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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Second Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans

--A Transmission From The Distant Future--

A green skinned, bald alien woman clad in garish pink stands before you, antennae fetchingly adorned with ribbon, her arms outstretched.

Ladies and Gentleman, I bid you welcome to the grand opening of our Museum's newest and greatest exhibit, a monument to a dark time in our history, some thousands of years ago, when our foremothers fought the great war of Reclamation.

As hard as it may be to understand now, when humans and non-humans of whatever color, shape or creed dwell in harmony among the stars, there was a time when this was not the case. The fight for equality extended through many battlefields from the very grand to the very small. But they were never trivial. These battles all served the same purpose in the end, to create a world in which men and women could share in mutual respect and equality.

Thus today we commemorate one such battle, when, through the weapons of words, our foremothers and their allies fought for recognition and representation in the literary world, specifically in the realms of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Allow me to give you a tour of our grand exhibit and experience a step on the path by which our foremothers reclaimed the future.

==The Second Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans==

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Books/Writing
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The first stop of our tour focuses on the battle with regards to books and the craft of writing. As you see in the first display, a woman on the moon, analyzes the history of science fiction from a feminist perspective.

"Of key importance to this study, however, are the two distinct factions that were evident during the late 1960s and the 1970s and that could be likened to realism and modernism in terms of their relationship with each other. The one movement consisted of the older generation of writers and placed the emphasis heavily on science fiction as an exploration of science and technology. The other movement, which has been termed the New Wave and to which many feminist writers belonged, was more interested in science fiction’s potential to explore the human condition. "

In the next display, Matociquala examines how the concept of the Other becomes an impediment in the writing craft. Danuta Keen, for her part, looks at the changing portrayal of women in general literature. While Todd Suomela muses on whether a feminist perspective would change the element of teaching in science fiction.

Reviews and analyses were very effective means for our foremothers and their allies to express themselves and their issues. Here we see Cory Doctorow review a book's feminist message:

"This is not a subtle book. I don't think that there's a single sympathetic major male character in it -- even the anarcho-syndicalist boyfriend of one of the activists dismisses her feminism as divisive "identity politics." But then again, subtlety is hardly the point of political, dystopian science fiction. If Alanya to Alanya is explicit and one-sided about its point of view, it is no more so than 1984 or Brave New World or Frankenstein are. And what's more, it's absolutely true that issues of gender are very divisive within progressive political movements."

At Two Sides to Nowhere, Jane examines two reworkings of the old story "Tam Lin".

While both Linda Talisman at No Time and Pirate Captain at Book Reviews of a Bibliophile discuss the same book:

Linda addresses some of the ideas behind the book:

Anyway, when I talk about "women's sci-fi" I don't mean feminist sci-fi, exactly. I mean "by and about women" as in the subtitle of the anthology, but I think I mean a little bit more than that. I mean sci-fi presented through the medium of women's experience, however each individual author defines that.

While the Pirate Captain reviews the book itself:

"But it's one killer introduction. Claiming that "women and science fiction were made for each other," it delves into the history of women writers in what appears to be a stereotypical Male realm.

It reminds us that strong women are not a recent invention, and that the first novel to usher in the modern era of science fiction, Frankenstein, was written by a woman."

The writer Alau analyzes Mildred in Fahrenheit 451:

"Similarly, in Fahrenheit 451, Mildred's personality is not only shaped by a censored society but by the expectations that keep her at home. These completely separate gendered spheres contributed to the social isolation and alienation felt by both Guy and Mildred. In Mildred's case, her emotional estrangement comes not only from the censored society but from her husband's expectations and reactions to her experiences as a domestic housewife."

Over here we see, Yonmei, at the Feminist SF Blog, reviewing John Varley's Millenium, while her compatriot Liz Henry challenges an idea that women can't write "great books":

"So, does Snodgrass think that women don’t read and enjoy the Iliad? Or if they do, they’re not really normal women? Or does he think their “minds” are capable of reading about war, but not paying attention long enough to write about it?"

To round out this wing of the exhibit, Lis Riba reposts a questionnaire about reading experiences.

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Comic Books
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The next stop on our tour focuses on the battle as takes place with regards to comic books and graphic novels.

Our first display is a cute cartoon drawn by Karen Ellis of Planet-Karen: What Would Wonder Woman Do

Whereas in the next display, we see how the varied response to the response to her NAN Grant offer(as seen at the previous incarnation of this exhibit) has Lea Hernandez weighing in:

And in this world of no prejudice that I turned topsy-turvy with my grant, there's David saying, "True. The amount of debate it's generated over at CBR is wholly disproportionate to the value of the "grant" itself...What poor Lea Hernandez should have asked herself before launching her (no doubt well-intentioned) initiative is how she would have reacted if someone had made a similar offer available to male applicants only. I rather imagine she'd have been among the first to vent her ire at the CBR forum!"

I don't think I need to point out that that statement is just sizzling with loaded statements, minimization of me, and David trying to make my mouth move with his words.

In this corner, a little dark voice speaks about what the differences between men, women, boys and girls mean in comics:

Anyway, I got to wondering if maybe male characters had an easier time being considered "men", even when they display more "boyish" quirks, whereas female characters who act "girlish" can really only be "girls.""

Over here, we see 100 Little Dolls repost her very first comic review, regarding Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles:

"What is painfully obvious is that they're going to make Lisa Rick's motivation. She deserves more than that--they did such a good job with her in the original series. To make her pregnant, hurt/hospitalized and miscarry is just rediculous. It's akin to what Lucas did to Padme in Star Wars.

They take their strongest woman character--Lisa is the head in command--and make her weak and pregnant."


E. Arkell gives her answer to the question Why are you so angry?

And Shelly addresses the topic of feminism in comics from her own perspective:

"Is a woman who takes advantage of her sexuality, her beauty, her femininity to further her goals an anti-feminist? Or is she simply a realist, using what's available to her? Is she setting back the cause of feminism or is she clever? Is a woman who is aggressive, acting in a manner people have described as masculine simply a feminist not wanting to be pigeonholed as a weak, or is she trying to be more like a man, denying her true nature?"

In this display, Ragnell re-examines an old Newsarama feature on Daughters of the Dragon, and then follows it up with more specific criticism here:

"The second picture, however, the landing is clumsy. I wouldn't describe it as dynamic at all. Her feet are skidding outwards beyond her control (her right foot even appears to be shaving wood from the porch -- was it changed so she would make noise on landing? Some martial artist!). Her back is bent in a painful and dangerous manner, you can see very little musculature. Her wrist is angled in a painful manner that adds no support to her upper body. This is not the landing of a skilled martial artist. This is an untrained girl who's gotten in over her head! Even her grip on the sword is loose!

The characterization is completely different for the two panels.

Which one do you think fits Colleen Wing, experienced martial artist?"

Marionette finds a feature in the back of a Marvel comic book interesting:

"This week's Marvel comics (well the one I read, anyway) contain an editorial from someone called Molly. I have no idea of who Molly is or what position she holds at Marvel, but I was so gobsmacked by her words that I'd like to reproduce them here in full. Responses mine."

While Tekanji takes her criticism straight to the source:

"Quesada hasn’t experienced hostility for being a woman in the comic book industry because he isn’t one. He hasn’t seen it, either, because his privilege gives him the ability not to see it. This doesn’t make him a bad person, but it does add another dimension of stupidity to the way he chose to answer the question. By dismissing the potential validity of the criticism he is speaking from an authority that he doesn’t really have — it stops being about how he feels and starts being about him being Right and those who feel they have been discriminated against being Wrong."

Finally, on the manga end of the spectrum, Love Manga's David Taylor is perhaps Foolishly Optimistic regarding the state of female characters in Shoujo manga:

"What I’m basically saying is at the moment the manga we seeing might be all anti-feminist, or if your of the other persuasion all manga at the moment might make females appear mediocre against the superlative male counterparts. In a few years that could all change as more stuff gets translated and the topic shifts to something else. It is all a balance and if what your reading at the moment doesn’t cut it for you there is something else which will hit the spot."

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Television and Movies
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Here of course is where we examine the nature of this battle in the realm of the primitive technology of the moving picture.

Our first display is Ifritah's critique of the movie Aeon Flux and how it fails to live up to it's television counterpart:

"After finishing the ten-episode stint of Aeon Flux’s animated cartoon, the biggest thing I noted was how the most loved part of Aeon’s personality was drowned out on the Hollywood screen.

Her snark. Her arrogant, casual, sassy persona was suddenly soggy once the animation turned to real life cameras."

While Philip Chien links to his own examination of The Cult of Princess Leia's Metal Bikini.

Over in the television section, Battlestar Galactica and certain Joss Whedon television programs are major topics of interest.

At Archive Sometim3s, reproductive politics in Battlestar Galactica are explored:

"It shouldn’t be understated, I think, that the decisive argument in persuading the President of the ‘necessity’ of banning abortion - who expresses with some conviction that she has “fought all her life for the right of women to control their own bodies” - comes when the population figure is brought, once again, into focus."

EL expresses enthusiastic love for the almost love between Apollo and Starbuck:

"He's mad, she's mad, they're in love, and they're totally (despite the small matter of rank) peers and equals. Equals enough that his punching her is equivalent to her punching him. It's not "violence against women" which indicates that violence against any woman, in particular, is worse, because she, in particular, is naturally unable to fight back. Instead, it was portrayed as the violence that happens between two people (who happen to be military-trained) who are negotiating a complicated relationship. He was not expected to grip his jaw, wince a bit, and take it, out of some pedestalizing "respect for women". He respected her enough to dish out what he took, in unbracing justice."

While Lance both commends Galactica's portrayal of gender while pointing out the problems with regards to race:

"The series debuted, Katee Sackhoff did a very competent job playing Starbuck(in spite of her dismal performance in "Halloween: Resurrection") and those fears were dispelled. However, another oddity had occurred: along with Starbuck's penis, somehow all the Black characters managed to also bid adieu to the Battlestar Galactica universe."

With regards to the other major topic of interest, Jason commends Joss Firefly's take on women:

"The point is, I think Whedon must have a copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" on a bookshelf somewhere, because he portrays his female characters with such depth and color that I cant help but feel less valuable for having a penis."

While at Wax Banks, the question is asked, Is Joss Whedon Feminist enough?:

"Hopefully-provocative title aside, my GF puts a question in response to the heartbreaking Angel episode 'A Hole in the World': Does Joss Whedon kill his major male characters anywhere near as often as he offs his central females? The answer is obviously NO, he doesn't. So the real question is: why not? From which we get to a whole host of other more specific questions, but let's approach through that one. Why not?"

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Video Games
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Our last stop on the tour centers around the battle as regards to video games.

At New Game Plus, Lake Desire examines the World of Warcraft forum's receptivity toward women:

"Many of the replies on the WoW forums are from misogynists: “What about all the guys that get harassed from (actual)female players? Huh? EQUAL RIGHTS” and “This post is like women IRL. They just dont know when to stop talking.” and “I think I’m done trying to respect and please women when all that happens is I get hated by ones I don’t even know.” and “Ok, honey, you’ve had your cute rant. Go make me a pie now.” Yikes. Analyze that as you will, but I think my regular readers know what I think."

She also addresses the disturbing implications of a new piece of software:

"Harassed in game? Now, instead of reporting the harassment to moderators or challenging the ways the game environment and culture encourage it, you have a new way of blending in and participating: disguising your voice as that of a man’s."

Over here we have Alaric S. relating anecdotal experiences from four female gamers.

While, in this last display, Roxanne challenges the idea that guys' addiction to video games are why women are starting to be more successful academically.

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Finally though, what exhibit would be complete without a glimpse at the opposing side.

They never had a prayer.

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Thank you all for coming, the next carnival will be held at New Game Plus. The due date will be August 1st, for an August 3rd showing.

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