Panel Report: Klingons and Feminism, Take Two

Editor’s note: this article is part of a series of posts that covers the discussion panels The Analytical Couch Potato hosted during Connecticon 2012. For those who couldn’t make it, the staff decided to summarize some of the panels and provide pictures of the staff presenting. Those who want to see the full album of Connecticon pictures can see it on Facebook here. Thanks to everyone who made it out there to see us.

This weekend at Connecticon, Jonah and I reprised the panel I led with Gillian at Revoluticon on Klingons and Feminism. It was sad to lose my cohost (and a little awkward to be on stage talking about gender theory with no women) but my brother knows more about Star Trek than anyone I know, so I felt like he was a relatively good replacement.

The crowd was fantastic. We sold out the room, and a diverse audience comprised of many ages, races, and genders of Trekkies provided key discussion points and kept the conversation moving in unexpected but fruitful directions.

Starting with the same roots, the discussion went very differently than it did a few months ago. The Connecticon audience seemed more interested in broader themes and the portrayal of Klingon culture as a whole than analysis of individual characters which had been the focus of the panel in Ohio.
We discussed the sexual aggression of peripheral female Klingons, to what extent it was the result of male writers, and the role comedy played in shaping that aspect of their development. We looked at how Klingon women were empowered vs. objectified, and what sort of roles they were allowed to play in their own society. Finally we came around to the question of how Klingon society could even function with its entire population devoted to warfare.

The character study we did do was more focused on Worf than B’Elanna this time, and delved more into issues of race and stereotyping. Worf’s complexity comes from his attempts to meld the culture he was raised in with a heritage he feels is his birthright, but which he has come to as an outsider. The discussion took this point in several directions I had not considered, noting that Worf ultimately fails in many ways to assimilate into either culture, but does accomplish the goal of learning to accept himself for what he is.

One audience member brought up the racism inherent in attributing B’Elanna Torres’s anger issues to her Klingon blood, which led us to a conversation about the questionable racial politics of monocultures. Just before wrapping up, we compared B’Elanna and Worf’s parenting woes, and the fact that neither wants their child to grow up straddling two worlds. B’Elanna wants Miral to be fully human, whereas Worf strives for Alexander to be a Klingon warrior. We asked the question of what wouls happen if they’d ended up with children of the opposite genders.

All in all the panel was a huge success. In any part of the country, Trekkies can be counted on to be knowledgeable and insightful.

One audience member commented that she thought the panel would delve into all of Star Trek’s races. Klingon’s were about all we could handle in an hour, but I’d love to look at sexism in Trek through the lens of the Ferengi, the Romulans, and the Cardassians. Is that something you would be interested in reading? Sound off in the comments!