Women in the New World

When I went to Comic-Con NY, one of the events we went to was the "Women of Battlestar Gallactica." The husband picked that one out. Imagine that. :D

But actually, that's the event that I remember the most. Because one of the things the ladies talked about was that the writers didn't assign genders to the characters--they wrote the stories, and then cast whatever actors were best for the characters, whether they were male or female.

Starbuck is one of the lead characters--and she's a swearing, drinking, cigar-smoking pilot. I can see her just as easily as a male than as a female, and it is to the credit of the director and the producers that they chose a female actor for this strong, hardcore character.

It seems to me that often in futuristic or dystopia works, women are often given stronger roles--sometimes surprising ones. One of my favorite things about The Hunger Games, for instance, is that the strong, fighting character was a girl--Katniss, and she could care less about love. It was the boy who was weak and love-sick.

I like these characters in part because it is a role reversal from traditional stories. But also because to me, it's more realistic. Women are strong. And it is in the extreme situations--like the end of the world, like dystopic societies--that women have the ability to be the strongest.

I'm not at all trying to put men down with this post--I'm not saying that men aren't strong, or that men won't fight to protect those they love. I just think that women tend to be under-represented in this role, and that it is in dystopic fiction that this image is being remedied.

Recently I had the great pleasure to read Divergent by Veronica Roth. Among other great themes and ideas, one thing I loved was that the main character, Tris, makes the conscious choice to be a fighter--as do other women. In training, gender doesn't make a difference, not in rank or in tactics or, really, in anything. It's presented in a very matter-of-fact way--that's just the way things are.

In all these works, women are presented as different. When Starbuck's knee is injured, she's not allowed to resume her flight missions until her muscles are strong enough--and the fact that she's a woman means her physical strength is less than that of a man. Katniss can't carry the weight Peeta can. Tris must learn a different fighting style than that of her physically stronger and larger opponents. There ARE differences between males and females. But what I love about these works is that the differences are recognized--and then the women are treated as equally as the men. They face the same conflict, troubles, and battles.

I think it's very easy to slip into "traditional" roles in literature, television, and the like. Look at every Disney Princess movie ever made. But I also think works like these are leading the ideas of what true equality really is. Perhaps it takes an extreme world situation to present these ideas, or perhaps this is a sign that, as a whole, our society is accepting women in more equal terms.

Either way, I like it.


Angie Smibert said...

I'm jealous that you got to see the women of BSG. The strength of its female characters and the matter of factness with which they're treated as equals is one (two?) of the things I love about BSG.

Tere Kirkland said...

It's funny how great female roles are when they're written as "people" first, not women. Ironically, some of the best women parts were originally written for men, like Starbuck and Ripley. I heard this was true about Salt as well, but have yet to see the film.

Even Disney princesses have more assertiveness than they used to, so I hope you're right about our society moving to a place of more sexual equality. I could use a raise. ;)

Great post!