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Bakker and Women II


Mackaxx

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Are you [i]really[/i] asking us for a cookie, Mr Bakker? :P

I don't know. Here's a question in return. Does it bother you that a lot of women (and men) react badly to the representation of women, does it give you pause for thought, does it make you re-examine your work? or are you supremely confident you got it right? ( by that, I mean fulfilled your own goals of 'espousing and problematizing feminism, and 'challenging gender assumptions')

I'm not trying to grind an axe with that, just generally curious as you've joined the discussion, and as one of your points is that we are all very loathe to consider that the other side of an argument may be right. Is re-examining the text in light of critical debate something you yourself do?
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"Especially when it comes to writers like me, ones who despise quota characterization almost as much as they despise potted PC epiphanies - which is to say, the way so many writers try to avoid ruffling too many readerly feathers."


Please stop acting like you have written the most interesting series ever, or that you are leading some new trend, which the stale and static world of fantasy has never seen before. You love the books you wrote, thats great, but can one take it too far? And as others have asked, if you have managed to alienate a goodly number of readers and possible readers, then have you crossed some line from thought provoking into close minded. Personally, if your intention was to get people to think about these subjects more, but have forced many readers into discontinuing the series, in effect not finishing the discussion by not finishing the series and perhaps the eventual point, then it might be time to reexamine your work. Probably a better idea than just thinking its brilliant and telling those that don't seem to get it to pass on.

And you seem to stuck on this notion that some people just NEED the series to be bad, that they need to find a rat. You should stop that, because it seems like you are taking your subjective desires and placing them on to some other peoples objective reactions. Not all, of course, but some. I have found the opposite in people that like fantasy, that they consciously want to like a series, because often it can be a real crapshoot finding decent material.

There is a reason many people respond very negatively to your work. Perhaps instead of dismissing it, you should try and examine their reactions as much as you ask for us to examine your work. You don't have to change anything, don't get me wrong. Your work is your own, and far be it for me to think you should change your initial thoughts on the series. But as a matter of objectively looking at all of the arguments within context, it might be a good idea.
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[quote]'ve not read TJE- as I've stated before. So I'm not sure what the point of responding with spoiler text is. After quick considering I clicked it anyway, because frankly how could I not? tongue.gif

I can't argue about what her role is in a book I've not read. My point of view is based entirely on the first three books. So consider that a preface for any post I've made, or might make in the future.[/quote]GoN, it's nothing different than the TTT role she has, really. And she's no less defined there than she is in TJE; she is in the role that Kellhus propped up for her.

And as to her success:
SPOILER: TJE
she does a particularly bad job of it from what we've seen, unable to manipulate the figurehead of a cult, having her advisers sneer at her, and having an 8-year old out-maneuver and out-manipulate her at every turn while clinging desperately to whatever nuggets of help that Maithanet can provide
.

[quote]Which illustrates the insidious vagaries of oppression. No more, no less. Women though predominantly [but not exclusively] oppressed throughout the long history of our world, were not as a whole subjected to hate.[/quote]I think you read a very different version of the Bible than I did. But please, tell the Afghani women whether they're subjected to hate or not.

[quote]To respond to MFC, what I meant was this. If Bakker is attempting to show as an empirically objective reality what our ancestors by and large thought was an objective reality, what’s the actual difference between depiction and reality [aside from certifiable damnation, that is] so why would it be so much more contentious one way as opposed to the other?[/quote]Because one is objective, one is subjective. If you have a subjective world we, the modern reader, can simply look at their sad premodern lives and say that they were wrong. If you don't do that, if their beliefs are actually correct, it's much harder to accept. It's also more of an authorial message; very rarely does someone write a fantastical novel that specifically says 'you are lesser' as part of the central premise of the book. It stands out. And as it turns out, it's supposed to stand out.

And no, I don't think Bakker intended to give offense (except as a provocation; I don't think he believes women are inferior to men), but at the same time I don't see how it wouldn't offend a fair amount of people. It's just too similar to what people actually believe now. Perhaps he's right and the main reason it offends is that it is not the escapism that people want from their fantastical stories; they want to be told how the world should be, not how the world is. Hmm.

Perhaps that's it. The fantasy archetype often wants to romanticize well, everything. It often tells about what should be, about the black & white values. When an author comes along and writes a fantasy novel where 'what should be' is 'women are worse than men' I think that reversal of expectations can come a bit too abruptly. It's hard not to read into fantasy novels some authorial intent and wishing of how the world would be; that was Tolkien's damned legacy, after all.

But I think that's only one small part of it.

[quote]If not, then the question is simply: is there any way any writer could do this with any subtlety that would not run afoul the interpretative sensitivities of various readers?[/quote]Scott, I think a lot of people have made some fairly good suggestions about this. Having more women in the world in roles that were not sex object would have been good. Having the real influence the metaphysical (or hinting moreso that this is the case). Hell, having Akka (and presumably the rest of the Mandate) be a woman would've been an interesting twist, especially if Esme stays a woman. Many others have been presented throughout the talk. I think that this is ultimately the failing I find - the book isn't subtle about this. You have rape demons, all the female characters are archetypical sex objects and the world itself is partially defined by how women are worse than men. This isn't exactly a light touch.
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Well, Mr. Bakker, you asked:

I have picked this series up and read the trilogy largely because of recommendations and discussions on this board. Without them I wouldn't have kept reading after the first volume, most likely. As it is, I only picked the following books because I got the chance to do so very cheaply. I don't know if I am going to get TJE and certainly not until the pbs get discounted or maybe if it makes it's way into my library.

Does the series have something? Yes. It has some interesting ideas, though they are inconsistent with much of the setting and the plot. It is decently written. It cannibalizes relatively unused (in fantasy/SF) historical events. And the plot keeps me guessing.

But as to problematization of gender relationships or de-romantisizing fantasy/pre-modernity IMHO it failed utterly. Because honestly, the bulk of romantization happens to male characters anyway and you are doing it as much as anybody and more than some. Yes, even heartless, manipulative villains, tend to be admired if you give them enough charisma and power - which you are doing.

And I really fail to see what is so eye-opening in the notion that evolution woman's rights has utilitarian reasons, when the same is true of _all_ human rights.

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1689500' date='Feb 17 2009, 11.11']Especially when it comes to writers like me, ones who despise quota characterization almost as much as they despise potted PC epiphanies - which is to say, the way so many writers try to avoid ruffling too many readerly feathers.[/quote]

Yep, that's exactly what those card-carrying members of PC brigade Homer and Chaucer were doing, I am sure :).
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[quote name='Balefont' post='1689262' date='Feb 17 2009, 07.02']I can't really agree with this, Ro. There are plenty of books out there on uncomfortable and unenjoyable subjects that people read for various reasons such as, but not limited to, educating oneself.[/quote]


Like that gay vampire/serial killer book you tried to get me to read a few years ago =p?

edit - amazon just sent me the email ive been waiting all month for. The next book is in the mail. fuck yeah!
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I think there must be a better answer to the status of the women presented later in the series, or else I will feel the books have failed in this matter. However, there are multiple books still left and I have enough faith in Bakker's writing abilities to think he will be able to cook up something interesting.

I have a longer point waiting in the wings, but this thread is going to be locked any time now so I'm going to wait for a while until I start typing up that long quote.
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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1689597' date='Feb 17 2009, 12.47']Scott, I think a lot of people have made some fairly good suggestions about this. Having more women in the world in roles that were not sex object would have been good. Having the real influence the metaphysical (or hinting moreso that this is the case). Hell, having Akka (and presumably the rest of the Mandate) be a woman would've been an interesting twist, especially if Esme stays a woman.[/quote]

Having Akka as a women would have been blatently out of place and felt like pure quota writing.

"Chuck in a lesbian to appease the masses!"

[quote]Perhaps that's it. The fantasy archetype often wants to romanticize well, everything. It often tells about what should be, about the black & white values. When an author comes along and writes a fantasy novel where 'what should be' is 'women are worse than men' I think that reversal of expectations can come a bit too abruptly. It's hard not to read into fantasy novels some authorial intent and wishing of how the world would be; that was Tolkien's damned legacy, after all.[/quote]

And that's what he's said he wanted to turn on it's head. To write an ANTI-romantic fantasy.
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[quote name='thebadlady' post='1689087' date='Feb 16 2009, 22.44']Is Serwie intelligent enough to give informed consent? Having sex with her is like having sex with someone whose IQ is 70.

We read (and write and watch) what we enjoy. If you enjoy reading about non-consensual sex, well... I could also say nice way to trivialize rape.[/quote]

Bullshit. Sure, some people only read, write and watch what they enjoy. Others also try to challenge their own preconceptions and/or educate themselves in the act of media consumption.

I'll paraphrase Happy Ent from another Bakker discussion on this board - I don't read PoN to escape into a fantasy world; I read it to see what we escaped from.

As for the actual content of your post...more generalizations and slander. You're currently batting .000 as far as discussion goes.
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[quote]Having Akka as a women would have been blatently out of place and felt like pure quota writing.[/quote]Why?

Having the Mandate be witches who are accepted largely because they have more power than any other school but are hated even more for it? It would have been a really nice parallel to what Kellhus says about men and women, and what they want. Make them the exception that proves the rule. Make Seswatha a woman, and they become the damned savior of humanity who is both hated for their being a sorcerer and a witch, but lauded for the role they played. Have the Mandate be the only School that accepts women, and have Seswatha's dreams (believe to be) only passable via the female line. As stated before it makes the parallel between Kellhus and Paul Atreides a bit worse, but not especially; it's not like the Mandate wanted him to be one of the Gnosis after all.

I don't see why Akka as a male is fundamentally important. What makes Akka being a man essential? What makes the Mandate required to be men only?
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[quote name='Shryke' post='1689684' date='Feb 17 2009, 14.12']Having Akka as a women would have been blatently out of place and felt like pure quota writing.[/quote]

Yes, I am sure Homer was terribly pre-occupied with quotes and PC-ness and had totally unrealistic ideas about the pre-modern world. What? He saw nothing wrong with casting women as powerful sorceress after all. Or prophetesses. Or whatever.

Honestly the more I read these threads the more it seems to me that some Bakker fans have much more restrictive ideas about women than some authors who actually _lived_ in those pre-modern societies. Not to mention ignore actual historical facts when they commend his "realism".
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[quote]I don't know. Here's a question in return. Does it bother you that a lot of women (and men) react badly to the representation of women, does it give you pause for thought, does it make you re-examine your work? or are you supremely confident you got it right? ( by that, I mean fulfilled your own goals of 'espousing and problematizing feminism, and 'challenging gender assumptions')[/quote]

I'm not supremely confident about anything. I literally think certainty is a disease, and that if and when we are finally wiped out, certainty will likely be the culprit.

And yes, I am bothered that so many - male and female - misread my intentions. I sometimes wish I hadn't gone back through the first two books and rubbed out what I feared at the time were heavy-handed feminist gestures. But I think I've already bitten this bullet several times in several different ways.

If anything, I think I'm too critical of my work. My wife certainly thinks so, anyway.

[quote]Please stop acting like you have written the most interesting series ever, or that you are leading some new trend, which the stale and static world of fantasy has never seen before. You love the books you wrote, thats great, but can one take it too far? And as others have asked, if you have managed to alienate a goodly number of readers and possible readers, then have you crossed some line from thought provoking into close minded. Personally, if your intention was to get people to think about these subjects more, but have forced many readers into discontinuing the series, in effect not finishing the discussion by not finishing the series and perhaps the eventual point, then it might be time to reexamine your work. Probably a better idea than just thinking its brilliant and telling those that don't seem to get it to pass on.[/quote]

I fear you're reading a little too much into my tone. One of the reasons I've avoided the web as long as I have is that I think it's pretty much impossible to explain and/or defend your work and not come off as whiney or pompous as all get out.

One question: how can I say in one breath that I'm just another reader of the book, that my interpretation is not canonical (and all the other ways I've qualified my claims throughout) and yet think that my series is the 'best of all time'? I think my series is distinctive, certainly. I know for a fact that it clicks profoundly for certain readers. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'm doing anything much different than you, which is to defend and explain a point of view.

Otherwise, I'm not sure you're in the same position I am to judge the effect of my work, in that you only see these debates pop up from time to time. I'll just assume you'll think I'm a pompous ass for saying this, but it's still a fact that I've lost count of the number of times, either through letters or in person, I've had readers tell me I've changed their lives.

[quote]And you seem to stuck on this notion that some people just NEED the series to be bad, that they need to find a rat. You should stop that, because it seems like you are taking your subjective desires and placing them on to some other peoples objective reactions. Not all, of course, but some. I have found the opposite in people that like fantasy, that they consciously want to like a series, because often it can be a real crapshoot finding decent material.[/quote]

How does [i]one[/i] parathentical comment that begins "I sometimes think" count as "being stuck on this notion"? You really have no idea the kinds of reactions I've encountered.

Aside from the cranks, I'm curious what you think I've arbitrarily 'dismissed.' Have you even read my previous posts, Arthmail?

[quote]Scott, I think a lot of people have made some fairly good suggestions about this. Having more women in the world in roles that were not sex object would have been good. Having the real influence the metaphysical (or hinting moreso that this is the case). Hell, having Akka (and presumably the rest of the Mandate) be a woman would've been an interesting twist, especially if Esme stays a woman. Many others have been presented throughout the talk. I think that this is ultimately the failing I find - the book isn't subtle about this. You have rape demons, all the female characters are archetypical sex objects and the world itself is partially defined by how women are worse than men. This isn't exactly a light touch.[/quote]

Since 'evil' in our world is so often sexually transgressive (as epitomized in the figure of the psychopath) I wanted the evil in Earwa to be sexualized as well. And like I said way back in the first thread, I wanted to parallel the transgressive hunger you find in the Consult with the transgressive hunger you find in the human civilizations more generally. Everywhere you turn you run into problematic desire. Darknesses that come before...

See for you, looking at the standpoint of reception, changing Achamian into a woman sounds easy, whereas for me, Achamian [i]as he is[/i] is differentially defined, so tightly woven into various narrative and thematic elements that what you're saying amounts to, "You should have written a different book."

But I see your point. Everything's interconnected, and maybe [i]that's the problem[/i]. I really am trying to do too bloody much in PoN. I knew this at the time too, but the rationale I had was that the higher I aimed, the more interesting and spectacular the crash.

Think about the painfully obvious sexism you find in a movie like [i]Iron Man[/i] (a movie which I otherwise adore). I guess the question would be, why does that obvious, and in all likelihood, authorially sanctioned sexism seem relatively inert, compared to what I've been arguing is the appearance of sexism in PoN?

Maybe it is a Gestalt thing...

Back before the financial world imploded, I was corresponding with Chris Weitz, who was working on a pilot for a TV series based on PoN (the project has been shelved until 2010). It'll be interesting to see how he navigates this hornet's nest of issues in his adaption.

[quote]But as to problematization of gender relationships or de-romantisizing fantasy/pre-modernity IMHO it failed utterly.[/quote]

And what do you make of the fact that there's very many, very sophisticated interpretations that see it otherwise? Christ, there's people writing graduate theses on PoN on this very topic.

All I've been saying all along is that PoN is a mixed bag, interpretatively speaking. And that this ultimately speaks for the trilogy, not against it.

scott/
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