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Maia

Bakker and Women

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Doran Doran,

[quote]a substantial contingent of people here who are simply unwilling to read[/quote]

Most of the people in this thread who are critical of Bakker's depiction of gender in TPoN have actually read the books in question. :P

ETA:

And going back to the idea that the Dûnyain may have no anti-woman bias...

[quote]... the senior brethren of the Dûnyain, and meetings between [i]such men[/i] and [i]young boys[/i]...[/quote]

It seems very clear that the heads of the Dûnyain are all men, and that they busy themselves with the education of boys, not girls.

I think it highly likely that women among the Dûnyain have been reduced to little more than breeding stock.

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[quote name='Jon AS' post='1674880' date='Feb 5 2009, 15.36']I always assumed that was just to show the decadence and depravity of the Ikurei dynasty in general, them being modelled on western European stereotypes of the Eastern Roman Empire and all that.[/quote]

But this is the ting: even extremely decadent societies have strong taboos with regards to parent - child incest. I don't think of know of any society, medieval or otherwise, where this type of incest has been accepted. You could claim that the Egyptians married sister to brother (and even then, they were most likely half-siblings), but that is still rare, and doesn't involve parent - child incest at all.

It seems to me that even a generally immoral and decadent society, but yet one that is concerned with women reproducing (which seems a general truth for Bakker-verse), parent - child incest would still be a huge no no. There is nothing else in the text I could find that suggested parent - child incest is ok even under the Ikurei dynasty. The fact that Bakker ignores to deal with this fact is something I think detracts from the story and adds fuel on the fire that maybe there is something decidedly negative in his description of women using sex as their only weapon.

In other words: he could have used the Queen to show that using sex as a weapon isn't necessarily a female innate trait, and that it isn't necessarily the first choice if they have others.

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[quote name='Ran' post='1674990' date='Feb 5 2009, 16.21']What would people think if it turns out that the Dûnyain basically keep women around as little more than breeding stock?[/quote]


Well, I would probably say he is true to his vision and doesn't allow himself to be led by readers expectations ;) Others, who aren't Bakker fanboys, would probably say other things, though. I think silence regarding Dunyain women is probably deliberate and Bakker is planning some surprise here.

[quote name='Ran' post='1675008' date='Feb 5 2009, 16.37']I think it highly likely that women among the D�nyain have been reduced to little more than breeding stock.[/quote]


You know, there is also worse possibility - I mean Tleilaxu vats :devil:

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Notably, the "defectives" they study are all men, too.

I think I've convinced myself that they're breeding stock, due to two things mentioned by the Pragma, or in relation to him:

1) The Pragma talks about how they're trying to master everything "bestial" ... and to me, that's the same as, "of the flesh."

2) For a moment, Kellhus gets distracted from repeating that line about the Logos when the sun comes up and he thinks how beautiful the mountains look or something such, like the back of a "beautiful woman". He gets smacked by the Pragma.

Together, I think at some point the Dûnyain decided that the best way to achieve their goals was to end as much commerce as possible between male and female. And because biology "afflicted" women with particularly notable cyclical changes in hormones that could have an effect on their mastery of the "bestial", it seemed like turning women into breeding stock was the best way to go. Let the men develop as free from the influence of women as possible, and to do that, women would have to be controlled such that they would have little influence to speak of -- i.e., they're there for sex and breeding, not conversation.

We'll see how things pan out, but that's how I'm leaning.

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Guest Raidne
I should probably ban myself from the discussion altogether, but I have to ask why Ent is so hell bent on making characterizations of women in the series that seem to speak against what Bakker himself intended.

Bakker says he intended the characters to represent the three stereotypical characters in sexist writing - the harlot, the waif, and the harridan. He intended the books to show the negative side of a medieval-esque world at war.

Okay, fine. But in that case he was certainly [i]not[/i] trying to show the agency and power of these women, by his own words.

By his own words, Istriya is not a Queen, she is the harridan. He deliberately did not intend her to come across as empowered, but grasping and vicious. That's what the word means.

So, okay, fine. Bakker is deliberately addressing the state of women in pre-modern culture. And he's deliberately trying to raise the issue. Great. Where he loses me is that he says its important to him that the books be [i]realistic[/i], and I think we all know that most women of the period were not devious Queens, beautiful waifs, or intelligent whores. And that's fine too, because a lot of readers wouldn't find realistic portrayals of women in the period to be very interesting - they have to be sexed up a bit.

The problem is that these sexed up portrayals might be very interesting to men, but for a lot of women readers we are left with portrayals that are neither interesting, realistic, or consciousness-raising. And in caring about and giving portrayals that are interesting to men but not particularly interesting to women, one could say that Bakker's being a bit sexist in privileging his male readership.

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[quote name='Shryke' post='1674739' date='Feb 5 2009, 02.24']And what other weapon would you expect a peasent women to have? Especially when your takling about influencing nobility.

The only women who uses sex as a weapon is The Empress, who's got plenty of other power too.[/quote]
I'd expect women to be able to do what they did in medieval times; some use their power of birth (like Istrya...again, WHY does she need to jack off people to get what she wants? She's the queen of the realm!), some use their intelligence and work through others, some go into systems that allow them more power.

And the notion that Kellhus uses sex because he sends women after other men is absolutely insane. This only reinforces the notion that women's only power is via sex, it doesn't discount it.

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[quote name='Raidne' post='1675082' date='Feb 5 2009, 18.01']I should probably ban myself from the discussion altogether, but I have to ask why Ent is so hell bent on making characterizations of women in the series that seem to speak against what Bakker himself intended.[/quote]
Please stay.

[quote]Bakker says he intended the characters to represent the three stereotypical characters in sexist writing - the harlot, the waif, and the harridan. He intended the books to show the negative side of a medieval-esque world at war.[/quote]
I understand and agree with that.

[quote]By his own words, Istriya is not a Queen, she is the harridan. He deliberately did not intend her to come across as empowered, but grasping and vicious. That's what the word means.[/quote]
No objection.

I don’t see where I’m contradicting Bakker or you.

[i]I[/i] do not think that Bakker tries to show us empowered women. He shows us helpless women. The lack of sugar-coating makes it [i]good[/i]. What I don’t get is how the work would be more feminist if there were more empowered women. The [i]opposite[/i] is true.

The fact that some women — especially those that may have been trained to read [i]by gender[/i], just as I was once trained to read [i]by class[/i], especially those that look for somebody who identify with (which I absolutely don’t), especially those who hold the (valid) view that literature is primarily didactic (in the sense of showing us, through strong and admirable role models how one should behave), and especially those that are (understandably) turned off by being reminded that the world is a pure Hell for the unpriviledged — the fact that these women may not find what they are looking for in Bakker’s book I completely understand and don’t in the slightest condemn. I don’t share the view, but we all read for different purposes, and wouldn’t tell people that they are wrong for not liking a particular book.

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[quote]I do not think that Bakker tries to show us empowered women. He shows us helpless women. The lack of sugar-coating makes it good. What I don’t get is how the work would be more feminist if there were more empowered women. The opposite is true.[/quote]He shows us helpless women who can never help themselves and whose only power stems from sex (either for pleasure or for breeding). This is a bit more of an extreme view than simply showing downtrodden women. It's much different than just reminding people it's a hell for those below people; he's actively taking archetypes of women in sexist roles and making them even worse than they are. Tell me - what's downtrodden about Istrya?

That's your conclusion, right - that Bakker is writing a book that actively tries to show the plight of the woman in pre-modern times. That's fine - but why does Istrya, a noble-born woman who supposedly holds large amounts of power simply by being born, resort to using her sexual gifts and hiring whores to keep her son in line? What is the purpose of that? How does that show her being repressed?

Bakker doesn't just not sugar coat it. He actively goes out and tries to illustrate the worst possible examples of sexism that he can think of. What I don't understand is why he does so in a book about a near-future US as well. Again, I ask - what is the point of excessively doing this? Why does he need to? It seems clear that this is something about Bakker personally, given the two environments are so very different.

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[quote name='Maia' post='1674842' date='Feb 5 2009, 07.52']Sure. My beef with Bakker is that he keeps women on the more dismal end of what was historically realistic in RL... but sees nothing at all wrong with supplying his men with various fantastical abilities, to provide them with short-cuts to power.[/quote]I do not think that he is going for complete historical realism, but a again a darker reflection of the historical. He is purposefully making it worse and supplies a repressive culture to explain it.

[quote]Moreover, these fantastical abilities seem to exist in complete isolation, without having an effect on the setting that they plausibly should. The same applies to all the non-human races too, of course.[/quote]Again, you have yet to suggest what effect these abilities should have.

[quote]Oh, and the Inchoroi! Mysoginism elevated to an interstellar phenomenon courtesy of Bakker! They hated females so much that they just had to go for the abysmally stupid womb plague, rather than for some more intelligent method of genocide, that wouldn't have gotten their assess kicked and left the humans to spread and multiply at leisure![/quote]Actually...I have read numerous commentaries and historical analyzes of the Biblical Exodus narrative. In the Exodus narrative, the Hebrews are growing so numerous that the Pharaoh is feels threatened by an uprising. So he kills off the newly-born sons. What a number of scholars find somewhat odd about the narrative is that in such cases, the usual historical method of population control (or "soft genocide") was not killing the newly-born males, but the females. It still sucks to be a woman in Earwe.

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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1675179' date='Feb 5 2009, 19.22']but why does Istrya, a noble-born woman who supposedly holds large amounts of power simply by being born, resort to using her sexual gifts and hiring whores to keep her son in line?[/quote]
The Emperor is on the short list of people that she doesn’t automatically outrank. I see no contradiction.
[quote]What I don't understand is why he does so in a book about a near-future US as well.[/quote]
You think Neuropath actively tries to show us how repressed women are in a near-future US? I don’t get the comparison.

(What I do understand is that in both “his” worlds, sex – and other base instincts – is used to manipulate others. That’s of course a huge an well-acknowledged point in all of Bakker’s writing. I suspect your argument is along the line that since one of those who wield that weapon is a woman, he is in some way stereotyping women. But I guess it’s better you spelt your argument out for me, instead of my charging windmills made of strawmen.)

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[quote]I suspect your argument is along the line that since one of those who wield that weapon is a woman, he is in some way stereotyping women.[/quote]It would be that since all of the ones who wield that weapon are women. There are exactly two women in the book, and both are heavily defined by sex (again, by breeding or by fucking).

[quote]The Emperor is on the short list of people that she doesn’t automatically outrank. I see no contradiction.[/quote]Again, I ask - why does she need to use sex to manipulate her son? Why specifically and graphically sex? Why (for example) doesn't she drug him, or blackmail him, or any number of other things? Yes, sex was used this way in historical times - but so were any number of other forms of power by women.

That he's gone out of his way and said that he made a conscious choice to do that...well, I ask again - why? What purpose does Istrya fucking her son and manipulating him with sex serve?

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Guest Raidne
[quote name='Happy Ent' post='1675136' date='Feb 5 2009, 12.46'][i]I[/i] do not think that Bakker tries to show us empowered women. He shows us helpless women. The lack of sugar-coating makes it [i]good[/i]. What I don’t get is how the work would be more feminist if there were more empowered women. The [i]opposite[/i] is true.[/quote]

I agree with the last part. I don't like Mary Sues. And there are very few characters that are at all empowered in Bakker anyway.

But where you say "lack of sugar-coating" [i]I see sugar-coating[/i]. These women are not realistic. They are made less realistic to be made more palatable to the audience. They are sugar-coated. In doing so, they also represent classic female character stereotypes.

But Bakker tries to have it both ways, when it's impossible. You can't have classic literature stereotypes [i]and[/i] say they're more accurate to a medieval-like world. If anything, the women should be even more down-trodden. Even more plain. More beat up. Less intelligent hooker and gorgeous waif with a heart of gold. Martin does a much better job of this. Esmi is hardly one of the girls you'd find down at the Peach.

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Based on what we have seen of the ancient Dûnyain in the prologue and the ease with Kellhus accepted Esmenet as an intelligent person worthy of important tasks, I think it rather likely that the Dûnyain women are empowered. I think it might however be the case that men are taught by men and women by women and absolutely no unscheduled fraternizing is allowed, so that the breeding program can be kept under control.

I agree however that the Dûnyain women are meant to be a surprise of some sort.

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[quote name='Raidne' post='1675204' date='Feb 5 2009, 13.39']But where you say "lack of sugar-coating" [i]I see sugar-coating[/i]. These women are not realistic. They are made less realistic to be made more palatable to the audience. They are sugar-coated. In doing so, they also represent classic female character stereotypes.[/quote]

Forgive me, Raid, as it's been a while since I last read the books (I read them all twice) and I can't figure out what examples would support your assertion that the females are "sugar coated" in any way that jars with the rest of the story.

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What offends me is the way Bakker portrays men. They are either devious sex addicts that make fortresses out of their ignorant beliefs and heartless murderers or the ignorant masses willing to throw away their lifes for the best liar, or better yet intelligent and impotent whinners like Akka and to a degree even Cnaiur. To add the topping to Bakkers assualt on men was just before the attack on Shimeh and Kellhus looked out on the large crowd of men and described them as round eyed apes. Scott is just so sexist.

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[quote name='Raidne' post='1675204' date='Feb 5 2009, 19.39']If anything, the women should be even more down-trodden. Even more plain. More beat up. Less intelligent hooker and gorgeous waif with a heart of gold.[/quote]
In the interest of [i]realism[/i] I would agree. (Wouldn’t make for a very good book, of course. Our protagonists need to be exceptionel.)
[quote]Martin does a much better job of this. Esmi is hardly one of the girls you'd find down at the Peach.[/quote]
I don’t agree. I feel a lot more outrage at the rape scenes in Bakker than at the very similar scenes in Martin. I don’t know why that is so, but I think that’s a point in Bakker’s favour.

In fact, the happy whores in Martin (and Lynch) make me positively angry, though I normally try to check my political agendas at the door when I read fiction.

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[quote name='Ran' post='1675008' date='Feb 5 2009, 17.37']Most of the people in this thread who are critical of Bakker's depiction of gender in TPoN have actually read the books in question. :P[/quote]
I'm not convinced that the reading wasn't in affirm-my-grievances mode. To judge from some commentary in this and similar threads, that's the only reading mode anybody who sees themselves as a representative of some demographic subsection or other is able to approach a modern Å“uvre, no matter the genre and thematic thrust of the work in question.

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:rolleyes:

Anyways...

Bale,

I think Raidne is referring to sugar-coating purely in the sense of Bakker indulging in unrealistic depictions for the sake of appealing to a certain audience.

I don't agree with that, however. I don't think Bakker was thinking, "I'm doing this to make sure all the secret misogynists flock to my book!"

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[quote]I'm not convinced that the reading wasn't in affirm-my-grievances mode. To judge from some commentary in this and similar threads, that's the only reading mode anybody who sees themselves as a representative of some demographic subsection or other is able to approach a modern Å“uvre, no matter the genre and thematic thrust of the work in question.[/quote]Or you could be entirely full of shit.

I really like the books. But I don't particularly care for the misogyny.

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Thanks, Ran. :)

I guess the books never struck me as "having an agenda". The story is brutal and vibrant and I actually cared about most of the characters. I just don't feel that women in the story were treated any worse than some of the men. I believe sex was used as a weapon of power towards some of the men by other men so I think there is more of a balance than some are giving credit. Maybe I had my "male programmed mind" at the forefront whilst reading but I don't think so...

Editted for sooper run-on sentence.

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