Girls and Sci-Fi Part II

Out of about 10 girls I posed my questions to, I received six responses!  Not bad.  I was expecting way less since my friends are often too busy to respond to anything related to Star Wars/sci-fi.  They find my obsession slightly strange and I don’t think they want to encourage it.

To recap, the questions I asked were:

  1. Why do you think females are not as interested in science fiction as males are?
  2. Why are you specifically not interested/interested?

Here are all the answers I received:

“I just find it boring.  I don’t like the weird faces, magic and I like make believe stuff when it’s pretty.  I also don’t like all the fighting, machinery, spaceships, etc.”

“Girls are drawn towards romance and comedies.  The movies are relatable or at least you wish you could see yourself in positions like these characters.  Sci-fi are sometimes so outlandish that maybe some people question why they would bother seeing something they can’t relate to.  Sci fi is one of those things where it’s either gotta be really corny or really well put together to be good.”

“I think that girls are not drawn to science fiction because society tells them that it’s for boys. Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings might seem like they are all franchises for boys, but there are a lot of girls and women who enjoy them, too. Another reason may be because of sexualized imagery of women in some of these franchises, as well. Star Trek: The Original Series always had a buxom alien lady for Captain Kirk to sweep off her feet by the end of the episode. Star Wars has Princess Leia in her famous slave bikini costume. However, there are also strong female characters in these series who should not be overlooked, such as Lt. Uhura in Star Trek and Princess Leia (when she’s not in a bikini and is leading the Rebel Alliance, instead) in Star Wars.
First and foremost, I enjoy a good story, so if a sci-fi book or movie has a good plot line, chances are that I’ll enjoy it. Sci-fi as a genre adds another dimension to the story that makes certain situations impossible in real life, which is appealing to me and to many other viewers because it allows for escapism. These elements add for more exciting circumstances because they are not predictable in the way that realistic genres are. Magic, mythical creatures, space-age technology, etc. present more problems and solutions than you would get in a realistic story. Personally, I was exposed to science fiction at a young age because my mom always enjoyed the genre, so maybe experiencing science fiction when I was at my most imaginative (under 10 years old) helped me to appreciate it more.”

“I think sci-fi is hard to relate too, I like when things are realistic… I don’t like action movies for that reason either… maybe girls like to be able to identify with characters?”

I would say that most girls in my opinion do not like sci-fi because a) it is less culturally “cool” and so to be openly into sci-fi, you have to be one of those people who can rise above the un-cool to embrace what you love, and b) it isn’t appearance-focused (at least not at first glance), and in a world where society really prizes women who focus on perfecting their appearance and doing things that are gender-normative and sexuality-driven, sci-fi simply isn’t a good means to that end. Our culture encourages girls to read Glamour, spend time straightening their hair and talking about boys, and sci-fi doesn’t focus on those things at all, so for most people, who I assume are like me and just wanted to fit in when they were growing up, sci fi wasn’t something that was going to make you look like Britney Spears or have a boyfriend, so it was not a viable option. It probably holds true for boys as well, who are encouraged to like sports and be rough and tumble, while I feel like the sci fi guys were always sitting indoors getting pale and reading. hehe 😉
I have to say that personally, I am not into sci-fi mostly because I was never really introduced. I think had my dad been really into it or something, I might have gone that route–its pretty fascinating 🙂 Like I mentioned above, I also was your typical shy, insanely self-conscious middle/high schooler, and I think I was too focused on fitting in to have the guts to go like something that people might have seen as alternative.”

I think at an early age colors played a role. When I think of sci fi stuff I think of green and black and book covers with images of robots. When I was a kid, I loved magic and animals and sparkley, colorful things.
Also, I think sometimes girls in sci fi appear so impossibly sexualized (guy fantasy) that it doesn’t feel approachable for girls.
Lastly, school systems did almost nothing when we were kids to spark girls’ interest in technology and so much of sci fi, I feel, includes a lot of technology.”

 Reoccurring themes in the answers my friends gave came back to the ability to relate to the genre, the sexualization (internet is telling me that’s not a word) of females, and not being introduced to the genre at a young age.

Most of these points coincide on my original theories, but  I guess I’m a little surprised by how much my friends wagged their fingers at the sexualized imagery of females.  Not that I haven’t noticed it, but I’m surprised at how much other women have noticed it and how much of a turn off it is.  So much so that it’s turning away other women from the genre and that really bothers me.  I guess it was something I always overlooked or accepted when I was younger, but as I’ve grown older it has bothered me more and more.  It’s not something that we should just be complacent about because it’s completely unrealistic.  It’s as unrealistic as spaceships, habitation of different planets, and lightspeed.   It’s almost as if men like to think that if a woman gets dirty, she is in need of rescue.  Once she is dirty, the man can bring her back to her “true self”: the clean, no-hair-out-of-place, glamorous, cleavage-showing woman.

I like to make excuses for Star Wars for obvious reasons.  And, yes, I have Leia jabba the huttan excuse for Leia’s bikini: Leia did not choose to wear the slave outfit; it was Jabba that forced her to because a) he is a horny thug in his own palace and wants his slave women as minimally dressed as possible and b) it was probably one of the most humiliating things he could do to her.  Leia was a strong woman and to place her in this outfit showcasing her as his prize was pretty detrimental to her self-respect.   He thought that by making her vulnerable, it would make her weaker and he could control her more (though he still needed a chain, which ended up being his downfall – a blog post for another time).  However, as we know, Leia rose above all this and was calm and controlled in a battle even though she was minimally dressed.

While mulling this over, I did realize that most of the science fiction that I am drawn to and love are the stories that include a strong, realistic female

Starbuck

Starbuck

character.  Star Wars (Leia), Firefly (Zoe), Battlestar Galactica (Starbuck) and Dune (Chani) are all examples of women playing different roles, but still keeping their strength in or out of a relationship.  Leia leads the Alliance, Zoe is First Mate on a ship, Starbuck is the best fighter pilot the human race has, and Chani is a devoted mother and wife/concubine and is deadly in the weirding way.

Most of my friends also seemed to agree that if they had been introduced to science fiction at a younger age, they may have gotten more into it.  So you know what that means, right?  I must bring up my children on Star Wars from a young age!  Well, there was never any question about that, but this is just extra reinforcement.

I’m sure this observation also ties into the theory of being able to relate to science fiction.  Like one of my friends said, the story is the first thing that draws her in and we should be able to show our children that there is no discriminatory measure for a good story.  A good story can have “magic and animals and sparkley”, but it can also have robots and be set in another world.  However, as a counter argument, is what we are shown when we are young, what we believe we can relate to?

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7 thoughts on “Girls and Sci-Fi Part II

  1. Thanks for the follow-up! I was introduced to Star Wars when I was pretty young, and I think it was a good gateway because has more “fantasy” than a hard sci-fi. Battlestar Galactica is a great one for women–I love that Starbuck was a man in the original series, yet they managed to make the character into a realistic, relate-able, yet kick-ass woman.

    • I feel like the Prequels have tons of fantasy elements, TCW even more so, but I thought the OT leaned more toward sci-fi.
      Good point on Starbuck! I did know Starbuck was originally a man, but I’ve actually never seen the original TV series so it never really occurs to me. Have you seen the original BSG?

      • Well, the Force is kinda like magic, and the whole “Hero’s Journey” concept is common in fantasy, so it gives it a little fantasy feel. I agree that all the other elements of the OT are very scifi. I’ve only watched one episode of the original BSG, it was pretty cheesy!

  2. The original BSG had Athena as Adama’s daughter – apparently, she was supposed to be more of the focus of the series. She was a pilot. Boomer and Starbuck from the new series are a combination of what Athena was and should have been in the original.

    I think, unfortunately, the answer is more about what sells best to who. Marketing pushes a product they can make cheaply and count on, society popularizes that product in reaction to the marketing, the corporations run with the working trend and push the trend, the people buy it more and more, society makes it fashionable, corporations run with it, the people react and buy it, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam and stir.

    Eliminate how science fiction is marketed to us, and you’re left with analyzing the merits of the genre itself.

    Compare science fiction on the shelf to science fiction on the screen and there’s a huge difference and it’s a direct result of marketing’s influence on media. On the screen, science fiction is aliens, spaceships, and lasers – on the shelf, where big corporations don’t get any face time for their products, it’s more cerebral. It’s typically not about the setting, but about the human condition. Science fiction is commentary on the possible future of our species by direct reflection on both the past and present. More than any other genre, it demands that you think as you read. Compared to your other choices on television and on the shelf, who could blame anyone for assuming and asserting that it’s unrealistic? In our society, thinking beyond the past or the present is a rarity and typically frowned upon as a frivolous pursuit … otherwise we’d be spacefarers and not spacewaders.

    I think one hidden foil to science fiction’s wide acceptance is its position a realm for the ideals of humanism as opposed to theism. I find it interesting that people quickly dismiss science fiction as unrealistic, yet never once question their … well, that’s a completely different argument, and may or may not have any correlation to women and science fiction.

    My girlfriend is a huge science fiction fan, but she’s well-rounded in that regard. She grew up with Ellen Ripley as her hero. She’s been reading Herbert, Clarke, and Asimov as long, if not longer, than I have. She’s a rarity though, and so is the man who influenced her love of science fiction – her father. She and I are both misfits and outcasts by our own separation from the “in” crowd. I find it interesting we both gravitate towards sci-fi, but I hesitate to say sci-fi is a refuge for the anomalous modern human.

    I think it’s time for a repost of “Why Sci-Fi?” on my blog.

    • Weirdly enough – I don’t actually read too much science fiction. I threw in Dune because I love that novel. I feel like I’ve read the big names of Sci-Fi novels, but my favorite genre for reading is actually fantasy and historical fiction. So I probably should have made it clear from the beginning that I was talking about movies, more so than books.

      I also have not seen Alien because it sounds too terrifying for me. And I’m glad your girlfriend’s father brought her up with science fiction 🙂 Maybe one person that proves my point?

      But, getting down to the meat of what you were saying, I think that we can’t take away the fact of marketing science fiction at all. This is primarily what I’m focusing on with girls and their dislike of science fiction. I’m not disagreeing with what you say, in fact, I love what you said – just saying that I do not think you can discount it. How will someone ever see the merits of the science fiction and its commentary if they can’t get past the basic image of it? So it goes back to marketing it and making it more female friendly. Stop sexualizing females. How does that do anything for the story? Create more science fiction stories for younger children that could have empowered females liking “sparkley” stuff.

      Also, what were you going to say here?? I’m interested. “I find it interesting that people quickly dismiss science fiction as unrealistic, yet never once question their…”

      You also said, ” I hesitate to say sci-fi is a refuge for the anomalous modern human,” and I agree and disagree. Sci-fi does draw a certain type of person who is looking towards the future, questioning where our race is going, and also maybe looking for a certain sort of escapism. Not everyone thinks like that. Most people are concerned with now, right here, how much money can I make, etc. I don’t know, I understand your hesitation to clump sci-fi fans together, but at the same time – it does draw a certain kind of person.

  3. Oh, I absolutely blame marketing for the misrepresentation of the genre.

    I think it is the greatest evil we face, and that anti-marketing initiatives are the final frontier in civil rights. And that’s why I dismiss it as a moot point and try to find fault in the genre as a whole – and I can’t find where spec-fi as a whole is at fault.

    I blame marketing for the misrepresentation of just about everything, BUT I find it curious that sexualizing females is a common assault point against science fiction when its all over the place anyway – and in greater quantity. And how many times is it the creator of these speculative universes that is saying to the director, “I think she needs less clothes, and you should tie her up tighter.”

    ” Create more science fiction stories for younger children that could have empowered females liking “sparkley” stuff.” I completely agree … but the onus isn’t really on the writers of science fiction. And this is where I get back to speculative fiction as a whole. Those stories already exist in all the spec-fi genres, and have since the pulp fiction days – but it doesn’t sell on the big screen. It’s not a lack of female authors either – some would debate that Mary Shelley wrote the first science fiction novel. But which would you pick to make more money? Hero rescues universe/kingdom from villainous female or asexual alien/goddess by vaporizing hoards of drones/zombies/sex-slaves, or young female saves humanity through mature patience and analysis? We know the answer. Nobody knows who Bayta and Arkady Darell are – and honestly, how many people with a generalized knowledge of Star Wars know who Mon Mothma is?

    SO, my question is, whether a departure or tangent from your original inquiry or not, is it the genre or us? We don’t have to pay attention to how something is marketed – but we’re trained to do so. This is the Information Age, but how often do we take the time to research what we buy beyond taking marketing’s words as truth by default of utterance?

    I stopped short of leading into a science/religion debate with the whole “questioning their …” bit. But i wanted to hint that I consider that polarity a strong factor in negative reception of science fiction as well.

  4. Pingback: But Really, Is Star Wars Sexist? | Star Wars Anonymous

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