san carlos ca

I photographed Lucy Kalanithi for ELLE Magazine’s February 2016 issue in San Carlos, CA. Her husband, Paul, a neurosurgeon at Stanford, was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 36. He set out to write a book about living a full life, and died at the age of 37 while still working on it.  Lucy vowed to finish it for him.  “When Breath Becomes Air” will be released January 12.

Dear Mr. Roddenberry,

…1) Undoubtedly you will want to improve the image of women on the Enterprise and in Federation society as well. One of the worst examples of how women were portrayed was in “Who Mourns for Adonais.” In this episode Lt. Carolyn Palamas, who is supposed to be a competent archaeologist and anthropologist, promptly forgets all her training when she first catches sight of the handsome alien, Apollo.

Only a lecture from the good captain keeps her from losing all touch with reality. Worse still is the way this affects Mr. Scott (who was in love with her at the time), who is prompted to acts of blind fury, thus endangering himself as the others. It has been said that a chain is only as good as its weakest link. Therefore if Star Fleet was staffed with many Lt. Palamases it would surely fall apart without any help from the Romulans and the Klingons. Same for society.

Subpoint 1. One thing you might not have thought of that could do a great deal to improve the status of women in Star Fleet and the believability factor is to change the women’s uniforms to pant uniforms like the men’s…on the socio-political side: the present mini-skirt uniforms make it clear to the women officers, (even Lt. Uhura) who really “wears the pants” on this starship.

Subpoint 2. Another element that would improve the image of women and Capt. Kirk as well is the idea of Kirk as a “cosmic womanizer.”…In practically every other episode some attractive (what other kind were there) female invariably tumbles into Kirk’s arms.

The cumulative effect is that a) all women are helpless little things and need to be protected, and b) this Capt. Kirk is very superficial in his relationships with women and does not regard them seriously. Also, the effect is that he is not a mature human being…

…3) If you really enjoy challenges you might want to try to have some homosexually oriented crewmembers. Because if we can understand and tolerate other life forms and cultures, we can do the same for our own people who choose a different lifestyle…

— 

- excerpts from a letter by Amy Foller (San Carlos, CA) printed in Susan Sackett’s 1977 book Letters to Star Trek.

While obviously I’d take issue with her depiction of homosexuality as a choice, her overall analysis and pleas to Roddenberry to improve women’s costumes, tone down the gender stereotypes, and include gay characters are so awesome!

It also shows that people at the time or very soon after TOS aired who expressed similar concerns to the ones expressed by me and other female, feminist and allied Trek fans. As far as I’m concerned, that reinforces the argument that we shouldn’t just let the aspects that bother us go unmentioned on the excuse that “it’s a product of it’s time”. 

This letter shows we’re part of a long tradition of women who love Star Trek wanting more for the women characters and trying to push the show into better representing our capabilities and diversity.

Six years ago, Angela Adeke couldn’t afford the uniforms needed to send her children to school. But with a $150 grant from Village Enterprise, Angela was able to sew her own uniforms – 4,000 of them, in fact. Her tailoring business now supplies the uniforms for four schools in her Uganda region, and with the business skills she learned from Village Enterprise, Angela has opened her own tailoring school, where she has trained 40 other women to sew.

In an area where many people live on under $2 a day, Angela has been able to send her children to boarding school, move into a bigger home, and build a house for her parents. “It gives me great joy to stand as a woman, not begging, but helping others and playing a role in changing the world in which I live,” she says. “Helping make that happen is my greatest pleasure.”

Village Enterprise, based in San Carlos, CA, offers business and financial training, small monetary grants and a savings program to people in Kenya and Uganda.

Read more about Angela’s story at the www.apathappears.org blog.