Lunchtime Listicle: The Most Feminist Moments in Sci-Fi History

by Rebecca Peterson

Last week, New York Magazine published a near-comprehensive list, “The Most Feminist Moments in Sci-Fi History.” As author Devon Maloney mentions, science fiction has always been a relatively safe space to explore outlandish ideas like alternative gender roles or anti-racism. So cheers to that! 

We’ve pulled some of our favorites, but check out the original article for enough femspiration to get you through the rest of the work week. Which are your favorite moments in sci-fi history?


Thea von Harbou Co-writes Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)

The silent movie about a rich city maintained by an all-but-enslaved working class is known not only as a classic dystopian tale and a major moment in the history of German film, but as filmmaker Fritz Lang’s magnum opus. But often forgotten is the fact that Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou, wrote most of the script and subsequently cast Gustav Fröhlich as the film’s star. Von Frau was deeply conflicted politically: A Nazi loyalist, she campaigned for pro-choice policies and defied the law to marry her third husband, a man of color. But her creative contributions ultimately made the science-fiction world a more inclusive place. Whether Metropolisis feminist or not is debatable (its female protagonist, Maria, is certainly more strong-willed than most damsels in distress), but von Harbou insisted on keeping her more progressive beliefs in the picture.


Nichelle Nichols Debuts as Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek (1966)

If you know one thing about feminism and sci-fi, you know about Star Trek’s Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, communications officer on the first-ever starship Enterprise and one of the most prominent — and awesome — black female characters in science-fiction history. Nichelle Nichols’s portrayal of Uhura was the first step in what would become the show’s lifelong commitment to the idea of a brighter future for everyone — a quality that distinguished it from its genre contemporaries. It’s sadly not true that Nichols’s kiss with William Shatner (Captain Kirk) in a 1968 episode was television’s first interracial kiss, as is often rumored, but Nichols’s portrayal of the intelligent, force-to-be-reckoned-with Uhura gave generations of women of color — including Whoopi Goldberg and astronaut Mae Jemison — the inspiration that science fiction is known for delivering.


Lieutenant Starbuck Gets Gender-Swapped, Complex in Battlestar Galactica (2004)

The original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series portrayed Lieutenant Starbuck as a womanizing, cigar-smoking rogue, but the 2004 reimagining of Starbuck as an incredibly flawed, adaptive, and brilliant woman made the character unforgettable. Playing Kara Thrace, Katee Sackhoff was as rebellious, arrogant, and hedonistic as the original and, even better, she actually changes over the show’s four seasons. Once again, a female character’s imperfections (quickness to anger, uncouth behavior, rash decision-making), depth, and lack of conformity to conventional gender norms made her a banner example of how breaking stale male-gaze-y archetypes makes sci-fi way more interesting.

The original article can be found here



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