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Sophelia

Bakker and Women 4

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It was destined to be.

Reading Scott Bakker's last post was a bit sad, as it seemed to back full circle to the beginning again. However during the debate I think understanding has increased enormously on all sides, even if it has been a bitter pill for Scott, and (in different ways) for some others. Frustrating that the most polarised positions on the core issue haven't really budged (yet), but it's been great to be able to talk about them.

It sounded like Scott might be withdrawing from the debate. That would be a loss for the rest of us, though completely understandable since he has already put more time into the debate than anyone here expected. I would like to thank him for responding to so many points and for showing considerable determination and stamina in explaining his vision: I'm absolutely sure that if any of us see him at a Con he won't ever have to buy a drink, yet would find himself in receipt of enough alcohol to keep him plastered for several weeks (and yes, I am aware through the grape :drunk: vine that his alcohol capacity is legendary).;)

Whether Bakker will stay around or not, I still have posts I want to make. I'm still trying to articulate my thoughts about the portrayal of women (generally and in PoN). So here's an open thread if anyone else feels unfinished.

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[quote name='Sophelia' post='1694332' date='Feb 20 2009, 16.57']It was destined to be.

Reading Scott Bakker's last post was a bit sad, [b]as it seemed to back full circle to the beginning again. [/b] However during the debate I think understanding has increased enormously on all sides, even if it has been a bitter pill for Scott, and (in different ways) for some others. Frustrating that the most polarised positions on the core issue haven't really budged (yet), but it's been great to be able to talk about them.

Whether Bakker will stay around or not, I still have posts I want to make. I'm still trying to articulate my thoughts about the portrayal of women (generally and in PoN). So here's an open thread if anyone else feels unfinished.[/quote]In what way?

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[quote name='Sophelia' post='1694332' date='Feb 20 2009, 16.57']It was destined to be.

Reading Scott Bakker's last post was a bit sad, as it seemed to back full circle to the beginning again. However during the debate I think understanding has increased enormously on all sides, even if it has been a bitter pill for Scott, and (in different ways) for some others. Frustrating that the most polarised positions on the core issue haven't really budged (yet), but it's been great to be able to talk about them.

It sounded like Scott might be withdrawing from the debate.[/quote]

I really hope not.

I've had more time to think about all of this, and re-re-reconsider the issue. To start, what I did glean from that long dialogue (with regard to the 'objective inferiority' of women on earwa, which i recognize some think is less significant a point than I do) is this:

1. saying the women of Earwa are "objectively inferior" is an inaccurate simplification.
2. saying the women of Earwa are "objectively spiritually inferior" might be more accurate, but it's no less enlightening.

The most elucidating explanation Mr Bakker has provided was his description of the women of Earwa as being "less close to God" (paraphrase) than Men. I do not think that this, in and of itself, indicates that either Mr Bakker is a misogynist or that his works are misogynistic. I infer that the case may be that the Women Of Earwa (from here on out WOE) are further removed from an [i]evil[/i] god than men, making them, in that respect, in a technical and literal sense "spiritually [i]inferior[/i]" as they are, in that hierarchy, lower than men are. If that is the case then I fail to see how that particular arrangement can be construed as "misogynistic" - occupying a place less tainted, further from evil, than men? In a world where spirituality itself is malignant, wicked and poisonous 'spiritual inferiority' hardly carries a negative connotation. It is, maybe, like calling women "satanically inferior" or, less clumsily, saying that women are "further from Satan than men". If, in a Good God world, closeness to God is a positive and distance from him is bad, then doesn't it stand to reason that in an Evil God world the opposite is true? Perhaps Mr Bakker has inverted religion in just this way.

That being said, even if it were the case that the MOE were closer to a good, loving god than the women even [i]that[/i], in and of itself, would neither indicate that Mr Bakker is a misogynist nor that his works are misogynistic. One might create a misogynistic world in order to lampoon, satirize, ridicule or otherwise explore the issue of misogyny. And one might create brutal, visceral, emotionally jarring situations for the women of that misogynistic world for the same purpose. And as I've said before (and I know many if not most disagree with me) I [b]personally [/b]don't find evidence to indicate that either Mr Bakker is a misogynist or that his works are misogynistic in any of the examples used as evidence to support those claims. The world is surely a misogynistic one, but that[i] the work itself[/i] is misogynistic is entirely subjective, and I think the fact that vastly more readers have [i]not[/i] come to that conclusion than [i]have[/i], combined with the author's sincere, thoughtful (though perhaps seemingly pedantic and somewhat verbose) explanations indicate that maybe accusations of misogyny say more about the accuser, in this case, than the accused. And I say that with all due respect, sincerely, not as a snarky snipe.

Anyhow I've just bought my copy of TJE and I relish the chance to dive in. Mr Bakker I hope you continue to illuminate us.

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If these Bakker and women threads continue at this pace, we may have to split them into those who have read TJE and those who've not. I finally got mine and I'm 50 pages in and I can already see a nice handful of items that add to the topic.

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A few things I wanted to comment on at the end of the last thread, but before I do that, I just want to say thank you for the response to my posts - I've been encouraged to share more of my thoughts than I usually do.

[quote name='Finn' post='1693422' date='Feb 20 2009, 07.42']I had thought that one of the major concerns of the series was a refusal to whitewash history. Other fantasy writers might romanticize the premodern world, but Bakker wasn't going to do that. And since he was so closely mapping the First Crusade, I thought that there was a strong attempt to be "truer" to the history even as he was displacing it onto a fictionalized setting with various fantasy conventions.

And the disconnect for me was that Earwa didn't seem to reflect a recognizable pre-modern world. (And this seemed important vis-à-vis gender representation as discussed by several posters earlier in the threads.)

But I think I was just wrong about the series' relationship to history. Bakker seems to have an interest in the movement from premodern to modern, especially with regard to a kind of Weberian "disenchantment of the world." From his latest post (a response to Galactus), however, I take it that he's more interested in exploring historical "dynamics." At the end of the day, I'm guessing that it's not important to him, for instance, that Earwa be a particularly accurate reflection of the premodern world. What he really seems to be interested in is not history per se, but in telling a story that reflects the ways in which human history is an ongoing but always changing dynamic of oppression and injustice: trading one form of oppression for another and all that.

This could all be completely wrong of course . . . but to get back on topic, I'm now trying to get my head around how this would or should shape my understanding of Bakker's deployment of gender in the series . . .[/quote]

This was an interesting post. My view of what Bakker is trying to depict also keeps changing, as he reveals different layers of symbolism. It is hard to see how he can sustain all those messages at once without some of them interfering with each other. *ponders*


[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1693608' date='Feb 20 2009, 13.40']I seriously doubt that my justifications are 'exactly the same.' I haven't researched how other authors have responded to charges of misogyny, but I have enough faith in my peculiarity to think that there's a rather big difference in my thematic motivations compared to others.[/quote]
Someone get Joe Abercrombie in here...

Nah, I do credit you with having put a great deal of thought into your choices and having your individual angles on things (e.g. motivation = sex). Certainly one of the things you quickly make clear in this thread was that the choices you made (e.g. in your choice of female characters) were not made out of careless prurience or unconscious sexism, but in a conscious attempt to highlight the misogyny of medieval times.

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1693608' date='Feb 20 2009, 13.40']My answer is that [i]I think have been creative[/i] - to the point of cooking my own goose.[/quote]
I agree with your first sentence (though that's only from the perspective of some of your readers). Others didn't notice the goose at all. And some got your message as intended.

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1693608' date='Feb 20 2009, 13.40']In owning the first list in a self-conscious and thoroughly critical way (and one of the whole points of PoN was [i]to embrace the genre[/i] in a way that made it new), such that the parallels between scripture and fantasy resonate, allowing me to explore the ugliness that underwrites our nostalgia and wonder.

I put misogyny and sexualization [i]front and centre[/i] in my books, so much so that, like I say, I assumed that a sizable proportion of my readers would realize I was doing something critical, not apologetic. I was wrong.

Why did I think it would be obvious? When a writer focusses on something via things like repetition, embedded reflection, and systematic emphasis, there's a damn good chance they are trying to say something. If the general tenor of the book is critical, then it's a good bet that they are trying to say something critical.

Even my choices of female types - the whore, the waif, and the harridan - I thought, would broadcast the general shape of my thoroughly critical intent with clarity.

But, again, I was wrong, and I have been systematically misread as a result.[/quote]
I'm still thinking about this.

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1693608' date='Feb 20 2009, 13.40']Since we seem to have a tendency to mistake depiction for endorsement, this meant that for many readers my representations of misogyny were reflexly confused for misogynistic representations. Once primed in this way, the possibility of competing interpretations vanished, and the text seemed to confirm this initial interpretative hypothesis in myriad ways - to the point of spending endless hours on message boards arguing as much![/quote]
I think you're dichotomising it too much (probably for rhetorical reasons).

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1693608' date='Feb 20 2009, 13.40']The creativity of my approach just did not exist for a sizable number of my readers, and I regret that - and I will definitely rethink my approach to controversial subject matters in future projects.[/quote]
Yes, it is a shame. It is your choice as a writer to do what you feel most passionately important to do, and how much you want to compromise (or alter the text) to attract different readers.

[quote name='Pierce Inverarity' post='1693608' date='Feb 20 2009, 13.40']But with [i]The Second Apocalypse[/i], I'm pretty much locked in. Since I genuinely think my approach is creative (my hands are tied here when it comes to a full explanation because the series is only partially complete), and because I'm still a little optimistic that the strength of the story over-all might win out, I'll continue to plow ahead with everything as I had initially planned. Odds are, however, the series is likely doomed to be something baroque, controversial, and commercially marginal. And I'll likely end up teaching creative writing at a community college somewhere.[/quote]

Aww! Give the man a violin!
I'm glad you're not changing your approach for the ongoing series, as my impression from this board is that you have a lot of very loyal fans who love your narrative as it is, and share your optimism. I myself think highly of you as a writer, and it's only because I am the opposite of you in regards sensitivity to violent media (being unusually affected by it) that I am having to stop reading.
(But let me know if you need any students for that creative writing course... ;) )

[quote name='kuenjato' post='1693701' date='Feb 20 2009, 14.59']I hope your muse stays consistent in its stubborness until the Second Apocalypse is done. Otherwise [i]TJE [/i]would be the sort of pap this reader could put down and forget for a few days, rather than something that dominantes food, drink, rest and midterm study requirements.[/quote]
See what I mean. Changing your style would alienate a different set of readers ;)

[quote name='MinDonner' post='1693639' date='Feb 20 2009, 14.12']I think we're getting to the point of realising that, in trying to use your female characters as [i]symbols[/i] as well as [i]characters[/i], something got lost in the mix; in serving the subtext so closely, their roles in the text have been sacrificed (to a certain extent).[/quote]
This is part of what I am thinking about.

[quote name='Kalbear' post='1693918' date='Feb 20 2009, 17.04']In that respect I think that you still haven't fundamentally understood some of the problems that readers have had with the books; it sounds still like you believe that confirmation bias (seeing a rat) sneaks in and people are upset or not wanting to read because they think you're a sexist prick, when it simply has to do with the subject matter and the way it's conveyed combining with the readers' experiences. Some people just aren't going to want to get past reading about rape demons, objective inferiority of women, brutal violence towards women, language that denigrates women at every turn and all the primary women in the book being sex objects. Not because that implies anything about the author.

Just because it's a lot more abuse that they already have to deal with.[/quote]
While I think Kalbear is quite right that this will have put off readers, I just want to point out that my own reasons are slightly different. All the people coming in here have slightly different slants... again I hope to pick up on those slants in the post I was writing yesterday, which will have to wait until tomorrow. In my case the treatment of women was a minor factor which did not stop me reading on despite alienating me. My difficulties with the violence is unrelated to my thoughts about the women (and due to my personal traits not a criticism of the book, as most of the population is more robust/desensitised). All the rapists so far have been equal opportunities rapists.:unsure: However I understand that since women are more likely to have been raped in RL, that the prevalance of rape in the series is going to be especially painful to them. I have not been raped myself, though I find it deeply horrible to read about. However there are single rapes in fantasy series that I have been more disturbed by than the multitudes in PoN (e.g. Thomas Covenant, couldn't continue).

I disagree with raft that the sexism is (to me) forcefully presented [ETA: hmm - I need to think about that *makes note to self* This could be why I failed to see the 'obvious' message - yet obviously I feel strongly about the way women were depicted.].

I hope raft is not right about any readers: and am sorry that some posters made digs at Bakker's personal life. Although I can't help hypotheses about the author flitting through my mind at times, I find speculating on authors/actors/celebrities' personal lives distasteful and something which detracts from the product. In any case, as I write myself I know it's not possible to construct the author from their fiction, or else I really am the sadist a reader once accused me of being! (Yes, I can write violence even if I can't read it :-P )

[quote name='needle' post='1694208' date='Feb 20 2009, 20.24']Fair enough, Df. We all read with our own filters, which is sort of a theme of the thread.[/quote]
Nice observation.

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[quote name='Triskele' post='1694488' date='Feb 21 2009, 00.28']If these Bakker and women threads continue at this pace, we may have to split them into those who have read TJE and those who've not. I finally got mine and I'm 50 pages in and I can already see a nice handful of items that add to the topic.[/quote]

:lol:

Now I am intrigued. I think Bakker would enjoy the irony on several levels if I ended up buying TJE for this.

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[quote name='Matrim Fox Cauthon' post='1694430' date='Feb 20 2009, 23.22']In what way?[/quote]

Well, I had felt over the course of the last thread that the two sides were getting closer to understanding each other, but to me his post showed that the divide on '(2) realistic depiction of women in history' was just as stark as before.

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I dunno Archibald. I think that both the world, and the novels (at least the first 3, I haven't read TJE) can both be misogynistic without the author being a misogynist himself. It's not just the worldbuilding that is anti-woman, but also the deliberate choices made by the author as to what female characters he would portray and what their stories would be. I'm not going to rehash the last 3 threads worth of Kalbear's arguments, but he explains numerous times what a lot of feminists find wrong with the characters of Esmi, Serwe, and Istriya. Once you move out of the setting and into the actual story, that is "the work", yesno? (Even if it was unintentional.)

Re: Some older arguments

[quote name='Paxter']This makes us (or, at least, me) think: shit. If I can't even get excited about the empowerment of a lowborn female and the destruction of characters who were symbols of female inferiority (Istriya/Serwe), and this has occurred in a very short space of time and in a world in which women are objectively inferior, why the hell should I get excited about gender equality in the modern world when we haven't even come from such a dire position as Earwa (we haven't had to reverse an objective reality in our own world)? It really does make me question my assumptions about gender equality (among other "now-sacred values") in our modern society and makes me skeptical as to the nature of their real origins. As needle said some time ago, these are depressing thoughts. But, as Achamian and Cnaiur would probably attest to, skepticism can be a virtue.[/quote]

[quote name='Galactus']Why on earth should we be excited about the destruction of the victims? That makes no sense.[/quote]

[quote name='Paxter']Because they were more than just victims. More than just characters in a story - you have to go beyond the text here. They were symbols of everything that was wrong about Earwa (at least as far as gender is concerned). Destroying them and empowering Esmi was akin to destroying the negative representation of women in Earwa. But, of course, as I alluded to in my post, this is all a very hollow victory.[/quote]

I was going to respond to the original argument from Paxter (unquoted now, it's from the 2nd thread) that he rehashed here, but even though it was the best explanation I could find as why to create the world like this in the first place, I'm still not happy with the story. Even if Esmi, Serwe and Istriya are supposed to represent the past and future of femininity as symbols, it's still not exactly...er...un-misogynistic to represent female empowerment, or damnation, or what have you, as three women who are passively used as symbolic pawns. I get that it's supposed to represent how feminism is only accepted nowadays because men (in some form or another) let it happen (which like Needle said, if that's what the lesson is, it's a bitter pill to swallow, and it's not enough payoff for me to want to slog through another few books to get to the end, honestly)...but there's just something squicky about how the female characters are used to portray this. I guess it reminds me a bit of fairy tales that have an underlying lesson, like Red-Riding Hood, for instance. The lesson there, I guess, is that good girls don't talk to strangers, don't show them their baskets full of goodies, lest they get eaten and die. Or horror movies...good girls don't make out with their boyfriend in the car parked in the woods, lest they get horribly murdered and die. So when I hear this interpretation of how the characters represent the archetypes of modern and archaic women being raised up/lowered, by death or men, I end up thinking about it the same way. :dunno: Like, in order for a feminine archetype to be "raised up", do other ones really have to [i]die[/i]?


(Btw, with regard to not particularly liking PoN, when I read it, there were practically no anti-recommendations on the board. I read the series when I was about to graduate from college, but that was kind of a low spot for me in terms of feminism--I had just spent 4 years at a school which was mostly men, and the party line was that feminism was no longer needed/relevant, and for a while I believed that. I had never taken a sociology class, or a women's studies class, or even a feminist literature class. I haven't been sexually abused or assaulted. I started the series believing that I would really like it, and I didn't start reading it thinking about gender in any way--that came after. Anyway, I guess I just wanted to say that I did not read the series looking for a bone to pick with it. I just found those bones along the way. :P)

ETA: And for the most part, Sophelia and needle have nicely put my other thoughts into text, which is why I haven't bothered posting much. Well, that and my lack of memory for details of what happened in the books, since my copies were 600 miles away til today.

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[quote name='Sophelia' post='1694494' date='Feb 20 2009, 19.36']While I think Kalbear is quite right that this will have put off readers, I just want to point out that my own reasons are slightly different. All the people coming in here have slightly different slants... again I hope to pick up on those slants in the post I was writing yesterday, which will have to wait until tomorrow. In my case the treatment of women was a minor factor which did not stop me reading on despite alienating me. My difficulties with the violence is unrelated to my thoughts about the women (and due to my personal traits not a criticism of the book, as most of the population is more robust/desensitised). All the rapists so far have been equal opportunities rapists.:unsure: However I understand that since women are more likely to have been raped in RL, that the prevalance of rape in the series is going to be especially painful to them. I have not been raped myself, though I find it deeply horrible to read about. However there are single rapes in fantasy series that I have been more disturbed by than the multitudes in PoN (e.g. Thomas Covenant, couldn't continue).[/quote]

It's funny you mention this, since I love the PON series, but couldn't make it past the rape in Thoas Covenant either.

I think it comes down to the fact that I didn't really see all that much of this rape in the series, except from the Skin Spies, who are just seriousy fucked up anyway.

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[quote name='Kat' post='1694508' date='Feb 20 2009, 19.59']I dunno Archibald. I think that both the world, and the novels (at least the first 3, I haven't read TJE) can both be misogynistic without the author being a misogynist himself. It's not just the worldbuilding that is anti-woman, but also the deliberate choices made by the author as to what female characters he would portray and what their stories would be. I'm not going to rehash the last 3 threads worth of Kalbear's arguments, but he explains numerous times what a lot of feminists find wrong with the characters of Esmi, Serwe, and Istriya.[/quote]

I understand, but I don't find the deliberate choices, their stories, his motivations or the finished* product "anti-woman". And I'm not sure what 'feminist' means any more, or even in this context, other than "people who find misogyny in Bakker's work".





*finished as far as the first three novels

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Also...

[quote]I dunno Archibald. I think that both the world, and the novels (at least the first 3, I haven't read TJE) can both be misogynistic without the author being a misogynist himself.[/quote]

I agree wholeheartedly. I was just rejecting that either is the case imo

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[quote name='Relic' post='1694515' date='Feb 20 2009, 20.13']you guys made Scott leave? Ugh.[/quote]
to be fair, they made Scott come too.

i really hope he's not going anywhere cuz this has been a really weird but awesome discussion.

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[quote name='Triskele' post='1694488' date='Feb 20 2009, 19.28']If these Bakker and women threads continue at this pace, we may have to split them into those who have read TJE and those who've not. I finally got mine and I'm 50 pages in and I can already see a nice handful of items that add to the topic.[/quote]
If these threads continue, we'll have to start a completely different board. :P

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I wanted to comment on a couple of things Shryke said last thread (it's nice how the colliding of particles sends thoughts off in new directions).

[quote name='Shryke' post='1693326' date='Feb 20 2009, 03.52']Sidenote: I thought the sandal thing was an excellent bit of storytelling. Is a broken sandal trivial? Maybe to you. To Esmenet, at that point,it really is life and death. An example of the gravity of the situation she's put herself in after leaving her "comfort zone".[/quote]

I understand your take on it and see why it's a good bit of storytelling. I don't have a problem with the peril it put Esmi in or the exploration of the vulnerability it [i]puts her in[/i].

Here's another take on it. I'm going to call it the 'seagull effect'.

If all your characters are lined up, and a seagull flies across and craps on one of them, what does this do to the reader's perception of that character?

Well, really it should do nothing, since this is a totally random event which could have happened to anyone. A broken sandal could have happened to Kellhus, Akka, Cnaiur, or any other character.

However, in fiction (and in RL), when a random or unfortunate mishap befalls someone, we have a tendency to see them as more hapless and incompetent. We laugh at them, see them as inferior, and irrationally blame them in some sense for what has happened. Slapstick comedy is based on this.

It's also the case that people who belong to a group which is not perceived in the first place as possessing so much innate dignity will suffer disproportionately from the negative fallout of one mistake, because it primes all those associations. That's why people observe that Obama had to be far more flawless than a white candidate would have to be, to win the presidency in the US. So that's why I think the sandal incident will have contributed to the divide between the 'great' dignified* male characters and Esmi 'the helpless female'.

So in sum I am perhaps extra-sensitive to the author's decision to have the triggering event be a totally random one (as opposed to the events which deepen Esmi's peril, which are due to prejudice from other characters, so don't diminish Esmi in our eyes). It's also the way she reacts to the event, which deepen the pathos, but that's part of Esmi's character which is a separate issue - yet it interacts to confirm the 'hapless' perception which places the random sandal event alongside slapstick comedy and textual bullying** of contemptible characters.

Now, I'm probably missing a whole layer of symbolism and author intention here. But unless it's a 'punishment from a god' or something, or there there is a parallel to some similar incident befalling the male characters, I am at a loss for why he needed to do this 'randomness' to Esmi. I'm also curious as to the choice of a sandal (jolts us right back to the whole 'women and shoes' cliche). The male characters wrestle with great existential questions, their conflicts stemming from vocation, desire, visions of the apocalypse. And meanwhile the female character is thrust passively into conflicts arising from [i]an article of clothing[/i].

Maybe it's just unfortunate, or skewed perception, or memory distortion on my part, but I don't like it.


* I will say that among the men, Akka 'loses his dignity' in the scene where he pebbledashes the chamberpot, but I believe (perhaps wrongly and because I can't escape my sexist conditioning) that it has less of an effect on our perception of his character, partly because he's male, partly because it doesn't affect him, and partly because it is counterbalanced by his 'cool' abilities.

** I made up that term. I am referring to the techniques authors use to depict certain characters as 'other'.


Edit: took out unnecessary jargon

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[quote name='Sophelia' post='1694786' date='Feb 21 2009, 18.53']But unless it's a 'punishment from a god' or something, or there there is a parallel to some similar incident befalling the male characters, I am at a loss for why he needed to do this 'randomness' to Esmi. [b]I'm also curious as to the choice of a sandal (jolts us right back to the whole 'women and shoes' cliche)[/b]. The male characters wrestle with great existential questions, their conflicts stemming from vocation, desire, visions of the apocalypse. And meanwhile the female character is thrust passively into conflicts arising from [i]an article of clothing[/i].[/quote]

Well, Xerius literally did get crapped upon in one of his first chapters, by a bird that was roosting in the Nansur throne room. It wasn't a seagull though, it was a sparrow...

Anyway, I can see where you are coming from here Sophelia. The only thing that I would say is that I don't consider the whole "sandal" affair to be a "random" event. For me it was more of an inevitable event. It was always going to be the case that Esmenet would struggle a fair bit on her long journey on foot, and it just so happened that one of those struggles was with a dysfunctional sandal. Remember, Esmi had basically lived in the city her whole life, and had spent a great portion of that life in her room. To suddenly be thrust into the open world was always going to present physical challenges. TBH, if I had to walk from Sumna to Momemn with fairly antiquated footwear, than I would probably struggle physically too. And I haven't been cooped up in the city my whole life...

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[quote name='Shryke' post='1693326' date='Feb 20 2009, 03.52']You've got a whole long explanation on "Why any person could be an interesting character", but completely missed the whole "Why would they be in the story" part.[/quote]

Well spotted. Well, I didn't have much time, but I wanted to talk about the latter part also, in my long-promised posts about all the different ways that women can be commented upon by a novel.

I am trying to itemise the different aspects of representing women (insofar as it is possible to try and separate them out), and after that I want to have my first go at trying to articulate what I want to see which so often seems missing, and is from PoN (and I want to know why it is or feels missing).

It was this post of Scott's which started me off:

[quote]Surely, no one here is censorious enough to suggest that fantasy worlds should not reflect the bigotries you commonly find in scriptural worlds, period. 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? 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]

So the first thing is the distinction between the environment and the person. The second thing is the literary choices of the author in relation to the world from which they are picked.

There has I think been some misunderstanding in these threads because phrases like 'the treatment of women' and 'sexist books' can refer to either A, B or C:

A. setting (e.g. depicting behaviour and religions which oppress women and showing women in the roles which were 'allowed' by such a society)
B. characterisation (e.g. including female characters who display characteristics which caricature 'femininity')
C. author choices (e.g. few women in the story)

Protests could be made about any of these.

Some defenders of Bakker (including Bakker himself in the quotation above) seem to assume that the protestors are mainly attacking A, but actually the protestors are fine with A. Any complaints on this front are actually to do with C, the author's choice to use a setting which oppresses women in the first place. Given the usual faux-medieval fantasy setting or Bakker's 'scriptural truth' world, then as long as the events and attitudes in the novel follow from that setting, there's no criticism. Indeed, the realistic representation of prejudice against women validates modern women's experiences.

I feel that the protests in this thread have been mainly about B and C. However the complaints about B turned out to be due to C (for example Serwe's characterisation turned out to be deliberately 'bad' as an author choice).

Bakker explains that all his choices C were made for feminist reasons, or at least not for sexist reasons. He had hoped readers would deduce that (though now accepts and regrets that many didn't). He also argues that knowing C was intended by the author to convey a non-sexist message would prevent C from carrying any sexist messages (he concedes that it could still unintentionally prime sexist stereotypes).

Protestors still feel that the overall effect of C is more negative than the author realises, and knowing it was purposeful doesn't mitigate the book's effects, even if it (arguably) exonerates the author.

More itemised lists coming up later today. :P



Edited to get rid of copyright symbol :rolleyes:

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[quote name='Paxter' post='1694803' date='Feb 21 2009, 10.58']Well, Xerius literally did get crapped upon in one of his first chapters, by a bird that was roosting in the Nansur throne room. It wasn't a seagull though, it was a sparrow...[/quote]
:lol: I had forgotten that. Of course Xerius is very much a 'stock clown' figure in the books.

[quote name='Paxter' post='1694803' date='Feb 21 2009, 10.58']Anyway, I can see where you are coming from here Sophelia.[/quote]
Thanks - that's all I ask.

[quote name='Paxter' post='1694803' date='Feb 21 2009, 10.58']The only thing that I would say is that I don't consider the whole "sandal" affair to be a "random" event. For me it was more of an inevitable event. It was always going to be the case that Esmenet would struggle a fair bit on her long journey on foot, and it just so happened that one of those struggles was with a dysfunctional sandal. Remember, Esmi had basically lived in the city her whole life, and had spent a great portion of that life in her room. To suddenly be thrust into the open world was always going to present physical challenges. TBH, if I had to walk from Sumna to Momemn with fairly antiquated footwear, than I would probably struggle physically too. And I haven't been cooped up in the city my whole life...[/quote]
I do understand this. I don't think it invalidates my points, but I do appreciate that Bakker probably used it in this way quite innocently. But if so, I want to make him less innocent in future ;)

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I really, really didn't think we'd get on to Bakker 4...:lol:. This thread is probably as long as one of the books by now.

Sophelia, kudos again for the clear presentation of the arguments to date. (and for pointing out that all us protestors have different triggers and points to make :) )

Bit of a tangent here, but I'm rereading, and I've got to Serwe's POV in TDTCB. I'd forgotten we got so much from her POV here. It's making Serwe's 'parallel with Earwa' and symbolism as fantasy itself clearer, for sure. For her, Kellhus is 'the promise' that her beauty has meaning, that her [i]life[/i] has meaning. What would the point be of being beautiful and going through hardships unless one was to be ultimately rescued by a 'prince'? I hadn't really remembered just what a spoof she was on the archetypal female in fantasy. But something Kat said upthread reminded me of something that's really puzzling me :

[quote]Like, in order for a feminine archetype to be "raised up", do other ones really have to die?[/quote]

So, Serwe's death symbolises the death of traditional fantasy..that beauty alone allows for a happy ending. The harsh reality is that beautiful waifs get fucked in every meaning of the word. Ok. I get that. ( simplifying for the purpose of debate, obviously)

But...why is it important that Serwe and Istrya die and [i]get replaced[/i]? Why, as Kat says, must the other archetypes die for Esme's to 'succeed'? This has been referred to several times by Bakker as an important point - that, and that both Serwe and Istrya have been replaced. What symbolism does the 'replacement' of Serwe have? Maybe Bakker meant this is an important point that will be revealed in future..but does it have symbolism that I am missing in the text right now? I'm thinking on this..but if anyone has a take that clarifies right now, I'd be grateful.

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[quote name='needle' post='1694815' date='Feb 21 2009, 12.08']But...why is it important that Serwe and Istrya die and [i]get replaced[/i]? Why, as Kat says, must the other archetypes die for Esme's to 'succeed'? This has been referred to several times by Bakker as an important point - that, and that both Serwe and Istrya have been replaced. What symbolism does the 'replacement' of Serwe have? Maybe Bakker meant this is an important point that will be revealed in future..but does it have symbolism that I am missing in the text right now? I'm thinking on this..but if anyone has a take that clarifies right now, I'd be grateful.[/quote]

I thought Bakker might be using this to say "women aren't really like this, these are male constructions of women", but that was before he explained about Serwe representing 'fantasy'. Thats why I keep wondering if he just has too many different symbols personified, so we can't tell which 'symbolic act' belongs with which particular 'symbolic interpretation'. That is, Serwe and Istriya being replaced by male demons could be referring to the 'facets of women' they symbolise being 'not actually real, but male fantasies' rather than saying anything about Serwe-as-representing-the-escapist-fantasy-genre.

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