Sometimes you don’t notice things until you’re looking for them.
When I realized there was going to be a many-months gap between the end of Roles and the Final Arc, I started looking around for other stories to podcast in the interim. You read things differently when you read for a podcast. It’s not just “Do I like this?” but “Would the audience like it? Can I do it believably? What SFX would I need? Who would voice this character?”
Perhaps due to a quirk in my circle of friends, or my psychology, or the direct effects of the Self-Actualization arc, I feel like I have a fair bit more female voices I can call on easily than I do male voices. So when I see female characters I immediately snap to “Yes, X can do her, Y can do her, Z can do her, and I still have people left over” and when I see male characters I think “Crap… I can use A for him, but B and C wouldn’t really work for these roles, and that leaves me without anyone to voice Supporting Character!” So I feel a twinge of emotional pain when I see a lot of male characters and few/no female characters, because it means production stress for me.
And when something produces a flash of pain, you quickly notice when almost every single thing you read produces that pain. There are very few women in most SF.
I don’t want to attack anyone, and it’s really not something anyone in particular should be faulted for. Most characters don’t need to be a specific gender, they could go either way. So when an author chooses to go with a male character there’s no reason to fault him, it isn’t malicious. Whatevs.
But when everyone unconsciously chooses male consistently, you end up with a sea of fiction that feels fake in the aggregate. It feels like genre fiction happens in worlds that simply don’t have women in them, at least not as agents that matter. All those little twinges of pain add up and you think “Holy shit, what the hell is going on here?” It’s something that I wouldn’t even have noticed until recently.
Over the past few years things have been getting significantly better. But when people ask things like “Why do we need Women Destroy Science Fiction? Isn’t that sexist?” I tell them to try producing a podcast with more women than men voice actors and then come back and try asking again.