Is science fiction still a male-dominated genre?

Do you prefer Science Fiction or Fantasy and are you male or female?

  • Science Fiction Female

    Votes: 1 2.7%
  • Science Fiction Male

    Votes: 21 56.8%
  • Fantasy Female

    Votes: 4 10.8%
  • Fantasy Male

    Votes: 11 29.7%

  • Total voters
    37

Vertigo

Mad Mountain Man
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This was the title to a piece on radio 4's Woman's hour this morning http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011c220, inspired by the current (first) British Library exhibition on Science Fiction (I'd like to get to see that if it wasn't 600 miles away :(). Anyway I thought it was an interesting question so rather than the existing poll on SF or fantasy I thought I run one asking which genre you prefer and are you male or female. Just thought it would be interesting to see.

They had two female SF authors on the show: Karen Traviss and Gwyneth Jones. I think it was Jones admitted that she wished she had published some of her earlier stuff under a male pseudonym.
 
I'd ask a subsidiary question: does it matter?

I didn't realise Robin Hobb was a woman for ages. The question never occurred to me, the answer didn't matter.
 
Well I don't think it matters all that much but is interesting all the same. When I was doing electronics at Uni back in the 70's I think there were only half a dozen women out of around a hundred on the course. I know that has changed now and I figure the two things (studying science and reading it) are probably related. So I guess I'm just curious :eek:.

I think the figure they came up with on the program was that it is now around 65:45 men to women SciFi readers.
 
65:45?

At university (I took Psychology) about 95% of those taking it were women. Bit unexpected, frankly.
 
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I'd ask a subsidiary question: does it matter?

I didn't realise Robin Hobb was a woman for ages. The question never occurred to me, the answer didn't matter.

It shouldn't matter, but sadly we live in a world that on average is still rather sexist. (And for the record hardcore feminists who attack me for being polite and opening a door for a woman aren't helping the female cause!)
 
I'd ask a subsidiary question: does it matter?

I didn't realise Robin Hobb was a woman for ages. The question never occurred to me, the answer didn't matter.

To a certain extent, I'm with you, thaddeus. As both a reader and an editor, a writer's gender isn't something I get overly concerned about, but it does matter to some people a great deal. There was considerable online debate around the turn of the year about the fact that in the UK there are very few female SF authors currently contracted to the major publishers. The number 4 was bandied about, though I think it's actually higher than that... just.

Gender is very much a hot topic among genre academia at present, which I suspect may have led to the Womans' Hour slot. The third member of the discussion panel is, I understand (I haven't heard it yet), Farah Mendlesohn, whom I know has very strong views on the subject.

It might not interest you, thaddeus, but it will be of interest to a lot of people; therefore, yes, it does matter.
 
I think that SF is very much male dominated, Fantasy however has more female writers.
 
Are we trying to find out whether SF is dominated by male authors or readers?
 
Gender is very much a hot topic among genre academia at present, which I suspect may have led to the Womans' Hour slot. The third member of the discussion panel is, I understand (I haven't heard it yet), Farah Mendlesohn, whom I know has very strong views on the subject.

I suspect you are right Ian, though they cite the British Library exhibition as the inspiration for the slot. Incidentally maybe I have missed it but I haven't seen any discussion or even annoucement of this first British Library SF Exhibition on the Chrons which seems a little surprising.

And yes Farah Mendlesohn is the academic on it. However I would say Gwyneth Jones had equally stong views. She admitted to spending something like her first decade writing feminist SF books. Interestingly enough those are the ones she wished she'd published under a male pseudoynm.

Are we trying to find out whether SF is dominated by male authors or readers?
Well my interest and the question was targeted at readers (I should have made that a little clearer I guess :eek:). However I would expect authors to be of a similar ratio to readers. Though maybe not...
 
Science Fiction is still a male, white, middleclass dominion and if it is to survive it needs to open the doors, however that might be achieved.

Take my writing group. Male to female ratio of 4:1, with our female members either fantasy writers or borderline LitFic. This, in a country where equality reigns (sort of) and more women attend university than men. Also, we're the only Speculative fiction interest in Leicester, currently the most culturally mixed city on the face of the planet, and yet you'd think we were a Glen Beck rally if it weren't for the laptops and iPads.

Its the same all over. And somethings gotta give.
 
I think it does matter to a certain degree. Like it or not, men and women are different, at least generally speaking. That's not sexist; I'm not saying one is better than the other. It's just that we're different in more than just physical ways.

Personally, I think these differences should be celebrated. And further more, I find that the SF I read by male authors speaks to me more than that written by female authors. Men and women approach things differently, process things differently, and view the world differently, and so these things would lead to men and women writing in different ways about different things.

Now, this is not always true, there are always exceptions, but I'd wager that there is a better chance of me liking something from a male author than from a female author.

I'd like to experience both, without a homogenization of the sexes.

I have, over the last couple of years, made a more conscious effort to seek out women genre authors.

What does bother me though is that there simply aren't many female SFF authors out there. More now so than before, but it would be nice if there were more. But then again, one could probably make the argument that there aren't very many male authors writing romance novels.
 
I think that this whole sub genre that has been spawned by the like of Twilight etc needs to be taken into account. (Two or three years ago those books would've been in the SF, Fantasy or Horror shelves.)
 
If it didn't matter what gender a writer was, then there'd be equal numbers of male and female sf writers. Clearly there aren't.
 
I don't think you can assert that. We have more female nurses than male ones, and I doubt that's due to sexism.
 
I think that there is some sexism involved when it comes to authors under contract. I don't look at a book and decide whether or not to buy it based on the supposed gender of the author. (I'm not sure that there are any 100% male or female names anymore, and there are a whole lot which give you no clue at all.)

I also believe that who writes what and who reads what is somewhat related to gender. My personal observations would put SF readers as predominately male but not by much, and authors female, but not by much. It is interesting for me to note that there are few female SF authors who make my --- I've gotta have their next book --- category.

I would venture to guess that in the Romance genre that it would be considerably disadvantageous to be a male author.
 
I'd ask a subsidiary question: does it matter?

I didn't realise Robin Hobb was a woman for ages. The question never occurred to me, the answer didn't matter.

From a sales and marketing standpoint, yes. There are many studies showing that women think nothing of it, but a lot of guys won't bother reading a book with a female protagonist or are skeptical of female writers.

It's easy for me to believe. I don't have that issue with books, but I sometimes do for music. I have rarely enjoyed any female musicians/singers. I find their work to be limited often. When you look at people like the Beatles, Hendrix, Dylan, and Pink Floyd, who took song-writing way beyond cheesy love songs and into politics and justice and higher themes... but the number of female songwriters tackling similar ground is miniscule. Even most rock women stick to love songs and romance and heartbreak, which I find incredibly dull.

I'd say that women writers likely face a similar battle. Fair or not, the perception is that most women don't want to tackle anything other than romance or Oprah-style tales of sexual abuse and finding one's wings or whatever. That's the bulk of what you see on shelves from female authors and it validates any pre-conceived stereotypes.

Then again, I'm one of those that firmly believes that men and women are wired differently and thus it is wouldn't surprise me to find that male and female authors tend to be drawn towards different topics and themes. I think the issue is more that women will read a man because male values are seen as positive (ie. women in business have to act aggressive and masculine to get ahead) and female ones are often viewed as negative (eg. it's never ok for a man to act feminine or emotional), whereas most men wouldn't be caught dead identifying with female characters.

Plus, think of the audience. Guys like action and sci-fi/fantasy are perfect for those. Women like drama and interpersonal relationships. That's why guys only go to rom-coms with gf's and girls generally only go to action with their guy.
 
Science Fiction is still a male, white, middleclass dominion and if it is to survive it needs to open the doors, however that might be achieved.

Take my writing group. Male to female ratio of 4:1, with our female members either fantasy writers or borderline LitFic. This, in a country where equality reigns (sort of) and more women attend university than men. Also, we're the only Speculative fiction interest in Leicester, currently the most culturally mixed city on the face of the planet, and yet you'd think we were a Glen Beck rally if it weren't for the laptops and iPads.

Its the same all over. And somethings gotta give.

You undermine your own point here. I presume you are also a white male? Would you reject a female wanting to join the group? Likely not. The problem isn't some sinister plot by crusty white dudes trying to keep women down, it's a lack of interest among women in writing spec fiction (tellingly, they are more common in fantasy which has a lot more traditional "romantic" themes) or reading it. I've met many guys that will make fun of sci-fi fans, but few that actually hate sci-fi. Meanwhile, I know tons of women that would never ridicule someone for the taste, but hate the very idea of star wars or star trek as being too "weird."

I've never seen the value in "forcing" equality. If women are being kept out of publishing by basis of their gender, then sure they have a gripe. But pushing to "develop" writers just because one feels the genre doesn't have enough of category A makes no sense. There was no market for sci-fi at all initially... people had to prove the writing merited attention and develop the interest in it. This happened naturally. If there is a market for female-oriented sci-fi it will be found, but not by a bunch of white guys taking benevolent pity on struggling women writers and pushing their novels down people's throats. It will be found by women writers excelling and tackling issues that readers find appealing.

Thus why I'm also not remotely surprised by someone's observation above regarding their psych class being dominated by women. It fits with the theory that women find emotional or inter-personal themes far more interesting than the typically political, military, or social themes that dominate sci-fi. And why women are far more common in traditional fiction or fantasy than sci-fi.
 
I don't think you can assert that. We have more female nurses than male ones, and I doubt that's due to sexism.

Incorrect. Nursing is believed by many to be "women's" work. That's sexism. Women have no physical or mental differences which make them better suited to nursing than men. And vice versa.
 
You undermine your own point here. I presume you are also a white male? Would you reject a female wanting to join the group? Likely not. The problem isn't some sinister plot by crusty white dudes trying to keep women down, it's a lack of interest among women in writing spec fiction (tellingly, they are more common in fantasy which has a lot more traditional "romantic" themes) or reading it.

Complete rubbish. Do you actually bother to look at who's writing sf short fiction, who's winning the sf awards for short fiction? Mostly women. But they find it difficult to get their novels published. There is only one British female sf writer with a contract in the UK: Jaine Fenn. Yet the UK boasts many excellent female sf writers - such as Liz Williams, Karen Traviss, Gwyneth Jones...

There is no innate difference between men and women which dictates what they prefer to read or to write. Trotting out that old canard is just sexism in action: "it's okay that we don't pay them as much as us, it's because they're different, they're put together that way."
 
Incorrect. Nursing is believed by many to be "women's" work. That's sexism. Women have no physical or mental differences which make them better suited to nursing than men.

Now who's shooting in the dark? I read a US Air Force study ages ago showing that both male and female warfighters responded better to female controllers for two reasons: 1) The higher pitched voices cut radio noise better, and 2) Psychologically both responded better than to male controllers.

To toss out this comment about nursing is sexism.

It's great that there are so many female sci-fi writers. it's great that they're winning awards. It's very bad if they are being discriminated against over gender. But I hear just as much reverse bias in "political correctness."

Equal opportunity does not mandate equal numbers.
 

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