On one of these occasions, I considered one of Allecto's questions.
The women who ‘choose’ to be ‘Companions’ are shown as being intelligent, accomplished, educated, well-respected and presumably from good families. If a woman had all of these qualities and opportunities then why the **** would she ‘choose’ to be a man’s **** toy?I wondered, why would Inara choose life as a Companion? What other opportunities would she have in Alliance society? Are they so limited that they make high-class prostitution look preferable?
That's when it occurred to me that I've never seen a woman in the Alliance in a position of authority. Not on the core worlds, at least.
Out among the "border moons," there are women like Patience who have taken charge. Patience apparently runs the entire moon, but the Alliance really doesn't care what's happening on the more remote colonies. They certainly seem to have the means to assert their authority if they so desire, but the border colonies have small populations and negligible industrialization. They don't have anything to offer the Alliance, and they would expect a lot more support if the Alliance imposed a lot of restrictions. The Alliance apparently doesn't consider them worth the trouble, choosing to ignore them until they do have something of value.
Among the highly-developed core worlds, there are plenty of wealthy, well-educated women, but I can only think of one who was an authority figure of any kind. Inara entertained a female Councilor in "War Stories," and she's the only female politician, military leader, or business leader I can think of.
We certainly see women in working roles -- there were certainly female doctors and nurses in "Ariel" -- but not so much in leadership roles.
And when you get to the Alliance aristocracy, the only role available to women seems to be "trophy wife." Maybe Inara chose life as a Companion to becoming one man's "kept woman."
I don't know how that should be interpreted in the context of whether Firefly should be considered feminist or misogynist (the Alliance does tend to be villainous most of the time), but I hadn't really noticed it before.