Tuesday’s Class

Process-1Hi, everyone. We’re going to have a visitor for tomorrow’s class; Professor Margaret McBride from the English Department. Professor McBride has been a part of the feminist science fiction community for many years and is an incredible resource on feminist science fiction literature, the communities that sustain it, fandom, and much more! She’s going to talk about the Tiptree Award and community and asked me to post the following information to the blog:

From the beginning the people involved with the Tiptree Award had the attitude that it should be approached with both seriousness and humor.  Much of the money was and continues to be raised through bake sales, cookbook sales, auctions with the comic flare of author Ellen Klages as announcer, t-shirt sales and so on. The prize is $1000, travel and expenses for the trip to the award ceremony, an original artwork, and chocolate (and a tiara to wear during the conference).  The official pin has the words “Bake Sales for World Domination” and SpaceBabe (compare to women on pulp covers) “who roams the galaxy, single-handedly fighting injustice, oppression, and outdated portrayals of gender roles in speculative fiction.” In “Strategies of Coding in Women’s Cultures” (Feminist Messages:  Coding in Women’s Folk Culture), Joan N. Radner and Susan S Lanser suggest that feminists can take ideas that may be seen as trivial and “code” them so they are both deliberately expressed to those in the know and concealed from outsiders.  Feminine codes of bake sales & chocolate were chosen quite deliberately to convert them into feminist messages by embracing techniques and procedures that are patriarchally designated as feminine and exaggerating them to expose the feminist power underneath.  This juxtaposition of the familiar female, generally disregarded by the larger society, into something powerful and subversive, “a real solid effort to change the world and if you can’t change the world through chocolate chip cookies, how can you (Pat Murphy)” is where the humor comes in.

According to Debbie Notkin of the Award Motherboard, “While stability and predictable process are important to other awards, fluidity, flexibility, and unpredictability are the hallmarks of the Tiptree Award.”  Pat Murphy says that judges are looking for work that is “thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating.  To change the way that our society thinks about women and men, we need to see people in different roles.  The Tiptree Award is intended to reward those women and men who are bold enough to contemplate shifts and changes in gender roles.  The Award is for those rare stories and books that challenge the norm, question our hidden assumptions, confront the expectations that we don’t even think about, and tweak the unconscious prejudices that influence our perceptions.  The award is a subversive joke that takes you by surprise and makes you blink and turns the world into a different place, much stranger and more wonderful than you ever thought possible” (The James Tiptree Award Anthology I).

The Motherboard feels that “the main point of the award is not to provide answers—but rather to raise questions.  When a work wins the Tiptree Award, readers then proceed to argue about whether the work was really about gender.  These continuing arguments mean that people are reading the work, thinking about gender, and discussing it with others.  And that’s the point, after all.  The Tiptree Award is eccentric, unpredictable, fluid, controversial, trying to struggle with hard questions while staying open-ended and open-minded” (The James Tiptree Award Anthology 2).

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About cstabile

Carol Stabile is a founding member of Fembot , an online collaboration of scholars conducting research on gender, new media, and technology. She teaches at the University of Oregon. View all posts by cstabile

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