-Tansy Rayner Roberts on Pratchett’s Women: the Boobs, the Bad, and the Broomsticks:
How rare is it to have a fantasy novel BY A MAN which is entirely about female characters? How rare to have a story with so many women in it that you don’t even need a romance because the women already have plenty to do?
-N.K. Jemisin on The Limitations of Womanhood in Fantasy
Why is it hard for a female character to be considered strong if she’s self-effacing or modest, for example? Lots of women who are trailblazers and asskicking heroes are modest. This is all of a piece with America’s ongoing devaluation of traditional women’s gender roles, like being a housewife. (Or a househusband; we also devalue men who chose “women’s work”.) I can’t remember the last American fantasy I read that starred a housewife. I’m hoping there are some out there — recommendations welcome — but offhand, I can’t think of any. But housewives can be great characters, if they’re written right.
Here’s the problem with this wholesale rejection of both societally-imposed and self-chosen “typical” women’s behaviors — in the end, it amounts to a rejection of nearly all things feminine. And that’s definitely not good for women.
-Max Barry on Dogs and Smurfs:
Let me walk you through it. We’ll start with dogs. I have written about this before, but to save you the click: people assume dogs are male. Listen out for it: you will find it’s true. (..) People assume animals are male. If you haven’t already noticed this, it’s only because it’s so pervasive. We also assume people are male, unless they’re doing something particularly feminine; you’ll usually say “him” about an unseen car driver, for example. But it’s ubiquitous in regard to animals.
Then you’ve got Smurf books. Not actual Smurfs. I mean stories where there are five major characters, and one is brave and one is smart and one is grumpy and one keeps rats for pets and one is a girl. Smurfs, right? Because there was Handy Smurf and Chef Smurf and Dopey Smurf and Painter Smurf and ninety-four other male Smurfs and Smurfette. Smurfette’s unique personality trait was femaleness. That was the thing she did better than anyone else. Be a girl.
Male is default. That’s what you learn from a world of boy dogs and Smurf stories.
Meanwhile, work is chugging along on the Novella that Wouldn’t Die. One more scene, and some recurring characters are finally started to show up (I know, it’s a bad sign when the Named Characters in your cast number above 10–for this length, at any rate).
In the wake of the discussions I’ve seen on women in fantasy, I figured I’d do a post of my own . Mostly, it’s taken me so long to get to this because I wanted to order my thoughts.
I don’t write epic fantasy, but I write its close cousin, historical fantasy, and I thought I’d share a few thoughts about women in historical settings.
Read More »