#WFC2014: Women’s Roles in Fantasy Fiction Changed by World War I Panel Recap
Rolled in to Washington, DC, just before noon. Kudos to the registration team, the whole check-in ran like clockwork. Looking forward to an awesome weekend!
Also: book bags! With an Ice Cream Social for the win!
I’m hoping to post recaps of panels I attend, so here’s the first one:
Women’s Roles in Fantasy Fiction Changed by World War I
Panelists: Robert Killheffer (M), Mary Robinette Kowal, Laurie Tom, David Simms
Description: World War I saw a great change in the roles of women, giving them more independence, opportunity, and responsibility. How did this affect women writers of that era and the portrayal of female characters in fantasy literature?
From Edith Wharton to “angels” on motorcycles to Mata Hari, great discussion of women of WWI, and the war’s effect on women in fantasy.
- MRK: Pre-war British suffragettes seen as disorderly “gang.”
- RK: Concept of first Total War. Before WWI, a war novel by women would have been met with: what does a woman know about war? Not after this war.
- LT: MUST read the short story she mentioned (“The Wings The Lungs, The Engine The Heart”) about the Red Baron.
- LT: Mata Hari as the original femme fatale.
- MRK: Hitherto, women in fantasy were written as ethereal. They lacked agency, and like “Tomorrow’s Eve,” often featured an ideal of controllable perfection. Most writers, including women, had been writing to the male gaze. The war served as a concrete representation of female agency and ability.
- DS: Did neat research on American interwar eugenics programs, where women were valued for intelligence and ability. Would love to read more on this.
- Changing portrayals of women in media (including eugenics film reels). My favourite example? Cigarette trading cards featuring women in “male” professions (MRK). As RK quipped, “Gotta collect ’em all!”
- Concept of “feminist tide.” Major crises, like wars, precipitate advances in gender equality, but post-war pushback slows progress.
- MRK: Fashion demo. How functionality of women’s fashion traces the changing role of women in society.