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Bakker and Women 3 (merged topic)


JGP

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[quote post='1692851' date='Feb 20 2009, 08.49']Books are misogynist/no world is misogynist/

repeat throughout thread[/quote]

People seem to be wasting time on pedantic definitions over and over again. Yes, obviously the setting is misogynistic. Does this mean the books themselves are misogynistic? Think of a book like the power of one, its set in a racist setting, is it a racist book? No, you'd be retarded to say so. It would be a racist book if it supported said racism.

Bakkers books Are Bakkers books endorsing misogyny? If you don't think so then the books to you are not misogynist, if you think they are endorsing it then yes the books to you are misogynist. I myself find it hard to conceive how someone could come to believe the latter but if some manage to do so its because they've got it wrong, just as if they did the same for a book like lolita or the power of one.

To add, even if some see it one way and others another, what of it?
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[quote name='Finn' post='1693007' date='Feb 19 2009, 16.15']I think you're missing my point. I'm not here to condemn - or offer absolution to - any work of fiction. It isn't clear at all to me that Lolita, for instance, is "OK." I think it is precisely the point of Lolita that it might not be OK. [b]Works that are designed to provoke, provoke. [/b] I think Terraprime said it well:


I can imagine Bakker thinking that if you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs. Well and good, but let's not act as if eggs have not been broken.[/quote]


This.

There has been a pretty massive change in fantasy books over the last decade or so, and a lot of it can directly be laid at Martin's feet. For a long time (long, long time) the medieval era was generally shown in mainstream fantasy media through a halcyon lens: noble knights and ivy-garlanded castles; warrior-princesses and noble barbarians. vs. some ambiguous inhuman dark lord. A lot of this stems from Tolkien's work and the legions of imitators in his wake. Many, such as Paolini, sell vast amounts of books conforming to the model - this is fantasy, after all, "escapist". More modern writers - of which Bakker is perhaps an extreme - reject this "Tyranny of a Construct" (Medievalists will recognize this term, I'm sure) by depicting a more realistic version of those times, when 99% of the population lived in abject misery/unceasing toil and superstition was the font for which life had meaning. When women were often considered the lesser sex if not outright blamed for mankind's fall from grace. For those of us who no longer favor puerile escapism but still have a yen for swords and sorcery, Martin and Bakker represent more mature and challenging takes on the genre as a whole. But naturally, exploring the more discomforting aspects of the past is going to rub some people the wrong way.

What I find funny is (the last thread, perhaps?) the charge that using race instead of gender would be immensely more controversial / unpublishable. Perhaps. But I'm reminded of Best-seller list David Eddings, who constructed a world that amounts to Evil God = Evil People, of which said people were all swarthy (Urgos) or Asiatic/"eastern" (Malloreans and assorted tribes). Was Eddings racist? Perhaps, perhaps not - I point to the Tyranny of a Construct, the influence of Tolkien, and Tolkien's own influences.

/tangent over
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[quote name='Finn' post='1693007' date='Feb 19 2009, 23.15']I can imagine Bakker thinking that if you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs. Well and good, but let's not act as if eggs have not been broken.[/quote]

[quote name='Matrim Fox Cauthon' post='1693020' date='Feb 19 2009, 23.22']Such an oddly appropriate analogy.[/quote]

Indeed :lol:
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[quote name='kuenjato' post='1693043' date='Feb 19 2009, 18.38']What I find funny is (the last thread, perhaps?) the charge that using race instead of gender would be immensely more controversial / unpublishable. Perhaps. But I'm reminded of Best-seller list David Eddings, who constructed a world that amounts to Evil God = Evil People, of which said people were all swarthy (Urgos) or Asiatic/"eastern" (Malloreans and assorted tribes). Was Eddings racist? Perhaps, perhaps not - I point to the Tyranny of a Construct, the influence of Tolkien, and Tolkien's own influences.

/tangent over[/quote]

The thing you'll begin to realise when you think about it is that racism in fantasy/sci-fi is [b]OK[/b] as long as you don't use REAL races.

For sexism, you've got a nastier problem.
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[quote name='Finn' post='1693007' date='Feb 19 2009, 18.15']I think you're missing my point. I'm not here to condemn - or offer absolution to - any work of fiction. [b]It isn't clear at all to me that Lolita, for instance, is "OK." I think it is precisely the point of Lolita that it might not be OK. [/b] Works that are designed to provoke, provoke.[/quote]

I think this is where we differ. I think, while the situation depicted in Lolita is far from OK and SHOULD provoke, the book itself is clearly OK.

[quote]I can imagine Bakker thinking that if you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs. Well and good, but let's not act as if eggs have not been broken.[/quote]

By the same token, I think people should remember that he's actually making an omelet, not just breaking eggs for no reason.
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[quote name='Sophelia' post='1693026' date='Feb 19 2009, 18.26']Then you have Serwe representing fantasy… but interpreted by readers as a typical fantasy [i]woman[/i] (people did pick up on the ‘unrealistic’ but what to you seemed obvious hints that she wasn’t supposed to be a representation of a woman didn’t sink in to me.)[/quote]On this point, Serwe seemed so delusional (if not eternally frustrating) in her bizarre rationalizations of the events around her* that I really could not see her as a typical representation of a woman. My attention was held not so much on her sex but on the grand irony that a slave looked dreadfully on their past enslavement only to run blindly into the arms of another slave master. But I suppose that if I was a woman who had personally experienced such a negative treatment or perception, then I would imagine that his would undoubtedly change my reading of Serwe.

* Serwe's rationalizations were often on the same sort of sexist level of the [i]Twilight[/i] series in how she romanticized the world around her while not realizing how she played into the sexism of the world.

[quote name='Shryke' post='1693070' date='Feb 19 2009, 18.56']By the same token, I think people should remember that he's actually making an omelet, not just breaking eggs for no reason.[/quote]It is too early to tell whether or not he has actually been successful in creating an omelet or if it is just another batch of scrambled eggs.
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And let's go with the analogy further! Because I think it's also reasonable that since lots of other authors have thrown eggs against the wall for lolz or because other authors before them did it or because they secretly hate eggs and only like sausage as breakfast food, that when you see broken eggs you start wondering whether or not this author is a sausage fan, and that this is not an unreasonable assumption if you see a LOT of eggs broken and a sausagefest.

So to speak. :P
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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1693075' date='Feb 19 2009, 16.59']And let's go with the analogy further! Because I think it's also reasonable that since lots of other authors have thrown eggs against the wall for lolz or because other authors before them did it or because they secretly hate eggs and only like sausage as breakfast food, that when you see broken eggs you start wondering whether or not this author is a sausage fan, and that this is not an unreasonable assumption if you see a LOT of eggs broken and a sausagefest.

So to speak. :P[/quote]

:lol:
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[quote name='Kalbear' post='1692375' date='Feb 19 2009, 17.25']This is an interesting sidenote, John - the image of the Outside consuming souls women being considered less than men has an interesting corrolary to Kellhus 'men seek to control women because they desire them' speech. What if the gods view women as spiritually inferior to men because they desire them more for whatever reason? What if their souls are tastier? Just an odd thought.[/quote]

That is interesting, the idea of divine backtracking or clutching at straws. Like our God made woman out of one of man's ribs. Well, if she's got an extra rib she should be [i]superior[/i], surely.

[quote name='Archibald Merriweather' post='1692923' date='Feb 19 2009, 22.24']my first post by the way - wrong about every single thing. i don't think i've ever seen so much wrongness concentrated in one paragraph. i'd read mr bakker's posts but it just didn't seem possible that it's really about a world where the women are objectively, inherently inferior. i assumed - i had to assume - that the post where he responded to you meant other than what it said on its face. i assumed he'd misread you, or i was misreading what i was reading. what novel was i reading? now with this revelation i feel like i never read PON. i never read a novel about a world in which the women were inherently inferior - that's a different novel. i am bewildered, befuddled and confusticated.[/quote]

Look, the 'woman are inferior' thing, as far as the books go, is taken from one scene in The Judging Eye. We don't in fact know exactly what it means in the context of the story and at least one person (Mackaxx, since i don't care about internet etiquette) has interpreted it the same way you originally did, Bakker's own comments notwithstanding. For me, as has been said before by several people, there's not much difference between the fact of it and the idea-with-the-strength-of-a-fact. If anything, it clarifies what's being done.

[quote name='Finn' post='1693007' date='Feb 19 2009, 23.15']I can imagine Bakker thinking that if you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs. Well and good, but let's not act as if eggs have not been broken.[/quote]

Indeed, and lets make sure we drop them from a height too, and scramble them. Because the more fuss that's made over it the better the omelette is. This seems to be a difference in how i read these books (and I can see how this would be subjective). The more brutal it is, the more the point is driven home.

Bakker's made a decision to be absolute and unflinching in what he's doing and I think he should be lauded for that in the same way George Martin is for messing with a reader's expectations.

edit - oh yeah, you all have to go and have fun with the eggs while i'm writing up my post. :P
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OK, now I want to get back to point (2), and the crux of why women may feel alienated (or in my case why I disliked the decisions Scott made about women, however careful and well-motivated they were). This is going to take me a few posts.

First, to go back to (1) the way women are depicted in fantasy generally, Scott has now realised that many of us (people who notice such things) have mental checklists of the kind of things we are used to seeing in fantasy. We have the evil overlord list, we have the Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and we have our lists of ‘annoying ways women are represented in fantasy’.

First we have the original ‘sexist’ fantasy. This is an example of what my list might look like:
[list]
[*] men can be great or tragic figures, and badass characters for readers to admire and envy and identify with (unlike women)
[*] overthrowing the evil threat requires men because it involves fighting
[*] women are not very interesting (unlike men)
[*] women are only included as love/sex interests for the men
[*] men place women in terrible circumstances (usually for sexually motivated purposes)
[*] women need to be protected and/or rescued by men from their terrible circumstances
[*] the most satisfactory story arc for any woman is marriage
[*] beautiful young women are suited to play a central role in the story, whereas the plainer/older a woman is the less likely she is to have an important role in the story
[*] attractive women are sweet and kind and naïve, whereas attractive men are good fighters who lose their tempers when they see injustices
[*] the only mistakes women make are to trust the wrong men, while men tend to make mistakes of pride and temper
[/list]

Notice how many of these are ticked by PoN. Notice how few of them can be removed solely by the rationale that the author was deliberately trying to create a sexist and authentic world.

Instead the author justifies the ticky boxes by setting, theme, and personal belief about human nature. Which is exactly the same justification that all of the other authors will have used. It becomes annoying by the cumulative frequency and Bakker will lose readers, as he said, due to 'the mysogyny that came before'.

Because of the protests, many modern authors have tried to avoid accusations of sexism by trying to include female characters that will satisfy the modern (often female) readership. I believe many authors have a very crude idea about what women or ‘feminists’ want to counter these traditions. That is, they assume feminists want ‘PC’ women in fantasy. This has led to a second wave of ‘annoying ways women are represented in fantasy’(the ‘token woman’ backlash):
[list]
[*] special effort to include women so that the setting is not all-male
[*] women who are empowered e.g. possessing some power over men, or having unique artisan skills which are in demand
[*] women warriors who can beat men
[*] women who answer back cheekily
[*] women who sneer at men
[*] women who are ‘feisty’
[*] women who are sexually uninhibited (in a medieval world without contraceptives)
[/list]
Many authors (and readers) are rather horrified at the idea of being pressured to include these type of women (with the exception of the last, for some reason :leer: ), since they would be unrealistic in the faux-medieval world.

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1677052' date='Feb 6 2009, 20.05']Would PC orthodox representations of women - all the 'he-should-have-done-this' statements that have cropped up on this thread - made the books 'better'? [...] people find agreement agreeable, they much prefer to have their assumptions reinforced than challenged. Could that be what [Bakker's] taking aim at? The gap between a reader's post-Enlightenment ideological demands and the kinds of pre-Enlightenment worlds they desire. The real problem could be that he's too clever by a half.[/quote]

But what many of us don’t understand is why people assume that being more creative in largely avoiding the first list means we want the second list. We don’t.

We are not asking for 'PC orthodox representations of women'. The question of worlds is an interesting one: I don't believe that any modern novel could or should be trying to be totally authentic. However there needs to be enough authenticity to make it meaningful and poignant. I do think every author has to walk a fine line between realism and symbolism (if that's the right word). I think it will take me a few more posts to express what I mean...
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[quote name='Sophelia' post='1693026' date='Feb 19 2009, 15.26']. . . you seem (like Tolkien!) to be regretting the changes brought by the industrial revolution. You sound nostalgic for a simpler past when people believed in palpable good and evil, and religion gave people their life goals. Your description of a world in which people cooperate only for acquisitiveness and personal growth towards happiness sounds as 'nihilistic' sounds as strange to me as as people who call science 'cold'.[/quote]
I don't want to speak for the author - and I'm sure he'll tell me if I'm wrong :cheers: - but I think he is explicitly anti-nostalgic, which is why the series is so bleak. When it comes to historical change, I think Bakker is interested in how we exchange one form of oppression for another, often in the name of progress.
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[quote name='Finn' post='1693129' date='Feb 20 2009, 00.39']I don't want to speak for the author - and I'm sure he'll tell me if I'm wrong :cheers: - but I think he is explicitly anti-nostalgic, which is why the series is so bleak. When it comes to historical change, I think Bakker is interested in how we exchange one form of oppression for another, often in the name of progress.[/quote]

Yeah, I know my interpretation is a random one, not the author's: I was making a kind of meta-point about how many ways one can interpret his words even when he is trying to clarify and explain things, which to me is a microcosm of what is happening with the books (though part of him likes it that way, even as another part gets frustrated that people keep misunderstanding what he meant).
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[quote name='john' post='1693107' date='Feb 20 2009, 11.16']Look, the 'woman are inferior' thing, as far as the books go, is taken from one scene in The Judging Eye.[/quote]

I've made teh spoiler as vague as possible but still, its a spoiler so don't spoil yourself

SPOILER: TJE
You mean the glowing stuff? Because what that 'glow' tells us is nothing. Women have less of a glow, just as women have less facial hair and less muscle mass. In this case what does that 'glow' signify and does it justify discrimination? Is it a superiority/inferiority thing or just a difference.
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[quote]Which is exactly the same justification that all of the other authors will have used. It becomes annoying by the cumulative frequency and Bakker will lose readers, as he said, due to 'the mysogyny that came before'.[/quote]Man, that's damn clever, Soph. I really wish that was actually why I wrote it, because that would have been really metaclever. I was just trying for one of my lame jokes.

I also don't think that Bakker is looking for some kind of nostalgia towards premodern times, but I think Bakker has said (and this is reasonable) that one disadvantage modernity has is a distinct lack of essential purpose. Science has largely robbed the world of the answer to the question 'why', and it's one that humans like asking. Premoderns rob the world of the question 'how' as well as having all sorts of bizarre notions that suck, and this series clearly is stating 'those sucked'.

Nevertheless, I do think that the fantasy genre does appeal to certain people who want a very black & white storyline.
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I think what science has done is made the 'why' a bit different, not robbed us of it. We have a pretty good explanation of why, its just a stark contrast to the old why. I think the new why of our origins and of where we are going is pretty nice (to me it highlights our enormous potential), but many do not. Were in transition perhaps, who know, maybe we will go back to more supernatural bollocks too, we're biologically geared to believe it after all.
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Though gender issues were not my main reason for not being into PON, I really agree with Soph's post and think it applies to most of the fantasy genre and often entertainment in general. Even things that are specifically for women seem to gauge her worth by her success with men, and almost never do you find a "strong female character" who isn't actually just bitchy. I also find the argument that women must be of a lower class in fantasy because it is more realistic. Why? Fantasy has room for dragons, elves, wizards, fairies, and orcs, but not women?
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[quote name='Sophelia' post='1693134' date='Feb 19 2009, 16.43']Yeah, I know my interpretation is a random one, not the author's: I was making a kind of meta-point about how many ways one can interpret his words even when he is trying to clarify and explain things, which to me is a microcosm of what is happening with the books (though part of him likes it that way, even as another part gets frustrated that people keep misunderstanding what he meant).[/quote]
Gotcha. Good series of posts, by the way.
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