Oddly enough, the F bombs and S words you probably think I’m talking about are hardly as taboo today as the ones I’m going to discuss.
I don’t understand the fear in using the words feminist or feminism. Similarly, most people shy away from the dreaded term sexist too. This year at the official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas many people warned me against using such terms on my Trek Girls panel. “Why?” I wondered. Even my brothers in sound, Mission Log podcast said people came by their table, mostly women, telling them to stop calling TOS (The Original Series) sexist. Now, what would compel a woman to say such a thing? I’m baffled by it. Of course, I never listen to what I’m told to do (or not do, in this case). I went ahead and discussed both the S word and the F word. And… guess what? The audience didn’t turn on me. Sure, a few people randomly got up and left, but that’s to be expected. We were up against Q himself, John de Lancie. That’s some stiff competition. To my surprise, 1/2 of our audience were men and all of our questions came from them. Believe it or not, they were positive too! I am encouraged by this. I love Star Trek just as much as the next fan, but our love for something doesn’t give it a hall pass from criticism. Critical thinking about the things we love, in my opinion, shows a greater love and understanding of the material and the time period in which it was created. I fully understand the TV world of the 1960s was different than it is now, but the show was set in the future, a future where color, class and gender were not supposed to matter. Alas, I digress from my original point.
I feel like there’s this association of radicalism attached to the word feminist. Sure, that was probably true for the earlier waves, but today shouldn’t feminism just mean wanting equal rights and treatment for women? I don’t get the fear of saying that word. Certain celebrities who are normally very provocative with their point of views take a surprisingly lukewarm stance. Even the queen of shock, Lady Gaga was recently quoted as saying, “I am not a feminist – I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male culture, and beer, and bars and muscle cars.” Guess what, Gaga? I love men and muscle cars too, but I also love every ounce of being a woman. I don’t think loving those things negates being pro-women’s rights. If we didn’t have women’s rights, she wouldn’t be able to do what she does. She’d be in jail for wearing a meat dress and for dressing in drag at the VMAs. Not to mention, I take issue with the idea of muscle cars, beer and bar culture being specifically male interests.
Melissa Leo also said something similar, “I don’t think of myself as a feminist at all. As soon as we start labeling and categorizing ourselves and others, that’s going to shut down the world. I would never say that.” Really, Melissa? The world is going to shut down because we proudly label ourselves? Leo shying away from the term perplexes me because her career has been one that pushes boundaries and she certainly acts like a feminist. I get not wanting to throw around labels, but it gives the impression that young women shouldn’t embrace this word. It treats it as dirty. It treats it as a negative thing. It treats is as something to avoid. Actors have a giant platform. While I could care less about Melissa Leo, I do care about her influence. I do care about the power Gaga has over youth culture. When actors and singers take such a strong stance, they are doing more than just stating their opinion. That’s why I applaud young women like Ellen Page. She embraces the term wholeheartedly.
“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?,” Page said in an interview for The Guardian.
I don’t know how other feminists see themselves, but I see feminism as pro-woman, but not to the detriment of men. I can’t speak for all feminists everywhere, but here’s my take. I don’t see any panel I host or participate in as exclusive to women. I believe in being as inclusive as possible and I am proud to see fathers in the audience with their young daughters. I am always encouraged by the countless men who tell me my panel was one of their favorites of the con. I heard so many great comments and one of the best was from a guy who said, “It baffles me that we haven’t been talking about these issues all along.”
So, Seattle’s Geek Girl Con is almost upon us and I’m joining Jarrah Hodge for another round of women in Star Trek. This time, there’s no fear of dropping S or F bombs. This audience is already prepared and encouraged to use those terms. I never censor myself, but I know I won’t have to walk on eggshells. I won’t have to be nervous about what flack I might get. Of course, you could argue that it’s preaching to the choir, but I’m glad we have the platform nevertheless. Why do we still need panels singling out females in fandom? Sometimes I wonder this myself and then I get the dreaded, “Are you really a fan?” and I answer my own question. See you in Seattle!