Conference Focused on Women and Gender in Science Fiction

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Science fiction and fantasy books, television shows, and films include a wide range of female characters – from protagonists to villains, warriors to “women in refrigerators,” and sidekicks to starship captains.

But what messages do these depictions convey? On the other hand, how do women in the “real world” identify with these characters?

Rutgers University–Camden opened the book on these pursuits and many more as it hosts an interdisciplinary conference, “Buffy to Batgirl: Women and Gender in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Comics,” from on Friday and Saturday, May 2 and 3.

The conference is a unique opportunity to support and encourage discussion of female characters and authors, says Zara Wilkinson, who co-organized the event with her colleague, Julie Still, both reference librarians in the Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers–Camden.

“Women in this genre are often overlooked,” says Wilkinson. “We are not only interested in bringing more prominence to female roles, but examining more far-reaching issues more critically from a female-focused vantage point.”

Still echoed the sentiment, adding that many young, female scientists and researchers were initially inspired by female science-fiction characters to pursue a career in science. “Studying female characters is a great way to understand how girls and women perceive themselves and their place in the scientific realm, and how they perceive their relationship to knowledge and power,” says Still.

Noted feminist science fiction scholar Marleen Barr will delivered a keynote address, titled “Hillary Orbits an Alternative Universe Earth: Interpreting the USA Network’s ‘Political Animals’ as Science Fiction.”

Buffy to Batgirl also featured a series of thought-provoking panel discussions – each including four 15-minute presentations – focusing on various aspects of female representation in science fiction, fantasy, and comics. Highlighting the forum’s interdisciplinary focus, the presentations will encompass a range of critical and theoretical approaches, as well as a variety of different media.

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