Jane Donawerth’s essay “Gender is a Problem That Can Be Solved” is a very clever analysis of gender in science fiction, once you take out the extreme feminine undertones. The first paragraph annoyed me greatly, with its talk of woman being more susceptible to poverty and lack of equal representation. I am in no way a feminist. I have found that whining about rights that we already have and things that are in our control to be obnoxious and unnecessary. But I digress..
The specific part of the essay that I found to be extremely irritating was when Donawerth talks about Joanna Russ’ “What Can a Heroine Do?”. Russ says that women have less to write about than men, that they’re stuck with “the marriage plot or the mad woman plot”. Seriously? Give your imagination more credit than that. Russ is essentially saying that women know only how to write about marriage and going crazy, both of which coincide, normally. Haaa.
Yet, once I looked past the feminine undertones and the slighting of the female sex by females themselves, I was delighted at the innovations that many of the authors presented to the science fiction genre. I liked the whole idea of gender neutrality and non-conforming sexual futuristic societies. Donawerth talks about novels by Melissa Scott, in which “woman can do all men can do because the gender catagories “woman” and “man” have been transmuted, no longer constraining future humans”. I also liked the idea of a future “where humans can change bodies and sexualities”.
I think this essay is good because it shows how science fiction can have gender/sexual issues and not just technology and aliens. Once female authors “ignore gender roles and are not culture-bound”, they are able to create new alternate realities that haven’t been discussed before in science fiction. Gender is a catalyst to better literature, not a hindrance.