My defense of my favorite meme.
July 4, 2012 Leave a comment
So I found this meme on Geroge Takei’s facebook (which is one of the most hilarious places for a nerd to go on the internet, btw.):
I liked it, shared it. Ya know, all the fun facebooky things that you do when something that is both funny and self-affirming. But then again I read the comments (why don’t I ever learn my lesson!) and found that some people thought of this meme as slut shaming and body policing because the particular female characters chosen on the sci-fi side are more clothed. But, when I read these comments, I wondered how much those who were critiquing it actually knew about these characters. I’ll admit, I don’t know everything about all of them (I could never get into Farscape), and they left out most of my favorite characters (Deanna Troi, Scully, Ripley). One blogger also commented about how Female Role models had to be perfect, untouched, and the like or be shamed like the Pop culture icons featured.
To this I have to completely disagree. I admit, I really don’t know much about pop culture. I suck at it because I don’t care. What I do know about most pop culture female icons (again completely generalizing, there are many who could be awesome) is that they are highly attention seeking. Characters in pop culture generally are insecure, dependent and submissive to authority figures (almost always men), while being relationally aggressive toward other women. I don’t completely hate on pop culture. I have an obsession with Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl, mostly because of how obvious these themes are, especially the relational aggression.
*I will give Kat Von D credit, she is an intelligent business woman and an excellent tattoo artist. I have no hate for her, no matter what she wears.
Now for my thoughts on sci-fi chicks:
I think they’re fucking badass. Not because they wear more clothes. But because they are given authority. They are given power and respect. The blogger I mentioned above stated that female role models were forced into being flawless, powerful and sensitive, perfect bodies and virginal. I’m not going to 100% disagree that this is true, in some (bad) writer’s eyes. Although the ones portrayed in the meme all have thin and athletic builds, that is not true of all of them. Deanna Troi was actually much thicker than most women portrayed while TNG aired (think 80’s-90’s Heroine Chic.) While she did wear more revealing clothes for most of the seasons, this was relate to her race, who glorfied all bodies and had their weddings in the nude. When she is promoted to bridge officer, she begins to wear the traditional uniform. She is more “traditionally female” as a character, sensitive (she is an empath, so ya know, derp), more reserved, and analytical rather than action-taking. But that is her character. Compare this to, say, Ro from the same show. She was highly action taking, combative, assertive. I don’t mean to say that polar opposites are all there can be, but I want to point out the variety of characters. Additionally, none of these characters was “pure” in the way that people who criticize meme for slut-shaming imply. But they have many other attributes in addition to the ability to have sex. They also have other ways to get attention than being attractive.
I will agree that science fiction has a history of writing in objectified women, and men. Some of these characters are sexualized, but also have other purposes for being in the show. For example, 7 of 9 from Star Trek Voyager. I have never heard her be mentioned without sexual comments. But she was also a really great character that added something significant to the show. Even characters who aren’t intended to be sexual, are sexualized. I still do not get the whole “Scully is so hot” thing. But fuck, I still Smulder for Mulder every time I watch X Files. I’m made in love with Patrick Stewart in his every incarnation. Does this take away from their character? Does it make them “less than” because I find them attractive? I don’t think so.
My argument for this meme being awesome is 1) I find it self-affirming because I’m a nerd and I identify with these characters, and 2) These are characters with great back stories, strong personalities (which include flaws), and are respected by those around them. I rarely see this in pop culture.
Geek culture is not free of sexism, the relaunch of Tomb Raider proved that if there were any questions (apparently the only thing that makes women tough is being raped, who knew?!). But I think we have a bit of a leg up. Perhaps it is just more dichotomized, we have really really good, and really really bad. But I think we should look at the whole picture, not just what characters are wearing, to make the decision of what is strong and what is sexual, and realized the two are not mutually exclusive for women anymore than they are for men.
I think my message here got muddled. Women are more than what they wear and who they fuck. How about that? Does that work?
**Some of them even do stuff and think stuff!