Was Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry a misogynist?

Star Trek's creator has been accused of misogyny for greenlighting Worf.
"Star Trek" 25th Anniversary Dedication of the Roddenberry Bldg. at Paramount Studios
"Star Trek" 25th Anniversary Dedication of the Roddenberry Bldg. at Paramount Studios / Albert L. Ortega/GettyImages

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry envisioned a world where different types of people could work together to better one another. He believed in the concept so much that he designed Star Trek's entire mythos around the idea that together, all things are possible. He even went on to help create the concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations mantra that the Vulcans hold to be true.

Now, Roddenberry isn't perfect, no one is, but he has shown to be ahead of his time. Despite that, some have pointed out his tendencies backstage, with Giant Freakin Robot penning an article that claimed Roddenberry was a misogynist.

The incident at the heart of the articles centers around the creation of Worf. D.C. Fontana wanted a woman as a commander in The Next Generation, while, while David Gerrold wanted a Klingon. Neither got their wish, as the character Roddenberry picked was William Riker. With the commanding gig essentially picked, Roddenberry selected the Klingon character to join the crew.

Worf was a better character at the time to add to the ship, and it's likely Roddenberry knew that, but comments from Gerrold have marred the creation of Worf. The above-mentioned author goes on to claim that Worf was created due to Roddenberry's "dislike" of women;

""....Roddenberry allegedly gave the green light to the Worf idea mostly due to misogyny.""

The quote from the article is tied directly to David Gerrold a former actor and writer for Star Trek during Roddenberry's run on the original series in the 1960s, mostly known for the Trouble with Tribbles episode. Gerrold, who ended up leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation due to his issues with Roddenberry, described Roddenberry as someone who distrusted women, saying (via SlashFilms)

""Gene had been badly burned by women. He had a bitter divorce and she wanted half the money of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation.' He tends to generalize. If most of the women you meet are mean to you, you will get a feeling that all women are mean, even though it's not true. Maybe you just attract mean women.""

The quote by Gerrold came from the book, "The 50-Year Mission," and was used by two different sites to write about Roddenberry being a misogynist. With all fairness to both sites, more people than Gerrold have accused Roddenberry of misogyny and being rather abrasive with language in the 1960s that wouldn't fly in 2024. Especially in a professional setting.

A lot has changed in 60 years, and it's fair to argue that Roddenberry may have been a misogynist in the eyes of others. Despite that, for his era, he was incredibly progressive. It is true that Roddenberry wasn't always on the right side of issues but he did advance many social causes during his time as the head of Star Trek.

For instance, while he's been quoted as saying some nasty things about women, he relied heavily on D.C. Fontana for most of his time on the series, and he saw her as a major voice in the franchise. Something you didn't see a lot of in the 1960s. His relationship with her was said to be wonderful, according to Richard Arnold, who was quoted in the documentary "William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge" as saying;

"Gene had these wonderful relationships with people who worked with him on the Original Series, like Dorothy Fontana..."

While he may not have held women in the highest regard at times, it's clear that the story about Worf's creation being due to misogyny isn't being told accurately, and there's plenty of sensationalism by people who aren't adding context. Worf was never seen as a commander-type character when he was greenlit into the series, thus poking holes in the notion he was only picked due to Roddenberry's issues with women.

That doesn't mean he didn't have issues before with women or putting women in his work. He is a man of multitudes, and far from perfect. We're not denying that he didn't treat people perfectly all the time. Sometimes he could be a downright jerk. He didn't always say or do the right things. Other times he did.

Roddenberry was a complicated man, who was responsible for as much bad as good. It's still disingenuous to make broad claims when so many of those figures aren't around now to provide context and clarity. I don't doubt that Roddenberry had his issues with women, he clearly was mistreated by a few of them to some degree and never sought an avenue to heal from those issues. That clearly bubbled over in how he spoke about some women and treated others. While we can admit that he wasn't perfect, it's important to note that he helped advance many social concepts through his work.

He wasn't perfect, far from it but he did do good and sometimes you have to take the bad with the good.