2. Introduction to Second Wave Feminism and Pop Culture

In this first episode of a mini-series on second wave feminism and pop culture, Janine gives a brief overview of representations of women in sci-fi movies, television series and comics from the twentieth century. All this, and more!

The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
2. Introduction to Second Wave Feminism and Pop Culture

What’s in Episode 2, “Introduction to Second Wave Feminism and Pop Culture”


Janine introduces the contents of this episode – first a general overview of the representation of women in sci-fi, and then a focus on her favourites. They are Ellen Ripley from Alien, Sarah Connor from The Terminator and Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. She also invites your feedback!

Background on second wave feminism

Janine talks about the beginnings of second wave feminism, and recommends Mrs. America starring Cate Blanchett who is “just amazing” according to her.
She then lists some key second wave feminist texts, especially those that criticise women’s representation in the media.

Background on women’s representation

Princess Leia and Barbarella are the topics of this discussion. Janine recommends watching Anita Sarkeesian’s video series on Tropes versus Women in Video Games.

New heroines

Three prominent heroines that break away from the representations of women seen in early sci-fi are Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor and Captain Janeway. She reiterates that these three characters are her favourites.
She also lists two other new heroines, which are Dana Scully from The X-Files and Clarice Starling from Hannibal.

The first woman in sci-fi

Janine identifies Maria from the silent movie, Metropolis, as the first ever female cyborg.
Metropolis was also, according to her, the first sci-fi movie ever made.
Janine then compares Metropolis with the famous Voyager episode, Bride of Chaotica.

Janine goes on to discuss Maria’s legacy of sexualising women in sci-fi. She talks about Princess Leia’s slave outfit, Barbarella, and many more.

Comic books

Janine further talks about the representation of women in comic books. She uses Lois Lane as an example, who always needs to be rescued by Superman.
Janine then lists a bunch of “shapely heroines” that were featured in comic books of the 1950s-1980s.

Wonder Woman

Janine continues the discussion of women in comic books by talking about the Wonder Woman comics and recent Wonder Woman movies.
For Janine, the 2017 Wonder Woman movie takes away her feminist potential.

Janine further talks about how the Wonder Woman comics sexualised Wonder Woman. Janine notes the themes of bondage seen in the Wonder Woman comics.
She recommends watching Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.

Comics influenced film and television

Janine notes the similarities between the Wonder Woman comics, movies, and television series.

Subversive potential of sci-fi

Sherrie Inness’ theories about women and sci-fi are discussed. Janine highlights how sci-fi can liberate women and destroy taboos.

She refers to the kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura as an example of this.

Janine then notes that it is not surprising that women whose representation is different from that of Maria and others emerge in sci-fi.

Ellen Ripley

Janine briefly fangirls over Sigourney Weaver, the “sci-fi queen”.
Janine is of the opinion that other strong women appeared on screen following the success of Alien.

What is a heroine?

Janine finally explores what makes a female hero different from a male hero? Are they just a male hero in a female body? Shouldn’t they be different because of their gender? Or should they be the same?

Janine addresses the “age old” question of sexual difference and sexual sameness in feminism. Janine then gives her take on female heroism. For Janine “female hero” and “heroine” are different, and she explains why.

Janine uses Hye-Won Han and Se-Jin Song’s analysis of Lara Croft as a foundation. Janine does not agree with what these two theorists say about female heroism.

Wrap up

Janine concludes that a “heroine” has traditionally masculine and feminine qualities. She refers to this archetype as “the second wave power woman”.

Janine introduces the episodes in the rest of the mini series on second wave feminism. They are early liberal feminism, radical feminism and cultural feminism.

Episode Credits


  • Janine Engelbrecht


  • Janine Engelbrecht

Small Print

The theme music is "Dashboard Light" by One Two Feet, and is licenced by Holosuite Media through Epidemic Sound.

This podcast is a fan production. All views made are that of the individual(s), and may not represent that of the podcast, or the Holosuite Media network.

The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
The Sci-Fi Feminist - A Feminism and Pop Culture Podcast
2. Introduction to Second Wave Feminism and Pop Culture