The Spearhead on Sci-Fi: NO GIRLS ALLOWED!

Blogger “Whiskey” has an article up on men’s culture site The Spearhead” today called “The Feminization of Science Fiction (and Fantasy)”. The gist of the piece is that (imagine this being said in a little-boy-pouty-voice) girls are coming in ruining science fiction and fantasy for boys with their stupid emotions and even stupider buying power! No fair!

Artist’s rendering of “Whiskey” and a sci-fi friend

Basically, The Spearhead is arguing that, in the same way we’ve done with Broadway showtunes and television sitcoms, women are busting into the no-girls-allowed zone of sci-fi and turning it all frivolous and emotional. Says “Whiskey” on this alleged feminization:

This is not to say that the feminized science fiction and fantasy genres of today are “bad” but they certainly are different, and mostly irrelevant to most men. Central to this fact are the profound gender differences in what men and women find appealing in literature, particularly science fiction and fantasy. Broadly speaking (there are exceptions), men prefer the traditional, “Big Idea” science fiction in which technology acts to radically change a society, and said changes are explored from a central (usually male) character.

A “Big Idea”? What’s that? I guess women are incapable of wrapping our ladybrains around such notions. Good thing we’re feminizing the genre!

However, with the exception of the Lessing novel “Children of Men” (Lessing herself writes in the manner of a male writer), the female written and oriented science fiction and fantasy is very, very different than that of male written or oriented science fiction and fantasy. Female oriented fiction tends to be very personal, oriented towards personal choices of women (and sometimes men) on the issue of children, families, relationships, and so on.

“Whiskey” is careful to point out that he (I am assuming the author is male-identified based on the point of view of the article) feels men and women approach science fiction differently (which may be true) but that he is not saying that one approach is better than the other. Except that he is.

According to this article, women, with our predilection towards “porn-light tales of fantasy” and our insistence on writing male characters as “either sniveling beta losers (think Pete Campbell in “Mad Men” or most of the male characters in “Dollhouse”) or hunky but violent Alpha males that treat women badly (but the women love them).” Oh, and we write women as “ ‘beautiful victims’ who love the men who abuse them, even if they are capable of kicking their asses.”

Of course, we women can’t blame ourselves for men’s inherent dislike of our work in the science-fiction genre. Men are homophobic, and they can’t help it. When reacting to a Washington Post article on women and sci-fi and the prevalence of bisexuality in women-authored work, “Whiskey” claims

Men, young and old, find gays and bisexuality (among men at least) about as attractive as a “fabulous” Broadway show followed by a viewing of all three of the “High School the Musical” movies. In fact, the more “gay” Broadway has become, (and the more technically excellent), the more repellent it has become to men and boys. Indeed, metal and rap’s popularity stem from the hostility both have to gays, making male sexuality not “questionable” the way the love for Broadway showtunes would be.Women generally like gays, and find gay sex fascinating the way men do lesbian sex. However, men know well that most young women, if presented a magic button that would make most men (average joes) “gay” they’d break their fingers pushing it. The chief objective of attractive young women being turning off male desire of all but the most Alpha of men.

Get me to that magic button, ladies! I can’t wait to make nearly all men gay!

I don’t even know if it’s worth examining the rest of this article. “Whiskey” goes on to lament the demise of The Rockford Files (the last manly show on TV, apparently) and the appearance of emotion-driven Vampire fiction (because no guys ever watch True Blood or read Twilight, and the new film Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant that was written by a team of men and directed by Paul Weitz must be a whopping exception here).

The conclusion of “The Feminization of Science Fiction (and Fantasy)” is that men have been relegated to the world of e-books – that last frontier where a man can truly write about “Big Ideas.”

This means you won’t find niche stuff, and the relentless focus on the New Girl Order (helped along by the depression) will end. Men now have for entertainment, absent the gender stereotypes, focus on domesticity, and female themes, professional sports and video games.

I know I have quoted the sci-fi lovin’ guts out of this article (though it is quite long), but I have to include the final paragraph here for discussion purposes. By writing e-books (away from the predatory female authors who have ruined science fiction), men can finally be creative.

Rather than explore issues of personal sexuality or hunky Alpha males, they can address pressing social issues such as nuclear terrorism, selective sex abortion, and more. Fantasy writers can explore the fall of the Roman Empire (still the most historically traumatic event in Western History, and the most grievous loss) within the context of today’s decadent society (where leading cultural creators support freeing Roman Polanski). All without the soft tyranny of feminized PC/Multiculturalism, and crowding out of the “Big Ideas” for domestic issues. There will still be a place for women in science fiction and fantasy. But it will no longer be “theirs” — an exclusive clubhouse where expressions of nerdy male ideas are as welcome as a Star Trek Convention at a Sorority House.

In some ways, it is a brave new world.

Even though “Whiskey” makes some pretty outrageous claims in this piece (women don’t know anything about the Roman Empire! Only men can write about selective sex abortion!) I am paraphrasing it here in the hopes of starting a discussion. Is science-fiction in any way excluding men? Or is it just that even a small number of women at Comic-Con who want to talk about Edward Cullen is causing the gatekeepers of this historical Boys’ Club to panic? I think it’s valuable to discuss the different ways in which men, women, queers, straight people, non-white people, old people, young people, etc. approach science-fiction and fantasy, but isn’t there room in that “exclusive clubhouse” for everyone? What gives?

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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22 Comments Have Been Posted

I've been a scifi/fantasy

I've been a scifi/fantasy girls since my dad got me started with Anne McCaffrey in 3rd grade and this just pisses me off.

a) the whole "big idea" thing
one of the modern greats of feminist scifi is Margaret Atwood, just came out with a followup to Oryx & Crake. how is the downfall of modern civilization due to genetic engineering not a "big idea"? i agree with him that what is great about the genre is to take ideas and explore them without the strictures of normal reality, but i think one of the things the female authors have brought with them is better characterization -- i loved asimov, but no one can really defend that aspect of his writing.

b) the whole twilight, screaming little girls thing
um, this is a problem and the hordes of laia's in metal bikinis wandering around scifi conventions isn't?

c) "gender stereotypes and roles in female oriented science fiction and fantasy"
and the gender stereotypes in male oriented science fiction isn't a problem? dude, have you read Heinlein? and if that isn't male oriented, i don't know what is



Children of Men was written by P.D. James, not anyone named Lessing. Not only is he part of the reason so many women I know hate science fiction, he's also not checking his facts.

Right, what a strange

Right, what a strange mistake. I guess it didn't matter enough to "Whiskey" to differentiate between sci-fi writers who are women. I doubt he would give his stamp of approval to any of Doris Lessing's speculative fiction; which is to say I recommend her book Mara and Dann :)

Wiki P.D. James. It is a

Wiki P.D. James. It is a girl.

I am actually kind of

I am actually kind of boggling at the stupidity of the way he puts things.
<i>However, men know well that most young women, if presented a magic button that would make most men (average joes) “gay” they’d break their fingers pushing it.</li>
Seriously? I'm not sure if they get this from a) taking slashers at too seriously or b) by just having a really f*cking rigid idea of masculinity that makes everyone who isn't Conan potentially effeminate and thus gay, but it's such spectacular bull that I don't know where to start.

I think traditionally, in scifi, men has written more hard sf, and women have written more anthro sf; it sort of goes with what we're raised to value. But that's not a rigid rule at all, and even if it were, there have been women writing queer anthro scifi since the seventies; Whiskey started complaining thirty years too late.

Besides, I'm a nerd. I defend nerds whenever I can. But men (grown men, not prepubescent boys, but adult human being who really ought to know better) who use their nerddom as an excuse to be sexist pricks, heaping misogyny over the women unfortunate enough to cross their path, have absolutely none of my affection. Or patience, even.


</i> I broke the italics-tag. Apologies.

What about the straight men

What about the straight men who like their sci-fi more plot driven (including the exploration of "emotional" storylines involving characters that form bonds with each other)? I guess they don't count just like the gays, the lesbos, the bis and the stupid women. I'm so tired of homophobic and emotionally repressed men dictating to other people who don't fit into their category of acceptable human beings what we should like and how we should feel and what we should think. Life is bigger than you, people are not like you, and it's okay. There is more than enough room for all of us to get our sci-fi on, stop hatin!

Sci Fi Boys Club

I suppose he really didn't like the Big Idea authors like Madeline L'Engle who popularised <i>tesseracts</i> amongst other Big Ideas. Or maybe he didn't like Frankenstein which was one of the original Big Idea novels and was written by a woman.

I am getting extremely tired of post-feminist males who claim that women have someone destroyed the natural order or watered down genres. It's the <i>authors</i> who destroy the order and water down genres. If his fantastic boys club aren't writing the novels he likes, then there's something wrong with them or the readers like him who aren't purchasing the novels they write. It's the readers who purchase the works that create the demand for novels. That has absolutely <i>nothing</i> to do with women.

Women haven't dumbed down science fiction. They still are <i>buying</i> it. I know I am. And I went to a scifi literary convention recently where I sat in on panels with some fantastic Big Idea science fiction authors that were *GASP* female.

I also sat in on Spider Robinson and his wife Jeanne and their collaborate works are amazing. Her personal work with Stardance is expressive and exceptional. Dancing in Zero G is a Big Idea. We all could only <i>wish</i> to be able to fly like that. Spider's still considered a Big Idea guy and he was complaining that it's still hard to sell work. Remember Whiskey. You have to buy the books and encourage the authors. I buy Spider Robinson <i>and</i> Jeanne. I support Science Fiction. Do you?

My favourites: Ursula K. Leguin. Elizabeth Moon (who writes the kind of hard sciffy that the boys club like). Kate Elliot.

I love picking up new authors all the time. I love them for the space ships. For the exploration. For the human relationships that cannot exist without the technology. I've read some pretty hack male author science fiction. It's just that there are so many male authors the hacks fade behind big names. I love them for the science. For the knowledge that this work can possibly be fact in the future or that the location is there because it allows the author to play with <strong>What If?</strong> and to bend the fabric of reality.

Aren't those Big Ideas? Exploration. War. Life. Genetics. Technology. What could come out of the internet. Dystopia. Utopia. Aliens. Space.

"Whiskey"? Isn't that the

"Whiskey"? Isn't that the name of a female character on "Dollhouse"? That's a weird choice for someone who thinks that women are ruining sci-fi and fantasy.

I just wanted to thank you

I just wanted to thank you for writing this response post Kelsey, I stumbled across their site a couple days ago, and was astonished at what I was reading - that this sort of 'no girls allowed' culture existed in some parts of the science fiction/fantasy community.

I've always seen sci-fi as an way to explore the human condition - for everyone involved, not just an elite group of boys. By taking away the familiar markers of our own society, sci-fi and fantasy can then address any possible issue in a way that can be seen without our own prejudices and preconceived notions about how the world works...

I wrote my own blog post ( ) to an article they posted on Tuesday that shocked me. And I was subsequently told to take some Midol, and that my response had no merit (in their next one...). Anyways, I'm just happy that more people taking a stance against them and their shallow views of the purpose of science fiction.

I have to say, there's a big

I have to say, there's a big part of me that just... doesn't get it. Sci-Fi being overrun with emotional, relationship-and-domesticity oriented women? Is this the equivalent of a liberal who spends all his/her time buried in the conservative media and never realizes there is a whole lot more to the internet than that?

One warning: I view sci-fi as being a whole lot more than a rigidly defined set of books/tv shows/ movies -- there are also videogames with a sci-fi spin, enormous fan communities for a lot of stuff, and lots and lots of stuff that falls partly in sci-fi and partly in other stuff.

But even if I limit myself within that definition, I see lots of sci-fi that's "Big Idea" Based (though I'd love to argue his definition of "Big Ideas", because I get the feeling that something like Left Hand of Darkness wouldn't count for him, but certainly does for me), and also stuff that's more intimate and personal. How about: what if 'fabric of time' started ripping? Current answer: Primeval -- which has dinosaurs, lots of gunplay, and lots of men trudging around being manly and having girls swoon over them. And it's an awesome show. Doctor Who. Torchwood.

If you look at the lineup of shows that, say, Syfy runs (to make it American), we've got the Stargate Franchise, which has overall balanced pretty well between Ideas, Explosions, and Character Development. Warehouse 13, Sanctuary, Eureka: all shows that do a little bit of everything, or try to. Star Trek is coming to the fore again, and let's face it, Star Trek always had its episodic moments, but also played with a lot of ideas. Battlestar Galactica. 'Nough said on that one. Firefly/Serenity essentially pulled the "Empire Gone Mad" card, and then ran with it -- and that was a Big Idea (human experimentation, forced colonization, etc.) plot that ran with having strong female characters and interesting interpersonal relationships too. Does Whiskey discount the premise for the presence of girls with guns?

I just realized that I'm going on about the tv more than any other medium, so I'll stop. My point was supposed to be: If you can't find sci-fi you like out there, you aren't looking. The genre is still asking its all important "What If?" and it's doing it in so many different ways that it can satisfy almost anyone willing to do the digging to find writers/directors/producers they like.

Whiskey seems to frighten easily

Three words: James Tiptree Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon / Raccoona Sheldon) In spite of what people claimed after her death, according to her biographer the vast majority of the fan & critic community not only praised, published and awarded the hell out of her short stories but found it inconceivable that "he" could be a woman. I'm not going to try to put her work into one of "Whiskey's" senseless pigeonholes (isn't sci fi about destroying boundaries and restrictions?) but I dare him to read any short story collection and successfully guess each author's gender.

In my opinion he (and we all) need a little personal time with "My Gender Workbook" and a little more of Tiptree's xenophilia. Frankly, Whiskey's shrieking terror of women, change and interpersonal relationships seems awfully "feminized" to me.

Where would the alien

Where would the alien franchise be without Ellen Ripley? How about the fact that the most iconic fight scenes in Serenity were performed by a young woman? Katherine Bigelow has made more big idea movies than many male directors and what about Elizabeth Moon's contributions to science fiction? It's so frustrating hearing from people like that who still imagine the genre is this boys club. I grew up on the genre looking up to women like Sigourney Weaver or Claudia Christian from B5. And does it ever occur to him that a lot of female fans roll their eyes at the whole tween Twilight thing as well? In fact, I have huge issues with Stephanie Meyer and her depiction of women. I also have huge issues with the syfy channel wanting to gear Caprica to female viewers by making it Dallas in space. That's just offensive. But that has nothing to do with how women relate to a genre. That's just one network's view on how to draw viewers in. They also show wrestling which has even less to do with scifi than Caprica.

Why would someone this

Why would someone this sexist give a shit about selective sex abortion? I mean hey, wouldn't that solve his problem? If he can get rid of us pesky women while we're Still In The Womb, we won't be able to DESTROY ALL GOOD SCIENCE FICTION.

Crap, that was an outburst. Must've run out of Midol.


I love how men can oppressively dominate a field for centuries, but the second women prove proficiency in said field it's SO FREAKING UNFAIR. Wah.

He probably meant arguments

He probably meant arguments *for* selective sex abortion...

Chicks in Space

As for the Trek convention quote, let it be noted that women took me to my first conventions, and I took others in turn - we all loved it. One of my earliest memories is watching that show with my brother, and I proudly described myself as a Trekkie nerd...still do. I cry everytime Spock dies on STII (Wrath of Khan).

(This XX-chromosome Trekkie alternately yelled with delight and then gasped in utter despair at the recent prequel reboot, might I add. And then proceeded to educate her not-as-Trekkie male friends about what obscure points should have been adhered to.)

Give this dude and those like him a hoover to pull the twists out of their giant manly pantywads.

Live Long and Prosper, Peace and Long Life, Nanoo Nanoo etc


This Whiskey fool makes me

This Whiskey fool makes me quite angry. He doesn't deserve to use the name of such a lovely drink.

Closed-minded narcissism

The moment a woman does something a guy thinks is good, she's doing it "like a man". No, she's not doing it like a man, she's doing it (in this case writing) exactly like herself, a woman. It's amazing that they can find ways to take credit even for that. Because all positive qualities are masculine, and all inferior, passive qualities are feminine.

Sexist Opinion Doesn't Hold Water

I'm so sick of men pandering their sexist little opinions under the name masculine solidarity. Just like any vast range of people, men are not a unified entity with hive minds. So yes, "Whiskey", I am a man, and no, I absolutely do not agree with you. I in fact hate the sterile "big idea" fictions that he seems to think speak to men. I like my scifi/fantasy (and I hate to clump them together, because they aren't actually that similar) to have a good premise, sure, but more than that I like it to be character driven. I like it to have strong and abundant women. I like the characters to have substance beyond an ability to simply react to big events in ways that drive the overall narrative forward. I like emotions. I like romance. When it comes down to it, I would much rather read a story about how substantial, believable characters are affected by extraordinary circumstances than some pretentious "What if..." scenario.
I think Whiskey is an example of a pathetic individual whose understanding of women is based almost entirely on the sexist depictions of his fiction of choice. He has admittedly chosen male-centric stories over any other type of narrative, and believes that actual women must act like the two dimensional drones in these stories.
In short, losers like this have got to stop assuming that I agree with them just because I have a penis.
P.S. Where the fuck does he get off claiming that all men are inherently homophobic? Many are, yes, but that's a disgusting generalization, and one I'm sick of people making. I have never once in my life turned away from a form of entertainment because some of its characters were gay men, and would be thrilled to see a stronger queer streak in all types of fiction. And nor should it be assumed that a straight author who chooses to write gay characters is expressing some kind fetishism!

One of the best hard sci-fi

One of the best hard sci-fi books I've ever read was by a woman, Cecelia Holland, and it's name was "Floating Worlds". She just happened to be a historical fictionist and neatly transposed a group from our past into hard core warriors of the future. Because of her I never considered women couldn't be sci-fi writers. They just have to be good.

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