This was originally posted by Nialla at a Stargate forum, and I’m reposting it here with her permission. I’ve edited some Stargate-specific bits from it, because it’s very relevant to the issue of how females are portrayed in sci-fi, generally.
In another forum (general Sci Fi, not SG only) a few months back, I complained about the focus on Sam’s love life, and how Teyla wasn’t being written as much more than a “chesty vest” with no personality.
One of the male posters went off on a rant about how women are so much harder on each other than men are to women or men to other men. We’re more likely to knock down a beautiful woman for no other reason that she’s *is* beautiful. Is he right?
Personally, I don’t think so. It might seem that way to a guy, but I think many of the complaints about Sam aren’t anything to do with her physical appearance, but her professional one. Women have struggled for a long time to be treated equally, especially in the workplace, and it’s still not a reality for most women, so we’re a bit touchy about it when a woman is shown as being (in our opinion) unprofessional and/or stupid, and not getting called on it.
Whenever Sam does something stupid, I try to put one of the male characters in the same situation to see if I have a similar reaction. Most of the time I don’t, simply because I can’t picture them doing it in the first place. Honestly, I can’t imagine *Sam* doing some of the things shown in recent seasons, but they have done it to her anyway.
For those of you who don’t watch Stargate, the issue is simply this: are female fans being more critical of this female character than they are of the male, and if so, is it because she’s good-looking and we’re jealous?
My answer is: no. There are mistakes Sam made in early seasons that are not a bit dumber than mistakes made by her male counterparts. That sat just fine with me – nobody’s perfect, and if they were, I wouldn’t watch their show. But in recent seasons, her mistakes are more about clouded judgment. As Nialla says, she’s slipping up in ways we can’t even believe, given her earlier characterization, and we sure can’t see the boys doing the same thing.
To get totally shallow, there’s another reason I don’t think I’m jealous of her: I don’t think I’m less attractive than she is. To me, Amanda Tapping is pretty, but a lot of her charm comes from personality, not beauty. I would describe myself the same way. I also can’t think of anything she has that I want. Well, her job, but that’s true with all the male characters as well.