As I diverge ever further and follow more and more by-paths, let me acknowledge that, amongst the market fundamentalism, fetishistic militarism, rank hatred of environmentalists and biologists, imperialist apologism and dismissal of the whole history of "inferior third world cultures", and all the other paraphrenalia, most modern US sci-fi writers have also embraced a limited subset of feminism, in the libertarianesque sense that women can do as much, or nearly, as men.
It's probably not coincidental that the one group they will acknowledge has had a tough time under traditional conservative values is women, given that they're the only "minority" numerous enough to help Republicans keep power. The Republicans Libertarians always support. Always. Despite their pretensions not to be the lap dogs of fundamentalists and reactionaries.
And the feminism I'm talking about is largely the Victorian "men are just dogs" style, a relic of an era when men were regarded as born morally deficient the way women were believed in Christendom to be in the Middle Ages. It's not challenging of patriarchical values (which are based, by the way, not on male dominance but on a mechanism for one tribe, race or religion to beat out another - most of the men driven out to fight and die, with enough left in charge to breed the next generation, and with enemy women and children either converted, enslaved, or exterminated). It's not looking at how "male chauvinism" ties into the capitalist/religious axis, the way Friedrich Engels did. It's "floating out in space" feminism.
And if you really believe "men are just dogs" and can't be expected to behave as well as women, that's very convenient as an excuse for all the closeted gay reactionaries and weekend swingers and adulterers and multiple spouses and sexual harrassment, and so on, isn't it? It might make someone female feel an ego boost to think they're born into the gender that's not "mean" and "piggish" and "oppressive," but it's actually of no help to them whatsoever. Indeed, it's partly a reaction to the resurgence of Victorian anti-male attitudes that drove some working class men to embrace Republicanism.
It's also not coincidental that this discovery of a limited feminist consciousness is occurring just when the fascist right wants us to go on more crusades and imperialist campaigns against the third world, with the Islamic nations as the ostensible target. Arundhati Roy has been content to simply mock this, because it's so absurd, but explanations count, too: Numerous modernizing third world leaders have been destroyed by the colonial powers, and chauvinistic and fascistic regimes put in their place. Women have certainly benefited from technological and social progress, but it's not been the Right that's made that possible, but the Left. Nor has Islam been a chauvinist drag on the societies where it's prominent, for the most part. In fact, they've usually been backward societies where it was a modernizing force. And when predominately Moslem nations have tried to raise up out of fundamentalism and tribalism (Nasser, Qasem, Mossadegh, Sukarno, etc. etc.), "the West" has always trampled them back down. Please recall the degreee to which our current regime courted the Taliban, and the campaign by Reaganites to promote Islamism all over the world to destabilize as many governments as possible.
Nonetheless, as I pointed out in praising Jerry Pournelle's moderate skeptical stance, and praising feminist leaders' comments on sexual harrassment during the Clinton impeachment, personalities and the paths and pressures that lead to results aren't all-important.
The simple fact is, women characters are getting more of a fair shake now in science fiction novels than, in my opinion, at any time in the past. Clearly, with science fiction being far to the right even of our corporate and militarist mass media in general, those women will be "Bush business wives" for the most part - exceptionally conservative, just as Blacks and hispanics must be to be included as people in the new paradigm. Nonetheless, it makes me interested in looking at the demographics and economics of science fiction - has the increase in female POV characters increased opportunity for female writers?