I have been sitting on this for a couple days and attempting to find some way to relate it to The Dudez, but I simply can’t. Nevertheless, it is so idiotic I feel the need to share it with everyone, so you guys will just have to suck it up and hear about how sexism hurts ladies for a while.
In short: the New York Times wants to know why women don’t like science fiction, except for A Wrinkle In Time. Apparently I was hallucinating Octavia Butler, James Tiptree Jr., Elizabeth Bear, Ursula K. Le Guin, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey, Connie Willis, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Margaret Atwood, K. A. Applegate, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lois McMaster Bujold, C. J. Cherryh, Pat Cadigan, Mary Shelley, and Margaret Cavendish. I must have a very good imagination.
Yes, I definitely double-checked, and this is an article from 2012, not from 1952.
This article includes sentences like:
Half of 18- to 24-year-old men say that science fiction is their favorite type of book, compared with only one-fourth of young women, according to a 2010 study by the Codex Group, a consulting firm to the publishing industry. And while a sizable portion of men continue to read science fiction throughout their lives, women don’t. Thirty-two percent of adult male book buyers are science-fiction fans compared with only 12 percent of women.
The New York Times needs to meet my friend Confounding Variables. Women tend to read more than men do; the average woman reads almost twice as many books as the average man. Twelve percent of female readers is more substantial than twelve percent of male readers would be. Not only that, they tend to read more widely– a woman reading science fiction does not, outside of the New York Times, incite comment, but a man reading romance novels definitely does (our old friend femmephobia strikes again). Having a larger percentage of a smaller pie is not exceptional.
When Joanna Russ, one of the few successful female science-fiction writers, died last year, her obituary in The New York Times referred to her as a writer who helped “deliver science fiction into the hands of the most alien creatures the genre had yet seen – women.”
Oh, Joanna, we’ve had our disagreements now and then (The Female Man: needs less feminism, more weirdass woman-only utopias), but you deserve more than that. You may have been called “she,” but you weren’t a godsdamned Vulcan. Seriously, who the hell thought it was a good idea to call women “alien creatures” in the obituary of one of the most noted feminist science fiction writers of all time?
But it is Meg, a girl who combines both the ordinary and the extraordinary, who overcomes the book’s villain – an evil disembodied brain called IT – with the power of a simple human emotion, love.
Perhaps it is this softer element that distinguishes “Wrinkle” from its rocketry and light-saber brethren.
Is it too much to ask that, before pontificating about science fiction for America’s paper of record, people should be required to read some of it?
But I am glad to know that science fiction has never had anything to say about simple human emotions like love. We don’t have Firefly, which is all about freedom and healing and, most of all, family. We don’t have Octavia Butler’s Kindred, with its harrowing exploration of slavery and how it twists love and what people do to survive it. We don’t have Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which is all about the love between Genly and Estraven. Star Trek talks about the importance of love so much it gets tedious.
You can’t even fucking say Lightsaber Stories aren’t about love, because the climactic moment of Star Wars is where Luke redeems Darth Vader through the power of love. Did this person even bother to watch to the end of the movie?
What is it then that makes girls averse to science fiction? Could it be the pronounced boyness of the covers – the same signal that deters girls from switching to Superman after their Betty and Veronica days have passed?
Yes. The reason girls don’t read science fiction is because the covers are too boyish. Obviously. Why didn’t I think of that before?
I dunno, man, I’ve read some science fiction with some incredibly embarrassing covers– I used to put my copy of Stranger in a Strange Land flat on the desk so no one could see the naked people on it. I still like science fiction. I think that the reason girls tend to read science fiction less than guys can be summed up in “girls think that science fiction is icky boy stuff, partially due to articles like this one” and “a whole lot of science fiction, especially earlier stuff, has really awful and regressive gender politics and/or no female characters who don’t giggle at all.”
Some might say the dystopic fantasy, apocalyptic tales and paranormal romance so popular with today’s teenage girls are actually couched “girl-friendly” variants of science fiction.
Well, yes, New York Times, if you define all the science-fiction that girls like as not science fiction, of course girls are not going to like science fiction. But even beyond that, it is now time for an exploration of what The New York Times thinks is not science fiction!
Kindly note all the girly covers.