One difference that appears between women’s writing and that of men is attention to collectivity. Rather than the individualism that is one of the hallmarks of, in particular, American male writing, women’s writing tends to emphasize the importance of the community. There are, of course, notable exceptions: Ayn Rand, for example, did much to elevate, if not create, the cult of the individual (and always male) hero in mid-twentieth century America. However, the more common interest in collective authority can clearly be seen in women’s utopian and science fiction. Whereas science fiction by males is often concerned with hierarchies and dominance, the imaginary worlds described by female writers are usually egalitarian, nonhierarchical, even anarchist. They are concerned with self-empowerment, and with empowerment of the group as a whole, rather than with gaining power or control over others.
The hero might be, not one person who makes it to the top, but a group of women and men who, together, are able to achieve their goals. An excellent example is in Starhawk’s first novel, The Fifth Sacred Thing (1994), in which the people of an imagined future San Francisco are able, together, not only to repel conquest by the fascist rulers of Southern California, but even to win the army over to their nonviolent, collective lifestyle.
Nature is also considered part of this collective community, as women’s science fiction shows a respect for nature that is not usually seen in male works. This is illustrated, for instance, in Sally Gearhart’s The Wanderground (1979), in which nature has rebelled against the modern assaults against it, and refuses to allow machines to work outside cities, which are male bastions. Meanwhile, most women live in simple, natural communities out in the country. Women’s science fiction also shares concerns about using technology for human needs, and imagining reproductive methods and styles of parenting that free women from carrying the brunt of bearing and rearing children. An example is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), which takes place on a planet in which each person, randomly and periodically, changes from a neutral state and becomes either male or female.