When I first saw DS9, I was quite young (perhaps 11 or so) and the show did not resonate with me right away. After my love of Troi and Crusher on TNG, I was ready for new Star Trek women to add to my small but growing roster of inspirational women to admire and emulate. Kira and Dax were favorites right away, but the adult themes of DS9, especially the Dominion War, didn’t truly connect with me until I rewatched the series in college. By then, I was taking classes on feminist theory and reading notable female authors in literature and politics, beyond the typical fare taught in high school. I had to reconnect with DS9 in a different way, leading me to view the show more as a political drama with the high stakes communicated via intense, dramatic moments such as what we see in “Far Beyond the Stars,” “In the Pale Moonlight,” “Tears of the Prophets,” and more.
While written in an era before #MeToo and #Resist, those themes nonetheless stand out and hold up to viewing in our current U.S. political climate. The grandiose nonsense of Gul Dukat and the Cardassian hatred of Bajorans following their ousting post-Occupation hits a little too close to home these days. Kira’s particular crusade against Dukat and all he stands for feels a great deal like what I felt in January 2017 as I marched with millions of women to protest the current occupant of the Oval Office. Another kind of Occupation, if you will, aided and abetted by a foreign power. A highly qualified woman had received over three million more votes yet was not in office, and democracy felt unsteady. It still does, to be honest.
Kira Nerys, who wore her attitude like armor and her trauma like a badge of honor, feels like she would understand the sentiments of women everywhere when faced with this assault on our rights and a president who stands against women in general, viewing them as little more than playthings for his own sexual appetite – quite similar to when we see Kira enter the Orb of Time to see if her mother and Dukat were lovers as he claims (“Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night”). In fact, Dukat often leers at Kira and makes advances, harassing her in a way that would have Kira posting a #MeToo status if she were a modern Twitter user! Dax also receives her share of leering, notably and unfortunately from Dr. Bashir in the beginning of the series, as he fancies himself a ladies’ man. Bashir’s leering improves as the series progresses, but Dukat remains an unrepentant asshole.
Kira never excused Dukat’s behavior nor did she brush it off as “boys will be boys,” a fact for which I remain grateful. I conducted my own examination of the women in Star Trek for one of my panels on feminist agency in all the various Trek incarnations – meaning how effective the female character is at making her own decisions and determining her own fate without involving a man – and Kira weighs in at #1, even beyond Janeway. While the women of Voyager are of course excellent at resistance, none have Kira’s soldier/terrorist background, closely help religious convictions, and Kira is also not Starfleet, meaning that she can occasionally flout the rules in a way that Janeway sometimes can’t because of her captaincy. Kira also has successful romantic relationships, whereas Janeway does not or chooses not to. As a fully realized female character in charge of her own destiny, Kira remains in excellent role model for today’s girls and for the generation that grew up with her that are now called on to resist. We need to walk the walk just like Kira does, never forgetting where we come from and the experiences – and often the trauma – that cause us to stand up and fight for justice not only for ourselves, but for the generations yet to come.
If Kira represents a more visceral aspect of resistance, Dax is the woman of STEM who is fighting on the side of science. Can you imagine anyone more horrified at the thought of “fake news,” anti-vaxxers, flat-Earthers, and climate change deniers than Jadzia Dax? Especially with her lifetimes of experience and all she has seen in terms of social upheaval and scientific breakthroughs! Dax would be organizing the March for Science, running a rogue National Park Twitter account, and protesting outside the doors of Congress as EPA and FDA regulations are being dismantled and more pollutants are finding their way into our air, water, and food.
Dax is solution-oriented, and her dedication to science and figuring out complex problems is inspiring in our current situation. The path to success is going to be littered with obstacles, but Dax is a creative thinker and I regularly viewed her expertise and know-how as something to be emulated. We may not all be gifted with a scientific mind (hello, fellow English majors!), but we can certainly appreciate out-of-the-box thinking and aspire to new and different approaches to complex social problems. Look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: she cooks dinner and talks to her social media followers about public policy, creating an accessibility in government that was lacking up until this point. I think Dax would be a fan, and not just because her sly sarcasm is the 24th century answer to the clap-back.
I can also see how Jadzia, often more impulsive or emotional than her Dax-symbiont self, would become frustrated with those who refuse to acknowledge scientific fact or who would rather tear her down than listen to reason. Personally, Kira’s hotheaded nature and tendency to punch first and ask questions later is about where I am in my resistance these days, but Jadzia’s big heart would most likely be taking a beating at this point and the thought of continuing to fight may very well feel daunting to her some days. One of the best parts of these women is that they are “real” – rage, sadness, frustration, joy, disgust, and more are a regular part of their emotional range as characters. They fall in love, get hurt, and pick themselves back up – or pick each other up. They struggle professionally at times in terms of where they fit in, too. Don’t we all?
So in case you are feeling resistance fatigue (a real thing – look it up!), I urge you to turn on some Deep Space Nine and see how Kira and Dax can boost your fighting spirit. They go well beyond the “strong female character” trope and I find it remarkable that they are so incredibly relevant more than 25 years after they first debuted. While you’re at it, follow Nana Visitor and Terry Farrell on Twitter for some feel-good, feminist vibes. The Prophets know we need them in these trying times!