Feminist science fiction

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Feminist science fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction which tends to deal with women's roles in society. Feminist science fiction poses questions about social issues such as how society constructs gender roles, the role reproduction plays in defining gender and the unequal political and personal power of men and women. Some of the most notable feminist science fiction works have illustrated these themes using utopias to explore a society in which gender differences or gender power imbalances do not exist, or dystopias to explore worlds in which gender inequalities are intensified, thus asserting a need for feminist work to continue.[1] According to Elyce Rae Helford:

"Science fiction and fantasy serve as important vehicles for feminist thought, particularly as bridges between theory and practice. No other genres so actively invite representations of the ultimate goals of feminism: worlds free of sexism, worlds in which women's contributions (to science) are recognized and valued, worlds in which the diversity of women's desire and sexuality, and worlds that move beyond gender."[2]



Women writers have played key roles in science fiction and fantasy literature, often addressing themes of gender. One of the first writers of science fiction was Mary Shelley, whose novel Frankenstein(1818) dealt with the asexual creation of new life, a re-telling of the Adam and Eve story.

Women writers in the utopian literature movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, at the time of first wave feminism, often addressed sexism. The Sultana's Dream (1905) by Bengali Muslim feminist, Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, points this out through depicting a gender-reversed purdah in an alternate and terminologically futuristic world. Charlotte Perkins Gilman did so by creating a single-sex world in Herland (1915). During the 1920s writers such as Clare Winger Harris and Gertrude Barrows Bennett published science fiction stories written from female perspectives and occasionally dealt with gender and sexuality based topics. Meanwhile, much pulp science fiction published during 1920s and 1930s carried an exaggerated view of masculinity along with sexist portrayals of women.[3] By the 1960s science fiction was combining sensationalism with political and technological critiques of society. With the advent of second wave feminism, women’s roles were questioned in this "subversive, mind expanding genre."[4]

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