I wonder how well Russian Socialism did with gender equality. Because Red Star seems to quietly comment on the lack of female representation in the socialist society of Earth, by means of comparison to the more gender equal society of Mars. There are four female characters in the book: Anna Nikolaevna, Netti, Enno, and Nella. Only the first woman is from Earth, and there is a significant difference between her character and the three Martian ones.
Anna Nikolaevna was Leonid’s partner (wife?) on Earth. Leonid considers her “mild”, and she is represented as overly emotional (i.e., in her arguments with Menni). She and Leonid disagree ideologically and we are, of course, meant to side with Leonid. Moreover, Leonid refers to her exclusively as Anna Nikolaevna (which is only her party name!)—never Anna—which serves to make her distant, even anonymous to both Leonid and the readers. If we zoom out for a moment, it is somewhat impressive that this society allows women to be politically involved, but it is clear that their participation is extremely limited. Of all the comrades and revolutionaries of Earth that Leonid names in his manuscript, Anna Nikolaevna is the only female—and she is exceedingly mediocre.
This is all in contrast to the Martian females, who are doctors, astronomers, and educators, among many other professions. Netti in particular, as Leonid’s second partner (wife?) in the book, is sharply distinct from Anna Nikolaevna. Netti is repeatedly described as the best doctor on Mars, and she is a dynamic character who saves Leonid’s life repeatedly while also providing him with a truly loving relationship. Enno and Nella are equally robust characters. Overall, Martian society has completely equal representation of the (male and female) genders in all aspects of life. I think what’s even more telling of this difference between the two planets is that Leonid, the ignorant Earthling, assumes that all the crew on the etheroneph are male—and he is proven very wrong.
If Martian life is Bogdanov’s idea of a socialist utopia, then the differences between Earth and Mars are meant to be commentaries on Russia’s shortcomings in the early 20th century. It seems to me, then, that he is arguing for a strikingly different representation of women in his own society.
Of course, what would have been even more wonderful and progressive is if Leonid had slowly discovered his attraction for Netti, who was actually male…