Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Recently, I read an article with the provocative title 5 Ways Modern Men and Trained to Hate Women. While I would not claim to fully endorse the author's viewpoint, I found it to be a fascinating discussion of the way women are portrayed in 21st century Western culture. The article essentially makes 5 bold declarations:
1. Men are told that they deserve a beautiful woman.
2. Culture trains men to see woman "eye candy." As a result, women have little worth outside of their physical allure.
3. Beautiful women have almost irresistible power over men.
4. Men feel like culture represses what it means to be truly male, and blame this on women.
5. Men feel powerless in the face of sexual attraction.

Essentially then, the author states that men believe they have a right to physical intimacy with a beautiful woman, but resent the fact that these powerful desires are so often unmet. They feel powerless to do anything to overcome this problem, and thus hate women because of it.

Now regardless of how you feel about this particular thesis, it certainly expresses some of the way men feel in Western culture. This, in turn, led me to consider how the genre of science fiction and fantasy portrays women and leads to the reinforcement of these particular ideas. As I reflected, I realized that there is a certain trope that is nearly ubiquitous in the genre, particularly by male authors. And it is this:

The protagonist travels to an exotic or otherworldly locale and discovers a culture where the traditional sexual mores do not apply and there has sex with a nubile female.

As I scan my bookshelves, I can quite easily pick up author after author where this trope plays out in one way or another. You can find it present in science fiction classics like Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series, or scattered among the many works of Raymond Feist's Riftwar Universe, or even in recent bestsellers like Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle. Now I certainly don't mean to disparage any of these works, or those of countless other bestselling science fiction or fantasy authors. But this trope goes hand-in-hand with the views expressed in the article earlier: the hero deserves the beautiful woman; the hero cannot win the girl; the hero travels to somewhere else and there finally gets what is owed him.

So here are the questions I am left pondering:
  • In general, in what ways are women portrayed in the science fiction and fantasy market?
  • Are these stereotypes worth reproducing, or is there a better way forward?
  • How have these cultural expressions affected the way that I portray women in my writing?
Right now, I think I have more questions than answers.

Now I realize this is a somewhat controversial post. Still, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic. But let's keep it civil, respectful, and as mature as possible. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Women are portrayed as sex goddesses in science fiction and fantasy movies. Be it Alice Eve in Star Trek: Into Darkness or Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers, they are always been fantasized with sexy outfits. Want to know more on these beautiful & sexy babes in sci-fi today check out here.