There are just so many reasons to love Sir Patrick Stewart.
I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my dad, so for years I just called him Jean-Luc Picard. Then, of course, there was the X-Men franchise where he became a familiar face again, this time as Professor X. But as an English major I’ve been most recently impressed by his many Shakespeare performances. Did you know he played Claudius in two different BBC versions of Hamlet?
But it’s not actually Stewart’s epic acting career I want to look at, but rather what he has decided to do with all that fame.
Prior to his involvement with Amnesty International I had no idea that Patrick Stewart experienced domestic abuse as a child. In the video I’ve included below he explains how his father’s abuse towards his mother compelled him to get involved with Refuge, a home and helpline for victims of domestic abuse. After learning that his abusive father most probably suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following the War he was also compelled to become involved with Combat Stress, a charity that targets veteran mental health.
His most recent action against domestic abuse, the Ring the Bell campaign, asks for promises from men to take action in stopping domestic violence.
It’s pretty easy to be skeptical of celebrities getting involved in social justice campaigns. It seems common now for NGOs to use a celebrity for a front man and sometimes that can end up feeling pretty fake, and often just useless. But there are two big reasons why I am excited about Patrick Stewart getting involved in this issue.
1) Patrick Stewart is a man
It’s not fair, but the reality is the majority of the world still gives more weight to words spoken by a man than those spoken by a woman.
Even I’ve had conversations about feminism and/or issues regarding women (with men or women) where I can very quickly see the person I am talking to begin to go a little dead in the eyes. It’s like I can actually hear my voice begin to translate itself into “blah blah blah, woman complaining, blah blah.” In a couple of those situations my lovely husband has been next to me and has spoken up in support of what I am saying, or presented it with his own angle. Within a few moments you can see the person perk up and listen.
I’m not saying this happens to me a lot, or even that it is always because he’s a man and I’m a woman, but this does happen. I think sometimes it’s just because people are tired of feeling yelled at by “the angry feminist” who makes a complex idea into a oversimplified “you’re with us or against us,” but sometimes it’s also because we still tend to frame feminine qualities in the negative.
2) He’s a part of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy World
I love me some sci-fi and fantasy. Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate (SG-1, none of this Atlantis nonsense), Harry Potter, Avatar (The Last Airbender cartoon, I never saw the movie), Doctor Who and most especially Lord of the Rings. Bring them on! I’d love to pretend I’ve reached the level of awesome geek-dome made cool by The Big Bang Theory, but I’ve never really gone beyond just enjoyed my sci-fi through reading and watching shows/movies (and the occasional Halloween costume).
In some ways this subculture is an amazing place. In one of his Fame Day posts Evan even talked about the many efforts put into encouraging an atmosphere of respect at a comic-con in Minnesota. That being said, the sci-fi/fantasy world does have a way of catering to the male gender, particularly in two of the realms I am less familiar with: Comics and Gaming.
Evan has discussed problems with rape culture and other gender issues in comics better than I ever could. And while I don’t want to get into rape culture in gaming just now, I thought I’d at least share the Fat, Ugly or Slutty website with you. The website is basically a running pile of screenshots taken by female gamers of messages they receive from male gamers once their gender has been divulged. I should probably warn you that the language is fairly offensive.
Anyways, I realize that not all gamers are into Star Trek and not all of us who enjoy a little Star Trek are into gaming, but there does seem to be a convergence of all things science/fantasy fiction at the various conventions around the world (at least as far as I can tell from online. I’ve never been to one… yet). And it tends to be at these kind of conventions that Patrick Stewart, as a Star Trek veteran, has the opportunity to share his story. In fact, the video I shared above was actually taken at Comicpalooza this year.
So who really knows, maybe some of the many punks who harass female gamers online will end up at a convention where Patrick Stewart is speaking and hear, I mean really hear from someone they just might respect, why it’s not okay to treat women that way.
If nothing else he is just one more voice against a tide of media that suggests otherwise, saying “go make your own damn sandwich.”