Women of Star Trek Part III

Women of Star Trek Part III

By: Virginia Eader

Today I bring you a very special treat. A 1993 interview with Gates McFadden, the beautiful red-head who played the amazing Doctor Beverly Crusher in The Next Generation (TNG).

This interview highlights some of the many ways TNG pushed the envelope on social issues in the 90’s.

After first watching the video myself, I was inspired to do a bit of quantitative research to get a better glimpse at gender roles in television. I decided to look at the gender breakdown of fictional television doctors. My analysis was conducted by calculating the total number of television doctors listed on Wikipedia.  (It’s an interesting list so I suggest taking a moment to click and scroll through it. I was personally excited to see Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman there.)

Using my very scientific method of counting, (I copied and pasted the list of names into an excel sheet to get a total count and then hand counted the names which I felt were feminine. For those names that could go either way I made a judgment call based on the perceived gender of the actor playing the character.) Then I gathered the results.

Out of 577 total television doctors listed, 182 are women, or 31.5%.

So, what do these numbers mean?

As someone who is normally quite critical of media’s representation of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups, I was surprised to learn that real life women make up about 30% of all physicians in the United States, according to the Yale Journal of Medicine and Law. So in this instance, media’s representation-at least numerically- is actually accurate.

Dr. Beverly Crusher

Now I could write into next week about the historical and sociological reasons as to why there aren’t as many women doctors in this country. And while there has been a six-fold increase in female doctors since the 1970’s, 30% is a pretty low percentage.

I can’t help but wonder that if there were more Beverly Crushers in the world of television, there may indeed be more female physicians in the real world.

Lastly, I’d like to note that if I were to not have included the number of fictional doctors from Soap Operas, the percentage of females would have noticeably decreased. (I guess in order to keep the love triangles in order, the Soaps had to put more women in the operating room.)

So I leave you with this question. How are women doctors portrayed on television? Have you watched ER or Gray’s Anatomy lately?

I’d like to give kudos to TNG for creating a strong woman doctor as a lead character in the series.