Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"The end of masculinity would also mean the end of femininity", and other thoughts from Marlene Barr

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All female societies, pregnant nursing males, and the end of masculinity are only a few of the topics discussed by Marlene Barr in her book Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond. Through a series of essays, Barr comments on the equality (or disproportions) between men and women, using feminine sf stories as a basis of comparison. Authors like LeGuin, Russ, and Gilman are quoted by Barr, though she is fair in her feminist sf study by including male authors (an unwanted but undeniable presence in feminist sf).

In the introduction to her SF analysis, Barr shares the story of her academic rise. By choosing to study sf through a feminist lens, Barr says that many of her male colleagues were threatened and tried to negate the academic quality of sf for study. Sf writer Gary Westfahl is quoted by Barr, warning sf writers to “never conceal, compromise, or apologize for [your] interest in this field” (p. 2). If sf was a laughable avenue of study to her colleagues, Barr realizes that a feminist-led criticism sf might be met with greater laughter. Still, she forges ahead with the dismantling of patriarchal sf by comparing them to feminist sf stories of the same caliber.

Chapter 6 talks about the end of masculinity. At face value, the term ‘end of masculinity’ could be interpreted as a threat to men everywhere. What Barr means by the end of masculinity is to also end the other side of that particular coin, femininity. Like ying and yang, one cannot exist without the other. Without masculinity or femininity, men and women would unite under a singular definition of gender, one in which both men and women would be caregivers, providers, and valuable members of society. Barr's text is a valuable tool in the study of sf, especially given her gender critiques.

Barr, S., Marlene. Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond. North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 1993. Print.

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