Power to Women of Sci Fi

Leela from Dr. Who

As a female sci-fi author, I was interested to come across this article by Alisa Krasnostein recently, which discusses the lack of recognition of womens’ contribution to the sci-fi genre. I recommend you give it a read.

The Invisibility of Women in Sci Fi

As someone who has come through some very male dominated areas (engineering, industrial design), I found her arguments perhaps a teeny bit one eyed. Don’t get me wrong: I am a feminist. And I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of all the other authors who have been writing in this genre.

But I do think we need to recognise that women have not been able to contribute to all fields of life for as long as men, simply because cultural constraints (unacceptability, lack of education etc) and physical constraints (being continuously pregnant, for example) have impeded our ability to compete in these fields. I think Caitlin Moran puts it rather well in her terrific book ‘How to be a Woman’.

“For even the most ardent feminist historian, male or female – citing Amazons and tribal matriarchies and Cleopatra – can’t conceal that women have basically done fuck all for the last 100,000 years. Come on – let’s admit it. Let’s stop exhaustingly pretending that there is a parallel history of women being victorious and creative, on an equal basis with men, that’s just been comprehensively covered up by The Man. There isn’t.

Nearly everything so far has been the creation of men – and a liberal, right-on denial of it makes everything more awkward and difficult in the long run. Pretending that women have had a pop at all this before but ultimately didn’t do as well as the men, that the experiment of female liberation has already happened but floundered gives strength to the belief that women simply aren’t as good as men, full stop. Women are over, without having even begun. When the truth is that we haven’t begun at all. Of course we haven’t. We’ll know it when we have.”

In my experience, I have been looked down as a woman doing an engineering degree, as the university had a quota for women at that time. The fact that I got in by my own hard graft, and with marks better than many of the men, was subsumed by the assumption that I was a female charity case.

So let’s not put women of sci-fi on an equal footing just because they are women who wrote sci fi in a male dominated genre. They should be there through merit : because they are damn good writers, and perhaps then we’ll see some real equality and recognition.

9 thoughts on “Power to Women of Sci Fi

  1. Interesting thoughts. I was recently involved in producing a book that touched on a similar issue. It’s an anthology of flash fiction by women and men, but we stripped all of the pieces of their bylines and are asking readers to guess who wrote which pieces — women or men. At the very least, it might get readers to think about their expectations regarding gender when they read.

    • Yes – although I think that it’s always an important distinction to make that women haven’t really had a good run at it up until relatively recently, not of course that they don’t have that ability.

  2. Anybody who still takes issue over female vs. male writers, in sci-fi or elsewhere, are really just too ignorant for words. It’s the idea that counts, not the conduit from whence it flows. This problem has been prevasive in pop-culture for far too long (George Eliot comes to mind – she published under a man’s name in order to be taken seriously, and that was 20 years ago!), and sadly, it’s not one that’s going to go away until more males can get their egos under control and understand that we don’t live in a man’s world, nor do we live in a woman’s world – we live in a people’s world and everything else is secondary to that. I don’t care what the gender or sexual orientation a writer is, as long as their writing something great, what does it really matter?

    • I absolutely agree! And yet I do hear that some women sci-fi writers wish that they had used male pseudonyms like George Elliot, so perhaps that bias does still effect the potential readership. It would be rather sad if it did!

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