Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze Coming to WSU on April 16th at 7:00pm FREE OF CHARGE.

 

In order to receive FREE admissions you must register prior to the performance. To learn more about what will be happening at the event visit the WSU web page.

All links are listed at the end of the article

Background

To understand what the play Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze is really all about, a little background on its origins is needed. While studying mathematics at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Gioia De Cari found herself to be one of few women in the male dominated STEM fields. STEM being short for science, technology, engineering and math. Cari became inspired to create this one-woman show after hearing sexist comments from Lawrence Summers of Harvard University. Summers explained that the reason for so few women working in the STEMs fields is due to innate gender differences. Those are some hard comments to take in when you’re a woman in a male dominated field.

 

What This One-Woman Show is all about

 

Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through M.I.T.’s Male Math Maze delivers an important message about sexism, gender inequality, and gender diversity. This one-woman performance is Cari’s attempt to inform audiences, using her own life experiences, of just how frustrating it can be for women working in the STEM fields. The play is performed entirely by Cari. All 30 characters in the play are, in fact, played by Cari herself. The stories Cari tells incorporate humor while delivering an important message about gender inequality.

Cari’s performance is spoken highly of and has obtained great success. So captivating and important is Cari’s message that it has sold out at more than 40 theaters across the U.S. and received numerous standing ovations from viewers. One of many awards, Cari’s performance in Truth Calues includes success at the New York International Fringe Festival where it won Best Solo show.

 

Women in STEM fields

 

Estimates of the number of women working in the STEM fields indicate that the assistant professor positions are made up, in the math field, of just 26.5 percent women. When it comes to the highly prestigious position of full professor, which includes tenure, women in the math and sciences make up approximately 9.7 percent. Although women have proven themselves intelligent and able enough to achieve full professorship, the fact that female professors are making, despite being in the same position and performing the exact same amount and level of work, 8 percent less than what a male brings in every year.

Every year, more and more of the Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.Ds are being awarded to women, making up half of all college-educated workers. Yet somehow, women continue to be underrepresented. Despite the growing number of college educated women, two of the fields in STEM, engineering and the sciences, consist of just 28 percent female workers.

Just how, then, can this gender gap in the STEM fields be resolved? Karen Purcell, a writer for the-scientist.com, said that, for women in working in the STEM fields, the ultimate goal of gaining full gender equality is still far away. In Purcell’s own words she states there is no legitimate excuse for anyone, male or female, to not be allowed to follow his or her passion, referring to the STEM fields. To remedy the gender inequality gap, Purcell proposes that if young girls and women receive guidance and support, females will start to flourish in the STEM fields. Support ideally coming from sources such as families, friends, classmates. The idea is that social support is vital for women to gain more ground in the STEM fields. In addition to Purcell’s recommendation that young girls receive guidance and support early on, Dr. Carter adds to the equation the importance of self-confidence in order for women to be successful in this male dominated field.

What Purcell has stated is true. Take the case of Dr. Emily Carter of Princeton University, a full professor in energy and the environment, as an example for the need to begin motivating females from an early age to go into any one of the STEM fields. When Dr. Carter expressed interest as a young girl in her skill and passion for math, discouragement to pursue her interests followed. Many people informed Dr. Carter science was not for girls…[and] especially if a young lady wished to be considered attractive. Dr. Carter contributes her success in STEMs to the encouragement from her family and friends.

Dr. Carter cites confidence as vital for women surviving in STEMs. When Dr. Carter was told by a male co-worker during a conference that she’d only attained the position because she was a woman, she became heartbroken by these words, but refused to let this man’s words damage her success, thanks to her self-confidence. After the incident, Dr. Carter pondered what might have happened “if I hadn’t been [confident]?” Self-confidence, determination, and support from an early age have been identified by two women as necessary for women to have and obtain if they want to be successful in the male dominated STEM fields.

Support ideally comes from sources such as families, friends, classmates, etc. Social support is vital for women to gain more ground in the STEM fields. In addition to Purcell’s recommendation that young girls receive guidance and support early on, Dr. Carter adds to the equation the importance of self-confidence in order for women to be successful in this male dominated field. Dr. Carter’s success is due to her self-confidence in the face of opposition in the STEM fields from coworkers. It took the support and guidance of friends and family to encourage Dr. Carter to keep striving for her career in the face of harsh opposition.

 

To register to gain free admission follow this link:www.advance.wsu.edu 

Link to WSU web page on the event:  https://news.wsu.edu/announcement/award-winning-play-truth-values-one-girls-romp-through-m-i-t-s-male-math-maze-at-wsu-on-april-16/

 

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Equal Pay Day

Sara Spritzer

equal_pay_2-20-121

Ninety-eight days into 2014 is how long it will take women to earn in wages what men did in 2013. Ninety-eight days – 98 – that number infuriates me.

The 98th day of the year is April 8, which is the significance of Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day is an awareness day surrounding the issue of the wage gap between genders. It was created in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity. This awareness day is an important day to be acknowledged in our nation, and it’s a call to action for policy makers who can change this sickening gap.

President Obama has responded to this call for action. He issued two executive actions to promote pay equity in the nation. One action involves prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees talking publicly about how much money they make. The other action will require employers to report salaries by sex and race. This call to action may help to promote pay equity, but I believe more steps need to be taken by federal politicians to diminish the wage gap.

We live in a country where politicians tread lightly around privileged groups (for the most part). Politics are a terrible gray area, and people feel so passionately about a variety of issues. We live in a land of freedom, where people are free to think how they wish and stand up for what they believe. The government does not have the right to take this away. The government also promises protection to its people, and that’s an important role that sometimes is forgotten. When people are being discriminated against outright for their gender or gender identity, that’s when the government has to step in and do something.

The federal government needs to set a standard for how people treat others. They need to attempt to squash ignorance and intolerance. If people are free to think, they should also be free to be. People cannot change who they are just because others do not agree with their lives.

Women should not be making less than men because of their gender. This isn’t an issue of women simply not being aggressive or assertive in the workplace—it’s an issue of the government being supportive and empowering of women. It’s an issue of employers empowering women to strive in their careers. It’s an issue of viewing women’s issues as men’s issues.

It happens locally. Just recently, the UIdaho Blog Magazine published an article about women in higher education. It had a source who believed women did not help in higher education; they should work in the home.

These articles and viewpoints are important, and everyone is entitled to their opinions. Ignorance infuriates people, and that’s when things get accomplished. When people feel passionate, they often do incredible work.

People need to get passionate about pay equity. Women deserve better in this nation. Women should not be okay receiving less pay than men for the same work. Citizens need to demand more from those who represent them.

These are the reasons why the university needs a Women’s Center. I often wonder, if the Women’s Center wasn’t here, would the university even acknowledge Equal Pay Day? Would anyone even care? I have my doubts.

Last Friday’s edition of the Argonaut had an offensive comic about Equal Pay Day. It illustrated a woman with a shirt labeled “Feminist” verbally attacking “Every Other American” and holding an Equal Pay bill. Apparently, everyone other American hates the idea of equal pay, and the only people who are passionate are feminists, who are crazy and force their ideas on everyone. I didn’t know hosting a pay equity bake sale was so harassing.

When the pay gap is brought to the attention of everyone in this way, people will start to realize how absolutely ridiculous a gender pay gap is. People may think about it in a new way and they may even want to cause a change. These are the important things—the things that cause a change. These events set a standard for policy makers in our nation, and that is why they are important.

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Do You Feel SAFE on Campus?

Aaron William California

 

Criminal acts of violence, including rape, murder, and theft, occur frequently at American universities and colleges. The Jeanne Clery Act, passed in 1990, “requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses” to students and prospective students…upon request. Since the passing of the Clery Act, more amendments have been added to ensure crime victims on colleges and universities protection from being punished for speaking out about their experiences. Although laws are enacted, it is often the case that they are ignored or underdeveloped to accomplish the task they were created to do. With the growing diversity of sexual crimes and violence at universities, the Clery Act needed to be revised. This took place, most recently, in March 2013 under the direction of President Barack Obama.

As of 2013, the United States has on record 747,408 registered sex offenders. Clearly the large number of registered sex offenders living in the U.S. warrants that colleges and universities notify students of these criminals living near the campus. The 1990 edition of the Clery Act did not specifically mention that sex offenders be included in the crime reports.

In 2013, President Obama amended the Clery Act to further protect victims of sexual offences. Any university or college receiving federal aid is required to enforce the 2013 amendments to the Clery Act. One of the important 2013 amendments to the Clery Act now requires universities and colleges to have in writing, in all yearly statically reports, its programs to prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  

As of 2013, the Clery Act requires universities to inform victims of assaults covered under the Clery Act of the student or employee’s rights and options. Prior to the 2013 amendments people like Landen Gambill, a victim of sexual assault, were informed of disciplinary actions against them for speaking up about their assault. When Gambill began talking about the man who raped her, the university threatened her with “expulsion for speaking out against her alleged rapist.” In writing, the Clery Act now reads that victims be informed of their rights. Some of these rights include victim’s option to notify law enforcement (on-campus and local police), [and] be assisted…in notifying law enforcement by the university if that is the victim’s decision.

Another amendment the Clery Act signed into effect in 2013 requires universities to launch an investigation into all reports of violence covered under the Act. Victims like Gambill are entitled to a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution to the crime committed against them. The investigation is required to be conducted by trained officials responsible for investigating all acts of violence mentioned in the Act.

Victims are now granted the right to have people they choose to give them council, an understanding of the institution’s process for handling the specific crime, and, very importantly, to know the final verdict of the institution regarding the case. These are rights victims like Gambill did not have before. The law now requires that institutions punish the perpetrators and not the victims.

The perpetrators of sexual assault are often people the victims know, people they live with, work with, attend classes with, or ride the same bus to school on. The 2013 amendments to the Clery act now require, if victims so choose, to know of their options for changing academic, living, transportation, and working situations.

The most important thing to present to law enforcement after a sexual assault has occurred is evidence. It is nearly impossible to convict anyone of any crime, sexual or not, without sufficient evidence. Another aspect of the 2013 amendments to the Clery Act now requires universities to inform victims of the importance of preserving evidence.

The definition of what exactly is true consent to have sex is not exactly clear in writing for many people. To help victims know when their right to consent has been violated, the 2013 amendments require education institutions receiving federal financial aid to inform victims of the definition of consent in reference to sexual activity. It is important that males and females understand if at any point they decide to end any form of sexual activity, even if they consented in the beginning, they may do so at any time. If the perpetrator continues after the victim says stop, what happens then constitutes as rape.

Often Good Samaritan laws backfire on the individuals coming to help. People who simply are trying to help are often sued. Knowing that for just trying to help you can become in trouble with the law, many people will choose not to intervene when witnessing a crime in progress. Part of what President Obama signed in to effect under the Clery Act now grants bystanders safe and positive options for…intervention.

A good start to preventing any sort of crime, especially sexual offences, is to take preventative actions. The Clery Act now requires that institutions inform students on how to identify when violence may happen, when violence has happened nearby, and how to seek justice fairly should they fall victim to it.

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Title IX Supports Safe Education for Everyone

In the scholastic realm, discrimination based on sex involves more than encouraging girls to grow up to be teachers and boys to become doctors. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools, and without its provisions our academic (and career) landscapes might have looked less diverse today.  However, the struggle for fair access to federally funded education is ongoing.  After four decades and more than 20 amendments, related Supreme Court cases and other political dealings, Title IX has earned the moniker of “living law.”

Title IX is a refreshing kind of legal document.  It is broad in effect and straightforward in language.  The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights explains that the title covers “(all) public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any Federal funds.”  So if any educational program receives government money, by law it cannot prevent people from participating in its services on the grounds of individual sexual biology, identity, orientation, or preference:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . .”

And there’s more concerned here than women’s athletics.  Title IX ensures that Sue can go through business school with her sights leveled on a Fortune 500 CEO position, whether or not she ever plays volleyball.  If Jack wants to pursue a nursing degree, no one can legally argue that boys (biological or otherwise) don’t belong behind a nurse’s desk.  Male-identified students can use male-aligned restrooms and request feminine hygiene receptacles in the stalls without ridicule.  Women who identify as lesbians have legal protection to play hockey with other women.  Straight men can be presidents of ballet clubs.  The schoolhouse doors must remain unlocked for everyone, regardless of stereotypes and social judgments.

Yet people can do worse things than laugh at each other or take an extra percentage point off their test scores.  While campuses must stay open, they must also stay free of negative influence: “Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment or sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.”  The potential threat of being hurt, hindered, demeaned or objectified can keep students out of the classroom or clubhouse as readily as a locked door.  As of 2011, there had been almost 4,000 reports of sexual battery and more than 800 reports of attempted and actual rape in American public high schools.  Approximately 20 percent of college women (and nearly six percent of college men) will be sexually assaulted or the victims of attempted assault.  Many such incidents are never reported, and survivors’ voices often go unheard.  Title IX requires all schools to draft a clear policy against sex discrimination and publicize it broadly and continually.  It is a crucial fortification in the fight to keep our schools safe as well as accessible.

The OCR stretches across 12 offices throughout the nation and has a headquarters in Washington, D.C. to ensure this equity in federally funded programs.  Representatives came to the University of Idaho in February and held several conversational sessions with various student groups to review UI’s Title IX compliance, specifically regarding sexual misconduct issues.  While direct OCR support is helpful, all schools are required to appoint and provide contact information for an officer who will monitor and facilitate Title IX compliance, complaints and related issues.  Title IX Coordinator Dr. Carmen Suarez, alongside four deputy coordinators, works to cultivate and enforce an equitable environment at UI.

Like any policy, Title IX retains exceptions.  The law must respect religious organizations’ rights to abide by their own tenets; undergraduate institutions that have had a policy from their inception to accept only people of one sex aren’t forced to mix their memberships; student-populated sororities and fraternities, boys’ and girls’ youth service groups like the Scouts or YMCA, and student training programs for military service can also retain their sex-based policies of membership.  There are a few others, all similarly reasonable.

With such clearly delineated guidelines, sex-based discrimination can be easily identified and prosecuted.  And educational institutions have certainly gained some ground in this area.  Last year, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that the percentages of men and women aged 25-29 who’d attained bachelor’s degrees by 1990 weren’t notably different; but the percentage of women had risen seven points above that for men by 2012.  Further, there was a three percent rise in women’s favor for master’s degree attainment from 1995 to 2012.  The National Collegiate Athletic Association reported a 14 percent, 21 percent and 14 percent upswing in the number of female athletes in Divisions I, II and III, respectively, between 2004 and 2010.

Last week, UI celebrated 40 years since the signing of the Conciliation Agreement.  The document was signed in 1974 by UI President Ernest Hartung and nine members of a group appointed to investigate gender discrimination and other issues in the school.  The agreement called for an affirmative action plan, back pay for employees who had experienced salary discrimination, equal starting salaries for all employees, and job analysis implementation.  It affected positive changes for inclusivity in employment and student recruitment across several school offices and services.

Amid this progress, one of the only problems with Title IX concerns the practical outworking of the document’s provisions.  Not every school employs a Title IX coordinator, despite the legal requirement.  Many people don’t realize the protection Title IX affords them, or even that the title exists.

There are a lot of online resources people can use to educate themselves about Title IX.  Contact Dr. Suarez and her team at UI, or get in touch with your school’s coordinator.  Inform your school if you discover you don’t have one.  Request a list of coordinators in your state.  Get to know your rights, so you can better get on with your education.  Let’s celebrate many more years of equitable treatment in schools together.

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Genre Fiction and Costume Design: The Sexualization of Women in SciFi

Amber Atalaya Evans Pinel

          I recently saw a documentary titled Miss Representation. The purpose of this documentary was to give viewers a reality check on the representation of women in media, and what it’s doing to our society. Media plays a huge role in how our society views women, including how women view themselves. In most genres, there is extremely low representation of women as main characters in films, TV shows, etc. This is one of the reasons I love science fiction and fantasy as genres. Modern genre fiction TV shows and movies are getting better at balancing the female/male ratio in main and supporting characters. But after watching Miss Representation, I started to realize the ratio of characters wasn’t the only thing I should be concerned about in my media. In nearly every piece of media we encounter women who are sexualized, and the costumes for characters in science fiction and fantasy are not exempt from this trend. 

Interestingly enough, the sexualization of women in media is so common that I often overlook it, especially in my favorite TV shows and movies. I have always been a fan of Xena: Warrior Princess. However, I think it’s pretty obvious (most of) her costumes are meant to portray her in a rather sexualized manner. If her armor was any kind of realistic, she would not have that much skin showing; it’s simply impractical, and rather dangerous. I suppose the only argument for the costume is that Xena is such an unbeatable warrior, it doesn’t matter how much skin is open for attack. But I somehow doubt that’s the reasoning behind the costume designer and director’s choice for a skimpy leather skirt and large metal breastplate.

I nearly always get excited about a movie or TV show with a female lead—Underworld and Catwoman, to name a couple of my childhood favorites. But it wasn’t until I started taking a theater costume design class and looking more closely at my favorite media that I realized the huge flaw in nearly all of my favorite female main-characters. Almost every one of them is not only conventionally beautiful, but the costumes are designed to show their bodies off. As Miss Representation put it, a lot of “tough” female leads are simply fighting Barbie dolls. Halle Berry in Catwoman is  unfortunately a perfect example of this. 

From a costume design standpoint, every aspect of this costume is meant to draw the eye to key places. The front accentuates Halle’s torso, including her breasts and stomach, and the back purposefully draws attention to the muscles in the shoulders, back, and the curve of the buttocks. Is this ripped leather thing with all its bells and whistles any kind of advantage in a fight? Of course not. Unless she’s trying to seduce her victims (which, arguably, she does do several times in the course of the movie) the outfit only leaves her more vulnerable. I’d believe a spandex onesie over this contraption—I can’t even imagine how she moves her legs in those tight leather pants.

I think it’s obvious that genre fiction is not exempt from the same traps most of the media is. But it’s also worth mentioning that in a lot of science fiction television shows, it appears that sex appeal is not one of  the goals of female characters. Warehouse 13’s Myka Bering is played by the beautiful actress Joanne Kelly. However, I can’t remember a single moment in the show where she was put into a costume that was overly revealing. That’s also applicable to Kara Thrace in Battlestar Galactica (2003 reboot) and Samantha Carter in Stargate SG1. Granted, Battlestar Galactica and Stargate SG1 are military science fiction shows. However, Aeryn Sun in Farscape is of a military background and her costumes often (but not always) show off Claudia Black’s body.

It’s easy to overlook these costume choices in favor of appreciation for the strong character inside them. But what genre fiction is seriously lacking is representation for women who don’t look like Halle Berry or Claudia Black. Males who are not conventionally (or Hollywood) attractive still get to play the heroes in many movies and TV shows. It’s quite a bit rarer to see a woman with an average body type play a hero. More often female heroes are thin and sexualized on top of their abilities as a heroic character.

As a consumer of genre fiction I’d like to see more strong female characters in believable costumes. I’m tired of the “fighting Barbie dolls,” I want a hero who looks and dresses like an average person of their age and profession.

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What Do People Call You?

Aaron W. California

Courtesy titles, like President, Doctor, Rev. or Mr., carry significant status. Have you ever noticed that students often call male professors by their title and last name, and female professors by their first name? In an individualistic society like the United States, the only way to truly know how people like to be addressed is to ask them. According to the article That’s “‘Doctor Instructor”’ to You, female professors often face challenges when it comes to being addressed by their proper title. In the article, it states that “recent studies show that college students tend to view women and minorities with less respect from the start, and that is often reflected in bestowing names, titles, or lack thereof.” Rebecca Schuman is one professor working to correct being addressed by the wrong title. For Schuman, the challenge is social pressure to “not to come off as uptight” when insisting on being called Dr. by students instead of by her first name. However, not all students are intentionally calling female professors by the wrong title. The article mentioned previously makes an important point that “the conventions for [titles]…are massively, overwhelmingly confusing.”

Did you ever stop to think that some of your instructors are not technically professors? According to Schuman, “at large research universities [in Australia], a lot of “professors” aren’t professors at all—they’re graduate TAs.” Although Schuman does in fact hold a doctorate degree, she states that “I myself feel rankled when someone who knows full well I have an earned doctorate refers to…me as Ms. Schuman.” However, not every female professor who holds a doctorate degree necessarily wants to be called Dr. or Professor. According to the article, at the University of Virginia, “there has been a tradition of professors with doctorates going by ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’”Some female professors who hold a doctorate degree are apparently content with, and even prefer being referred to as “Ms.”

Not all students, according to Schuman, are being disrespectful when it comes to addressing female and male faculty. She states in her article two important points: 1) “most students…have no idea what to call us” and 2) “it’s up to us to let them know immediately” how to address us. In order to be addressed as Dr. Schuman, she has come up with a few ways to let students know what she prefers to be called. In her syllabus, she introduces herself by noting, “I’m Dr. Schuman.” Schuman understands that not every female or male instructor wants to be called Dr., like she does. She goes on to state that if males and females prefer to be called “Martika” or “Count von Count” that’s okay too, “whatever you want to be called.” Schuman hopes that society and students will one day catch up with regard to how to address professors. She goes on to state that students who intentionally are “willfully disrespectful will just carry on” and that “most students are truly, [and] understandably clueless as to what to call us.” Schuman empahsizes that for both male and female professors, when it comes to teaching students how to address them properly, they will simply have to “be patient while they [the students] figure it out.”

Karyn Hunts, a former reporter for a major newspaper, explains that formal titles for women can be sexist in nature. Hunts points out that formal titles for women come from a “time when a woman’s marital status cemented her place in society.” Take the title “Mrs.” as an example. The title Mrs. is used to signify that a woman is married and that she belongs to the man whose last name she holds, which some may view as diminishing her individuality. The Associated Press, Hunts explains, felt it appropriate that Lillian Disney, wife of Walt Disney, be referred to as “Mrs. [instead of Ms.] to show…deference to her late husband.” By referring to Lillian Disney as Mrs. Disney, the title Mrs. is sexist, in that it strips away her individuality and replaces it with a possessive title that means she belongs to her husband. The Associated Press, in response to the Lillian Disney title debate, went on to adopt a “courtesy title rule,” requiring that writers and reporters “ask all female sources if they preferred to be called Miss, Ms., or Mrs.” Hunts describes the “courtesy title rule” policy as “an outdated, sexist policy.” The decision to require women to identify their marital status merely helps to preserve the patriarchal tradition. Regardless of how women felt, if married, they must identify themselves as belonging to the man to whom they are married. Hunts explains further that “some women didn’t want to be identified as single for fear” of being accosted by someone because of their single status.

The phrase “ma’am” is, if used appropriately, a title of respect. However, women like Barbra Boxer prefer to be addressed like any other senator. Brigadier Gen. Michael Walsh, in an interview with Boxer, addressed her as “ma’am” out of respect. Boxer politely insisted instead on being addressed as “Senator” instead of ma’am. “I worked so hard to get that title. So I’d appreciate it.” Boxer is simply asking to be treated like any other senator, male or female, by being called Senator. In response to Boxer’s request, Brigadier General Walsh replied, “Yes, Senator.” Brigadier General Walsh graciously corrected his unintended error. The situation Boxer encountered with Brigadier General Walsh can be related to Schuman’s earlier statement that “most students…have no idea what to call us” and “it’s up to us to let them know immediately.”

Not all men and women in the same position, whether it’s in the academic world or not, wish to be addressed the same way. Schuman desires to be addressed as Dr. Schuman, and not by her first name. Yet for others, we have learned that calling them “Mr.” or “Ms.” is just fine with them. It’s good to be mindful of the sexist overtones that using certain courtesy titles can convey, but it’s really a personal decision what men and women want to be called. I think that the best way to show respect when it comes to addressing men and women is to honor their requests, just as Brigadier Gen. Walsh respected Senator Boxer’s request.

 

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Sexuality, Gender, and Representation in Science Fiction

Amber Atalaya Evans Pinel

        For many people science fiction is a genre full of new ideas, futuristic thoughts, innovative design, and political insight. In many ways, science fiction reveals current political climates and cultural ideologies of our time. Some might even call the genre socially progressive due to it’s ability to introduce characters and ideas that don’t fit the “norm.” I can sing praises of all the great things about science fiction all day, but I think it’s time to explore what science fiction television shows are lacking - proper representation for people of the alphabet soup (LGBTQA & etc.), and specifically transgendered and non-binary people/characters.

I don’t want to say there aren’t any LGBTQA characters in science fiction television, because that’s not true at all. In the prequel to Battlestar Galactica (the 2003 reboot), a relatively short series called Caprica (2010), one of the main characters - Sam Adama - is portrayed in a loving and healthy relationship with his husband.

Sam Adama from the series Caprica

Sam Adama is a gang member who came to Caprica with his family some years before the show’s beginning. Sam is a hit man and is portrayed as a very strong, determined, and dangerous character. I think the writers did an excellent job on him and his family’s story, in that they did not make him a trope, nor did they particularly emphasize his relationship with his husband. The fact that he is in a same sex relationship isn’t even mentioned: he’s simply married. Furthermore, Caprica features a group/cooperative/polyamorous family in which one of the main characters, Sister Clarice Willow (the headmaster of a religious private school), has several husbands and wives, and they all communally raise their children and live under the same roof.

However, Battlestar Galactica doesn’t feature any relationships that aren’t heteronormative. And, both shows only have cisgendered characters. Unfortunately, this isn’t exclusive to Battlestar Galactica and Caprica. I have never seen a science fiction or fantasy television show that featured transgendered characters. Science fiction literature tends to be much more liberal with their characters; I’ve read a variety of books that contain lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters. However, even in the literature of one of the most progressive genres that features new ideas and “radical” political views, LGBTQA characters are still a rarity. And, books that feature transgendered characters are even more difficult to find. I wanted to include some titles and authors of books that do feature these characters, but after a lengthy internet search I’m still at a loss. Here’s a list of science fiction books that feature gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters.

It’s true that in recent years lesbian, gay, and bisexual characters have been making it into science fiction television. However, the numbers of those characters are still relatively small and there’s only one I know of who is the main character: Bo in the series Lost Girl. Lost Girl does an excellent job of portraying LGB characters without making them tropes. But even that excellent show lacks transgendered characters (as far as I know, I haven’t seen the whole series yet.)

Why, in the genre of the future, are transgendered characters invisible? Because writers, producers, directors, and screenwriters are not pushing for these characters to exist in their worlds. I cannot stress enough how important it is to put these characters into science fiction literature and television, and media in general. People who do not fit the gender binary do exist in our world; a large part of letting them know that they’re normal, and their experience is natural, is to make sure they see people like them in the media. We gather almost all of our cultural information through the media - especially through television. It is imperative that transgendered characters are written. And, in the futuristic and boundary-pushing genre of science fiction, I’m disgusted there isn’t already ample representation of transgendered characters.

 

 

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