BSG and Feminism: Slate got it wrong

Recently, Slate published an article about how “Battlestar Galactica” isn’t as “frakking feminist” as the creators, network, etc. want you to believe. (Spoilers for the final season if you decide to read it. Specifically, spoilers about one of the female pilots…) However, I think that some of their arguments are pretty flawed, specifically their argument about how rape is treated on BSG.

Battlestar has broached a number of salient political issues over the course of its four seasons, including abortion, torture, and terrorism, and they’ve done so in a subtle, provocative way. They don’t bash the audience over the head with over references to the Bush administration like other shows have recently.

But I don’t watch Battlestar for its politics. Some of the things in the Slate article surprised me–like the description of the resurrection tub as being “hyper-sexualized.” I guess I’ve been focusing on how gross it would be to sit in a vat of goo instead of how sexy they all look. Hm. Anyway, the author talks about how BSG has depicted rape, and I think it’s just plain inaccurate.

“Naturally the show doesn’t condone rape, but it’s discomfiting that the writers drop sexual violence into the script so often without comment.”

Without comment? To this day, just thinking about the Pegasus episodes make me uncomfortable; there is no doubt that the writers want you to feel uncomfortable and disgusted at the fact that the Pegasus crew was encouraged to continually rape Gina, the Six who was romantically involved with Admiral Cain. Helo and Chief attacked (and accidentally killed) some of the Pegasus crew members who were going to rape Athena–if that’s not a comment on rape, I don’t know what is. Do you have to have characters discuss sexual violence to comment on it? Did I miss that rule somewhere?

io9 has a great response to this article as well. They make the argument that the way men are treated/portrayed on BSG makes it a more feminist show than Slate asserts. And I agree with them.

Honestly, I’m not going to stop watching Battlestar because there is violence perpetrated against women in it. That is one very small aspect of the show. In most cases, the female characters are strong-willed, and some are admired as leaders. Others are mothers; Athena manages to fly Raptors and have a good family life (well, when people aren’t trying to steal her baby, anyway)–that’s feminist, too. I watch Battlestar because it has a compelling story and fantastic, realistic characters who have to address tough issues that are pretty universal. (And man, am I going to miss it when it’s over.) I’m not saying that the violence committed against either gender should be completely overlooked, but if you’re going to assess how the genders are portrayed, you need to show some fairness in your assessment–something that the Slate writer fails to do.

Edit: There’s some good discussion about this from a more fandom-oriented POV at my LJ

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