“Call Me An Illogical Woman”

 

Spock is the ideal image of masculine control over emotions.

That’s what Lieutenant Uhura told Spock to call her when she was making conversation with him. For those of you that haven’t witnessed the glory of any Star Trek incarnation, Spock is from a planet named Vulcan, in which its inhabitants look quite a lot like humans, but have purged their emotions. Spock is half human, half Vulcan, but as he explains to Lt. Uhura (4:46-6:18), it’s illogical to express concern over another crew member, because it wouldn’t change the outcome of the situation. Spock’s lack of concern is juxtaposed with Lt. Uhura’s phrasing that she “just might cry” if she hears the word “frequency” again. This exaggerated phrase of emotion confuses Spock and casts Uhura as illogical and emotional.

This emphasis on the logical decision making and disregard for emotion correlates with the article Individual Bodies, Collective State Interests by Orna Sasson-Levy. In the article, men in the Israeli military are controlled by the institution at large in many ways, including the expression of emotion. If a recruit is particularly upset or whiny, he is called a crybaby and mercilessly humiliated. It’s a man’s duty in the military, especially if in a combat unit, to be masculine. This masculinity is defined by their suppression of emotion and their logic. Spock is their poster boy.

In some cases in the Israeli military, it’s okay to show some emotion such as pride or camaraderie, but anything other than those basic patriotic feelings are strictly controlled by the military. To cry or to complain is to show weakness, and that weakness is associated with femininity. Since the military is a masculine institution, making weak or feminine displays is the fastest way to be picked on or kicked out.

The institutional emphasis the military places on control when training their troops is remarkably similar to the purging of emotions that the Vulcans underwent. In the Israeli military, it was a sign of power to have complete control over one’s body and emotions. Symbolically, the military men’s bodies were considered machinery rather than clay. Machine imagery is that of fortitude and inorganic properties. The military men’s minds and bodies were no longer necessarily their own flesh, but were the unfeeling, powerful tools of destruction. The ultimate masculine image.

While Star Trek isn’t portrayed as quite as masculine as the modern Israeli military is, there are strong hints to masculine and feminine qualities. Spock embodies the male ideal with his unwavering stoicism. The control Spock has over his own mind and body extends outward to represent his control over others, which is what many military and masculine men aspire to. On the other hand, Lt. Uhura is the perfect representative for femininity. She approaches Spock with a dramatic image of emotion such as crying, (even though she wasn’t actually crying the fact that she presents it is enough), and then she chastises Spock, almost like a mother would, for not feeling more for his fellow crew members. She even calls herself illogical (although sarcastically), all while she is literally under his command and wearing a tiny skirt, which shows her vulnerability.

As it was said in the article, any commentary on emotions is also a commentary on gender. Women are emotional and men are unfeeling, supposedly. Men in the military aspire to this Spock ideal, while seeing weakness in others, such as women, for having emotions. These ideas of masculinity and femininity are perpetuated by cultural artifacts such as T.V. shows, and also by institutions such as militaries. With such strong influences, it’s hard to see a time when our realities won’t be shaped by these exterior or far-removed circumstances.

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