The Straw Feminism of Lady Lands in Classic Sci-Fi

Worlds where powerful women rule just to be dethroned.

In classic sci-fi from the 1950s and 60s, there’s a very specific subgenre that deals with alien planets or hidden worlds populated entirely by women. In the video store where I used to work in Portland, OR, Movie Madness, we called this subgenre “Male Chauvinist Fantasies/Nightmares,” because that’s usually how these flicks go: male astronauts/explorers discover a world where the only inhabitants are lovely alien ladies who’ve gone too long without the company of men. This works itself out in one of two ways: it’s a fantasy world of a commitment-less sex and blind idolatry on the part of the women, or it’s a nightmare, the women are alone for a reason, and that reason usually revolves around breeding men to death. Either way there’s a lot of sex implied, but the connotations fluctuate.

We’re talking about films like Cat Women of the Moon, Fire Maidens of Outer Space, Queen From Outer Space, and scores of others that play a pretty insidious trick on audiences: they make us think that women are in charge, when really they’re not in charge at all, and these movies are just another fetishistic perspective from the male gaze. There’s a reason Movie Madness categorizes such films as “Male Chauvinist” rather than “Feminist,” after all.

In the following video “Lady Lands” from Catherine Stratton for Fandor, the myth behind these movies is exploded and their “feminism” is revealed to be of the straw variety; that is, “the fictive act of creating powerful women solely for the purpose of proving them wrong.”

This is fascinating, entertaining, enlightening work from Stratton, and it deserves to be shared far and wide across your personal corner of the internet. Get your eyes on it then help spread the good word.

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