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Re: Science fiction?

Hi Hanna, everyone,

Thank you Hanna for posting this question. I am actually one of the two researchers. I am working on a European Commission funded project called FLOSSPOLS (http://flosspols.org/) which in part looks at the question of gender and free / open source software. I am mainly using Windows and Gentoo, but hope not to be kicked off the list for that ;)

During my research I found that a lot of people I met read or have read science fiction. When I asked for authors I often got names such as Asimov, Herbert, Clarke or Adams. Only lately I arrived at Gibson and Stevenson. So I started reading stuff like the Foundation Series, Dune, Rendevous with Rama, Neuromancer, etc. I also got back to the Star Trek and Star Wars films and series or film s like Blade Runner. I quite liked some of the SF stuff, especially some of the language used in the books to paint wonderful images. However I wondered how appealing this literature would be for women, especially women of younger age, often the age group in which my male informants started to get involved into computing. Very often women in this genre of literature do simply not appear in the stories at all. Or if they do, they get roles and positions so distinct of the male heroes. I am not at all an expert on that, but for some reason I got the impression that despite the possibilities of creativity which is used in many other aspects of imagining realities in SF the representation of the relationship between the two genders often is very conservative, meaning men being responsible for discovery and advancement (geographically, technologically, etc.) whereas women often get the role of being a supporter of to the male heroes. Also women are often described as essentially emotional, wild, sexual (i.e. natural) whereas men are rational, logic, creative (i.e. cultural). For instance look at the Star Trek New Generation series. One of the two most important female roles is of course an emotionally emphatic counselor who constantly runs around in some kind of tight rampers (which seems to be her uniform!) whereas the incarnation of logic, rationality and technology - the robot - is of course a representation of a man. The other female main actor is the doctor who takes care of the crew, but is not responsible fro the decision making. This is the function of the captain, who is of course male.

I am aware of other SF authors, often women, who create female heroes that do not reproduce the current and conservative ideas about man/women relationships. Ursula Le Guin is certainly one of them who leaves gender mutual and open. There is also this story of Joanna Russ in which she describes a planet of women who do not define themselves in relation to men, meaning not in difference. I personally think that the genre is quite a good one to experiment within and to be creative - by definition. However up until this threat I have rarely encountered people referring to this kind of literature. It rather becomes a sub-genre, feminist SF, which is separated and not read by many interested in SF.

Does this make sense?


Hanna M. Wallach schrieb:

On Friday I met with two researchers working on "understanding gender
issues in open source" as part of the FLOSSpols project. One of the
(many) things we discussed was whether the women involved in free
software projects tend to read as much science fiction as the
men. (They're interested in this from a point of view of "entry into
the free software world" and "identifying with the free software
community and culture.") I thought it'd be interesting to ask on here
-- do you read science fiction?

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