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Maia

Bakker and Women

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Mormont, I really think that most of Bakker discussion was quite pertinent to this thread. IMHO, he is one of the parade examples for an SWM tropes problematic, all the more so since he is a good author.

I also think that using concrete examples of novels, etc. helps to see such stuff particularly clearly. I intended to use Butcher's Codex Alera series as my next example, but if you feel that it wouldn't fit the thread, I can start a new topic.

A couple of closing remarks on Bakker:

[quote name='Bastard of Godsgrace' post='1671262' date='Feb 2 2009, 14.22']I really think the Few are too few to do things like building roads and move ships. There really is only handful of them.[/quote]

We have seen hundreds of them doing stuff during a war and there are more who hold the forts or are still in training back at the Schools. What do they do at the time of peace? Oh, and of course having women to protect the home strongholds would allow them to field greater contingents at the time of need.

[quote]IIRC, Bakker mentioned somewhere the effect was limited to souled beings - in practice only Men, since Non-Men didn't breed anymore[/quote]

Ok. A willingness of a whole nation to die out and fight for this outcome still seems strange to me from RL POV. I mean, sure, they killed all women, except for 1 per family for cooking, during the siege of Nineveh (or was it Babylon?), but they thought that they'd be able to easily replenished them from surrounding peoples once the danger was past.

[quote]Anyhow, schools are just that - and even in contemporary times you may find people who frown at the idea of co-educational boarding schools.[/quote]

Since no school in RL could ever turn one into an equivalent of high-grade cannon, I fail to see the relevance. This is yet another case where magic should be introducing radical changes into the worldbuilding, IMHO. Again, it seems that folks think that laws of physics are more mutable than social conventions. Which is just sad.

Oh, and Schools aren't like RL schools anyway, as they don't service people who want to acquire education to succeed in the outside world, but only train members of their own order, to increase their own manpower.
Also, the Schools are already outcast and damned, and only tolerated because of their power. I fail to see why they should particularly care about conventions of the world that has already rejected them, when they can significantly increase their power and safety by ignoring them.

Oh, and another point - of the few prominent female characters, they all were whores and concubines. Another pertinent point touched on in the SWM SF/F tropes discussion.

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[quote name='Maia' post='1673425' date='Feb 4 2009, 08.20']I also think that using concrete examples of novels, etc. helps to see such stuff particularly clearly. I intended to use Butcher's Codex Alera series as my next example, but if you feel that it wouldn't fit the thread, I can start a new topic.[/quote]

What? How does that one work. There are women of all types in Alera. Spies, Politicos, Villianesses, Mothers, Wives, Camp-Followers, Buisness women, healers, fighters, slaves, free-holders etc. They cannot serve in the legions, but that is a carry-over.

Now, I will admit none of them are terribly well written, but none of the charecters are all that well written. They story is not that well written, it is just a fun read.

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[quote name='Maia' post='1673425' date='Feb 4 2009, 13.20']Oh, and another point - of the few prominent female characters, they all were whores and concubines. Another pertinent point touched on in the SWM SF/F tropes discussion.[/quote]
Yeeeees, Bakker could do with a link to the [url="http://aaru-tuesday.blogspot.com/2007/10/1958.html"]Frank Miller Test[/url].

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Jesus age fucking christ. I read some of the complaints on the link, Elosia. While Miller has a problem as has been stated, and while i myself find the entire idea of prostitutes in stories a little cliche, there is simply no satisfying the author. Its endless complaining about any number of different subject - i was bored and stumbled onto the Firefly rant.

What a crock of shit.

The Miller test is a good one, and i think Bakker could use it because i actually didn't like his representation of women, but holy hell...as for the rest, i can really only delve so deep.

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[quote name='Eloisa' post='1673532' date='Feb 4 2009, 16.04']Yeeeees, Bakker could do with a link to the [url="http://aaru-tuesday.blogspot.com/2007/10/1958.html"]Frank Miller Test[/url].[/quote]

Except that the whole thing has a reason and a logic grounding with Bakker. And pages upon pages of explanation. I find it really odd that people aren't able to differentiate between the author's opinions and the world he creates. I thought our postmodern world was based around that. How many women in medival times in monotheistic societies held a position of power without being a wife or concubine of someone powerful? I can only think of a handful in over 1000 years. If Bakker wanted to do the easy way he simply should have transported our modern society values into a medival world and avoided all the misogynist charges.

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Decius,


While I can agree with you that Bakker made his society that way on purpose, it is about execution and plausability. It is the fact that women are so incredibly oppressed, more so than in "normal" society during the medieval years. It seems that women are often treated worse than cattle, and even though Bakker has an explanation, it doesn't always ring true, nor does it always feel comfortable to read it, as a woman. (Unfortunately, you cannot always "free" yourself from self insertion in stories, i.e. as a woman you will identify with the women in the story, and in this case, identifying with Esmenet and in particular Serwe is not a painfree exercise, I can tell you that.)

One issue that I think Bakker suffers from is that he gives no real explanation to why women are so incredibly oppressed apart from the womb plague, but even so, if women are so valued and put on pedestals, why are they treated worse than cattle? Putting women on pedestals is one thing, but I don't think it really happens. Maybe in the case of a very few noble/royal women, but for the great majority, it seems to be the opposite.

Someone mentioned the Inchoroi and the Non-men as well, and that supposedly, the non-men had a different setup of society, yet this doesn't seem to have any bearing.

All in all, I can see what Bakker is trying to achieve, but parts of it is badly explained, and to just assume that without feminism or emancipation, women would be this badly oppressed is not only sad, but untrue. Women as 100% oppressed and subhuman beings are not the default.

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[quote name='Maia' post='1673425' date='Feb 4 2009, 08.20']We have seen hundreds of them doing stuff during a war and there are more who hold the forts or are still in training back at the Schools. What do they do at the time of peace? Oh, and of course having women to protect the home strongholds would allow them to field greater contingents at the time of need.[/quote]This gripe is petty and poorly thought out.

[quote]Ok. A willingness of a whole nation to die out and fight for this outcome still seems strange to me from RL POV. I mean, sure, they killed all women, except for 1 per family for cooking, during the siege of Nineveh (or was it Babylon?), but they thought that they'd be able to easily replenished them from surrounding peoples once the danger was past.[/quote]The No-God was no mere siege.

[quote]Since no school in RL could ever turn one into an equivalent of high-grade cannon, I fail to see the relevance. This is yet another case where magic should be introducing radical changes into the worldbuilding, IMHO. Again, it seems that folks think that laws of physics are more mutable than social conventions. Which is just sad.[/quote]So what do you think the proper course of world-building would be in this case?

[quote]Oh, and Schools aren't like RL schools anyway, as they don't service people who want to acquire education to succeed in the outside world, but [b]only train members of their own order, to increase their own manpower.[/b][/quote]The Church, monasteries and clergy. You honestly don't have to look hard in real life examples to see where your critiques fail.

[quote]Also, the Schools are already outcast and damned, and only tolerated because of their power. [b]I fail to see why they should particularly care about conventions of the world that has already rejected them[/b], when they can significantly increase their power and safety by ignoring them.[/quote]Corae, alliances, and political protection.

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[quote name='Maia' post='1673425' date='Feb 4 2009, 14.20']Also, the Schools are already outcast and damned, and only tolerated because of their power. I fail to see why they should particularly care about conventions of the world that has already rejected them, when they can significantly increase their power and safety by ignoring them.[/quote]


Because they are of that world, after all. Even Achamian, who is something of a freethinker by Earwan standards is horrified when he heard that Kellhus is teaching Esmenet to read.











[quote name='Maia' post='1673425' date='Feb 4 2009, 14.20']Oh, and another point - of the few prominent female characters, they all were whores and concubines. Another pertinent point touched on in the SWM SF/F tropes discussion.[/quote]

Well this is no longer true in TJE. We see some influential female characters who aren't those

SPOILER: TJE
This includes not only newly legalized witches, but also priestesses of cult of Yatwer who clearly had to be influential before Kellhus' reforms. We just hadn't occasion to see them before.

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[quote name='Decius' post='1673662' date='Feb 4 2009, 16.41']Except that the whole thing has a reason and a logic grounding with Bakker. And pages upon pages of explanation. I find it really odd that people aren't able to differentiate between the author's opinions and the world he creates. I thought our postmodern world was based around that. How many women in medival times in monotheistic societies held a position of power without being a wife or concubine of someone powerful? I can only think of a handful in over 1000 years. If Bakker wanted to do the easy way he simply should have transported our modern society values into a medival world and avoided all the misogynist charges.[/quote]
Well, you can make special arguments for Bakker. And for Firefly and other works using temple prostitution. And for Pratchett, and for Mieville. You can make special arguments left right and centre, but the outcome is the same - that there's this underlying current that suggests that women are best placed, in the opinion of a subset of male authors and readers, where they are reduced to their sexuality or to objects for control.

Looking at it another way - all the pretty arguments we make for our favourite authors are considerably lessened by the existence of all those around them doing exactly the same thing. One incidence is a talking point, not a trend; this is very much the latter.

And, to be honest, the fact that we're talking about fantasy fiction - as opposed to historical fiction - really destabilises the recursion-to-mediaeval-period argument that so many commentators tend to make in these circumstances, if only because the fantasy world is able to - knowingly - circumvent the existence of the prominent mediaeval women you mention whose position was not solely due to being a wife or a whore (including ruling queens and prominent churchwomen), as well as the issue that female commoditisation in mediaeval settings is not necessarily accompanied by commoditisation of their [i]characters[/i]. (For an example of an author who generally makes successful use of quasi-realistic mediaeval female roles without detriment to the personality of the women concerned, see Martin, George RR.)

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I think the criticism is still rather misplaced when one looks at the rationale for the world-building. Bakker is intentionally creating a darker mythical reflection of how we see our past and not an accurate reflection of reality. This also mainly serves to better make a stark contrast to the cultural reforms that Kellhus brings with him to the Three Seas. This adds a layer of complexity to what Kellhus is doing. Boo! Kellhus is a manipulative, amoral dick, but hooray! he is teaching women to read and throwing that stupid tradition out of the books.

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MFC - Is he, though? Or is he teaching Esme to read, in no small part because he wants to use her genes? (Either this is a way he knows he can draw her to him, providing her with education/knowledge, or he wants proof she's as smart as he thinks she is, so he starts there.)

I haven't read the book in a while, but I don't recall huge educational reforms.

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The next book shows that he's continuing the trend of empowering women, though it's also clear that this is to give himself more weapons rather than out of some altruistic desire or wish of equality.

As I've said elsewhere, I understand why Bakker's world could have more sexism than our world given the severity of the No-God event. This makes sense to me, even if I despise it. It would also make sense to me to create a society where women were made more equal because of it, as was the case with our real-world plagues. What bugs is not that it doesn't make sense or isn't justifiable, it's that it isn't at all necessary.

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[quote name='Marie-Angélieef' post='1673866' date='Feb 4 2009, 13.43']MFC - Is he, though? [b]Or is he teaching Esme to read, in no small part because he wants to use her genes? [/b](Either this is a way he knows he can draw her to him, providing her with education/knowledge, or he wants proof she's as smart as he thinks she is, so he starts there.)[/quote]Of course he does, but that is again what makes the situation complicated. Kellhus is doing good things for amoral and selfish reasons.

[quote]I haven't read the book in a while, but I don't recall huge educational reforms.[/quote]While I do not know if he has done educational reforms in the Three Seas, the main point was how he threw tradition out the window through teaching Esme to read.

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[quote name='Matrim Fox Cauthon' post='1673889' date='Feb 4 2009, 19.55']While I do not know if he has done educational reforms in the Three Seas, the main point was how he threw tradition out the window through teaching Esme to read.[/quote]


SPOILER: TJE
He did. He not only allowed teaching the women to read, but he also created the whole new school for witches - to the great outrage of traditionalists.

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[quote name='Marie-Angélieef' post='1673866' date='Feb 4 2009, 19.43']MFC - Is he, though? Or is he teaching Esme to read, in no small part because he wants to use her genes?[/quote]
She also becomes an über spymaster, one of the most highly placed political officers in the Holy War. Esmi, at the end of TTT, is immensely powerful. That would make little sense if only needed her for a brood mare. Her genes don’t change because she learns to read.

Because she [i]can[/i]. She [i]is[/i] brilliant. The only thing that held her back was [i]culture[/i], and Kellhus demonstrated that to her in the most literal way. He [i]rewrote the Tusk[/i] before her very eyes.

I am baffled every time this debate come up. Esmi’s story arc is a feminist dream come true: Bakker actually puts a brilliant and strong character into a fantasy book, a character that is both [i]female[/i] and a [i]commoner[/i], and after she overcomes the cultural shackles that bind her she becomes extremely powerful. And this in a genre where most heroes are (1) male and (2) noble. (As an aside, as a socialist, I’m much more happy about the [i]class[/i] aspect than I am about the [i]gender[/i] aspect. The latter I found already in Catelyn, another strong and brilliant woman in fantasy. But Catelyn in noble, and if I would bring my ideological preoccupations into my genre reading — which I don’t —, that would enrage me.)

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I think the feminist part is offended that women in Bakker's world can only be whores, essentially.

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[quote]I am baffled every time this debate come up. Esmi’s story arc is a feminist dream come true:[/quote]

To be honest, no. Because Kellhus does it FOR her. Both the class and gender-stuff is somewhat undercut by the fact that she does not achieve it herself: Her power is GIVEN not taken.

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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1673977' date='Feb 4 2009, 20.58']I think the feminist part is offended that women in Bakker's world can only be whores, essentially.[/quote]
What does “essentially” mean in this sentence? The same as “hyperbolically”?

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If this thread follows the pattern laid out by the complexity thread, in approximately 5 pages the thread will de-evolve into trading euphemisms for penis and vagina.

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[quote]What does “essentially” mean in this sentence? The same as “hyperbolically”?[/quote]It means that women are in Bakker's world only for sex, and that sex is used as a commodity in some fashion. That's a pretty anti-feminist standpoint to take as a baseline, even if it's shown somewhat negatively.

Furthermore as pointed out above by Galactus, it's not a feminist dogmatic position to only have the women rise to power because a man allows them to. Without Kellhus and his backing Esmi is nothing.

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