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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

I am continually astonished…

…by how many men seem to think that a woman — a mere girl! — simply couldn’t possibly like science fiction, and how many men express utter amazement when a woman indicates such an interest.

These guys need to meet more interesting women…



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  • Keith

    I’m not surprised at all that women like science fiction. I know many women who are into it. I follow several on Twitter who are too.

    What does this pertain to anyway? What guys are you talking about? Some people you met today? Some discussion on your blog? Scant details here.

  • Do these utterly amazed men read science fiction themselves, or are they non-SF people imposing “fanboy” stereotypes on the SF world? Because if they did read SF and interacted in some way with the SF-loving community, you’d think they would know better.

  • MaryAnn

    What does this pertain to anyway? What guys are you talking about? Some people you met today? Some discussion on your blog? Scant details here.

    It relates to multiple interactions I’ve had online recently, but not at this site.

    Do these utterly amazed men read science fiction themselves, or are they non-SF people imposing “fanboy” stereotypes on the SF world? Because if they did read SF and interacted in some way with the SF-loving community, you’d think they would know better.

    They appear to be serious fans. And yes, you would think they’d know better. :->

  • I can remember a day, many eons ago (1982-1992), when it was downright hard to find a girl who would admit that she liked sci-fi.

    In our gaming group there were four boys to every girl. In the comic store a girl could stop all conversation by just entering the shop. And at conventions the ratio would soar to 10 guys to every gal (except in cosplay…there were lots of girls there on average).

    These days with geek chic and internet availability and the realization by many women that they could rock sci-fi if they wanted to and let the boys do what they wanted it has really changed.

    It may have been that “in my day” (God do I feel old now) they just didn’t come out to play or felt intimidated by the boys club. And I know for a fact that some of the boys did pick on and pressure the girls a little. But wow, they are everywhere now. And I found one of my own a few years back.

    So yeah, not so much of a thing any more.

  • Cyndy

    I understand exactly what you mean. I like sci-fi, video games, Kung Fu movies, math, many sports, and have two engineering degrees. And I am female and straight. Yes, really, fellas. Sheesh.

  • MaryAnn

    It may have been that “in my day” (God do I feel old now) they just didn’t come out to play or felt intimidated by the boys club. And I know for a fact that some of the boys did pick on and pressure the girls a little.

    I wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons with the boy geeks in junior high. But they didn’t want to play with a girl.

  • I remember when I first started playing “role-playing games” back when it was all on paper, some groups were definitely more girl friendly than other. In my groups, we usually had a 3-1 ratio, and those were friendly groups.

    A friend of a friend of mine was in a group where a Dungeon Master’s younger sister was playing: the only girl. The boys kept pushing her out in front to do the dangerous work, but she kept surviving. Eventually the boys turned on her, but by that point her character was so much more powerful (from gaining abilities by doing the dangerous work) that her character beat up all their characters, much to her brother’s amusement.

  • tweeks

    I’ve encountered plenty of female sci-fi fans in my 29 years of life. (In fact, I wonder if they don’t outnumber the boys now?)

    One closely-related area that does desperately need more women is computer science. The ratio in my first undergrad CompSci course was about 100 to 1, and she dropped out the second week.

    There is at least one interesting project under way at Carnegie Mellon to try to make programming more attractive to girls: http://alice.org

  • Patti H.

    For crying out loud. Get these guys to do some research. I’ve always known/encountered far more women than men in many, many science fiction and genre-based media fandoms since the days of Original Star Trek. Sheesh.

  • markyd

    Sadly, I have very little personal experience with women digging sci-fi. My wife has little, if no, interest. No females in my extended family seem to have any interest, although I have a cousin who’s really into movies and such. She’s made many attempts to be an extra in some movies, and has succeeded a few times.
    I used to hang out with a couple girls who liked video games, comics, and other geeky things, but I haven’t seen them for years.
    Online, though, I encounter all sorts of female gamers, movie lovers, etc. Good thing for that,as you get tired of talking to nothing but guys all the time.

  • marshall

    I too have had the unfortunate circumstance to not have run into a woman that likes sci-fi in my personal life. Matter of fact, I am actually the odd one in my family – digging sci-fi & video-games the way I do.
    I really do dig it when I meet a woman that is into those sorts of things though, not in a surprising way, but in a breath-of-fresh-air way. It’s hard to explain, but I really haven’t had alot of exposure to that. Even under these circumstances though, the belief that sci-fi and video games are the realm of men only is boggling to me. I value the input of others, no matter what their gender.

  • Left_Wing_Fox

    I always came in at an odd angle. My mom is an avid fantasy reader, and we share a lot of similar tastes in books. Sci Fi and gaming always was more of a boys club though. I never got into comics until High school, and even then it was the alternative, Manga and furry comics of the early 90’s that I was getting into, which meant a much heavier dose of female artists, writers and creators than you see in the superhero circles.

    So I always knew there were girl geeks out there. I just never ran into many of them personally. That’s probably to do more with my own issues than the community at large though. :)

  • Kathy A

    The first time I ever met a bunch of fellow female SF fans was in my feminist lit class in college in 1987–the class was taught by a SF fangirl and everything we read in class was SF/fantasy written by women, starting with Frankenstein and going through James Tiptree, Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon).

  • At every sci-fi con I’ve gone to in the last 15 years it’s been at least 50% female. Seeing the ep of Big Bang Theory where they try to hide their ST fandom from Penny because chicks don’t dig sci-fi struck me as profoundly stupid after the 60% female attendance of the Star Trek con I had just been at.

    I can only take this regular “Girls can be geeks!1!!?1!” as evidence of a multiverse in which I inhabit one reality, and other people inhabit a similar, but entirely separate Bizarro Universe.

  • Jim Mann

    I can remember a day, many eons ago (1982-1992), when it was downright hard to find a girl who would admit that she liked sci-fi.

    In our gaming group there were four boys to every girl. In the comic store a girl could stop all conversation by just entering the shop. And at conventions the ratio would soar to 10 guys to every gal (except in cosplay…there were lots of girls there on average).

    We must have been going to different types of conventions. I started going to SF cons in the mid-1970s, and at the cons I was going to, while men outnumbered women, I’d guess it was more like a 60/40 or 65/35 ratio, not 4 to 1. I think you’d have to back to the early 1960s or into the 1950s to get to a 4 to 1 ratio.

  • Drave

    Girls are scary when you are a boy in junior high. They are doubly scary if you are a boy and a nerd. Fear often manifests as rejection. Really, though, boys are stupid at any age. ;)

  • Yes, there are enough female science fiction writers out there that any guy that knows anything about science fiction can guess that there are at least some women out there who are into science fiction.

    Then again, the women who are into science fiction and the women men feel comfortable dating aren’t always one and the same.

    I mean, it’s nice if Woman A and Woman C have the same taste in sci fi books, shows and movies that I do but if Woman B is more interesting in dating me than either Woman A and Woman C and Woman B has given repeated signs that she is not that much into science fiction and she and I just happen to bond over other stuff that isn’t science fiction-related, I should do what?

    Start taking dating cues from Vertigo and try to make over Woman B into a sci-fi buff? Or just acknowledge that she is what she is and concentrate on more important stuff?

    Anyway, the one woman I know who likes Firefly and Serenity as much as I do is already married and you guys wouldn’t want me to go breaking a commandment or something, right?

  • http://paulwoodlin.livejournal.com/3137.html

    I think this link will lead you to a short essay called “SF and Frames of Gender,” which includes considering women in Star Trek fandom.

  • I_Sell_Books

    Hunh, I’ve been reading SF since I was 8 and had the opposite problem, of rarely finding any guys who read SF. Then I met my husband and was happy to find a genre we have in common (though he prefers old skool, Vance, Anderson, Niven & Pournelle, etc, I’ve been able to turn him on to modern authors like Bujold and Malan).

    Anyway, I’m now 41 and hope to turn my as-yet-non-reading son into an SF reader two, though with my luck he won’t want to read at all…

  • Althea

    When I was a kid in the 50s, science fiction was my preferred reading material. I went through everything of Robert Heinlein’s, and most of the now-classic writers. My brother and I fought over the annual short-story anthologies, and we had a subscription to Analog. Over the years SF has had to bunk in with a lot of other genres, but I still consider myself an SF fan.

  • Kenny

    Many of my female friends refuse to watch anything science fiction related. They’ll say something like “but it’s not real…” Then happily watch CSI Miami.
    I’ve not met any guys who refused to even give a science fiction movie a go, but I can think of three of my good female friends who point blank refused to go and see Avatar, Moon or District 9 because “They’re sci-fi”.

    I have several science fiction loving female friends as well, but I think the difference between boys and girls is that guys are much more likely to become obsessed with the minutia of the genre, which can turn a lot of girls off.

  • They’ll say something like “but it’s not real…” Then happily watch CSI Miami.

    LOL! Reminds me of my dad grumbling, after we saw Burton’s Batman in the theater, that “it wasn’t realistic.”

    I think the difference between boys and girls is that guys are much more likely to become obsessed with the minutia of the genre, which can turn a lot of girls off.

    Interesting. I think it really depends on who you happen to know. I know women who are masters of the minutia of their chosen obsessions; one of them knows more about the Hellboy universe than anyone on earth besides Mike Mignola…

  • My girlfriend has been getting me to watch Star Trek Next Gen from start to finish and we’re currently playing more computer games than I’ve ever played in my life. She also roleplays Vampire: The Masquerade with myself and a friend.

    My GF’s sister and her partner have an Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and two PSPs and really dig Farscape and heaps of anime.

    My GF’s mum plays computer games and is a huge trekkie and Dr Who fan.

    My GF’s brother and his wife each have their own PC so they can play computer games at the same time.

    I am in geek heaven.

  • Kathryn

    Many of my female friends refuse to watch anything science fiction related. They’ll say something like “but it’s not real…” Then happily watch CSI Miami.
    I’ve not met any guys who refused to even give a science fiction movie a go, but I can think of three of my good female friends who point blank refused to go and see Avatar, Moon or District 9 because “They’re sci-fi”.

    This made me laugh. I’m a female sci-fi fantasy geek. I’m forever trying to get my friends and family intot eh cool sci-fi fantasy stuff out there (with some success among friends). But I can’t get my dad or my sister interested in most sci-fi, because ‘it’s not real’. I tried presenting Firefly to my dad as ‘cowboys in space’ but he still wasn’t having it…

  • Kenny

    I don’t want to take the side of the argument that says “science fiction is a man’s domain”, as that is ridiculous nonsense. It’s just true to say, from my experience at least, that the proportion of male sci-fi lovers is much higher. I do know several girls who like science fiction. One of them called me from the Star Wars concert in Glasgow last night.

    Frankly, I think that mainstream culture steers women away from science fiction a little more effectively than it does men. It therefore tends to be girls who don’t meet social ‘norms’ who are heavily into their science-fiction.
    When I meet a girl who likes scifi and otherwise seems pretty mainstream, I have to say I feel a bit of delighted surprise.

  • Yeah, the “but it’s not real” excuse wears pretty thin. There are entire genres that specialize in violations of psychological reality for the sake of wish fulfillment, and yet SF isn’t “real” because it has space ships or time travel.

    And even if a movie or book is incredibly wise and well written, it wouldn’t be real, because the author has crafted it to be beautiful, and to have greater focus than reality so we can make sense of it.

    @Stuart: We have different but overlapping spheres of geekdom, but I can see why you’re in Heaven. Even just having a geeky girlfriend is like mana from Heaven.

  • tweeks

    Yeah, the “but it’s not real” excuse wears pretty thin. There are entire genres that specialize in violations of psychological reality for the sake of wish fulfillment, and yet SF isn’t “real” because it has space ships or time travel.

    I’m with you, it’s genre snobbery.

    And even if a movie or book is incredibly wise and well written, it wouldn’t be real, because the author has crafted it to be beautiful, and to have greater focus than reality so we can make sense of it.

    When they say they want something “real,” do they mean something “unfocused”? Something confusing and hard to make sense of, like daily life? Why would anyone want that? More grist for the postmodern mill?

    I think you’re dead-on that effective narrative must be focused on those universal truths about ourselves that everyone can recognize. The more a piece of writing rings true, the more people of both genders can identify with it, right? I don’t think men and women are so different that they can’t both enjoy a good story if it’s built on what’s true about human nature in general.

    Looking back at the films MaryAnn has criticized most harshly, I think it’s been the ones that were built on assumptions about human nature–about the way men an women are–that just aren’t true; they’re over-simplifications, wild distortations, or just outright lies about the way human beings actually are.

  • I’m remembering a joke a writer told me. If you’re reading a book and a beautiful young woman falls in love with a handsome young man, it’s romantic trash. If a beautiful young woman falls in love with a chubby, older professor, it’s literature.

  • Kenny

    I get very frustrated when I’m forced to defend my love of Battlestar Galactica to a person who watches whole runs of CSI Miami.

    Genre snobbery is EXACTLY what it is. BSG was stunning, well written, well produced, thrilling drama. The genre changes none of that.

    I think Lost (which is obviously another science fiction show) managed to get such a wide following among the “but sci fi isn’t real!!” brigade because it tricked them into watching from the start.
    “Plane full of beautiful, angsty, conflicted people and comi relief crashes on a desert island?? Wow.. I’ll watch that.”
    It was only when you get into it a little that strange things started to happen, but by that time people who would NEVER have tuned in for a show called Battlestar Galactica were already watching.

    I think, simply put, that demographic needs to be led from a beginning grounded in the everyday, down the winding path into the weird and wonderful world of science fiction… as long as the steps aren’t too jarring, they’ll keep watching.

  • I’m remembering a joke a writer told me. If you’re reading a book and a beautiful young woman falls in love with a handsome young man, it’s romantic trash. If a beautiful young woman falls in love with a chubby, older professor, it’s literature.

    Heh.

    Then, of course, there is the old joke about literature being the type of books we like to say we read and fiction being the type of books we actually read.

    And let’s not forget the one about high culture being stuff rich people like while low culture is stuff poor people like.

    Now back to your regularly scheduled discussion…

  • Shadowen

    My sister’s favorite movie is Lord of the Rings.

    My mom reads Harry Potter.

    I have an online friend who saw V For Vendetta on my recommendation and thanked me for it, and chided me for not seeing Avatar yet.

    Several people at my last job, male and female, were openly geeky. I even had a little figure of Bumblebee, and one of them liked it so much I left it with her when I quit.

    I know that not all of that is SF, but when I see “SF” I usually substitute “geekery”.

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