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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.

30th-Dec-2009 09:15 pm (UTC)
Ok, I had to go do a few more things than just shopping (throw in getting married).

Here are additional explanations of the recommendations I made above:

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is fun to read and I liked his characters, although it also needs a series trigger warning for horrid transphobia from... I think it was the third book onwards. It left me very bitter, as it ruined an otherwise really entertaining and intelligent series.

Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly. Alright, so her writing is not perfect, but this book has both a very interesting and believable heroine AND a very believable male main character, which made me re-read it. The heroine is a middle-aged witch who feels torn between her ambitions when it comes to her magic prowess and her love for her husband and his desire to have children, and they compromise! And she pursues her ambitions and the kids live with him! And he is understanding! And does not pressure her into coming to live with him, even though he'd like that! And she manages to come to term with being torn between her love for her family and feeling tied down and wanting to pursue her magic career! I haven't read it in a while and it may fail in other regards, but it was a miracle find when I discovered it with sixteen.

Momo, by Michael Ende. Momo is an impoverished Italian girl who fights the forces who steal time from humans. It's a boook about stress, the power of listening and the concept of time. It's a must-read for children in Germany, although I'm not sure if it's even available outside of Europe.
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