize the chauvinist subtext of "Turnabout Intruder" until, oh, the past decade or two. It never occurred to me when I watched the episode growing up. Now I can't unsee it, but it took me a long time to realize it was there. So it's not really a blatant or unambiguous element of the story.
     
  18. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I've known people discussing this for a long time, and while I can see why they might think it obvious to me it just isn't as blatant as some make it out to be.
     
  19. borgboy

    borgboy Commodore Commodore

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    I guess that's a difference in perspective and pov. The sexism seems pretty obvious to me, but I do largely forgive it as being part of it's era. Much in the same way I'm still very frustrated that new Trek and even Enterprise never bothered to have a real gay character, but I had no expectation that TOS would.
     
  20. Hazel

    Hazel Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Enterprise was the perfect time to finally have a character who happened to be gay. It started to become a bit ridiculous how almost no sci-fi shows of their era had gay people in the cast of characters (BSG, I'm looking at you. One lesbian and a character who only had a personal life in webisodes were not enough)