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

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

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    But not all TOS episodes were written by the same people with the same sensibilities. Shows weren't staff-driven back then so they could represent a multiplicity of voices and attitudes, even with a producer like Roddenberry rewriting most of the scripts himself. For instance, Kirk was often less successful in his seductions in episodes written by women -- e.g. "By Any Other Name" (co-scripted by Fontana), wherein Kelinda is more amused by his seduction than overcome by it and ends up becoming the aggressor with her own preferred boy-toy Rojan, or "Is There in Truth No Beauty?" (by Jean Lisette Aroeste), where his attempt to seduce/distract Miranda bombed completely.

    But Roddenberry was responsible for not only "Turnabout Intruder," but the story behind "Mudd's Women," an episode which implies that women have no prospects in life at all beyond being wives or sex objects (despite Uhura's token presence, the male crewmembers act as if they rarely see women on the ship, in keeping with decades of military and space-show cliches). And he co-wrote "Bread and Circuses," in which Kirk raises only a token objection to spending the night with a sex slave. Some TOS episodes are more sexist than others, but the very worst examples all seem to be in episodes with Roddenberry's name on them.

    Which, really, is strange, considering how willing Roddenberry was to give Dorothy Fontana a prominent role in the show, a role that's no doubt largely responsible for the more positive portrayals of women we got. He also cowrote his Planet Earth pilot with Juanita Bartlett, which is a good thing, since I think her perspective helped the story dodge a lot of sexist pitfalls. I don't think Roddenberry was consciously sexist; I think he really believed he held a progressive view toward women and their equality. But he had a lot of strongly gendered attitudes and assumptions that I don't think he could entirely see past. Which isn't surprising for a man of his generation, living in that decade, so he can't really be blamed for it. He tried to be progressive, but he wasn't nearly as progressive as he probably believed he was.
     
  2. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    As far as I'm concerned TOS never spelled out that women couldn't command so I choose to accept that they could because it's not contradicted otherwise.

    People holding contradictory views in terms of equality is nothing new and still exists today. And I know at least two individuals personally exactly like that.
     
  3. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I don't see how Number One can be interpreted any other way. She was the second-in-command, and took actual command, therefore she was qualified in all respects, including gender, for command. What is the alternative, that a female second-in-command has to give way to the next-ranking male to fill in for the captain? That's ridiculous.

    But as Christopher said, the show was not made by a single author, and different writers brought different interpretations which could dilute and even contradict other aspects of the production. But personally I give the example of Number One greater weight than other issues that may contradict it.
     
  4. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    And that's the thing. There's nothing to specifically say a woman can't be in command.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    We're talking past each other, discussing two separate issues. Of course I agree completely, as I have already said, that it's best to interpret TOS's conjectural universe as one that allows female captains. That is not even in dispute as far as I'm concerned. But I'm talking about a different issue, which is not about the overall hypothetical universe of the 2260s Federation, but about the creative process and intent behind the writing of specific individual scripts for the 1960s television series named Star Trek. We can certainly, gladly disregard the sexist authorial intentions behind "Turnabout Intruder," but there is no doubt in my mind that the intentions were there -- not in the series as a whole, but definitely in that particular teleplay.
     
  6. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "It's just that I can't get used to having a woman on the bridge. No offense, lieutenant...you're different, of course."

    Even Number One is presented as an exception, not the rule.
     
  7. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    On that point then I want to see a memo or firsthand account or some other documentation that establishes the TOS staff saying, "We won't show any women in command positions." I want to see someone's story outline proposing a female command rank character and then having it shot down.

    Basically I want to know if the idea was even pitched or it just never occurred to anyone including D.C. Fontana. Seems strange to me because it seems exactly the sort of thing Fontana would have liked to see happen.
     
  8. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It wouldn't have been worth a memo in those days. This was pre-women's lib...the secondary status of women was thoroughly ingrained in our culture. As Christopher has been distinguishing, while the show may take place in the 23rd century, it was very much a product of the mid-20th.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Again: I am not arguing with you on this point. I am not arguing with you at all, so please stop trying to manufacture an argument. I am not saying one damn thing about the policy of the series as a whole. I am talking about the script for "Turnabout Intruder." I am talking about one episode. I am saying that one of the reasons "Turnabout Intruder" is such a crappy episode is because of the gender condescension that pervades it, more than in the series as a whole. That's not about Star Trek. It's about episode 79 of Star Trek, and how it (along with "Mudd's Women" and some other bits here and there) fails to live up to the standards of the rest of the series on the issue of gender portrayals.
     
  10. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    We are then coming to the same point. The idea was so ingrained that no one even thought of it or bothered to pitch the idea? Not even D.C. Fontana?

    That may well be yet fortunately that sentiment never got conveyed in a blatantly apparent manner.

    I'm not trying to manufacture an argument. I'm trying to clarify that a sexist mindset that did indeed exist at time was not blatantly conveyed in the fictional universe portrayed onscreen. It simply would have been nice, though, if they had taken even just one opportunity to put the issue to rest as they had with the one time character of Commodore Stone and the other command rank characters seen briefly in "Court Martial" (Stone, Kraznowsky, Chandra) and "The Menagerie" (Mendez).

    On the flip side it's just as well the characters of Matt Decker, Ron Tracey and Commodore Stocker were not written as women or that could have simply fuelled the argument opined by Janice Lester. But Admiral Komack, Admiral Fitzpatrick, Commodore Wesley or either Captains Kraznowsky or Chandra could have been protrayed by a woman. Hell, the latter two mentioned didn't even have speaking parts, but that wouldn't have mattered in establishing the fact.
     
  11. The Old Mixer

    The Old Mixer Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^It's pretty blatantly conveyed in the Pike quote that I posted earlier. He considered it remarkable to even have a woman on the bridge, never mind in a command position...and then specified that Number One was an exception...not unlike a half-Vulcanian science officer, I guess....
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    As I said, you have to consider the context of the times. Having women on the ship at all was a major step forward. But there were limits that '60s writers and audiences weren't ready to cross yet, for the most part. Progress comes one step at a time, not all at once.

    It reflects what was going on in society at large around those times. The idea of women in the workforce was becoming more acceptable, but it was still assumed that it was the purview of single women, and that they'd give up their careers when they got married (an unquestioned assumption we see reflected in McCoy's lines about Carolyn Palamas). In The Avengers, Mrs. Peel was an accomplished secret agent as a presumed widower, an icon of female empowerment for her time, but in her final episode, her husband turned up alive and she gave up the spy game to go back to being a housewife, just like that, no questions asked. It was just a given that that was what a married woman did.

    And by the same token, TOS could be progressive enough to include women on the ship, but not enough to put them in command positions. They could be portrayed as partners or subordinates of male officers but not superiors -- not unless they were exotic Others like Romulan commanders. Not because there was some formal policy statement against it, but just because it didn't occur to them. There were assumptions they made that we question when we look back on them, but that doesn't mean they questioned them. Maybe they didn't consciously object to the idea of women in command, but it didn't really occur to them to try it either.

    It's a lot like the non-portrayal of gays in TNG and after. Roddenberry made noises about how it was "time" to acknowledge that gay people existed in the Federation, and there was never any formal policy against it, but the producers were just never strongly enough motivated to depict it, and made excuses for avoiding it.

    So no, there's not going to be some smoking-gun memo formalizing the glass ceiling. That's not the sort of thing it was. It was more a sin of omission, a failure to look beyond certain preconceptions.
     
  13. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's interesting to consider that in TOS was there ever an occasion where a woman gave an order to a man on the Enterprise? I remember Rand tried to in 'Naked Time' or maybe she was trying to stop men sexually harrassing her.

    I got the impression that Charlene Masters was in charge of the guys in her section (even though she didn't have the Lt bands on her uniform).

    I watched TOS for the first time in the 70s and you sort of accepted the type of sexism that was in it them. At least they had some women aboard and some of them weren't secretaries, some were scientists, doctors and even Captains or First Officers (if you count aliens like Mara and the Romulan Commander).

    Now I look back and choose to think they did have women captains and command crew - that we just didn't see them. LOL. At least the dialog in TOS didn't rule it out completely.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Actually she just stood there ineffectually and had to beg Spock to order the crewman to leave her alone -- which didn't last long.

    Keep in mind, this is the same Janice Rand who, in "The Enemy Within," seemed to take the position that the captain was entitled to sexually harass her if he really wanted to.


    Indeed; when she invited a male subordinate to have coffee, he joked, "Is that an order?"


    Mara was Kang's science officer. TOS fans tend to fall into the habit of assuming that science officer and first officer are the same post, but that's not usually the case.

    And TAS, which was set during the same 5-year mission, did have Uhura command the bridge a couple of times, though only when the menfolk were incapacitated or unavailable.
     
  15. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I suppose she could have been FO but it was probably unlikely.

    Still she did boss Klingon men around and that was something lacking from the rest of TOS.

    I remember in TOS there were quite a few alien species ruled by women. Maybe its only Earth type cultures who are sexist in the future of TOS :lol:

    And of course you have Vulcans with TPau and yet Amanda 'obeys' her husband and TPring becomes the property of the victor.
    Sorry strayed off topic a bit there.
     
  16. TOSalltheway

    TOSalltheway Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I don't believe that her statement is proof that there are no female starship captains. First she is mentally ill and feeling persecuted. She said something like the world of starship captains doenst allow women.

    That could mean there are very few female captains. More importantly it could mean that "I" didn't make it so it is naturally systemic discrimination.
     
  17. Alidar Jarok

    Alidar Jarok Everything in moderation but moderation Moderator

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    I don't think Dorothy Fontana would have felt she was in a position to rock the boat and bring up things like this. In a way, she was in a somewhat precarious position too and had to establish that female writers are just part of the same club (a reputation for feminism probably wouldn't go over well in a writer's room in the 1960s). BTW, does anyone know if her decision to be credited as D.C. had anything to do with downplaying her gender?

    Well, I would consider Mudd's Women and Turnabout Intruder to be pretty blatantly sexist. However, if the argument is they had ingrained, subconscious sexism, it isn't something you would expect to find blatantly, just in subtle ways.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think that trying to codify the discussion in terms of whether things were made blatant or overtly fought for or whatever is missing the point. Ingrained discrimination isn't blatant. It's something that people take so much for granted that the question doesn't even occur to them. Often it's the unexamined prejudices that hold people back, even more than the acknowledged ones. For instance, TOS challenged one set of gender preconceptions by having women included on the crew of a military vessel in the future, but left a different set of gender preconceptions unchallenged by having those women mostly limited to conventional roles like nurse, operator, secretary, and the like (plus the occasional pretty scientist who was really just there to be a love interest). They just couldn't see far enough ahead of their own cultural status quo to recognize that those assumptions would come to be challenged later on as well as the others.
     
  19. Darkwing

    Darkwing Commodore Commodore

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    /\ Or thought that they were far enough out on a limb as it was, and didn't want to take on more challenges...
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That too. Historically, overcoming prejudice has had to be done with baby steps; push too far and you provoke a backlash.
     

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