The topic of sexism in science fiction and fandom is fraught, as it is in the wider culture. Assertions of its existence in the sf community seem to come from younger generations, whereas older women tend to point to a lot of little remembered female pros and fans and say that things were better (or at least no worse) than what was going on in the macrocosm in their time.
René Walling’s research into Worldcon membership demographics, 1939–1960, shows that women made up roughly 20 percent of the attendance at early Worldcons. The reasons fewer women than men attended conventions are manifold, and not necessarily evident in the present day, but cannot observably be credited to prejudice against them from within the community. Sf fandom began to look seriously at the role of women in both the genre and the microcosm at least as early as the 1970s, leading to such things as Khatru’s 1975 Symposium of Women in Science Fiction, an endless number of convention panels on the subject and the founding of WisCon.
The topic becomes complicated because of the conflation of the publishing industry at large, sf publishing in particular, distinctions between sf and fantasy publishing, fandom and, notably, sf literary and fannish fandom vs. comics, gaming, media and cosplay fandoms. Each has its own history and the experiences of women aren’t at all the same.
Your Amelia Bloomer can only shrug and say she never felt unwelcome or shut out of things in fandom for reasons of gender.
- Khatru Symposium of Women in Science Fiction (1975).
- “Women and Science Fiction” by Susan Wood (Algol 33, Winter 1978–79).
- Science Fiction's Sexism Problem (The Atlantic, August 8, 2013).
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