I mentioned before in my bio that I am a geek like my father was before me, and that he raised me on a steady diet of Star Trek, Star Wars, Robert A Heinlein, and many other scifi “greats”. I had the opportunity recently to partake of an interesting discussion on women in science fiction: that there have been blog posts out there decrying our role, claiming that we’re “feminizing” scifi (whatever the hell that means), and even at one point comparing us to vegetables.
And here I thought I was living in the twenty-first century.
It’s already a shame that women are far less likely to pick up on the sciences, and this is definitely connected with an interest in science fiction since the two interests are often connected. So where do women learn to appreciate science fiction and learn that they too can be math, computer science, and physics majors? It begins at home. Are they being taught it’s a “male” hobby? I still remember buying one of my favorite magazines, Doctor Who, and finding it in the “men’s interest” of a bookstore. Um, what? Why do we continue to perpetuate these stereotypes? I run into female scifi fans all the time, and we all wind up saying similar things: whenever men run into us, we are the purple unicorns. We supposedly do not exist. Women are supposed to only like magic/sword fantasy novels, not science or science fiction. The amount of blinking and shock I receive every time I open my mouth and state that I work as a senior level software engineer should NOT exist.
But what does and should exist? Believe it or not, yes, women are interested in the sciences and scifi. We are tuning in to Babylon 5, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Torchwood, Stargate SG:1, and many other shows. We read and even write science fiction.
So why are publishing companies turning away female writers? Why are they more likely to accept the IDENTICAL manuscript if a man’s name is the author and not a woman’s? Why the assumption that only men would be interested in the genre? It’s a vicious cycle which needs to end: there aren’t enough support for women in the sciences and science fiction, so some avoid it for fear of being stigmatized, rejected, or discriminated against. I myself dropped out of a physics major because a professor my freshman year refused to deal with the women. We were treated like idiots and subjected to sexist jokes at our expense. Not a good way to start off college. Thankfully in the computer science department there were female professors and even though I was the only woman to graduate from my class with a comp sci degree, I was never made to feel alienated, ostracized, or discriminated against.
Attention publishing companies, reviewers, tv stations, and science professors: yes, women exist. We are engineers, we write and read scifi, and we have money to spend. Stop gearing everything towards a mindless 18-25 male demographic. Men, raise your daughters to like comic books and watch good scifi tv. Women, don’t give your daughters the impression their interests are “male” only. And don’t demean us by printing out a pink book with pink pages on how to, like, totally get us into Dungeons and Dragons. We already did: back with the original manuals that everyone else uses.
Are you paying attention? Good.