The usual easy ‘Hi Suse’ [sic] banter was gone. The guys stood back and stared or averted their eyes as though it were immoral to look at such a woman. There seemed almost to be a sense of their whispering, ‘Wow, Susan’s not such a nice girl after all; she’s maybe wild; evil.’ Even before the dance began and I was just standing demurely to the side, this feeling was in the air. Gene had touched on something dark in man’s unconscious, one could imagine doing things with a green mate that he would never dare with one of his own color.Susan Oliver (Vina) remembers filming the green-skinned dance scene in “The Cage”, quoted in These are the Voyages: TOS: Season 1 by Marc Cushman and Susan Osborn.
Um, ew. But this is actually pretty telling. It speaks to what it means to exoticize women and how that sexualizes and dehumanizes them. Talk about the Madonna-Whore Complex – the formerly “nice” white girl is seen totally differently when she’s painted green and asked to dance.
Through real history women of colour (and I’m not talking green now) have been exoticized similarly and put on display for white men. We can look back to the 1800s at Sara Baartman, the so-called “Hottentot Venus”, or the long history of white-created portrayals of “Geishas”, “Hot Gypsy Women” and “Harem Girls” in mainstream TV and movies (and Halloween costumes!). Or you can read about what women of colour experience today.
I’m not saying Susan Oliver understood this bigger legacy or was trying to express this. But my point is basically this: a woman’s right to respect and freedom from harassment should not be contingent on her colour.