Our brother site, AfterElton.com, has published an interesting article today assessing how the cable networks rate in terms of gay visibility. Though the article focuses mostly on how gay men are represented on cable, I think the article provides a pretty balanced perspective, even for lesbians and bisexual women. It's kind of a reality check: The vast majority of cable representations of LGBT people still focuses on gay men, but there are some standouts for lesbians (Work Out, The L Word, South of Nowhere).
Which are the standout cable networks? AfterElton.com ranks Bravo, BBCAmerica, Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime, MTV and The N at the top. What's most interesting to me are the cable networks that are at the bottom of the pile: A&E, BET, E!, Sci Fi, TNT and USA. They're at the bottom not necessarily because they have aired homophobic content, but because they have aired little to no programming about gay people in general.
But although Sci Fi hasn't addressed LGBT people in their series, it struck me that it has, nonetheless, presented a lot of programming that contains very positive portrayals of strong, independent women. Battlestar Galactica (yes, one of my favorite shows) has more amazing women than any other show on television, in my opinion. And Painkiller Jane, though not exactly the best-written show on television, does have an openly bisexual actress, Kristanna Loken, in the lead role — and that lead role is of a seriously ass-kicking superheroine.
It seems to me that for lesbians and bisexual women, there's more to equal representation than having queer women on TV. We also want women, period, who take up space (literally and figuratively) in characters that challenge the status quo. Yeah, I want to watch a woman president, in outer space or in the White House (I even liked the short-lived Commander in Chief with Geena Davis). I want to watch women who are as tough as men but have complicated emotional lives. I even want to see women in traditional roles of wife and mother, as long as those roles are multidimensional and challenging (like the mom in Friday Night Lights, played by Connie Britton).
For me, I guess, queer women are women first.