SciFriday and the Feminist Mys-Quiche
Today is International Women’s Day and I find myself focusing in on it through the lens of my culture—not the Jewish one but rather the geeky one. As a woman I often find myself troubled both by the attitudes of the “normies” and the male geeks within the scifi world. There’s one thing that unifies these two seemingly disparate groups: they remain ever incredulous about the geeks with lovely lady lumps. Yeah I just wrote that sentence.
In my younger years I digested most of my science fiction in the form of the written word. I grew up reading both the classics and every bargain bin paperback I could get my hands on. Heinlein. Adams. Asimov. Scott Card. Herbert. Huxley. Clarke. Wells. Bradbury. Oh…Bradbury. But what do you notice about all these names? They’re all male. Every damn last one. I have nothing against the male sex mind you and for a long time I didn’t really notice that my bookcase had this imbalance of gender. I did after all have a few books written by women—Madame L’engle and Lois Lowry for example—but for the most part scifi as a genre was and is largely dominated by men.
For a while I was happy in this little world of spaceships, lasers and dystopian futures. Then one day I woke up. I think it coincided with middle school and frankly it kind of shocks me that I don’t remember realizing this sooner. I had always been a very “girl power” oriented kid. I was in elementary school during the reign of the platform british diva and definitely spent nights in front of my mirror singing “wannabe” with a hairbrush. The theme I wrote up for my 10th birthday party? Girls Rule, Boys Drool—Splash til you Crash Birthday Bash. It was a pool party—ahem. Anyway THAT embarrassing tidbit aside the point is suddenly one day I realized all my books were written about or by men.
Thus began my search for scifi written by women and a dark and disturbing realization: there is a great deal of scifi written by women but they changed their names to be accepted. A number of books I’d read were written by women but I had no way of knowing that, and based on the trend by the more notable authors, I always assumed that names which followed the A. Z. Last Name formatting were men. That was exactly what the publishing industry wanted me to think—or rather what they wanted little boys to think. It started as a way for women to publish when it was considered indecent to do so and then carried on as tradition because publishing companies didn’t think boys and men would want to read books written by a woman.
Disgusted, I understood that this belief not only dismissed females as writers—but females as readers. It completely ignored the girls who were reading, the girls who might choose to read a book because it was authored by someone with whom they share a certain ovarian affinity. Talk about a total invalidation of my greatest love. Heck even J.K. Rowling fell trap to that line of thinking as her editors didn’t believe Harry Potter would sell to boys if they knew the author was a woman. Well that cat got out of the bag and Rowling is still richer than the bloody queen so fuck-that. Sadly it’s probably somewhat true that boys would turn away more from female written works. There are certainly a number of men I’ve met who avoid anything that seems remotely “feminist” out of fear that supporting it will suddenly doom them to marry a girl who doesn’t shave her armpits. Disgraceful.
With the second wave of feminism (aka the 60’s) a number of female scifi authors came out of the woodwork. Notable among them being Ursula K. Le Guin who is usually the first and sadly only name people provide when I mention female scifi writers. As for me, the first scifi work I encountered in my youth that made me think about this topic was Margaret Atwood’s “A Handmaid’s Tale”. If you aren’t familiar with the work it is about a dystopian future where a fascist and religiously dominant government has suspended the constitution following a terrorist attack. In this world women have been stripped of any rights and are regulated to various roles in society; racism and homophobia also rampant. The protagonist of the story is in the ranks of the Handmaids who function as concubines and whose sole purpose is to provide a womb for breeding; women reduced to literally the very thing that define their sex. Other roles women play are wives, daughters, “Marthas” aka compliant infertile women and the Aunts who train the handmaids. Infertile or troublesome women get branded as “unwomen.”
While this certainly sounds like a feminist manifesto, it should be noted that the book explores a variety of other oppressions enacted by this government for religious and racial reasons. Heck even the men are just as regulated as the women; assigned various roles within the military structure of the government but it is only the higher ranking classes that are permitted to breed and obtain a handmaid. As for the rest? No sex. Not even masturbation. I particularly remember reading the part about underwear designed to prevent nocturnal emissions and thinking that this world is just as criminal to men as it is to women. Gay men, as another example, are gender traitors and sent to death camps.
I’d like to think that today we don’t have this problem anymore or that it’s at least diminishing, but well…when I was thinking about this blog I decided to go find a copy of this book. I popped into a used bookstore on the street after yoga, ran up to the scifi section and discovered no listing for Atwood at all. With a heavy sigh I trudged up to the “Fiction-Literature” area and sure enough there it was. I went to check out and this was the exchange that followed:
Me: Glad you had this, I went looking in the scifi section first and couldn’t find it.
Counter: Well that’s because it’s not scifi.
Me: Uhh…well actually it is, I mean it’s soft scifi* but it’s definitely always been in that category from what I know.
Counter: it’s feminist lit. It can’t be scifi.
And it was a girl behind the counter too. Apparently feminism and scifi are incompatible. So much for forward thinking but hardly that surprising. I still get strange looks from most people who discover my love of the genre. Strides have been made over the years but aliens and wormholes are still apparently a “boy thing” in the eyes of most. I personally feel that more strides have been made in film and tv to promote the female empowerment of the geek world and it saddens me that books seem to lag behind which is why I’m so excited when I do find a thoughtful and geeky lady writer. There is a need, especially in our youth, to identify and learn about ourselves. That’s part of why people will seek out specific racial, cultural or gender groups and socialize within them. We want to understand ourselves and while Joss Whedon comes pretty damn close, ultimately I’ll still learn more about being a woman from another woman. That’s why it’s important to have these talks still and why you can’t ever be completely “color blind” in life. So I hope more women writers are picking up the call and defying convention and I really hope that they drop the stupid initial-last name convention because while 5 boys might pass over your book, there will be one little girl who might finally pick it up.
*Some people will claim it’s not scifi or only loosely scifi because it is about a dystopian future. Funny that I don’t hear people rejecting 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 nearly as often on those grounds. Now for those of you that would, look we can talk about this another time and I’ll school you on the history of the genre, also known as speculative fiction, and please stop trying to invalidate these books just because you happen to prefer hard-scifi which is a subgenre okay?
Oh right, I still have a recipe to share! Well as you ponder this topic, why not bake up a lovely quiche for dinner. Why a Quiche for today’s post? It’s a largely egg based dish and since I’m thinking about ovaries and baby-mamas I immediately jumped to the ovary connection. I’m weird. Accept it.
An Olivia Original – I made several mini-quiche but this recipe will make one large 9” pie
- 1 pie crust, partially pre-baked
- 1 cup leek confit
- ½ cup chopped, sundried tomatoes
- 3 whole eggs, at room temperature
- 2 egg whites
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp chopped fresh basil, plus a few extra leaves for garnish
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and ready your pie crust so that it is partially pre-baked.
In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, nutmeg, and ¼ cup of the cheese. Stir in the leek confit followed by the sundried tomatoes and chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper.
In another clean bowl beat the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold into the egg-cream mixture just until all the egg whites are combined. This will give your quiche an undeniable “light” texture that I get ravings about. Gently pour this mixture into your pie crust. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.
Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown, the outer edges are set and the inside just slightly wiggles when you nudge the pan. Remove and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. It’s delicious warm, cold or out of the fridge in the middle of the night.