American Culture Studies Ph.D. Dissertations


Searching for Wonder Women: Examining Women's Non-violent Power in Feminist Science Fiction

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Culture Studies/Popular Culture

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala


Searching for Wonder Women: Examining Women's Non-violent Power in Feminist Science Fiction, examines how works of Feminist Science Fiction (from various media, especially literature, film, and television) can be used as engaged, critical pedagogical tools for teaching a wide variety of feminist and critical race theories concerning issues of power / empowerment and subjectivity. In each chapter, I describe how I have used particular FSF works in the classroom and how each one fosters discussion on the particular topic / issue. In Chapter I, "Examining Power, Violence, Masculinity and 'Tough Girls,'" I deconstruct commonly held definitions of power (especially those with links to violence, patriarchy and hegemony) and demonstrate how works of FSF can encourage students to think about cultural power in relationship to the dispersal of resources. Through an analysis of Charmed, this chapter also displays the complexities of examining the links between violence and power. Chapter II, "Telling Our Stories: Women's Voices in Feminist Science Fiction," focuses on the power of language to construct alternate realities in opposition to non-inclusive, "dominant" cultural narratives, and also on storytelling as a means to literally "give voice" to marginalized groups. Chapter III, "'The Women Men Don't See:' Women's Strategic Invisibility as Potential Empowerment," analyzes stories of literal and metaphorical invisibility in order to discuss issues of women's subjectivity and voice, invisibility / hypervisibility through sexualization and objectification, and also "passing" as a member of the dominant race / gender / sexuality. Finally, my chapter "Ecofeminism as Anti-domination Activism" examines the "culture of domination" present in how cultural ideologies treat both women (and other marginalized groups) and the environment. Throughout my dissertation, I use personal narratives and references to students' discussion comments in order to demonstrate how, after studying various feminist theories of media, identity, and voice, they all discovered their own non-violent source and definition of power. I use their stories and analyses to discuss society's potential to construct more diverse, inclusive definitions of power.