I have to admit something, and that is that I am a bit of a trekkie. From when I was a child I used to watch reruns of The Original Series and The Next Generation. The world of Star Trek simply appealed to me, though at the time I was not sure why.
In recent years I have begun to watch episodes of the various series again, and I find that Deep Space 9 is my absolute favorite and very watchable if you are a radical feminist but generally put off by malestream television. What I liked most about the series were the characters of Kira Nerys, Jadzia Dax and the friendship between them. Both have interesting backgrounds, strong personalities and are diverse and well rounded characters. They could have easily been played by male actors, but they weren’t and that, in my opinion, is the only right way to write and portray fictional female characters.
It seems I am not the only one who liked those two and would love to share a video tribute made undoubtedly by a loyal fan:
Like all main/malestream shows Deep Space 9 was not without its problems. Most of the characters were straight, almost all were portrayed by white actors and the male/female ratio was still skewed. And there was one episode which particularly bothered me, which was “Wrongs Darker than Death or Night.”
One of the main villains of Deep Space 9 was Gul Dukat, a Cardassian military officer. For years he ran the space station and kept the Bajorans , including Kira and her family, imprisoned as slaves. During the series the character of Kira is sometimes thrown together with Dukat on certain missions. At times he is almost an ally, having lost most of his power and respect from the Cardassians. The creators of Deep Space 9 thought there was a certain chemistry between the characters and they wanted them dating. The actress, Nana Visitor, said she put her foot down and that it was absolutely not going to happen. It wouldn’t be in her character’s nature to do that, something for which I am eternally grateful.
The creators gave in and didn’t try to write a relationship between Kira and Dukat. Instead, they wrote an episode that feature Dukat having a “relationship” with Kira’s mother. Here is my biggest problem. Kira’s mother, and in fact Kira’s whole family when she was child, was just as much enlsaved as Kira was. The Cardassians required “comfort women”, so some of the Bajoran women were rounded up to “entertain” the Cardassian officers on the station, who by the way were all male. In exchange for their compliance the families of these women were sent back to their home planet ‘Bajor’, were provided with food and could live their lives free of forced labor and persecution.
On the day Kira remembers and honors her mother’s death Dukat contacts her and informs her they used to be “lovers” and Kira, not able to dismiss this information, travels back in time to figure out if it is true. She finds out that her mother was indeed one of Dukat’s comfort women and is heartbroken. She despises her mother so much for it that she tries to assassinate her. In a final moment of compassion she saves her mother from the explosion and returns to her own time.
After the ordeal she bitterly rants to the captain about how she can’t stand it that her mother sat sipping alcoholic drinks with one of the most prominent leaders of the Bajoran occupation, while Kira and other Bajorans where out there putting their lives on the line to get rid of their Cardassian oppressors. She calls her mother a “collaborator” to the occupation.
He briefly suggests her mother did what she had to do to save her family, but after that there is no more talk about the circumstances surrounding her mothers “choices” in the matter. Kira is however very keen to forgive a male friend who was a security officer during both Cardassian occupations and who, during the last one, nearly got her and her whole resistance cell executed. All in all he was much more of a collaborator than her mother ever was. He had power the second time and he refused to use it to help them. Yet Kira forgives him again and again and by the end of the show they are dating.
However much the creators of the various Star Trek series felt they were being progressive they still have a lot to learn about sexist double standards. They still pour their preconceived notions about what is fair or not into televisions shows and try to make us accept it as “reasonable”.
It is like people don’t know what the term “comfort women” means and it is used explicitly as such in the show. Kira’s mother had been clearly starving when she was selected and had also experienced beatings at the hands Cardassian soldiers. It was made very clear to her that she was “replaceable” and that a “mistake” would get her shipped off to a labor camp. This was not a free “choice” she made.
It is not unlike how women are judged in our society. We are held responsible for the harms that others may do to us, we are held responsible for the (necessary) alliances we make to save ourselves, we are held responsible for the sons that turn into criminals and the daughters that “don’t behave like proper ladies”. Time and again I see women having to shoulder the full burden of the events they had little to no influence or say in.
Both men and women alike, tend to judge women much more harshly and quickly than they would any man. Unfortunately, people are hardly aware that they do this. It is the way they have been raised and it is a point of view to fall back on, and it results in television episodes like this one, in otherwise good shows.