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While watching "Starship Troopers" the other day I noticed that both men and women were taking showers together, training and fighting along side. Are the sexes equal in that world/universe? Could women become a "citizen" ? Or is the showering scene more of a director's choice?

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    The movie or the book? – dan04 Jun 17 '12 at 23:07
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    @Darius - the book and the movie are incredibly different. There are more differences than similarities. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 17 '12 at 23:15
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    Incredibly Different – AncientSwordRage Jun 17 '12 at 23:21
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    @Darius - see the answer for details of the subject matter. However I will be cynical and note that the MAIN reason for including women in MI in the movie was fanservice as opposed to meaningful political message. Gratuitous sex and nudity FTW! – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 17 '12 at 23:45
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    Separate roles for men and women in the military always seemed to me like an odd thing in this book. Powered armor ought to be an equalizer. ST was originally written as a juvenile for Scribner's, but Heinlein had already written much more mixed and equal roles for the sexes in previous juveniles such as Tunnel in the Sky. He based the boot-camp half of the book on research into a real one (USMC I think?), so probably he just fell into that all-male pattern without thinking. Or maybe he thought his readers in 1959 wouldn't believe a co-ed version of ultra-tough boot camp. – Ben Crowell May 25 '20 at 1:08
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To answer the primary question, in both the book and the movie women had 100% the same right to enter the Federal Service and through it, to become citizens.

AncientSwordRage's answer addresses the movie, so I'll address the book.

The official rules are cited by Sergeant Ho at the time of Rico's recruitment:

But if you want to serve and I can't talk you out of it, then we have to take you, because that's your constitutional right.
It says that everybody, male or female, shall have his born right to pay his service and assume full citizenship - Chapter 02

“Huh? How can he stop me?” And of course he couldn’t, not legally. It’s the first completely free choice anybody gets (and maybe his last); when a boy, or a girl, reaches his or her eighteenth birthday, he or she can volunteer and nobody else has any say in the matter. - Chapter 02

Moreover, there are many examples of women serving, including Rico's school-age romantic interest, Carmen Ibañez (a Navy junior officer when we see her later in the book), and already-serving women in the Navy, especially the Troop ship captains (e.g. Yvette Deladrier commanding "Roger Young").

On the other hand, like many things in Heinleinverse, and especially Starship Troopers version of it, things are extremely practical. In other words,

  • women are concentrated in the Navy, especially as pilots, due to smaller size, better tolerance for high Gs and faster reflexes (since someone commented on this, I'd like to clarify explicitly that this G-tolerance "fact" is a stated fact in Heinlein's book's universe, NOT in real life biology where the numbers are rougnly comparable).

    When a female pilot handles a ship there is nothing comfortable about it; you’re going to have bruises every place you’re strapped. Yes, yes, I know they make better pilots than men do; their reactions are faster, and they can tolerate more gee. They can get in faster, get out faster, and thereby improve everybody’s chances, yours as well as theirs. - Chapter 01

    Besides the obvious fact that drop & retrieval require the best pilots (i.e., female), there is very strong reason why female Naval officers are assigned to transports: It is good for trooper morale. - Chapter 13

    We did go forward for guard duty, because the Rodger Young was a mixed ship, female captain and pilot officers, some female Navy ratings; forward of bulkhead thirty was ladies’ country—and two armed M.I. day and night stood guard at the one door cutting it. - Chapter 10

  • OTOH, in the book, there didn't seem to be any women in Mobile Infantry (while not commented on, it seems Heinlein painted MI physical requirements as too much for a woman).

    But if you didn’t have more urgent things to do after supper, you could write a letter, loaf, gossip, discuss the myriad mental and moral shortcomings of sergeants and, dearest of all, talk about the female of the species (we became convinced that there were no such creatures, just mythology created by inflamed imaginations—one boy in our company claimed to have seen a girl, over at regimental headquarters; he was unanimously judged a liar and a braggart). - Chapter 04

  • Also, there definitely are women serving in the armerd forces outside the Navy - namely, Carmen talks to Major Rojas during recruitment, who is a female, and holds a non-Navy rank of a Major.

Just to be clear, there seemed to have been absolutely no prohibitions or limitations stated in the book referring to women being in any of the branches, as long as they qualified. The differences between MI and Navy appear to be purely practical ones.

There was also a side story clearly illustrating that the gender IQ differences weren't an issue at all in Starship Troopers universe - Captain Jorgensen of "Tours" tutored Rico in math during his officer candidate tour (and was implied to have been the most qualified person on the ship to do so - not a big surprise for a starship captain coming from pilot track). It was also implied that Carmen was very good at math, way more so than Rico :)

As a separate note, as noted above, there wasn't any hesitation about placing women in command of a starship (eat your heart out, Roddenberry).


To address your last comment about shower scene - yes, that was 100% director's choice, and contrary to the spirit of the book (surprise!). On the ship, the female officers lived separately (separate quarters) and there was even a guard post guarding said quarters, though it was kind of implied that the latter was mostly for ritualistic historical reasons rather than practical or moral ones.

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    The Director's commentary of the film has an interesting anecdote about filming the shower scene – CamelBlues Jun 18 '12 at 2:55
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    @CamelBlues But tell us! – Thecafremo Jun 18 '12 at 11:44
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    @Thecafremo - movies.stackexchange.com/questions/86380/… – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 14 '18 at 3:06
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    @DVK-on-Ahch-To Well, it only took 6 years! Thanks, I had, obviously, forgotten about this. – Thecafremo Mar 15 '18 at 2:34
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    That last bit was contrary to the spirit of the hook only because it was too early in Heinlein's career. – Spencer May 24 '20 at 15:08
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Women in the Starship Trooper movie universe, definitely have the same rights to citizenship as men.

Quoting form the Movie Script

      DJANA'D
    I'm going in for politics. You gotta be a
    citizen for that. So here I am.

      KATRINA
    I wanna be a mom. It's easier to get
    a licence if you've served

      SHUJUMI
    Federation's gonna give me a scholarship
    when my hitch is up. I wanna be a
    neurologist, study brain chemisty and
    associated stimulus...

These are the women who explain why they are going for citizenship. Not only does Djana'd want to be a citizen but also into politics. I would say that's equal rights.

It seems that is the whole point of citizenship, sure it splits people into citizen and non-citizen. But everyone in those tiers has the same rights.

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  • It's odd that this universe has limitations on having children. You'd think they'd want as many future soldiers as possible. – dan04 Jun 18 '12 at 9:00
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    Only if their Parents were Citizens to help <stike>brainwash</strike> educate their children. – AncientSwordRage Jun 18 '12 at 9:08
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    @Pureferret - That was one of the many idiotic "fsck Heinlein" uber-BS pieces put into the movie by Verhoeven to pervert the whole meaning of the book to serve his twisted "Heinlein's ST is a fascist state" misinterpretation. There was nothing even remotely similar in the book – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 18 '12 at 12:55
  • I always figured it to mean overpopulation problems – Jersey Aug 21 '13 at 20:38
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    Agreed. The movie was a pale imitation of the book. Typical left wing Hollywood perverting the meaning of the actual book. If you want to be enlightened read the book. – MrInfinity May 24 '20 at 11:03
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To quote the film's screenwriter (Ed Neumeier) from the Director/Screenwriter audio commentary:

It's actually a kinda society that works pretty well. There's no sexism, there's no racism and we'll see later that there's very little crime.

In fact, they seem to have achieved the ideal politically correct society, except that we question how they've achieved it...

So there you go. This fascist utopia seems to have its good points.

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The book emphasizes "Federal service" as the precursor for exercising ones rights. In other words you earn your keep. Equality of the sexes would seem apparent. In the film women are not barred from combat and many of the women in the movie suffer gruesome deaths as well.

GIF of a woman in combat gear being burnt to death by a fire-breathing giant insect

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The movie, for all its faults, got the principles better than the book. If anything, the movie probably overestimates the number of women in the MI, due to differences in physical strength and aggressiveness. Men are much more likely to max out these qualities, so you'd expect the proportion of women to be smaller than the movie shows. In this respect, the movie is a product of its (and our) time.

The book, on the other hand, was also very much a product of its time, as was Heinlein. The idea of women as infantry was simply not on the table, nor was sexual integration (or function, if it comes to that). By the same criticism as applies to the movie, with the number of MI needed, there are bound to be some women who meet the standards. However, the basis for relationships between the sexes was very much straight-jacketed by pre-Pill American public morality, which was notoriously prudish/Puritan. You can see this in the character of Johnny, who gets an evening with Carmen while in OCS, and

"I got back to barracks with stars in my eyes and whiffing slightly of perfume. Carmen had kissed me good-by."

This from a 20-or-so combat veteran?

They don't write 'em like that any more.

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