So Charlie Stross appears to have committed one of those “oh no headdesk no no” moments when he asserted that there’s a dearth of female time travelers in SF, going on to claim that it’s harder for women to exercise the sort of agency a time traveler could/should enjoy in older, potentially more sexually repressive societies.
Ahem (Marge Piercy, Woman at the Edge of Time for starters, cough-cough).
While there’s been some most excellent counters to his assertions from various excellent women writers, I want to throw my two cents in as well, based on my own knowledge of local and regional history in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
Right off the bat, I’ll confess to an occasional fascination for the tales of women adventurers in the Old West of North America (okay, maybe I’ll give Stross a pass on these, simply because that’s a regional focus and he may not know of them). Not all of them were cross-dressing as male, though there are some absolutely incredible stories about women who lived their lives out as remote cowboys, only to be outed upon severe injury or death. Some were spouses or female companions to males–Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spaulding are two who come quickly to mind, along with Sacajawea and Marie Dorion.
But there were plenty-many other women in the Old West who went out along with the boys and held their own. Some, like Elinore Pruitt Stewart, were simply trying to make a living. We know about Elinore because of her entertaining published letters, but she and her sister ranchwomen had no qualms about loading up wagons and horses and going out on their own for camping and fishing expeditions, either with or without the men.
Elinore wasn’t the only one, though. Looking at my shelf of memoirs and diaries of settler women, I find Eileen O’Keeffe McVicker, Phoebe Goodell Judson, Agnes Morley Cleaveland, Harriet Fish Backus, and others. If you add in the Victorian adventure travelers, there’s Isabella Bird as well as a host of others. Dee Brown, Janet Robertson and others.
Granted, these are all frontier colonial women, in a specific setting and we won’t go into the issues which arise therein (except to point out that Native women also had similar bold and adventuring women–we just don’t hear those stories). But if I can think of these histories of real, actual women on just one continent, of women who weren’t necessarily madonnas, teachers or prostitutes, then who’s to say that a time-traveling woman with appropriate research couldn’t have found a way to fit into these societies?
Hmm. Methinks I have a twinkling of a story idea here.
That is, after I write the Big Post-Apocalyptic story with strong female leads who don’t defer to Big Male Macho Boy Sex Fantasies (otherwise known as my oh no John Barnes no moment).
Yeah. Let’s just say I’m a grumpy and disgusted crone at the moment.