Star Trek Into Darkness: Where Did All The Strong Starfleet Women Go?

uhura-originalStar Trek has always been about achieving your fullest potential no matter your race, gender, creed, or pointiness of ears. Which is why the utter lack of strong women in Star Trek Into Darkness is a slap in the face to all the outstanding female Star Trek characters we’ve met over the years.

Spoiler alert, Captain!

We like Star Trek because it has strong women. Gene Roddenberry’s original pilot had one of the series’ strongest women in Number One, its first officer. Although this was too much in the 1960s for chauvinistic network execs, the series slipped one over with Uhura, whose short skirt belied her intelligence, wit, and talent.

That’s why I’m saddened to see Nu-Uhura reduced to lip quivering and teary eyes as her primary means of communication. In STID she exists solely to express Spock’s emotions for him, so we can see he is a Deeply Troubled Vulcan.

STID-uhuraHer one big chance to shine is when she says, “You brought me here to speak Klingon, so let me speak Klingon.” I’m waiting for her to grab a phaser, because isn’t that how you speak Klingon? No, she’s going to talk to them and offer help. From what I understand, in most Klingon provinces that gets you quickly dead. This scene could have been full of an awesome Uhura kicking some serious ass while still using her brains and her linguistic skills. Instead she acts like it’s her first day on the job.

Even worse, however, is Carol Marcus. In one stroke of a misguided scriptwriter’s pen, this woman has gone from scientific powerhouse to Daddy’s little girl whose only role is to scream as if she’s in a 1950s B-movie.

twok-carol-marcusThe original Carol Marcus battled the Federation and Starfleet for control of her research project. Her team was so dedicated that they willingly underwent Khan’s torture so she could escape with the Genesis Device. (The original suave creepy Khan, not the “I’m too sexy for my coat” Nu-Khan.) She was not a woman to take crap from anybody, least of all Jim Kirk.

STID-carolThis Carol Marcus is supposedly an advanced weapons scientist, but for an advanced weapons scientist she sure doesn’t seem to know much about fighting, or tactics, or… well, much of anything other than how to keep her blonde hair looking perfect in the lens flare. She spends the pivotal moments of the movie either screaming or whining at her Daddy about what a meanypants he is. Or displaying her underwear. Can you picture Bibi Besch doing this?

Didn’t Dr. Marcus go to Starfleet? Don’t they have training on things like torture and not letting a little ol’ shattered kneecap get you down? And why is she helping McCoy at the end? I thought she was an advanced weapons scientist, not a medical doctor. Or is her only function at this point to pass test tubes to McCoy and tell him how brilliant he is, as Jo Grant once described her role as the Third Doctor’s assistant?

(Although… it would have been hilarious to have Uhura and Carol kidnapped by transporter while Quinto’s Spock yells: “THE WOMEN!!!!”)

To me, Uhura and Carol Marcus were the biggest disappointments in this movie. They could have been so much better and instead they were relegated to stereotypical, subordinate roles. What happened to the Starfleet of the future, where women like Janeway and Kira kick as much ass as the men?

This is not a Starfleet that will develop a Borg Queen-defeating Janeway. She’ll be designated some desk job at Starfleet HQ where her talents are wasted while lesser officers are promoted simply for being male. That is the universe we saw in Star Trek Into Darkness: a projection of today’s rampant misogyny codified by girls who sob or scream for help instead of relying on their own talents.

The amusing one-liners, the original series shout-outs, and the special effects weren’t enough for me to like this movie, and I have been to every Trek premiere since Trek IV. I went into STID wanting to like it. I enjoyed the first one, even though I wasn’t happy with some of the directions it took, because at least it was different and didn’t simply copy the original. And, for the first three-fourths of Star Trek Into Darkness, I thought, optimistically, that we would get more of that. Instead it degenerated into a wild-eyed mess that wasn’t even worthy of a second-season TNG montage episode.

Do better, Star Trek. As T’Pol told Hoshi, you’re capable of it.


Fake Geek Girls? You Think Women WANT This Job?

Apparently the science fiction community is being flooded – FLOODED, I TELL YOU – by fake geek girls: women with insufficient geek cred who are only pretending to be geeks for the attention.

Say what? Being a female geek is a tough job thanks to the cretins who are put out that female geeks won’t, well, put out. Do you really think it’s likely that women are going to volunteer for this?

Do you think women are lining up waiting for their big chance to struggle with an uphill career? Face sexual harassment at cons? Get stalked online? Be treated like a maidservant or a cuddlebunny or an NPC instead of a peer of equal knowledge and experience?

Women aren’t supposed to be able to fix computers or name all 79 original episodes of Star Trek. It goes against the natural order of geekdom. The genre that prides itself in being “strange and unusual” thinks it’s too strange and unusual to include women.

What’s interesting is how certain levels of female geekdom, over time, have become reluctantly tolerated. I can remember when being a female Doctor Who fan was considered weird. Today, girls are allowed to be Whovians because it’s assumed they’re only doing so to watch David Tennant’s rear. (Clearly ridiculous. We’re ALL in it to watch David Tennant’s rear. Matt Smith’s, too.)

Similarly, girls are permitted to like comic books, but only if they emit the pre-requisite cooing over Loki and dress in provocative superhero cosplay for the benefit of the men around them.

As a geek woman, I like what I like and it just so happens that most of it is geeky. I didn’t start reading Hitchhiker’s Guide so I could impress my boyfriend. I haven’t spent 20+ years in technology because Windows is soooo cute when it crashes.

The idea that women would willingly subject themselves to the misogynistic crap that comes standard with female geekdom seems unlikely at best. Somehow I can’t picture a woman secretly fine-tuning her knowledge of python or Cerebus just so she can bask in the attention. Because the attention she’s likely to get is going to be negative – “You can’t like that, it’s for GUYS!”

Most female geeks I’ve met don’t want male geeks to know the extent of their geekdom. They hide it, because once people find out you’re a female geek, you’re never good enough.

Like when a male geek finds out that you, a female geek, like something he likes. Then you get subjected to the big interrogation – Which episode did this happen in? Who guest starred in season 2? How many spaceships are in the background in such-and-such scene? You have to prove that you REALLY know your geek in order to be accepted as a geek, and even then you’re never truly accepted.

It’s the same in IT. Women in technology are constantly having to prove we know our stuff even better than the men do. Yet we still have to put up with the doubt expressed by those around us: Why are you here? What makes you think you belong?

Geekdom is the love of something you’ve found, the adoration that makes you cry out to everyone around you, “YES! This is an AWESOME THING and you must experience it!” Why is that okay for men and not for women? And why are female geeks so threatening that some feel the need to invent the idea of “fake geek girls” so that any women who claim geekdom can be readily dismissed as Not Geek Enough?

Here are some blogs from people who are talking about fake geek girl syndrome and what it represents. Food for thought.

What do you think of the fake geek girl phenomenon?

image via I Can Haz Cheezburger

Women In Tech: Microsoft Is Just For Men, Plus Girls In Short Skirts FOR SCIENCE!

After the fallout from Dell’s misogynistic gaffe at a recent conference, you would think people would have figured out that alienating women in technology is a Bad Idea. But you would be so very wrong.

First we have Microsoft’s decision to join Dell in the 19th Century. A presentation in Norway on Windows Azure included the “Azure Girls” in a fabulous dance number while music blares: “I’ve got the skills to impress / I’m a computer genius / The words ‘Micro’ and ‘Soft’ don’t apply to my penis.”

Seriously, boys? I first heard that joke in third grade, and that’s where it should have stayed.

(The lyrics on the screen flashed “or vagina” as the lyrics were sung, which neither makes sense nor mitigates the offense – although it’s a good thing the conference took place in Norway because THAT sort of language would NEVER be allowed in places like Michigan.)

Is this how Microsoft wishes to advertise itself? Well then, as a woman in technology, I have some constructive criticism for them. Let’s consider the uproar over forcing people into Windows 8’s annoying Metro interface. Let’s consider the lackadaisical response to the Surface tablet announcement. Let’s discuss the Microsoft malaise that has entered the general consciousness.

Instead of coming up with penis jokes, I suggest they focus on business.

If that’s not enough misogynistic mayhem for you, there’s the EU’s ad campaign for teenage girls: “Science It’s A Girl Thing!” Because all girls like lipstick, so the way to get them to like science is to add more lipstick. And I always wear my stilettos when I’m in the server room.

Why is it that anything marketed toward females has to be cute, pink, fuzzy, and dumbed down? This ad campaign only reinforces the notion that to succeed a girl must have a supermodel figure, wear the latest fashions, and hide her intelligence.

To deliver a response, I would like to get together a diplomatic team consisting of Dr. Samantha Carter, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Dr. Moira MacTaggart, and Dr. Liz Shaw (the original, thank you). No short skirts here, but a hell of a lot more brain cells than the people who came up with these ideas.

Why do these incidents continue? Because the women who manage to pursue careers in science and technology are not permitted to sit at the table when decisions are made. I’ll bet there were few females present, if any, when Dell decided on an offensive emcee for their Copenhagen conference, when Microsoft developed the idea of “Azure Girls”, when the EU wrote the campaign for “Science It’s A Girl Thing”.

And that’s the crux of the problem. You can’t get women involved unless you get women involved.

Until women are accepted as equals in fields like technology and science, until they have a say in what happens in the boardroom, the glass ceiling will remain firmly affixed and girls of the future will be expected to find the right shade of lipstick to go with their Bunsen burners.

I’m A Mom. I’m A Blogger. I Am NOT A “Mommy Blogger.”

I saw a tweet recently that set me off like an explosion on MythBusters:

“New Job: Hiring Mommy Bloggers”

It’s not the first time I’ve seen the phrase. The term “mommy blogger” is common – and offensive.

Like “work-at-home mom,” the phrase “mommy blogger” makes all women bloggers sound like part-timers who are only knowledgeable about mom-related things like organic baby food. As it happens I am knowledgeable about organic baby food, having made my own when my kids were little. But that doesn’t mean it’s all I know, nor that my brain suddenly got scooped out of my head the moment my kids were born.

“Mommy blogger” implies that you’re not a paid professional, or if you are paid it’s in diapers and coupons. It’s the 21st Century version of Tupperware. People see it as something for housewives to do to earn a little extra spending money while their husbands have real careers. It’s not a real job, it’s moonlighting.

Except this IS the 21st Century, and plenty of women are earning their livings online: bloggers, freelancers, web designers, programmers. Yes, there are female programmers, and we don’t call them “mommy programmers” regardless of parturition status. These women are capable and highly skilled. To dismiss them as “mommy” anything diminishes them as professionals.

(And while we’re at it, all those women selling Tupperware and Pampered Chef and scented candles? I’ve met plenty of them and guess what? They’re professional about their jobs, too.)

I’m a writer and IT specialist. One of my blogs is about technology and social media. Another one, this one, is about writing fantasy and science fiction. Not exactly topics that come to mind when using the term “mommy blogger,” yet my decades of professional experience are dismissed by those two little words merely because I happen to be Blogging While Female.

As far as I’m concerned, even if you’re literally blogging about being a mom, you’re still not a “mommy blogger” because of the negative connotations. Some have embraced the term “mommy blogger” in an attempt to redefine it in a positive way. I’m familiar with that, because my other other blog is about adoption. No, not adopting children, BEING adopted, as in adult adoptee. We bastards know a thing or two about redefining offensive terms. Nevertheless, I can’t find it within myself to embrace “mommy blogger.” It stirs memory of every hardship I’ve ever had as a female in a predominantly male industry. In short, it makes me go all Captain Janeway. And we know what happens when you go all Captain Janeway (if you don’t, ask the Borg Queen).

The problem is painfully obvious if you visit freelance job sites, especially those advertising to “Work At Home MOMS!” The jobs are lousy and the pay is slim if any. I’ve seen tons of writing gigs where you’re asked to write your fingers off for pennies a word and “promotion on our site.” Of course these sites are happy to con both men and women; getting ripped off is not exclusive. Even so, the advertising seems disproportionally targeted toward women, moms in particular.

And we don’t see the reverse assumption towards men. Men blog. Women are “mommy bloggers.” Men go to freelance job boards. Women go to boards for Work At Home MOMS! You can’t just be a blogger or a freelancer who happens to be female. Is it any wonder we are often paid less for the same jobs?

As a female person of the professional blogging persuasion, I’m offended. What do you think? Does the term “mommy blogger” offend you? Why or why not?


How Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Was Beaten By The Chicago Cubs

This is a rant that’s been brewing for nearly two decades. Dear Tribune Company: WTF were you thinking by pre-empting Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for Chicago Cubs games?!

Yes, I get the politics. The Tribune owns the Cubs and DS9 was aired on the Tribune’s TV station, WGN-9. Meaning that every time there was a Cubs game it was a near-certainty that DS9 would get pre-empted. Actually it was worse than pre-emption, because they always jumped into DS9 episodes “already in progress,” sometimes by a half hour or more. That’s enough to make any fan madder than a pack of rabid Cardassian voles.

Thus was DS9 completely ruined for me. I enjoyed the first couple of seasons but once the pre-emption started, I simply gave up. This was in the days before DVRs and Netflix, and syndication was years away, so it wasn’t like you were going to be able to watch it later. Sometimes they’d re-air that day’s episode late at night… but it was never on the schedule and seemed to be a last-minute decision. I wasn’t about to stay up all weekend long to see if they might deign to do so.

Such a shame, too, because there was a lot of good stuff in DS9 that I quite enjoyed once I had a chance to watch it properly. Like Far Beyond The Stars, which as far as I’m concerned is one of the best stories ever, not just in Star Trek but in science fiction as a whole. The pilot episode Emissary is also notable for the kickass way a grieving Sisko lashes out at Picard, whom he views as the reason for his wife’s death during the battle against the Borg at Wolf 359. Many fans felt it was about time somebody gave Picard attitude, and Avery Brooks delivered in spades. I would totally have him at the negotiating table over Picard. None of this diplomatic bullshit, no sir.

It’s ironic that baseball was the cause of DS9’s Chicagoland pre-emption given the role baseball played in the series itself. Eventually I got caught up via re-runs, but it was never the same. At least Voyager was on Wednesday nights and wasn’t likely to be interrupted by wrestling (not until Tsunkatse, at any rate). To this day DS9 remains my least favorite Trek. I’m not sure if I liked the Voyager (and later Enterprise) crews better, or if the continual disruptions of DS9 left a bad taste in my mouth.


Ten Reasons I Still Love… Star Trek: Enterprise

Voyager might be seen as Star Trek’s redheaded stepchild, but Enterprise is its bastard offspring. If Trek fandom could force Enterprise to take the black and go to the Wall it would. Never have I seen a Trek show so dissed by fans, and I suffered the indignity of seven years as a die-hard Voyager enthusiast who never went anywhere on Wednesday nights.

Enterprise deserved better ratings than it received. The crew had good chemistry, the episodes were well-written, and the exploration of Starfleet’s early days made for interesting watching. Here’s why Enterprise has an important spot on my shelf.

Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer
As a Quantum Leap fan, hearing that Scott Bakula was going to captain the next Star Trek was like being told they were going to bring back Doctor Who. (Wouldn’t that be cool?) I’m just sorry we never got to hear him sing.

The Enterprise NX-01
It’s a sweet little ship. No wonder Archer stole it from Starfleet and took it for a bit of a joyride (just to prove a point, mind). Trip Tucker will scold me if I don’t mention that the NX-01 has the first Warp Five engine, designed by Archer’s father. Just don’t stay at top speed too long. It’s very much like Microsoft system requirements: technically it’s a Warp Five engine, but you really don’t want to go above four point nine.

How can you not love Shran? He’s blue. He’s Andorian. He’s Jeffrey Combs, for pity’s sake. Cut off his antenna and it only makes him more cynical. His blood runs cold and his weapons run hot, and he doesn’t have much tolerance for pink-skins.

New beginnings
No holodeck. No replicator. The captain doesn’t even have a swimming pool to play water polo. But we get to see Hoshi invent the Universal Translator and Phlox discover medical breakthroughs that will affect Treks to come. It’s nice to see how it all starts, especially the interactions between original alien races like the Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites.

The intro
Why does everyone hate the Enterprise opening credits? It’s a montage of important figures and events in space history (including a few fictional ones as segue into the Star Trek universe). Considering what real-life people go through in the name of space exploration, the least you can do is sit there and offer a moment of silence on their behalf. </rant>

Honorable mention: Gary Graham as Vulcan Ambassador Soval. After Alien Nation I kept expecting him to shout and pound on things.

Plus, five don’t-miss Enterprise episodes:

Terra Nova
The Enterprise discovers a long-lost Earth colony, where the inhabitants have forgotten they’re human. A good early episode that gives us a chance to get to know the crew, plus intriguing backstory about the Novans and their colony.

The Andorian Incident
This early episode, in which Archer, T’Pol and Trip are held hostage by Andorians at a Vulcan monastery, exemplifies a lot of what makes Enterprise worthwhile. We’ve got some nice interactions between our three top officers, quick-thinking military maneuvers by Reed, and sulky, sneaky Vulcans sparring with uptight, gun-wielding Andorians. And we get to meet Shran for the first time.

Shuttlepod One
“The universe can giggle all it wants, but it’s not getting any of our bourbon.” Trip and Reed end up trapped in a shuttlepod and running out of air, after believing the Enterprise destroyed. So much fun you’ll forget it’s The Galileo Seven without bothering to file off the serial numbers.

The Enterprise encounters their own ship from seventy years in the future, now crewed by descendants who are determined to help them prevent the Xindi from destroying Earth. Timey-wimey episodes are always fun and this one has a lot going for it, especially the fabulous acting by David Andrews as Lorian.

Babel One/United/The Aenar (Okay, so that’s three episodes counted as one.)
Andorians! Tellarites! Romulan drone ships! The beginnings of the Federation, plus plenty of screen time for our man Shran.

Honorable Mentions:
Shadows Of P’Jem, Fusion, Minefield, Regeneration, First Flight, Twilight, North Star, Home, The Forge/Awakening/Kir’Shara

Somebody out there owes us three more seasons of Enterprise to bring it up to the Trek standard of seven. I want to find out how Travis Mayweather’s family is doing, if Hoshi’s students miss her, if Trip and T’Pol are ever going to end up with a halfway normal relationship. (Yeah, I know, never mind the final episode or the retcon in the novels.) Enterprise may be underappreciated but I suspect that, like the original series, it will become more popular over time.

Meanwhile, we Enterprise fans will be here, enjoying our chamomile tea and Chilean sea bass. Drinks at the 602 Club? Be sure to ask for Ruby.