Vanishing Woman: Does sci-fi omit women, or does its fans?

When I wrote my analysis of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, I peeked at the user-reviews on IMDB for inspiration and direction – no need to say the same things everyone else says…. That would hardly be possible since my copy of the film stars Patricia Neil, but she seems to be conspicuously absent from other versions of the film. Where I see a script that is fundamentally built around her character, and the sobering compromises she’s had to make before the film begins, other viewers (male, presumably) omit her entirely.

It’s no secret I’m sexist. I’m not even interested in the “male” point of view – unless it’s someone who is actually doing some comedy like Edward Everett Horton or Eddie Cantor. But we’re not talking about musical comedy – this is Sci-Fi, the nerdiest of nerd-chismo genre. Robots that blow shit up and the little boys who love them. If there’s a girl, she’s a space-vixen or a nurse (think of it as an atheist Madonna/whore complex)….

It’s not just the boys that do this. Even my nerdettes promote and perpetuate the impression that women play no role in science, fiction, and especially science fiction. DAY is certainly not alone. Star Wars had no female Jedi (six movies and there are only two women, both princesses). It’s the boys who befriend robots, poke around in crash sites in the woods, and ultimately get to go to space to save the universe….

There *are* exceptions. When the genre turns to the softer sex (and happily it does rather often) we get a glimpse of imaginative fashion, deviant sexuality, and the social-norms of society go topsy-turvy. I’m not talking about Ripley battling a Queen Alien. The hot babe that can kick your ass is a two-dimensional stereotype, more a sex fantasy really, like Laura Croft. There will be grunting and sweating as she flexes some muscle. If we’re lucky her shirt will be turn strategically and she will suffer some tribal-looking scratches on or near her breasts….

But the real girls in sci-fi, I mean the girly-girls, are going to be doing more fabulous things than just bitch-slapping each other…. They will go SHOPPING, they will wear amazing outfits, they will go to unusual parties, and get involved with aliens who hit on them. They will *think* about their situation, and deal with it – because sci-fi is about the brain, about evolving humanity and shedding old values. Sci-fi is where women should rule. Think Ann Francis in FORBIDDEN PLANET or Jane Fonda in BARBERELLA. They don’t *go to* space, they’re already there. They are not the “normal” at the beginning of the film, the wide-eyed innocent, the “boy” who becomes a man on some Joseph Campbell journey….

The real sci-fi babes are already surrounding themselves in the luxuries and conveniences the future has to offer. Embracing technology, using it, wearing it. When their adventure starts, it’s generally the result of an abrupt REgression – cataclysmic disaster, sailors landing, or some egomaniac threatens to destroy the world…. Rather than discovering *advanced* technology, these women are confronted with *primitive* kind.

At first dumb-founded that anyone would be so backwards, they might dabble at dumbing it down (hey, we all gotta date), she networks, she social-climbs (how quickly does our heroine find a job at the villain’s lair dressed as a slave girl, while the hero takes the whole movie to tour the entire continent and round up some buddies before he finally moseys his way to the final battle?) 9 times out of 10, she has dated the supervillian. At the end of the day sci-fi babes get around. Dale Arden’s line at the end of FLASH GORDON is a classic: “I’m a New York City girl. Things are a little too quiet around here for me.”

While women are constantly being written out of history, it’s a fallacy to think they weren’t there turning events to their favor, flirting with the barbarians and hitting the parties until they climb to the top…. So I created this site to counter-balance a sexist bias. If this journal has one purpose, it is to change the dialog. To point out the feminine sensibilities from a feminist perspective. And especially, to remember that female iconography *is* there, you just have to know what you are looking at.