There was an article published on io9.com by Annalee Newitz concerning reactions to a statement about the “feminization” of science fiction noted by an anonymous poster at a site called “The Spearhead” and how introducing such feminized traits as “moronic relationship drama” was ruining the genre.
(Yes, I said the site’s name is “The Spearhead,” and that relationship drama is apparently a feminine storytelling trope. Like Will Rogers said, some days I don’t have to make this stuff up…)
So of course, considering what I’ve been doing here for close to two years, this topic is of interest. And as Annalee points out, it’s not so much this guy’s writings that are the focus here, but what it reflects; to quote the piece:
People are piling onto this guy in a giant hatefest not just because he’s an easy target. He’s also a safe target. And that’s what worries me. Because sexism still exists in the world of science fiction, but it is just more politely masked than this guy’s overt outlier opinions.
And the sad thing is, it’s not just in SF. There are lots of literary niches out there where women are not being given the same shot as men, where traits that are marked as ‘feminine’ are frowned upon.
Take for example the women among superheroes. Between the existence of a title like MARVEL DIVAS and the development hell the live action Wonder Woman movie has been in, it’s clear that when it comes to folks being asked to save the world, the boys get the first crack at it. And don’t get me started on MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND…
And when it comes to hiring a PI, it seems we’re being steered towards the offices where they don’t have a key to the ladies room to offer clients while they wait for their appointment. Anyone here remember the HONEY WEST TV series? And what they did to Sara Paretsky’s character with the film V. I. WARSHAWSKI? For that matter, how many other women PIs out there can you name off the top of your head?
(That last one’s gonna get me in trouble; all I need are a few readers with more time to pursue their mystery books than I’ve got to rough me up like a suspect in a Dashiell Hammett story being questioned by the protagonist when they give me their list of must-reads…)
And what makes Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonja and Dark Agnes stand out is not so much their well-crafted tales (though in all fairness the former got a lot more ink from him) than their existence among the Pantheon where the men definitely had a representational advantage. And who can quickly point out the great sword-weilding woman found in any of Tolkien’s books? And what do Lucy and Susan get to do in Narnia?
If the article Annalee posted did anything, it reminded us that as far as our fiction goes, not just SF but through a large swath over all terrain, there’s this sex role bias that seems to be binding characters to roles like a whalebone corset. It’s disturbing that there’s no seeming effort to try something else, something different, if for no other reason than to avoid entropic heat death in re-releasing the same thing over and over again.
When working on the novel, I wanted to challenge some conventions, explore areas that were not so well sailed, though here that’s a little harder to do. After all, there’s no way you can write about an Abigail Sanders or any female buccaneer without at least nodding towards the ghost of Anne Bonny. And yet, even with history on your side, with her, Mary Read and even Grace O’Malley as historic models, how many women leads are there in pirate tales? Top of my head, we’re looking at two films and a musical as far as visual media goes.
But why? What is it about women doing things out in the field that they do in real life but can’t do in fiction? Why do we not get that? Do we blame the gatekeepers, the editors and studio execs that won’t bankroll these tales? Are we to blame because we don’t support such offerings with enough gusto to get more made?
If this anonymous poster were a fiction character in my hands, I’d have had his rant posted on a site called “The Wedge,” partly to emphasize some of the divisiveness of his comments, but mainly to point to how the edge of tool allowed for cutting through the larger block to get a better look at the resulting pieces.
And I’d have it revealed later on that he’s a she…