You go (SciFi) girl.

September 18, 2015 § 4 Comments

I’ll admit it; I’m all for equal rights, equal pay, and appreciation of the abilities and talents of women all over the planet, but when it comes to science fiction writing, the occasional bout of blatant misogyny doesn’t bother me too much. But don’t jump on me yet! Let me explain what I mean.

Do I approve of writers appropriating female bodies as shallow tools in their plots? Do I think limiting female characters to over-sexualized descriptions and domestic roles is right or fitting? Are women less valuable in science fiction texts than men? As a woman myself, I answer all these questions with a resounding no!

Women are obviously more than just bodies and I think the potential for captivating female heroines and adventurers is still underutilized in science fiction. And let’s be honest, if Princess Leia was allowed to take charge once in a while, Hans Solo and crew might have been saved several of their misadventures.

However, all these things being said, I think that the ability to recognize negative-female imagery in written works is a powerful tool, both for the analysis of our own society and for the impetus for future change. When women are reduced (sometimes in comically exaggerated ways) and constrained to simple stereotypes, readers can be reminded of the reality of female representation in modern culture. Women, after all, are not simply forced into these roles on the pages of Science Fiction texts, but rather as a symptom of the culture at large. Look at television ads, NFL cheerleaders, billboards, pop music etc. etc. etc. if you don’t believe me.

When a reader is able to recognize this occurring within a science fiction text, it forces him/her to pause and fully consider the reality of how women are treated in the modern day. Sure, it may seem silly that a woman only silently bring lunch to the table or serves as a servant, but is this really far from fiction in a world where we don’t have gender equal pay?

Thoughts? Is allowing for stereotyping in Science Fiction perpetuating bad ideas or raising needed debates?

 

-Laura Davia

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§ 4 Responses to You go (SciFi) girl.

  • As a woman as well, I agree that the seemingly stereotypical depiction displayed in many science fiction stories can be quite unnerving. However, I feel like we should give leeway to those stories written earlier where that depiction was more acceptable overall, as it would be taken into consideration that the audience of science fiction of that time (and even of today’s time) was largely the adolescent male and in the time many of the greatest science fiction works were written it would likely be ill accepted by that audience to write about women in any other way. I also think it should be taken into account that the characters of science fiction works in general are stereotypical depictions. As the romantic genre calls for, many of the characters are “flat” and the personality and characteristics we as the readers assume about the character is largely based on the stereotype associated with the character. The scientist, the young heroine, the kindly friend all are characters hardly given description that we assume look, personality, and other characteristics about based simply on the role. Many of the women of science fiction are, as was mentioned above, simply the stereotypical women of the time with stereotypical womanly characteristics. This stereotype, to me, is no different than the stereotypes imposed on the men of science fiction. We do not see heavily emotional men but rather the strong heroines. Though I do not agree with the depiction of women in many of the stories, it could be given simply as a side effect of the genre, audience, and the time many stories were written.

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  • daniellecgwilliamson says:

    I think the issue at stake here is the distinction between relying on tropes–which, I’ll argue later, can be harmful- and purposefully exaggerating tropes as a means of social commentary- i.e., satire.

    The classroom setting in which we are studying and analyzing these stories is far different from the reality in which most people consume this fiction–as entertainment to be digested relatively effortlessly. Such effortless digestion often includes the acceptance of the portrayal of women in these stories as normal. While reasonable men are not going to expect women to bring them sandwiches without complaint, these portrayals of women are nonetheless harmful, perpetuating subconscious attitudes that are reinforced through all of the popular culture features Laura mentioned.

    In other words, I think that the manifestations of stereotypes in sci-fi that we have observed in class are not satirical exaggerations meant to draw the average readers’ attention to the hypocrisy with which so many aspects of culture treat women. For one, there is no warning given about the treatment of women in the stories where women are treated as flat, inferior stereotypes–and, in my opinion, such a warning is the line between satire and unthinking reliance on tropes.

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  • […] and over-sexualized female characters in By His Bootstraps, and Helen O’Loy. In her blogpost, Laura mentioned that such a negative portrayal of women pushes us to critically examine our […]

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