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GENDER IN SCIENCE FICTION

ABSTRACT-
Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in
fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid
rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman.
- Margaret Fuller

RESEARCH LITERATURE REVIEW-

How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and


she-roes! -Maya Angelou

There are plenty of images of women in science fiction. There are hardly
any women. -Joanna Russ

If someone believes they are limited by their gender, race or background


they will become more limited. -Carly Fiorina
INTRODUCTION-
Gender has been arguable theme in science fiction since 1930’s. I believe that
one of the major causes is that most great sci-fi books originated from the era
where equality between men and women did not yet reach the level of today's
age - although there is still a long way to go for our societies to be completely
objective. The earliest stages involved exposing the androcentric notion assuming
that human equates man.
The science fiction genre was long dominated by men; it has a particular affinity
with feminism. Stereotypes and gender-coding are reflected in science fiction and
fantasy works. This matters because gender roles as portrayed in media affect
how we understand gender roles in real life and gender stereotyping is a serious
social problem. According to leading male science fiction authors like Brian
Attebery the master narrative of science has always been told in sexual terms, by
representing knowledge, innovation as masculine whereas nature, shades of
emotion described as feminine. Gender representation in genre fiction is an issue
that’s been getting more and more attention in the recent past, though it is not
limited to the role in a book or movie but also with authors or the book cover or
movie cover for that matter. As they say time is the only constant. My authors
irrespective of gender came forth to put their opinions out there. If it a matter
about role of gender in a book surely, if it were solely a plot driven book without a
heavy need for character development- the only reason to pick one gender over
the other would be (the gender's) generalized inclinations and motivations. Unless
the book intends to defy every figment of reality, it is a known observation that
females have a sentimental temperament while males tend to be more logical
well at least the majority of humanity would agree with this falsehood. Now
genders are not recognized by professionals or vice-versa, today women are
standing shoulder to shoulder with men.
PORTRAYAL OF MEN-
Historically women prefer to choose the door of speculative fiction rather than
hard fiction. It is true that we find more male authors in hard sci-fi than female
authors, obviously more women authors in fantasy and usually with a strong
romantic thread. It also seems that there are not too many male authors that
write female main characters well and you don't see a lot of female authors
whose main characters are male. Women used more words related to
psychological and social processes. Men referred more to object properties and
impersonal topics.
MASCULINITY-
Male protagonists of science fiction are portrayed as a single heroic archetype,
rational, cool, and bland. A lot of science fiction fetishises masculinity and the
interplay of technology and science fiction gives a metaphor a futuristic
masculinity like hypermasculinity differs from typical fetishization in other genres,
where his fetishised object is always feminine. Although the male characters
portrayed in the science fiction are mostly straight and middle-to-upper class,
some of the writers do add to the conversation about masculinities by also
exploring masculinities that vary from the hegemonic norm in terms of class, race
and sexual orientation/performance.
The powerful masculinity in science fiction was seen in the period of 1930-1950
when immensely prominent character was originated- ‘Superman’. The
superhuman qualities of such character focus on intellectual and scientific
superiority rather than masculinity. Science fiction films of the 1980s, including
The Terminator and RoboCop, seem to focus hypermasculinity, as a new ideal of
masculinity, relaying on the display of body. The visibility of the male body in
hypermasculine science fiction films can thus be seen as reinforcing and justifying
male hegemony, which is something men have actively strived for and therefore
somehow ‘deserve’. In this way, hegemonic masculinity gains its value from being
‘hard’, both resistant and difficult to attain. The negative aspect of
hypermasculinity – the transformation of the male body into a machine. Movies
like The Terminator, RoboCop pushes the logic of male hegemony to the extreme –
the hypermasculine male loses all humanity.
HARD FICTION-
Hard science fiction is one of the categories of science fictions which focus on
scientific accuracy or technical detail. The term was first used by P. Schuyler Miller
reviewing “Islands of Space”. It also means natural. Hard Science Fiction is usually
written by scientists and for a long time science has been disproportionately male,
so it is no surprise that there are fewer women writing hard SF or let me put it this
way, there weren't enough female SF authors or SF books with a female
protagonist was precisely because it's a statistical fact that there isn't a very large
readership of females interested in the genre but again we can find good Hard SF
written by women like Joan Slonczewski. The requirement for hard fiction is that
the story should take a stab at accuracy, logically sound and try to come in frame
of scientific and technical knowledge that are practically and theoretically
possible. Some authors precisely refuse to accept the faster-than-light technology,
while others focus on depicting such a technology by having a potential to think
about its possibility in near future.
ANDROCENTRISM-
There are more male than female characters. Maybe because of Androcentrism is
still alive as universe use of masculine language -“he” for both men and women.
Research reveals that the percentage of female speaking characters in top-
grossing movies has not meaningfully changed in roughly half a century. Further,
women are often stereotyped and sexualized when they are depicted in popular
content.

There are many more male authors published in the history of Science fiction (in
all types) than female especially in hard fiction. By adopting male pseudonyms by
female authors for their novels gives the idea that more people will read the
authors who are men than are women. Possibilities maybe more like (1) men than
women are reviewing books or maybe men don't like to read or review books by
women, and so there's a bottleneck when it comes to getting notice of new books
by women out there (2) more books by men are published. According to surveys
and research older editors might be more likely to select stories by men for
publication. The reasoning behind this theory is that our tastes are shaped by our
reading in early life, and that older editors are more likely to have grown up
reading predominantly stories by men. Most men don’t care about romance in a
book because this doesn’t make it a serious genre. If certain male readers are
trying to avoid the romantic content, it makes sense that they would simply avoid
reading books written by female authors if it increases their odds of staying away
from books with romantic content. Over recent decades the numbers have
become more balanced, but there is a lot of history to overcome.
Male character has been changing from Terminator of 1980s to About Time of
2013, show of masculinity, the shift from serious writing to comedy genre. Interest
of several male authors in speculative fiction is a sign to sense that world is
round.
PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN-
The subject of ‘women’ was not entirely absent from this masculinised arena, the
representation of science fiction have begun from pulp magazines (published from
1896 through 1950s). Many debates were made, concerning the appropriateness
of sex, (which is read as romance) in science fiction stories or on the cover of the
magazines in the form of scantily clad women. Some have even gone so far as to
accuse women of destroying science fiction. The period from the late 1940s to the
1950a also saw the emergence of a number of important female science fiction
writers.
In the year 1950s, science fiction engaged in socio-cultural concerns, covering the
contemporary issues around gender roles, sex and race. Since science fiction
genre developed in a patriarchal culture so the lack of female protagonists is
unsurprising. When women do appear they are usually defined by their
relationship to the male characters, as objects to be desired or feared, rescued or
destroyed and more recently women characters exist only to validate the male
protagonist as masculine. In late 1960’s and early 1970’s, women came forth
concerning portrayal of women as human, created active female roles instead of
unimportant caricatures. The impact of feminism on the science fiction field can
be observed not only in science fiction texts themselves, but also on the
development of feminist approaches to science fiction criticism as well as in the
debates in the sci-fi community. Science fiction now is not only about sexism for
women. Movies like Terminator 2 and Aliens having female leads are typical to the
general mass of science fiction/fantasy females in being able and not significantly
dependent on men. Mayhap science fiction pushed authors to create a possibility
of creating female hero out of it.
SOFT FICTION-
There are more women writing "soft" science fiction, pertaining to social. This
term in analogy to the “hard” fiction and was first appeared in 1970s. Feminist
science fiction and speculative fiction have been the favourite genres of women if
we see the statistics. The genres that make up speculative fiction are science
fiction, fantasy, supernatural horror and related genres. This genre offered the
opportunity for writers to delve into the beliefs about gender, gender roles, social
convention.
Whether we want to admit it or not, women and men don’t write the same kinds
of books, or more specifically, the same way about a given topic. Women may not
be dominant in writing science fiction but in terms of fiction, women have always
read more novels. Nowadays male and female authors both have a broader
palette to draw from, men and women. The SF of today has much more depth
and complexity to it and a large reason for that is that male and female
characters aren't relegated to rigid stereotypes.
WHY MEN PREFERRED OVER WOMEN-
Female roles in fiction were first recognized in the pulp magazine, where the
women were represented in scanty clad, ignored or as fetished object. By the
1960s, the science fiction field was changing in the ways that it was more
accessible to a wider audience. Many young writers some of them women came
forth and breaking the limitations of pulp magazine. The reasons for the paradigm
shift in science fiction, in the years 1960s and 1970s concerning women in the
frame would be: (1) largely unexplored potential (2) growing interest in social and
psychological concerns (which are accommodated by women writers). Female
writers want to disprove others who thinks that women as important role didn’t
have a potential to portray as hero. Women’s fiction is about women’s issues for a
female readership, it is very commercial in its appeal. Writers came up with an
idea to use feminine characteristics to soften a manly hero into being able to
show some emotion and a level of dependency he would not admit without her.
Most famous female writers of the middle ages have little tales or no known
connection with the tales of romance and legend. Science fiction romance novel
began to appear in bookstores over the course of the 1990s. Today the romantic
novels present readers with powerful female roles. By the year 2000, there was
huge interest in romantic novels. The rise of the e-book aided in the creation of
several additional publishing companies that focus on romance. At one point
romance bears a striking resemblance to fan fiction.
ROMANCE-
The roles of women divide the epics into two groups, one where the role is
minimal and the other containing romance. Unlike in science fiction, female
characters have typically been the primary focus of romance novels. Most
romance novels feature a similar story arc: They tend to focus on the women and
her development as a romantic/sexual being. Romance is the genre most likely to
meet modern notions of speculative fiction. It creates suspense, anxiety and want
readers to understand intense and meaningful connections between people.
During 19th century, the seeds of scientific romance were already sown though we
all were introduced with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein having a weird
romance in the frame. Romance, is no different than any other element that
makes up a story. When properly, integrated it can make the story richer. The
combination of the romance and science fiction genre creates a tension due to
their seemingly opposite natures. Traditionally this genre came up with the gender
issue. Love stories are usually written and read by women and dystopian science
fiction novels are often written and read by men. So, one of the potential goals of
using romance in dystopian fiction may create more authentic, so that instead of
thinking about only societal problems or only relationships, the character must
learn to balance both as is done by most people is real life. Nevertheless,
whatever the novel, there is always a romantic component. The reason for this is
that it is the writer's job to maximize conflict and tension in the work. And there is
no conflict, no way to cause misery and unhappiness, more agonizing and full of
ramifications than love.

COVER PAGE OF BOOKS AND MAGAZINES-

Women are so often portrayed assuming that a stereotypical male is going to be


the person looking at the cover. Male characters [are] powerful and strong, and
women's sexuality will be emphasised. Many science fiction and fantasy readers
are disappointed to encounter everyday sexism in a medium that is supposed to
offer an escape. Covers frequently exhibit women's bodies with revealing
unsuitable clothing and fans argue that sexualising female characters sends a
message to readers that women are sex objects. Authors argued that the goal is
not to ban attractive women from book covers but to encourage publishers to
include a wider variety of female characters. The stories of Conan the Barbarian
are largely credited with transforming fantasy art in the 1960s. The covers
showcased muscled men and servile women, a style that artists replicated in
subsequent decades. "People think that if you give the girl a gun, suddenly
she's a strong woman," said Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a fantasy writer.
Marketing strategies may also be responsible for gender bias covers. These
covers allow book buyers to instantly know that a given books is in one of their
preferred categories or not.

RESULT-

Female authors most of the time tends to feature romantic story lines of varying
degrees, whereas male authors will not. This is not a value judgement because
Science fiction is a wonderful genre of fiction allowing writers to explore all kinds
of possibilities.

But also we cannot ignore to the fact that if we read a book by an author of a
particular gender, that certain content or stylistic perusal by him/her may appear
in their books. I'm also aware that this is exactly why most readers are biased
toward the fiction they read. They have a preference for the books they want to
read and have an expectation (right or wrong) that a writer of a certain gender
may be more prone to deliver that content than the other. Still the number of
female characters is less as compared to the male characters. But now it is much
better than old times. I would conclude, that it is (unfortunately) true that males
still dominate gender specific territory- they can be called the best cooks and it
would be unremarkable, but you would encounter raised eyebrows if a woman
was known to be an invincible.

CONCLUSION-
The issue isn't whether male science-fiction authors/readers outnumber females
(or vice versa). It's about not having preconceptions of what a book will be like,
purely on the basis of the author's gender. That's more to do with the education
and attitude of readers than anything else, which will continue to evolve. They say
that-Women read x, men read y". In the real world you will always find plenty of
man who read x, men who don't read and men who read z. The gender of author
doesn’t matter, that the marketers are making a mistake and in turn hiding
potential role models from people (especially women) interested in doing science
and writing hard science fiction. Most of the male writers have notions that
women write “girly” things not applicable to certain readers. Getting a book
written, published, reviewed and onto a reader’s hands requires a long process
with a lot of different gatekeepers-editors, PR staff, bloggers and the readers
themselves. If there’s even just a little bit of bias at any of these levels, it can
affect the whole process. At the end of the day, people know what they like and
will read what they want to read and shouldn’t be berated for it. If a male reader
feels he identifies best with the male protagonist, and prefers books that focus on
them, then why those readers need to be constantly attacked for their
preferences. And the same holds true for female readers who prefer books
written by female. There are some female authors, who don’t fall into category
and can write Hard SF with the best male writers without getting caught up in
injecting gushing romance scenes on every other page. Nobody is saying that
sexuality is bad, or that poses showing off a model’s body are bad. But wouldn’t it
be nice if we get book cover art that was true to the book and characters, it didn’t
reduce women to sexual objects.

REFERENCES-
 Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction -Edward James
 http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/connolly_06_14/
 http://writerunboxed.com/2014/10/11/gender-bias-in-writing/
 http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/women_in_sf
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_in_speculative_fiction
 http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/81/fernbach81art.htm
 Movies- Aliens, Terminator 1,2;Robocop, Editorial Articles