(The post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=13)
A Side Trek into the “real” Beam-me-up realm (b): Still Trekkin’
Item: It is acceptable for a woman to be more successful (by worldly standards) than her predecessors, as long as the New Man is more successful than the New Woman.
In the Trekverse (page 42) the 1960s characters are glorified secretaries or at best the head of a seldom-seen supporting service. All three women (Uhura, Chapel and Rand) are given promotions for the films, but this change is “strictly cosmetic” (page 54). The one character who makes a noticeable career change—Nurse Chapel becomes Dr. Chapel, page 54—is summarily demoted when her male ex-boss returns to boot her out of his chair. Chapel then expresses pleasure at her demotion—“I have never been so pleased over anything in my whole life”—for reasons known only to Roddenberry who wrote her lines.
The 1980s series introduces three female characters who supposedly hold authority and supervisory control. In reality they are easily shut down as people and their professional authority circumvented (page 59). Two women are doctors, not soldiers. The third (the security chief) is portrayed as too young, too reckless and too low in rank. The series is carefully structured to ensure the female characters can never command the ship (page 61).
(Personal aside: Two years after Roddenberry’s death the character Beverly Crusher announces a convenient “I-just-never-mentioned-it” command authorization in episode “Descent.” Deanna Troi, inspired by Crusher, seeks a promotion in “Thine Own Self.” Interestingly, the women could not rise in rank until their creator died.)
In Left Behind Chloe has an impressive education, a stay-at-home business, and other life choices that would have astounded her predecessors. Yet her opportunities still pale next to those of her “name known to the President” father and her world-renowned-journalist husband, and she still must “submit” to them. (The States abolished royalty and ruling classes, but if it did have an elite upper crust several of Left Behind’s world-famous men would be in it.) In effect, Chloe’s modern sensibilities have qualified her to compete for a better caste of husband. (In slang, this is known as “getting your MRS degree;” that is, an Mrs. degree; that is, a Missus degree.)
(Personal aside #1: The elite status of males extends even to minors. The alpha geeks David and Chang are old enough to get into grownup-sized trouble, but young enough to retain some of their sweetness, eagerness, and wide-eyed sense of wonder. Chang Wong in particular bears more than a passing resemblance to the boy genius of Star Trek, Wesley Crusher. Chang and Wesley even have the same taste in girls. Wesley shyly admires fellow gearhead Robin Lefler; Chang shyly admires fellow gearhead Naomi Tiberias.)
(Personal aside #2: The elite status of males also explains Rayford Steele’s interactions with a volume 6 character named Leah Rose. Doctor/Nurse Rose—her actual title varies, it seems)—frequently argues with Rayford and the Tribulation Force. Although this behavior is considered impertinent, it is not as intolerable as it would be regarded if she had won more arguments, or, alternately, if Leah had been Hattie. Instead, Rayford usually prevails although he understands little about women and less about medicine.)
The reasoning behind this philosophy is similar in both titles. Of Trek Lalli comments,
Gene Roddenberry has some very old-fashioned ideas about women. But he is also a futurist, a man deeply concerned with ethics, morality, and the fate of humanity. This results in an odd contradiction: Spock is sexist, yet there is also a strain of feminism in the show. The sexism is predominant, but the feminism is never entirely vanquished. Mr. Roddenberry realizes the inevitability of change, and he wanted Star Trek’s portrayal of the future to be as realistic as possible. He therefore included (or allowed the inclusion of) a number of strong women in Star Trek. By taking a closer look at these characters, we can better understand why such portrayals were not more common. (pages 43-44)
For Left Behind Frykholm maintains that
Absolute gender difference is often asserted in the rhetoric of evangelical leaders, yet Left Behind seems to offer, subtly, an alternative. This is not to say that the books are not full of gender stereotypes and scenes of female submission to male authority. They certainly are. This is also not to say that the books are not invested in maintaining a patriarchal order of male leadership, heterosexuality, and female docility. Many examples could be offered to demonstrate this. At the same time, we can see evidence of a negotiation in the books and in the lives of readers. In their everyday lives, men and women work out gender identities in complicated ways, not by pure rules dictated by evangelical authorities. As a work of fiction, Left Behind reflects those more complex realities. (pages 33-34)
Item: Stereotypes don’t change. Women remain “good for one thing.” (Whether that “one thing” is chaste or obscene depends upon the specific male writer in question.)
From Lalli’s page 41, in the 1960s Star Trek series women nearly burst out of their bodices, and one of the characters is described in the series bible as “having a strip-queen figure even a uniform can’t hide.” In the 1980s series the ship’s psychologist (page 59) wears civvies rather than the standard uniform, the better to nearly burst out of her bodice. (Would you respect a shrink who dressed that way?) The ship’s surgeon—a woman in her forties, a professor at the Academy, a military widow and the mother of a college-bound son—is written into the series bible as having (page 41) “the natural walk of a strip-tease queen.” (Would you address a military widow in those terms?)
(Personal aside #1: Phil Farrand, author of The Nitpicker’s Guide to “Star Trek:TNG” and related titles, seconds Lalli’s observations. In Farrand’s review of the TNG episode “Chain of Command” he laments the injustice done to Counselor Deanna Troi’s character that makes her wear “a bunny suit” for five years. Also, Troi apparently has no dress uniform; she greets domestic and foreign dignitaries in her “bunny suit.” Farrand is particularly merciless when the so-called professionals of Starfleet’s flagship “make all haste” to clothe the street thug/sociopath Ishara Yar in “a bunny suit” in “Legacy.”)
(Personal aside #2: About Left Behind’s attitude toward women, body shape and proper dress, your host waited in vain for a critic to explain exactly what Rayford meant when he said that he supposed his wife Irene was “attractive enough, for a 40-year-old.”
In rapturist fiction, the “one thing” that women are good for is submission to their men. Good women prove their holiness by being more submissive than other women. In Left Behind Chloe proves that her conversion, her salvation, is real by submitting to her father then her husband. In this aspect Chloe is not so different from her long-suffering mother Irene, who submitted to a lying, cheating husband as proof of her own holiness. Chloe does manage to surpass Irene in submission by adopting a religion to please her men. (Irene already was saved and therefore just doing what her family and church expected her to be doing anyway.)
(Personal aside: Frykholm touches on the rivalry between Irene and Chloe but shies away from the reason for it—they are in competition because their menfolk expect them to be. Buck Williams states plainly that his Chloe is “never catty or a nag”. He might say this because they are newlyweds. Veterans of marriage would say Chloe nags. We noted in Chloe’s “mascot” speech that Chloe tells Buck he is wrong, but that she will submit and do it his wrong way anyway. Another woman would definitely let the man do things his wrong way—so that she could hold it over the man’s head for the rest of his life. [“We did it your way and look what happened.”]
Now if someone really wanted to pick a fight, they could argue that Chloe lets Buck be as wrong as he wants to be because Irene used to do it to Rayford. Irene nagged. It wasn’t just “Save your soul, Rafe,” but “Don’t drink in my house. Help me with these spirited children. Why are you always coming home late, are you having an affair?” Never mind that that is exactly what he was trying to do—how dare she call him on it. [See Volume 1, pages 97-98 and 143-44.] Rayford lost the ultimate “I was right and you were wrong” argument when Irene left for heaven without him.
Which wife is more submissive? Is it Chloe who converts to make her men happy? Does she win simply because her husband says she does? Or is it Irene, who loses points for nagging but wins by being ready for heaven the day Jesus opens the gates? The competition is meant to distract us from the stereotype: when a man wins an argument it is called headship of the family, but when a woman wins an argument it is called nagging.)
Item: Male characters may be more well-rounded because they are freer to explore hidden facets of the human creature. This exploration proves that few behavioral traits are unique to one gender.
In the Trekverse “Spock ‘learns how to cry;’ this has since become the stereotype of the liberated man” (page 50). The characters Spock, McCoy and Data have a strong feminine side, if “feminine” means empathic, gentle, inquisitive, introspective, and accepting of female assistants and co-workers. In contrast, female characters who try to explore hidden facets of the human creature usually are represented as “mannish,” if “mannish” means defiant, callous, emotionally repressed, mentally unstable, and violent. Also, as this mythical world grows and changes through the years, “male” qualities become almost as boorish in men as they are in women. The only “male” quality that remains desirable—and remains desirable primarily in men—is the quality of leadership (pages 62-63).
In Left Behind circles Frykholm observes (page 91) that the “overwhelming” fan favorite is Buck Williams. Buck is macho yet tender, hard-headed yet educable, and so forth. Meanwhile Rayford gets in touch with his feminine side by learning to keep house after Irene is gone (page 32). (Personal aside: He also dissolves into tears in mourning for his first wife. The death of his second wife seems to dry his tears; that is, from that point on, he rarely mourns either one of them.) The female characters Chloe, Hattie and Verna are not similarly free to explore hidden facets of their humanity, because that would place them in competition with the men. Leah Rose, who barely balances between compliance and challenge, has a tongue of her own and earns a few choice names from Rayford. Verna, who does try to compete with the men, is a threat to the established order of things. Additionally, her battlefield-promotion to boss of the Chicago news bureau after the Rapture is regarded by the men as a power grab—despite the fact that she kept the business running for two weeks without their help. That was how long it took a man to show up to work.
Item: In response to charges of sexism, it is common for writers in the “middle years” of a mythos’ development to make buffoons of male characters. This supposedly levels the playing field, but it distracts readers from the need to independently address the status of female characters.
In the Trekverse Lalli notes “an increasingly negative view of macho behavior” as the mythos ages (pages 55-57). Male characters are called on their boorish behavior. Their sexual exploits bring them trouble rather than the praise of their fellows. New male characters are often portrayed as hypercompetitive (Captains Kirk versus Decker), monomaniacal (Khan) or careless/incompetent (Kruge, David Marcus).
Lalli concedes that “Roddenberry has kept his promise to portray male characters as sexual objects” in a manner comparable to the portrayal of his female characters (see Will Riker in “Angel One” and Data “the mechanical geisha”; page 62). None of these developments improve the living conditions or lives of the female characters.
As for Left Behind Frykholm observes a decades-long shift in the way that men like Rayford Steele are portrayed (page 32). Rayford’s conquests and/or potential conquests become threats to his salvation, not macho accomplishments to be celebrated. He cannot “make” Hattie submit, as his literary predecessors might have done. (This reflects two changes; Hattie is more independent than her ancestors, and Rayford has less influence over her than his ancestors would have had. So not only is Rayford portrayed as being “too” macho, he is also portrayed as doing it all wrong.) Frykholm sees machismo in Buck as well (page 32). She quotes the phrase from the novels about how Buck must “humble himself before the Lord” and keep doing it until he gets it right.
Rossing seconds the anti-macho theme (page 14). She observes that Buck has a weakness for “road rage” which he justifies with the macho excuse that it is okay to drive like a bully because waiting in line is for Other People. (That Buck scares the [blessings] out of his wife is her problem.) Rossing (page 139) also challenges Rayford’s intractable fascination with death and blood (as seen in Soul Harvest during the hailstones and in Armageddon during the Page 324 flyover).
The audience receives conflicting messages about macho behavior. Officially it is frowned upon as unworthy of the Promise Keeper model. Unofficially it is flaunted—in the elite status of the men, in Buck’s technolust/road rage and Rayford’s ongoing sexual lust, scary temper tantrums, serenity at the sight of spilled blood, and entitlement-displays of worldly wealth. The weaknesses of these male characters strike Frykholm and Rossing as distractions, rather than as developments that could improve the situation for the female characters who have to live with these embarrassing men.
(Personal aside: Not all of the macho men are pompous or hostile. Volume 11 introduces a boisterous timberman named Otto Weser, an aficionado of old movies, a hugger in a world of bowers and scrapers and hand-shakers. Otto is troubled by Rev. 18:4, in which God calls upon the righteous to flee [New] Babylon. In Otto’s opinion, God is compelled by Scripture to say these words. Simultaneously, in Otto’s opinion—formulated at a distance of thousands of miles, never having seen the place—there are no righteous persons in [New] Babylon for God to call out of the city. Therefore Otto leads forty believers into the city so that God will have someone to call out of it. This is dangerous, to say the least, and seems to be done to no other purpose or gain: Otto is not going to New Babylon to preach, spy, or rescue people. He goes there to be there. Four people die just trying to get into the place, and Otto loses two more thereafter. It is true that Otto’s people encounter no other believers in New Babylon. However, this may have something to do with the fact that his followers are too scared to come out of hiding, even during the Plague of Darkness when it is relatively safe to do so. Of course they will not meet anyone. Finally, Otto has no idea where his people should flee when the time comes. By sheer chance [or divine intervention] he meets Rayford roaming the hallways of the same Babylonian building and implores Rayford to let his band of refugees follow the pilot home to safety. Rayford agrees and applauds Otto’s bravery. The two men then amuse themselves by playing small pranks on the eternally doomed [pages 32, 38, 45-6, 53]. One could become sidetracked in a discussion of the paucity of humor in Left Behind—the warped anthem “Fail, Carpathia!” is one of the lighter moments—and the use/misuse of humor in characters who do “get it.” [Consider fan reactions to Otto and Rayford’s sense of humor to, say, their reactions to Hattie’s sense of humor.] However this would distract us from the question of why, exactly, Otto is in New Babylon at all.
Otto and Rayford do not think they are forcing prophecy by putting forty innocent lives at risk. They’re just trying to help God out a little. Your host is reminded of 1 Kings 19:10, 14, 18, in which Elijah also judges the people from a distance, only to have God inform him that God knew of many righteous people in a region Elijah had written off as hopeless; therefore any such careless risk-taking was uncalled for. Apparently Otto and Rayford never read this passage or, if they did, they don’t believe it applies to them. Their opinion does not change the fact that six of Otto’s friends died for no reason. Given that Rossing—the only critic to read Volume 11—loathes the concept of “forcing prophecy,” your host is surprised that Rossing missed this one.)
Item: In both genres, it can be argued that the writers had to portray the bias in order to comment on it. However, when that commentary is complete, the conclusion seems to be that the writers are satisfied with the status quo.
In the Trekverse Christine Chapel is only one of countless women who are miserable on their own (page 51). Lalli’s list of powerless or piteous women who need a man to rescue them from their own lives is several dozen examples long. Alternately, a few women like Nancy Hedford, Natira, the Romulan Commander, Elaan of Troyius, or the Matriarch of Angel One are (relatively speaking) formidable warrior queens. They “soon prove as unhappy as their predecessors, and neglect their duties in order to pursue a man.”
Next, Reena, a child-woman whose father and boyfriend get into a screaming fight over who “owns” her, experiences a feminist consciousness-raising of sorts and stands up to both of them. She promptly dies of stress/emotional exhaustion, “an ending which would argue for a conservative approach to women’s liberation, at best.”
After years of the Classic Trek rule that women cannot be captains, two female captains are introduced as guest stars (Tryla Scott of ST:TNG “Conspiracy” [page 61] and Captain Alexander [page 57] of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). Of course both women are neutralized less than five speaking lines into their debut. One is possessed by malevolent aliens; the other promptly runs her ship into a living “iceberg” probe and “sinks” with all hands. Indeed, Lalli’s article begins (page 39) by describing James Kirk’s anxiety attack when the admiral briefly allows a visiting lieutenant to pilot his personal starship. The iconic hero who has waged war against Klingons and Romulans is almost undone (unmanned?) by the sight of a “woman driver.” (His doctor actually offers him a tranquilizer as a joke.)
On page 51 Lalli wonders “if Gene Roddenberry compromised his vision of the future [equality] in order to explore this timely issue (just as he’d compromised [his vision of peace] by making so many Federation ambassadors obnoxious).” Lalli then asks, to what effect?
Female sexuality is portrayed as incompatible with success in Starfleet because it is thought to lead inevitably to domesticity, the antithesis of exploration. (page 62).
Most of the women in Starfleet seem to be searching for husbands. Fertility is a recurring theme in Star Trek, and several times we hear references to the human instinct to colonize and populate new territory. Taken together, these facts suggest that Starfleet approves of crewwomen because most of them will leave the service to raise a family. The goal is to spread the human race throughout the galaxy, and child-rearing is seen as a woman’s proper destiny.
The suggestion is that women can remain in Starfleet only as long as they suppress their natural instincts, or until they find the right man. This not only flatters the male ego, but reduces women’s liberation to a form of foreplay. (pages 47-48)
It may be this attitude of “foreplay” which Frykholm finds so troubling in the re-sculpting of Chloe Steele Williams. Chloe is not a product of her grandparents’ time, when a woman was assumed to have a “calling” to matrimony unless she could prove she had a calling to be a nun. (It happens that Chloe joins a denomination where the calling of “nun” is not an option.) No doubt there were women (and men) of Grandma’s era who were pushed into marriage even if it was not their calling. Has Chloe really had more choices than they? In Left Behind her options are to marry or to be regarded as a “bad girl”/potential pervert. The old Puritan model of feminine sexuality has a label for Irene, a label for Hattie, and a label for Verna. There is no label, no place for a woman who is none of these things.
Does Frykholm have a problem with Chloe becoming a mother? To your host it does not seem so. Frykholm dislikes the fact that Chloe’s maternal duties may cause the character to withdraw from the major plot points. This Frykholm does see as a negative development.
The problem seems to be Frykholm’s concern at how quickly and easily Chloe gives up her “voice.” Chloe sets aside her own mental, emotional and spiritual capacities for discernment to keep peace in her marriage (pages 33, 90-91). She “becomes dependent upon a man for her faith.” Feminine submission is the status quo and desired state in rapture fiction. Chloe’s early attempts to evade those restrictions by going to college to become a career woman have disrupted that status quo.
Frykholm seems to be asking, was Chloe groomed to be Buck’s wife? The Tribulation Force in their bunker is not in the business of physically repopulating the planet. Their goal is to spread Christian rapturism among the existing inhabitants. After the authors permit her to get just a little “degreed up” (just enough to be useful to the cause), Chloe is walked through a series of steps that cause her to “populate” the planet with “baby” Christians. Chloe is re-introduced to rapturist teaching through her father, who aggressively seeks her conversion. Through her father she spends time with Buck Williams her future husband. Through Buck she is connected to Donny. Through Donny she obtains the almost-magical computers that will power her home business—a business aimed at creating and nurturing “babes in faith.”
Is this a form of “foreplay?” Hard to say. Chloe just does not seem to have done enough to convince Frykholm that this marriage was Chloe’s idea. Whether this is Chloe’s problem or Frykholm’s problem remains an open question. Some of Frykholm’s interviewees disagree with her interpretation of Chloe—but some of them agree with it.
(Personal aside #1: It may be that Buck and Chloe hint at certain dynamics in marriage that make people uncomfortable. Lest one think there were no feminists in the horse-and-buggy days, there used to be a word for certain men of Buck’s age … not a nice word, so we won’t use it. It was spelled out as “the kind of man who likes to catch his wife young so he can have the raising of her,” to make sure she turned out the way he liked them. One recognized such men by asking whether they got along with women their own age. The idea was that a man who could not tolerate a woman who would stand up to him often did have something wrong with him. That was why he looked for a woman without adult discernment in the first place.
Such men have a female counterpart which Marcia Millman dubbed the social-climber Cinderella. In the Cinderella myth, both the poor bride and her wealthy groom were assumed to be persons of good character who lived happily ever after. In the real world, the average Prince Charming did not necessarily venture outside his class. If he did, it could imply that the rich man in question was Damaged Goods. That is, if the women of his own circles wanted nothing to do with him, there might have been a reason. This left an opening for a woman of more modest means to marry into high society’s circles. One recognized such women by asking why they chose a fixer-upper man when so many available men would qualify as wonderful husbands and fathers right from the start. Was it because said available men were substitute teachers or plumbers or garbagemen? Would the woman still have married her damaged man if said man had been a substitute teacher or a plumber or a garbageman?
This is not to say that Buck and Chloe exhibit these dynamics. Clearly Buck and Chloe are intended to set a good example, whereas the parallel story of Rayford and Hattie is meant to illustrate a bad one. Our observation simply is that there are elements in the Williams’ marriage that could be taken, or mistaken, for the aforementioned dynamics. That is, Buck really does not get along well with women of his own age or social status, and Chloe really does tug his leash in ways that would be called passive-aggressive if someone else did it. Would Buck have married Chloe if she had been his peer? Would Chloe have married Buck if he had been a typesetter or proofreader or deliveryman for the Global Weekly instead of its award-winning senior journalist? Those are hypotheticals; we’ll never know. Let us turn to realities. Both Rayford and Buck expected their wives to drop out of college to attend to the needs of their husbands. For Irene or Chloe to fulfill that one dream—to finish college and marry after graduation—would have interrupted the man’s “schedule” [to use Rayford’s term: Volume 1, page 143].
So it could be proposed that Chloe argues in Volume 1 and weeps in Volume 2 because she does not want to end up like her mother. Well, she doesn’t end up like her mother. Her mother got whooshed up to heaven. Secondly, Irene married a peer before she fell behind, whereas Chloe married a worldly and powerful man ten years older than she was. Chloe may be a legal adult, but she is still very young. [In Volumes 1 and 2, Buck calls the college student “little girl” as a term of endearment. Even he describes his courtship of her as eventually turning “condescending, even parental.” See Volume 2, page 191.] When Chloe implored Buck to stop “parenting” her, she meant what she said.
Frykholm may be concerned about Chloe being “groomed” to be Buck’s wife because Chloe’s options are instantly and forcibly limited. Let us remember that Buck’s options also are limited. After the Rapture, there were not a lot of desirable candidates left to choose. His only other early choices were Hattie, Alice, Amanda and Verna, and all were involved with someone else. In the opinion of your host, if Chloe was groomed to marry Buck, he was groomed to marry her too.)
(Personal aside #2: Going back to Olson’s comments about Left Behind’s fictional pope, and Frykholm’s observation that rapturist characters fill sports stadiums with converts as Promise Keepers do now, neither Frykholm nor Olson follow up on an obvious comparison. That is, nobody mentions the many sports stadiums and mega-plazas that Pope John Paul II of the Roman Catholics filled all over the world for 26 years. Pope Francis seems to have that mass attractiveness too. None of our critics ask how, exactly, the Catholics lost that ability within the framework of the novels. It goes deeper than the obvious character-centric rationale: that is, that rapturists fill the stadiums because they are the stars of the story. [Presumably in a Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, or Amish story the major characters would be Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, or Amish.] No, if we follow this plot point to its end we find a number of unexpected conclusions, none of them good.
For example, if this fictional pope is a good man, why was his flock left behind? If he had true doctrine, why did he fail to impart it to his parish? Did he deserve to be rescued as the people who trusted him perished? [A Protestant pastor named Bruce Barnes was a fake who failed his flock. He is punished by being left behind.] This fictional pope—was he a poor teacher? Or were his followers stubborn, bad, unteachable? Rossing calls rapturism “a 401K plan that saves only yourself” (page 18). [It certainly turned out that way for Left Behind’s Catholic cast, plus about 4-6 billion other people.]
It is possible that the writers of Left Behind rescued the fictional pope simply because rapturists are unusually fond of the real Pope John Paul II. Aside from liking him for personal reasons, they had a brief political alliance. John Paul II welcomed their aid in 1980s Poland. Poland was a Catholic nation and a few cells of mixed Protestants posed no threat the dominant church. John Paul II understood that if Polish Christians could set aside their differences, they might be able to liberate Poland from the Iron Curtain. Indeed this happened in a peaceful revolution. But the religious alliance was strictly local and conditional. John Paul II did not welcome the arrival of large numbers of Protestants in Latin America, where they posed a real threat to Catholic unity. In Guatemala it is estimated that the populace is one-third Catholic, one-third historicist [mostly Adventist and Mormon], and one-third mixed “evangelical” [some of whom are rapturist and some are not]. [One only hears about mainline Protestant activity after some natural disaster when their specialized aid teams begin the work of rebuilding the country. They are always there; it is simply that no one pays attention to them until people realize, “Wait a minute! You have money?”]
John Paul II had faith in young people. Sometimes he was the only one who did. Moreover he attracted many young women followers. [Compare this to the Promise Keepers, who will not admit girls or women to their rallies. At least the Catholics will let women in the building.] It probably would be overanalyzing the situation to propose that Left Behind removed the pope to remove the competition, as a way to reassure Baby Boomers, “You will regain control over your children someday. Then they will realize that you were right.”
Nevertheless in Left Behind the (unintended?) message persists. The fictional pope was whooshed up to heaven because he believed differently than did the flock that he led. He failed to guide them while he lived; and his denomination apparently did not have what it takes to survive without him. The fictional pope got into heaven by being a “bad” Catholic. That is the only reason he got in. How is that appreciably different from rapturist attitudes in the old days, when none of them got in?)
Therefore in the act of “proving” there is no bias, bias may endure.
Item: Although the audience is expected to be impressed with the “progressive” female characters, the stories in which these women appear do not keep pace with the status of women in similar fictional settings or in the real world.
In the 1980s Star Trek:TNG series, the audience is supposed to be impressed with security chief Tasha Yar, although similar characters already existed in the real world and on fictional programs like Cagney & Lacey and Hill Street Blues (pages 66-67). Indeed, the women of the 1960s Star Trek series did not keep pace with the fictional women on other television channels. (The Avengers is an oft-cited example.)
In Left Behind the audience is supposed to be impressed that Chloe studied at Stanford, gets to go on a mission to Greece, and runs a home business out of her survivalist bunker. Yet rapturist female characters like Chloe do not keep pace even with the women in another male-dominated institution, the Roman Catholic Church. A Catholic woman would have had the right to premarital counseling. A Catholic woman would have had the right to seek an annulment with no stain upon her name/status or the name/status of her children. A Catholic woman can be called to celibacy, whether as a nun, an oblate or a single layperson. She might have some protection from the Puritan accusations of sexual deviancy or obstinacy toward God and man: “Thou art so having sex! With whom? Or what?” Catholic women go on business trips (including dangerous trips) without being humored about it or held up to the public as a “mascot”. Catholic women routinely start businesses, religious orders, and religious movements. (See Mother Teresa, or Mother Angelica, or Mother Antonia of Tijuana, or Dorothy Day, or Elizabeth Ann Seton, or Hildegard, or “Poor” Clare.) Also, as Teresa of Avila and Therese (“The Little Flower”) of Lisieux demonstrated, a Catholic woman may become a Doctor of the Church (i.e. one who writes doctrine), a status that was never an option for the fictional Chloe, or for real rapturist women.
The average feminist would be unimpressed by the status of women in the Catholic Church because women are not priests, bishops, cardinals, or popes. However the status of women in rapturist churches is unimpressive even when compared to Catholic authoritarian standards.
(To be continued)