Day Three: Women Who Don’t Kick Butt

September 2009 DiscussionYesterday’s (Day Two) post by Lynda was a great way to start things off. We spoke about the social sphere of influence that women in our history had and how society changed to take that away.

Society is funny like that. The 1960’s were really the decade for Science Fiction. It was popular, Star Trek and Outerlimits were on the television, and more mainstream people where becoming interested in “those kinds” of books. The changes that started in the 1950’s with Rock ‘n Roll (which had a profound effect on society) continued into the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. Racial segregation or integration, women in roles other than the damsel in distress, and the space race/exploration were all things that North American audiences wanted to see and so the genre catered.

In the 1980’s and 90’s it became more common place for women to be seen in what once were traditional male roles. Women became leaders in industry, medicine and finance. Women have a dominating presence in the office/ corporate world, but can be found in positions like welder, pilot and labourer. Women have integrated into the “man’s world” but most are still responsible for the “woman’s world”. Child rearing, cooking, cleaning.

Today, women are learning how to balance their lives in a completely new way. What’s interesting is that statistics show that more women are watching Science Fiction shows. They are reading more genre books. Is this because they are finding something in the genre that they want, or is it because they are looking for something and hoping that the genre will provided it?

During this chaos, a funny little subgenre called “women’s fiction” popped up. Danielle Steel made her millions selling books about strong female characters, timeless values (love, children, home, family), and women’s issues (cancer, divorce, children problems). Her characters are women who face tragedy and emerge stronger. This is a genre unto itself now and it’s picking up speed.

Is this what all those women are looking for? Or is it that they are looking for something similar but mixed in with something fantastic?

For decades, Science Fiction and Fantasy have shown us what could be, what might be. They have been tools for escape, places of retreat from the real world. But perhaps it’s time for a little realism to show through into the genre. Perhaps it’s time for a little bit of “women’s fiction” to find a place within Science Fiction and Fantasy just as Horror, Mystery and Romance have.

What do you think?

Check out Lynda’s blog to follow the whole conversation.

1 thought on “Day Three: Women Who Don’t Kick Butt

  1. Tina Hunter Reply

    Wow. This post on Lynda's blog has gotten some really great responses. I've copied them below.

    Epheme said… Confused. Time for a 'little' women fiction? Trivializing women? Are you ignoring icons like Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia E. Butler, Margaret Atwood to name a few??

    Lynda said… I think I'm looking for something in the genre. Something that upholds those timeless values but is, indeed, a bit fantastic. You've got me thinking about what it is, exactly. But I believe it is both why I read and why I write – and also why I get depressed about the constriction of the market these days to ten-second sudden-death moments in commercial arenas. To me it is about something too fundamentally important – in an ill defined way – to reduce to commerce. Something I believe in. And need. The courage to face tragedy and emerge stronger? Maybe.

    Tina Hunter said… Epheme – I would never trivialize women. I truly meant that perhaps it's time that we (authors of Science Fiction and Fantasy) took a look at the values and female characters portrayed in “Women's Fiction” (the genre) and apply them to Science Fiction and Fantasy.

    There are many female authors of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres who have already done this (to varying degrees) and their characters are the ones we are talking about… Women characters who are strong without needing a sword or alien kung fu to “kick butt”. I hope that clarified my point for you. Let me know if not.

    Rob Budde said… I think “Women's Science Fiction” is here but just coming into its own. It usually takes a critical response (reviews, essays, etc) to articulate a movement and I think that is coming. It would be interesting to ask Lisa Dickson and Stan Beeler if they teach a separate unit on women's science fiction in their classes . . .

    Lynda said… Interesting idea Rob. And thanks for dropping in! “Women's Science Fiction” would be almost antithetical to the classic era where women almost never read the genre and problems were solved by “out teching” the other guy. There WERE values. But they were taken for granted. We're the good guys, so the only challenge here is figuring out how to defeat the bad guys with a better ray gun.

    Tina Hunter said… Women's Science Fiction. I love it. I'm using that coin of phrase (with your permission Rob) on my blog. Thanks for the comments.

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