Dixya Sharma Poudel
I recently read a science fiction novel called The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. It is a saga of science, the space and human endeavour. The Calculating Stars imagines an alternate past for the space race. It creates an apocalyptic story all the while building an inspiring female lead.
In The Calculating Stars, it is 1950s and the earth has just been hit by a meteorite. It devastates parts of North America causing a global alarm. A married couple Elma York and Nathanial York is lucky to survive. Elma is a physicist, a mathematician, a pilot and a human computer while Nathanial is an accomplished engineer. Elma and Nathanial are then swiftly hired to work for International Aerospace Coalition.
The earth is bound to face a huge climate change that might render the planet inhabitable. So, the US and the rest of the world work to send astronauts to space. Elma has always wanted to be an astronaut but it is mid 1950s and sexism is widespread. Will she succeed at achieving her ambitions?
At the heart of this novel is Elma York, a brilliant scientist prone to anxiety. She hates the spotlight and shies away from all attention. But she is a human computer deft at science and mathematics. (I didn’t even know there used to be human computers during the 1950s! It is fiction but does evoke some historical facts of that era). It is evident that Elma’s expertise will be required to save mankind. Her problem is the prevalent sexism. Elma has to fight tooth and nail to succeed and overcome several difficulties, including a hostile male co-worker. And I admire how she surpasses all obstacles including the one in her mind. The book ends on a hopeful and promising note.
Feminism is a rather trending topic today and equally controversial. These days the social media, the movie industry and the book publishing companies opt towards promoting empowered women. The celebrities condemn sexism which has a positive impact on the younger generation. Given, there are also people who spew anti-feminist views in virtual and real life. But I believe feminism has never seen better days. Simone de Beauvoir, a pioneering feminist of the twentieth century, would be proud to see the achievement in gender equality today.
What does feminism mean to you? In her Ted Talk, renowned writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie defines a feminist as, “a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” In the past, most women were the ones who shouldered the bulk of the household chores while also maintaining a career. However, times are a changing. Today, the millennial believes in shared household responsibilities along with the importance of female empowerment.
Books such as The Calculating Stars are necessary. They send an important message to the readers, especially to the new generation of readers. And the youth is at the forefront of human civilisation. What better way to educate the youth than by creating female characters, who fight for their rights and stand up against gender inequality?
The more the media represents empowered women, the more the society will be open to gender equality. Needless to say, the world is a much better place to live in when it is equal to both the gender, in all aspects.
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