Quick! Which of these men does Lt. Nyota Uhura surpass or equal in rank?
Reading through some Star Trek cosplay blogs and a poster pointed out something (in an off-hand, costuming detail sort of way) that brought me up short because fucking shit, why didn’t I notice that before?
In the reboot films, the short-sleeve dress variant of the uniform worn exclusively by characters the film identifies or codes as women (there are variants with long sleeves and even a full tunic-and-pants combo apparently available as options, but they get minimal screen-time and are mostly in the background or very quick cut-away shots), by the nature of their being short-sleeved, don’t have any place for the wearer to display rank. The long-sleeved versions of the uniform, the kind worn by all of the men in the film, foreground and back, display rank at the cuffs, as was the case with TOS.
So basically, by removing the sleeves of the short dress uniform variant of the standard duty uniform, not introducing any variations on how rank can be displayed, and showing/marketing the few prominent women in the cast almost exclusively in that version of the uniform (with the exception of a few scenes where everyone is in long-sleeved formal uniforms that show ranks in a variety of ways or wearing other issued clothing with no designated ranks for anyone), the Star Trek reboot series ensures that there is no way for the women in its cast to visibly outrank any of the men.
The same holds true for the overwhelming majority of the women in the background. Searching around for pictures for this post, I saw exactly one screencap of a woman wearing long sleeves who wasn’t an ensign (a science-division Orion lieutenant). Regardless of their true rank, by not being able to display their rank women wearing the short-sleeve, short-skirt dress uniform in the new Star Trek movies (whose costumes are the ultimate choice of the filmmakers) will always be read as civilians or ensigns, the most junior of the enlisted members of Starfleet.
Granted the meaning of the braids as they relate to rank aren’t something many in the general public would notice and weren’t highlighted in the way the rank designations were in the various tv series, but dude, JJ.
That’s still fucked up as all hell.
This will eternally bother me.