women / Women Recommend

Athena’s Daughters: Positive Representation Matters

"Athena’s Daughters: Positive Representation Matters"By Maggie Allen & Janine K. Spendlove

Science Fiction and Fantasy (SF/F) are wonderful mediums for helping people expand their horizons and encouraging imagination. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the best selling YA novels of all time (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and Twilight) were all penned by women and two of three had women as main characters, there is still a large representation gap for women, both as characters and creators, in all forms of media.

The statistics are staggering. For example, in children’s television, male characters appear twice as often as female characters, and female characters are four times as likely to be shown in sexy attire (Geena Davis Institute on Gender in the Media, Annenberg School for Communication, “Gender Stereotypes: An Analysis of Popular Films and TV,” 2008).

Think that’s bad? 19% of prime time television characters are non-human while only 17% are women (A Profile of Americans’ Media Use and Political Socialization Effects: television and the Internet’s relationship to social connectedness in the USA  Daniel German & Caitlin Lally).

It’s not that people aren’t trying to rectify this—but what happens when they do? Their shows get cancelled or their books don’t get published. Case in point: Cartoon Network cancelled the show Tower Prep because the writer, Paul Dini, refused to follow guidance from higher ups to focus the storylines on the males and write the females “one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys.” (Paul Dini, 15 Dec 2013, on i09.com)

This is particularly concerning given that studies indicate that girls ages 7 to 20 look to women in the media as role models.

That’s what inspired Athena’s Daughters.

We knew there was an audience for women in science fiction, and it was proven when our Kickstarter for Athena’s Daughters, a Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology written by women about women, was funded in a mere 36 hours. The underrepresentation of women is an issue near and dear to us. Janine is a Marine Corps pilot and combat veteran; Maggie is an astrophysicist, plays in a rock band, and works at NASA. Both of us know what it is to be in the minority or to have it made clear that there’s a “boys’ club” that to which we don’t belong.

We wanted to show that there are many amazing women who write SF/F, and that stories about well-written and well-developed female protagonists are for everyone.

And now we know we’re right. Our Kickstarter for Athena’s Daughters funded at 522% and was so successful that we created a companion volume, Apollo’s Daughters, featuring stories about women written by male authors.

A traditional publisher might have rejected this anthology on subject matter or fobbed it off on an imprint and, when it didn’t succeed, said, “See, women don’t sell sci-fi.” But through Kickstarter, we have a direct connection to readers. They can support the projects that most interest them. Our anthologies exist because people do want them.

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Maggie Allen, astrophysics writer, and Janine K. Spendlove, US Marine pilot and writer, are co-founders of Silence in the Library Publishing. http://www.silenceinthelibrarypublishing.com

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