Feminist science fiction

Feminist science fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction which tends to deal with women's roles in society. Feminist science fiction poses questions about social issues such as how society constructs gender roles, the role reproduction plays in defining gender and the unequal political and personal power of men and women. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue. [Elyce Rae Helford, in Westfahl, Gary. "The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy": Greenwood Press, 2005: 289-290 ] According to Elyce Rae Helford:

"Science fiction and fantasy serve as important vehicles for feminist thought, particularly as bridges between theory and practice. No other genres so actively invite representations of the ultimate goals of feminism: worlds free of sexism, worlds in which women's contributions (to science) are recognized and valued, worlds in which the diversity of women's desire and sexuality, and worlds that move beyond gender." [Elyce Rae Helford, in Westfahl, Gary. "The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy": Greenwood Press, 2005:291 ]

Literature

Women writers have played key roles in science fiction and fantasy literature, often addressing themes of gender. One of the first writers of science fiction was Mary Shelley, whose novel "Frankenstein" dealt with the asexual creation of new life, a re-telling of the Adam and Eve story.

Women writers in the utopian literature movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, at the time of first wave feminism, often addressed sexism. Charlotte Perkins Gilman did so in "Herland", for example. "The Sultana's Dream" (1905) by Bengali Muslim feminist Roquia Sakhawat Hussain depicts a gender-reversed purdah in an alternate and terminologically futuristic world. During the 1920s writers such as Clare Winger Harris and Gertrude Barrows Bennett published science fiction stories written from female perspectives and occasionally dealt with gender and sexuality based topics. Meanwhile, much pulp science fiction published during 1920s and 1930s carried an exaggerated view of masculinity along with sexist portrayals of women. [Clute, John (1995). "The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction". "Martin's Griffin", 1344.] By the 1960s science fiction was combining sensationalism with political and technological critiques of society. With the advent of feminism, women’s roles were questioned in this "subversive, mind expanding genre." [Clute, John (1995). "The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction". "Martin's Griffin", 424.]

Two notable texts early in second wave feminism are Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Left Hand of Darkness" (1969) and Joanna Russ' "The Female Man" (1970). Each highlights the socially constructed aspects of gender roles by creating utopias with genderless societies. [Elyce Rae Helford, in Westfahl, Gary. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Greenwood Press, 2005: 290.] Both authors were pioneers in feminist criticism of science fiction during the 1960s and 70s through essays collected in "The Language of the Night" (Le Guin, 1979) and "How To Suppress Women's Writing" (Russ, 1983). Margaret Atwood's "Handmaid's Tale" tells a dystopic tale of a society in which women have been systematically stripped of all liberty, and was motivated by fear of potential retrogressive effects on women's rights stemming from the feminist backlash of the 1980s. Octavia Butler poses complicated questions about the nature of race and gender in "Kindred" (1979). [Sturgis, Susanna. Octavia E. Butler: June 22 1947–February 24 2006: "The Women's Review of Books", 23(3): 19 May 2006.]

By the 1970s the science fiction community was confronting questions of feminism and sexism within science fiction culture itself. Multiple Hugo-winning fan writer and professor of literature Susan Wood and others organized the "feminist panel" at the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention against considerable resistance. Reactions to the appearance of feminists among fannish ranks led indirectly to the creation of "A Women's APA" and WisCon.

Feminist science fiction is sometimes taught at the university level to explore the role of social constructs in understanding gender. [Lips, Hilary M. "Using Science Fiction to Teach the Psychology of Sex and Gender" "Teaching of Psychology" 1990, Vol. 17, No 3, pp 197-198 ]

Examples in prose

* "Ammonite" (2002) by Nicola Griffith
* "Daughters of a Coral Dawn" (1984) by Katherine V. Forrest
* "A Door Into Ocean" (1986) by Joan Slonczewski
* "The Female Man" (1975) by Joanna Russ
* "The Fifth Sacred Thing" (1993) by Starhawk
* "The Gate to Women's Country" (1988) by Sheri S. Tepper
* "Gormglaith" (2007) by [http://wiki.feministsf.net/index.php?title=Heidi_Wyss Heidi Wyss]
* "The Handmaid's Tale" (1985) and "Oryx and Crake" (2003) by Margaret Atwood (Canada)
* "Herland" (1915) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
* "Dreamsnake" (1979) by Vonda McIntyre
* "Kindred" (1979) and "Parable of the Sower" (1995) by Octavia Butler
* "The Left Hand of Darkness" (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin
* " [http://www.ubu.com/ubu/wittig_guer.html Les Guérillères] " (1969) by Monique Wittig (France)
* " [http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chroniques_du_Pays_des_M%C3%A8res The Maerlande Chronicles] " (aka " [http://www.glbtfantasy.com/?section=single&revid=404 In the Mothers' Land] ") (1992) by Élisabeth Vonarburg (Canada)
* "Native Tongue" (1984), "The Judas Rose" (1987), and "Earthsong" (1993), by Suzette Haden Elgin
* "Nightmare in Silicon" (2007) by Colette Phair
* "Oy Pioneer!" (2003) by Marleen S. Barr
* "The Ship Who Searched" (1992) by Mercedes Lackey
* "The Shore of Women" (1986) by Pamela Sargent
* "The Stepford Wives" (1972) by Ira Levin
* "Sultana's Dream" (1905) by Roquia Sakhawat Hussain (Bangladesh)
* "Walk to the End of the World" (1974), "Motherlines" (1978), "The Furies" (1994) and "The Conqueror's Child" (1999) by Suzy McKee Charnas
* "Woman on the Edge of Time" (1976) by Marge Piercy
* "The Women Men Don't See" (1972) and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" (1976) by James Tiptree, Jr.

Comic books and graphic novels

Feminist science fiction is evidenced in the globally popular mediums of comic books, manga, and graphic novels. In the early 1960s, Marvel Comics already contained some strong female characters, although they often suffered from stereotypical female weakness such as fainting after intense exertion. [Wright, Bradford (2003). "Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America". The Johns Hopkins University Press, 219.] By the 1970s and 1980s, true female heroes started to emerge on the pages of comics. [Wright, Bradford (2003). "Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America". The Johns Hopkins University Press, 221.] This was helped by the emergence of self-identified feminist writers including Ann Nocenti, Linda Fite, and Barbara Kesel. As female visibility in comics increased, the "fainting heroine" type began to fade into the past. However, some female comic book writers, such as Gail Simone, believe that female characters are still relegated to plot devices (see "Women in Refrigerators").

One of the first appearances of a strong female character was that of Wonder Woman co-created by husband and wife team William Moulton Marston and Elizabeth Holloway Marston. In December 1941, Wonder Woman came to life on the pages of "All Star Comics" volume eight. The character later spawned a television series starring Lynda Carter, and played a role in animated series such as "Super Friends" and the "Justice League". A film adaptation, "Wonder Woman", is currently underway.

Feminism in science fiction shōjo manga has been a theme in the works of Moto Hagio among others, for whom the writings of Ursula Le Guin have been a major influence. [ [http://www.genders.org/g36/g36_ebihara.html Genders OnLine Journal - Japan's Feminist Fabulation: Reading Marginal with unisex reproduction as a keyconcept ] ]

Examples of comic books and graphic novels

* "Akiko" by Mark Crilley
* "The Ballad of Halo Jones" by Alan Moore and Ian Gibson (UK)
* "The Cat" by Linda Fite
* "A Distant Soil" by Colleen Doran
* "Doom Patrol" by Rachel Pollack
* "Finder" by Carla Speed McNeil
* "Hawk and Dove" by Barbara Kesel
* "Magic Knight Rayearth" by Clamp (Japan)
* "Meridian" by Barbara Kesel
* "Supergirl" by Peter David
* "Tank Girl" by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin
* "Tigra" by Christina Z.
* "USER" by Devin Grayson
* "Wonder Woman" by William Moulton Marston and Elizabeth Holloway Marston
* "" by Brian K. Vaughan

Film and television

Feminism has driven the creation of a considerable body of action-oriented science fiction with female protagonists: Wonder Woman [The original creator of Wonder Woman, a psychologist, explicitly stated that he wanted a female hero worthy of being a role model for young women. "Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." William Moulton Marston, in "The American Scholar" (1943). ] (actually originally created in 1941) and the The Bionic Woman during the time of the organized women's movement in the 1970s; Terminator 2 and the Alien tetralogy in the 1980s; and Xena, Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy, has frequently self-identified as a feminist, and established that his motives for creating the character of Buffy were feminist.] . 2001 science fiction TV series "Dark Angel" featured a powerful female protagonist, with gender roles between her and the main male character generally reversed. [Jowett, Lorna. "To the Max: Embodying Intersections in "Dark Angel". "Reconstruction: Studies in contemporary culture.". http://reconstruction.eserver.org/054/jowett.shtml, 2005. ]

However, feminists have also created science fiction that directly engages with feminism beyond the creation of female action heroes. Television and film have offered opportunities for expressing new ideas about social structures and the ways feminists influence science. [ [http://thethunderchild.com/Reviews/Books/NonFiction/FilmStudies/Women50s.html Miniscule, Caroline. "The Thunder Child: Science Fiction and Fantasy Web Magazine and Source-books". Fiction Book Reviews. "'Stand by for Mars!' (review of "Women Scientists in Fifties Science Fiction Movies"] ] Feminist science fiction provides a means to challenge the norms of society and suggest new standards for how societies view gender. [Westfahl, Gary. "Feminism". "The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: themes, works and wonders". Westport, Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 2005. 289-291] The genre also deals with male/female categories, showing how female roles can differ from feminine roles. Hence feminism influences the film industry by creating new ways of exploring and looking at masculinity/femininity and male/female roles. [Hollinger, Veronica. "Feminist Theory and Science Fiction". "The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction". Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003. 125-134.]

In film and television

* "Season of the Witch" (1973)
* "The Stepford Wives" (1975)
* "Wonder Woman" (television series, 1975-1979)
* "Alien" (1979)
* "Liquid Sky" (1982)
* "Born in Flames" (1983)
* "The Handmaid's Tale" (1990)
* "Batman Returns" (The Catwoman character in it is a feminist icon) (1992)
* "Rain Without Thunder" (1993)
* "The E.Y.E.S. of Mars" (1994, Japan)
* "Tank Girl" (1995)
* "" (television series, 1995-2001)
* "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (television series, 1997-2003)

Podcasts

Writers in the 21st century produce science fiction, including feminist science fiction, using podcasts, including:
* [http://www.secretworldchronicle.com/ The Secret World Chronicle]
* [http://web.mac.com/rstringer/iWeb/VariantFrequencies/Podcast/Podcast.html/ Variant Frequencies]
* [http://www.escapepod.org/ Escape Pod]
* [http://www.geekfuactiongrip.com/ Geek Fu Action Grip]

Notes

External links

* [http://feministsf.org/ Feminist Science Fiction]
* [http://www.secretworldchronicle.com/ The Secret World Chronicle]
* [http://web.mac.com/rstringer/iWeb/VariantFrequencies/Podcast/Podcast.html/ Variant Frequencies]
* [http://www.escapepod.org/ Escape Pod]
* [http://www.geekfuactiongrip.com/ Geek Fu Action Grip]

See also

* WisCon
* Gender in science fiction
* Pregnancy in science fiction
* Sexuality in science fiction
* James Tiptree, Jr. Award
* Women in science fiction
* Women's writing in English


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Science fiction — (abbreviated SF or sci fi with varying punctuation and capitalization) is a broad genre of fiction that often involves speculations based on current or future science or technology. Science fiction is found in books, art, television, films, games …   Wikipedia

  • Science-Fiction — [ˌsaɪəns ˈfɪkʃən̩] (auch Sciencefiction, fachsprachlich oft Science Fiction, nach alter Rechtschreibung Science fiction; abgekürzt Sci Fi, SciFi [saɪ̯fɪ̯] oder SF) ist ein Genre innerhalb der Literatur und des Films, aber auch anderer Disziplinen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Science-Fiction-Roman — Science Fiction [ˌsaɪəns ˈfɪkʃn̩], (auch: Sciencefiction oder Science Fiction, abgekürzt SF, Sci Fi oder SciFi [saɪ̯fɪ̯]) ist eine Gattung innerhalb der Literatur und des Films (siehe auch Science Fiction Film), aber auch anderer Disziplinen wie… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Science-Fiction-Schriftsteller — Science Fiction [ˌsaɪəns ˈfɪkʃn̩], (auch: Sciencefiction oder Science Fiction, abgekürzt SF, Sci Fi oder SciFi [saɪ̯fɪ̯]) ist eine Gattung innerhalb der Literatur und des Films (siehe auch Science Fiction Film), aber auch anderer Disziplinen wie… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Science-fiction — [ˌsaɪəns ˈfɪkʃn̩], (auch: Sciencefiction oder Science Fiction, abgekürzt SF, Sci Fi oder SciFi [saɪ̯fɪ̯]) ist eine Gattung innerhalb der Literatur und des Films (siehe auch Science Fiction Film), aber auch anderer Disziplinen wie etwa der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Science Fiction — [ˌsaɪəns ˈfɪkʃn̩], (auch: Sciencefiction oder Science Fiction, abgekürzt SF, Sci Fi oder SciFi [saɪ̯fɪ̯]) ist eine Gattung innerhalb der Literatur und des Films (siehe auch Science Fiction Film), aber auch anderer Disziplinen wie etwa der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Science fiction — [ˌsaɪəns ˈfɪkʃn̩], (auch: Sciencefiction oder Science Fiction, abgekürzt SF, Sci Fi oder SciFi [saɪ̯fɪ̯]) ist eine Gattung innerhalb der Literatur und des Films (siehe auch Science Fiction Film), aber auch anderer Disziplinen wie etwa der… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • science fiction — a form of fiction that draws imaginatively on scientific knowledge and speculation in its plot, setting, theme, etc. [1925 30] * * * Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals, or more… …   Universalium

  • SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, JEWISH — Fantasy is a genre of literature in which realistic narratives are disrupted by unnatural or unexplainable events. The term Science Fiction (SF) emerged during the 1930s as a catchall descriptor for a publishing category with roots traceable to… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Science fiction studies — This article is about the field of science fiction studies. For the journal of the same title, please see Science Fiction Studies . Science fiction studies is the common name for the academic discipline that studies and researches the history,… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”