Marginalization of “the Other”: Gender Discrimination in Dystopian Visions by Feminist Science Fiction Authors

Open access

Abstract

In patriarchy women are frequently perceived as “the other” and as such they are subject to discrimination and marginalization. The androcentric character of patriarchy inherently confines women to the fringes of society. Undeniably, this was the case in Western culture throughout most of the twentieth century, before the social transformation triggered by the feminist movement enabled women to access spheres previously unavailable to them. Feminist science fiction of the 1970s, like feminism, attempted to challenge the patriarchal status quo in which gender-based discrimination against women was the norm. Thus, authors expressed, in a fictionalized form, the same issues that constituted the primary concerns of feminism in its second wave.

As feminist science fiction is an imaginative genre, the critique of the abuses of the twentieth-century patriarchy is usually developed in defamiliarized, unreal settings. Consequently, current problems are recontextualized, a technique which is meant to give the reader a new perspective on certain aspects of life they might otherwise take for granted, such as the inadequacies of patriarchy and women’s marginality in society.

Yet there are authors who consider the real world dystopian enough to be used as a setting for their novels. This is the case with Woman on theEdge of Time by Marge Piercy and The Female Man by Joanna Russ. Both texts split the narrative into a science fictional and a realistic strand so as to contrast the contemporary world with utopian and dystopian alternatives. Both texts are largely politicized as they expose and challenge the marginalized status of women in the American society of the 1970s. They explore the process of constructing marginalized identities, as well as the forms that marginalization takes in the society. Most importantly, they indicate the necessity of decisive steps being taken to improve the situation.

Keywords:
References
  • Ayres, Susan. “The ‘Straight Mind’ in Russ’s The Female Man.” Science Fiction Studies Website. DePauw University, n.d. Web. 1 Feb. 2011. Bammer, Angelika. Partial Visions: Feminism and Utopianism in the 1970s. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print.

  • Barr, Marleen. Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1993. Print.

  • Bartkowski, Frances. Feminist Utopias. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1991. Print.

  • Berkson, Dorothy. “So We All Became Mothers.” Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative. Ed. Libby Falk Jones and Sarah Webster Goodwin. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1990. 100-15. Print.

  • Booker, Keith M., and Anne-Marie Thomas. The Science Fiction Handbook. Singapore: Fabulous, 2009. Print.

  • Cortiel, Jeanne. Demand My Writing: Joanna Russ, Feminism, Science Fiction. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 1999. Print.

  • Fancourt, Donna. “Accessing Utopia through Altered States of Consciousness: Three Feminist Utopian Novels.” Utopian Studies 12.1 (2002): 94-107. Print.

  • Green, Michelle Erica. “Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time (Fawcett, 1977).” The Green Man Review. The Roots and Branches of Arts and Culture. 16 Dec. 2010. Web. 18 Jan. 2011. Hollinger, Veronica. “‘Something Like a Fiction’: Speculative Intersections of Sexuality and Technology.” Queer Universes: Sexualities in Science Fiction. Ed. Wendy Gay Pearson, Veronica Hollinger and Joan Gordon. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2010. 140-60. Print.

  • Jones, Libby Falk. “Gilman, Bradley, Piercy, and the Evolving Rhetoric of Feminist Utopias.” Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative. Ed. Libby Falk Jones and Sarah Webster Goodwin. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1990. 116-29. Print.

  • Lee, Jung Young. Marginality: The Key to Multicultural Theology. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1995. Print.

  • Lefanu, Sarah. In the Chinks of the World Machine. Feminism and Science Fiction. London: Women’s, 1998. Print.

  • Maciunas, Billie. “Feminist Epistemology in Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time.” Women’s Studies 20 (1992): 249-258. Macalester College. Web. 29 Jun. 2011. Makinen, Merja. Feminist Popular Fiction. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Print.

  • Michael, Magali Cornier. Feminism and the Postmodern Impulse: Post- World War II Fiction. Albany: State U of New York P, 1996. Print.

  • Millett, Kate. Sexual Politics. New York: Ballantine, 1989. Print.

  • Moi, Toril. “Feminist, Female, Feminine.” Feminisms. Ed. Sandra Kemp and Judith Squires. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. 246-49. Print.

  • Payant, Katherine, B. Becoming and Bonding: Contemporary Feminism and Popular Fiction by American Women Writers. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1993. Print.

  • Piercy, Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time. New York: Ballantine, 1991. Print.

  • Russ, Joanna. The Female Man. Boston: Beacon, 1986. Print.

  • Sargisson, Lucy. “Contemporary Feminist Utopianism. Practicing Utopia on Utopia.” Literature and the Political Imagination. Ed. John Horton and Andrea T. Baumeister. New York: Routledge, 1996. 238-55. Print.

  • Shands, Kerstin W. The Repair of The World. The Novels of Marge Piercy. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1994. Print.

  • Teslenko, Tatiana. Feminist Utopian Novels of the 1970s: Joanna Russ & Dorothy Bryant. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

  • Walker, Nancy A. Feminist Alternatives: Irony and Fantasy in the Contemporary Novel by Women. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1990. Print.

Text Matters

A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture; The Journal of University of Lodz

Journal Information

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 38 38 38
PDF Downloads 9 9 9