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Is Science Fiction Becoming ‘Feminized’?

A random Google Search for science fiction turned up a ditty of an article. It’s titled The War on Science Fiction and Marvin Minsky and it attempts to show how science fiction is becoming too “feminized”:

Science fiction is a very male form of fiction. Considerably more men than women are interested in reading and watching science fiction than women. This is no surprise. Science fiction traditionally is about men doing things, inventing new technologies, exploring new worlds, making new scientific discoveries, terraforming planets, etc. Many men working in the fields of science, engineering, and technology have cited science fiction (such as the original Star Trek) for inspiring them when they were boys to establish careers in these fields.

With women killing science fiction on television, the current generation of boys won’t have this opportunity to be inspired to work in these fields. There is still a great deal of written science fiction that is real science fiction so all is not lost. However, many boys who would have gone on to make scientific discoveries and invent new technologies will not do so since they will never be inspired by science fiction as boys.

The author (listed as ‘Pro-male/Anti-feminist Tech’) uses the SyFy channel, Doctor Who, and Marvin Minsky as proof of this silly notion. A quick look at the source explains much: The Spearhead is a pro-male blog aimed at balancing what they call the “serious political, legal and cultural problems that plague men in our society.”

Hey, I’m all for cool action scenes in my SciFi, but — if I may clarify the author’s assumption — stories that include inter-character relationships don’t “alienate” me. Most people will tell you that the best fiction stories are about characters. But maybe that’s just me…

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

20 Comments on Is Science Fiction Becoming ‘Feminized’?

  1. Not that a post that ridiculous warrants any serious critique (and Sprearhead’s rambling don’t even begin to hold a candle to Dirk Benedict’s marvelous tirade),  but the author doesn’t even begin to show that there’s a “feminization” process at work, rather than just a foreseeable progression that science fiction has gone through as its become fodder for prime time TV.

    It’s partially the medium — hardcore science scifi is always going to be better in words than on the screen, given the limitations of explaining technical minutia on a 40 minute show — and partially a natural result of scifi gaining in popularity. Anytime something becomes more mainstream, it’s going to become less “pure” and start incorportating elements of other genres.

    So you don’t get pure scifi on TV because it’s too hard to pull off well and comprehensively and its too expensive to produce for the narrow(er) set of fans it attracts. Not because of teh wimminz.

  2. Mark McSherry // October 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm //

    Whenever I read or hear arguments about the feminization of this or that I’m reminded of Edmund Cooper’s short SF novel FIVE TO TWELVE (1968), set in a (then) near-future England when women outnumber men by that ratio. It was one of the first books I received from the SFBC back in the late 60’s, at the tender age of eleven. So it did make an impression.

    If 1984 was a tract against the totalitarian state, then 5/12 was against the radical feminization of the state.

  3. I think you mean it’s a “dilly” of an article, rather than a “ditty” of an article.  Unless you actually meant that it was a short, catchy tune of an article, and that everyone who reads it will walk away humming.  

  4. So an internet wacko posts a misogynistic article on their blog and you decide to boost their signal?  Why?  What is it about this guy that warrants even this level of seriousness?

  5. @ Abigail – Nothing about that turnip warrents it being taken seriously, I just think the author was gobsmacked that some could write such turnip fodder and expect it to be taken seriously.

    Personally I ain’t going to give his site the click by reading the full article. I am just going to sit here and chuckle about the retarded idiocy of some members of my gender, and hope that you ladies don’t smear all men because of this idiots inchorrent ramblings.

    I might follow some of the gender sterotypes in that I do believe more men are interested in hard scifi than woman, and that more women read books about horse riding and romance than men. However I am trying to corrupt my niece by giving her scifi&fantasy novels to read, and I read my step daughters to sleep with Harry Potter at the moment am planning to move onto some scifi when they are a bit older 🙂

    The barriers are there to be broken down not reenforced!!!!!

  6. @Abigail: Because stupidity is meant to be pointed to and laughed at.


  7. I haven’t read the whole article and I doubt I will, but there is a topic for discussion in here somewhere. I don’t think scifi is becoming “feminized” but I thing looking at the female vs. male characters in modern entertainment (not just scifi) could be interesting. I, for one, am a little tired of the child-man phenomenon I see in movies like “Knocked Up,” and don’t even get me started on the “bromance” thing that seems to be so popular in reality television. Yuck.  I think scifi has actually been better at keeping the men as adults who can stand up to the strong female characters. BSG has lots of strong women (Starbuck, Six, President Roslin,) but it also had men to counter such as both Adama’s, Helo– even Tigh. All the characters were flawed but certainly strong willed. But it sounds like the author of the article mentioned makes the mistake of thinking that a female lead takes something away from the male characters, and that’s just silly. I could go on and on too. “Fringe,” which has become one of my new favorites has great male leads who can keep pace with the women– and then some. 

  8. @SQT – Fringe has strong female characters? I know Oliva is meant to be the lead in the show but her character is completely overwhelmed by Peter and Walter, who also both trump her ‘abilities’ on a regular basis.

    I must admit I hate the ‘incompetent male’ stereotype – it boils my urine that so many men on TV are unable to do even the simplest household chore or look after children. I am quite sure that women would quite rightly be up in arms if they were so regularly portrayed as complete incompetents.

  9. Andy– I suppose you’re right about Olivia, though I still like her. Though Nina Sharp seems like a pretty in control lady. But the thing is, the men are smart. Even Walter in his nuttier moments is smarter than everyone else in the room.

    I’m with you on the male stereotypes. Maybe I’m getting old but I grew up with the Clint Eastwood types. John Wayne was big in our house too. I don’t like men who look like they highlight their hair and wear designer jeans. Most men I know (my husband included) are real men and I wish my entertainment would reflect that more often. 

  10. joshua corning // October 11, 2009 at 7:00 pm //

    Perhaps not Feminized but more moralized. And a particular moralization at that.


    Sci-Fi has always been where it is possible for the “bad guy” (or bad gal) to win.

    To often as of late we get the progressive protagonist who lives in some internationalist wet dream of a utopia fighting against reactionaries.

    Just about anything from Stross can fit into this category as well as Kim Stanly Robinson.

    Even devout Marxist Banks and aging hippy Gibson can sympathize with an amoral protagonist…some of the newer hug-generation writers seem to lack that talent.

  11. Nicky Denton // October 11, 2009 at 7:03 pm //

    Whoa, is this io9?   When did it get renamed SFSignal?

  12. Jim Shannon // October 11, 2009 at 7:31 pm //

    I’ve noticed women tend to read more Fantas, Urban Fantasy and YA then SF. Someone mentioned genetics. Maybe it has something to do with that. I dunno. I’m wondering if Locus hasn’t done a poll on this topic.  

  13. @Jim-  Whenever I do a YA or Urban Fantasy giveaway on my blog I get a lot more women entering. Some guys like them, but definitely more women. I was just complaining to my husband that  current vampire fiction (like “Twilight”) seems to cater to the tastes of teenage girls. Ugh. I want my vampires to be old-school monsters. 

  14. “However, many boys who would have gone on to make scientific discoveries and invent new technologies will not do so since they will never be inspired by science fiction as boys.”

    Luckily, lots of girls are inspired by science fiction and become scientists and invent cool technology, make scientific discoveries and win Nobel Prizes for science. 🙂

  15. ^^ “Ugh. I want my vampires to be old-school monsters.”

    Give me Barnabas Collins anytime 🙂 A girlfriend of mine in the late 1970’s was really into Marion Zimmer Bradly and the Darkover series. While Bradley didn’t do horror to my knowledge, that was about as SF as my girlfriend would want to go.   

  16. God, I’ve been a guy all this time? Gee, why didn’t somebody tell me?! :o)

  17. I think the forum’s title, SPEARHEAD, reveals all.


    ‘Nuff said.



  18. I love that the only thing he can say about the way SF SHOULD be is “men doing things.” That’s hilarious. Presumably “doing things” excludes, say, having actual human relationships, valuing non-males, talking, thinking, etc.

  19. The remake of battlestar galactica has become feminized, just to cite one example That is a fact. Then again, you left wing idiots out there are in denial.

  20. If feminised means that a woman takes over the prime position of authority, THat most of the story is about inter femail relationships. That the women are shown as moral and strong and that the men are shown as weak and corrupt. THen yes nearly all science foiction tv since 2000 has been completly feminised. . Watching an episode of Eureka or warehouse 13 is like watching Desperate housewives or cougar town. THerse are now womens programs.


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