Gender Distributions in SF & F

Wed Jan 29 17:49:52 PST 2003

From: "Andrew Lias" <anrwlias at hotmail.com>
> The recent discussions about gender biases in the science has led me to
> wonder about a similar question regarding the readership of science
> and fantasy.
> From what surveys I've read, the readership of science fiction is
> overwhelmingly male, whereas fantasy works have a much larger female
> following.  So the question is, why.
> So... why?  Why do women, especially young women, tend to avoid science
> fiction while embracing fantasy?

Speaking as a young woman, I don't avoid science fiction. I do, however,
tend to read more fantasy.

I think that for me, one of the reasons is the setting. Fantasies are set in
medieval-ish times, and when things are bad there, well, mankind got
through the Dark Ages and look where we are now! Some science fiction
seems to be less hopeful - here we are in the future, and not a lot has
changed. I like to think better things are in store for us than some dark
dystopic future.

This is just my personal opinion, and I know that quite a lot of science
fiction is not like that, and that some fantasy is. This also probably has
very little to do with being female.

Incidentally, I was wondering nearly the same thing a few weeks ago,
and asked my little sister. I don't know how young you want to go -
she's eleven - but she said she didn't like science fiction because it
was all about aliens blowing up the earth and stuff. So I think some
of it is popular perception of what science fiction is about[1], and I
don't blame her for wanting to read about magical princesses instead
of large explosions. I think the same is true for most young girls, and
even as they get older they probably won't develop an interest in things
that go boom.

I don't know, though, that there is such a large gender bias.
My mother reads science fiction almost exclusively, and thinks
fantasy is boring. My other sister reads both, thanks largely
to me forcing books on her. At school, girls and guys both
read mainly fantasy (well, the ones who read.) Make of
that what you will.  :)

-Jessica, now going back to lurkerdom

[1] Though her view on this may have been shaped by our dad
dragging us all to see Independence Day when she was five.