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Feminist Rage Page
Equality never looked so pissed.
I am a bitter Fantasy fan (now with recs) 
26th-Dec-2009 01:05 pm
I have been reading Fantasy written by English and American authors ever since I was fourteen. It is my favourite genre, and most of my favourite books are Fantasy books. This genre was my cure for sadness, loneliness, and boredom ever since I discovered it. And even though I love that genre and spend quite an amount of time defending its literary merits, most of the writers who do write Fantasy suck at the same thing, keep on sucking and make pots of money while doing so. Especially male writers are, when it comes to their few female characters, by and large, lazy, unapologetic morons uninterested in any kind of realism.

The only male Fantasy writers I can think of who manages believable female characters are Gregory Maguire and Terry Pratchett (and I'm grateful if any of you can point me towards others who manage to not fail). It never ceases to amaze me that it would be so bloody hard to write about human beings that, given that they easily comprise fifty percent of the population, one is certain to have interacted with at some point. Both do have strong female characters that are strong on their own terms without necessarily being eye-candy or supporters of male characters only. What is more depressing is that many female writers copy those parts of the genre that are hell-bent on turning female characters into brainless, decorative, supportive tokens (Anne McCaffrey ARFFF).

Even readers with a background in feminism seem so depressingly easily pleased and make a point of noting that there are female characters who are not decoration as soon as they are there at all. As long as these characters are there, as long as they do something at all, writers get kudos for including "strong female characters". I think that term has been used so often it has been rendered meaningless. If they do feature "strong female characters", one or two strong female characters that are included for whatever reason are really not enough to tip the balance for the rest of the book. If, throughout the story, female characters are treated as decoration, pieces of flesh or house elves, even the most bad-ass female will not rectify the fail when it comes to the other characters (looking at you again, Anne McCaffrey).

And fandom, which in many cases easily offers a break from canon fails due to the creativeness of readers, is no help here. Judging by a rough look at numbers of fanfiction submissions by pairing especially with regards to Harry Potter, most female readers don't seem to care as long as there are ~* hawt *~ male characters they can write trivial, character-exploring fanfiction about that centres on one taking care of the emotional and sexual needs of the other. Only about male characters, mind, because "the female characters in that fandom are so uninteresting". A baffling excuse, given the creative self-confidence of fandom - fandoms that manage to write novel-length stories about characters that never spoke more than three sentences together in a novel ought not to have a problem with that and welcome the challenge. 

But apparently, characters tainted by femaleness are not worth writing or thinking about, because there are no interesting stories to tell about women that aren't about the fact that they are women in a male world, and because fetishizing male-on-male interaction is just "more interesting"/"my personal preference".

EDIT: You guys are awesome, thank you so much for all the recommendations! 

I'll list them here so we have them in one place.

26th-Dec-2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
Heh, you're the second person to recommend The Dresden Files to me today. I'll see if I can find it in the library. I had only read rather off-putting things about the main character so I didn't bother before.

Military SciFi is not really my thing, but you've given me an idea for a present for someone who is, so thanks a lot!
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27th-Dec-2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
I heard that he was a raging misogynist, and even a friend who isn't generally that bothered by misogyny in fiction said that he was a chauvinist, albeit a self-conscious one. When I heard that I wasn't sure whether that was the book I needed to be reading right then. :)

Must be down to different sensibilities, most probably.
27th-Dec-2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Harry does the whole "I open doors for women and I refuse to apologize for it" thing, and I'd bet good money that the author shares that view. I find it off-putting, and I wouldn't blame anyone else for finding it intolerable, but it's only mentioned a few times, and he's kept in check by a woman best friend who refuses to be coddled in any way. I mean, it's not the most feminist series ever, but his woman characters are solid and the story is engaging.
28th-Dec-2009 12:37 am (UTC)
Dresden *is* a self-conscious chauvinist and really into chivalry, but none of the other male characters that I can think of are and it does often get Dresden into bad situations, so I'm not sure I'd assume that's Butcher's personal tendency. I can tolerate it because it's not every character, the female characters are well-written, and Dresden has managed to have a female best friend for something like 10 books now without them ever getting romantically involved (and I doubt they ever will). Plus it's kind of refreshing to read about a male protagonist who thinks sex shouldn't be separated from meaningful relationships.

I'd try reading a book in the 3-5 range (the first few are a bit shaky) to see whether you fall into the category of "Harry's flawed but the books are fun" or "OMG I want to smack Harry ALL THE TIME."
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