This weekend, a Tumblr post appeared on my dash, about the 2009 Star Trek movie. Apparently, during the initial planning meetings, the writers asked themselves how to get women to go see this movie.
I read this and, understandably, got angry. Why, in 2013, do people still labor under the idea that women don’t like sci-fi? That sci-fi is something for only men to enjoy? That men must somehow trick women into seeing sci-fi movies by inserting story elements that appeal to them?
This is a famous science fiction writer saying this, by the way, not some Joe Schmoe nobody’s ever heard of. Go Google Damon Lindelof if you don’t know who he is. I’ll wait. Now that you know his credentials, one would think that he’s been around long enough not to fall into that old “women don’t like sci-fi” trap, right?
Here’s the thing. I like things that are considered by some people to be traditionally feminine, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I like shopping. I like chick lit books. I like romance. I like dumb reality shows on MTV. I like puppies and rainbows.
I also love science fiction. I love Star Wars. I love The X-Files. I love space opera novels. I love space exploration and NASA and all the amazing stuff that goes on there.
Are you sick of hearing me talk about Mageworlds yet? No? Well good, because here I go again. Spoilers: Each of the seven books involves a romantic relationship of varying degree. Is that why I loved the series? No! I loved the series because of the setting and the characters and world-building and magic system and everything that you associate with space opera. I loved one romance in particular because the characters involved are extremely compelling and compliment each other so well, and I loved that consummating the relationship involved no angst and didn’t drag down the story. It just was. Similarly, I loved the relationship between that same female character and her father. The point of this paragraph? I like interesting relationships between interesting characters, whether they be familial or friendly or romantic. What was my favorite part of the Fate of the Jedi series? Surprise, it was everything with Luke and Ben, because I love their father/son relationship. Ben’s teenage romance with Vestara? Meh.
Male creators need to stop asking “how do we get women to buy our stuff?” and instead focus on telling a good story. Because when you start asking “how do we get women to buy our stuff?”, you only end up condescending to women. (You know how to get women to buy your stuff, male creators? Stop perpetuating the myth that women don’t like sci-fi.)
Another thing that might make women buy your stuff, male creators? Perhaps including more female characters in your stories. And not just men with boobs, or a walking womb: a woman who actually does important things in the story. See: Princess Leia, Uhura holding her own with Kirk in the new Star Trek movie (you should be familiar with that, Lindelof!), and the majority of the cast of Once Upon a Time. (Talk about a show that can pass the Bechdel test several times over.)
You don’t need to include a scene of a woman giving birth to make women invest themselves in your story. That first scene in Star Trek didn’t appeal to me because it featured a birth; it appealed to me because it was well-acted, compelling, full of high-stakes drama, and set the stage for the rest of the story.
Finally, if male creators are truly concerned about their projects appealing to women, perhaps they should ask a woman’s opinion, instead of just assuming what women like. That never works, because not all women like the same things.
I could go on forever explaining why it’s bad to assume that women don’t like sci-fi, and that you have to trick us into liking it. Instead, I took to Twitter and asked my female followers why they enjoy sci-fi. Their answers, to no surprise at all, are basically the same as mine, and have very little to do with gender.