Tag Archives: feminism

Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.

A great, thoughtful article at the Mary Sue on one of my pet topics: the common justification of sexist fantasy fiction being that it’s historically authentic.

I am BUSY today, far too busy for a rant, but then I felt one coming on, and was worried I might end up with a migraine if I tried to stifle it. You know how it is. So let’s talk about sexism in history vs. sexism in fantasy.


I agree with pretty much everything said in the Mary Sue article: when you’re writing fantasy inspired by history, you don’t have to take all the ingrained sexism of historical societies along for the party, and even when you do, you don’t have to write women in a sexist or demeaning way. Your fantasy will not break by treating women as if they are people too.

But my rant is actually not quite about that stuff at all. It’s about history, and this notion that History Is Authentically Sexist. Yes, it is. Sure it is. We all know that. But what do you mean when you say “history?”

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Australian Politics Offended By Sexism and Willing to Talk About it

This is what I have wanted to see since Julia Gillard became prime minister: a woman in power calling bullshit on the way that women in public and private are treated so appallingly by our politicians and our media, and IN PARTICULAR the leader of the opposition Tony Abbott’s appalling track record of misogyny, sexism and hypocrisy. This is one hell of a speech and whatever her government has succeeded and failed at over the last few years, I want to cheer her on.

Now looking at his watch because apparently a woman has spoke too long, I’ve had him yell at me to shut up in the past…

Full text of the debate here.

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Friday Links are Slightly Feverish

I have crawled from my sick bed to bring you these links. Well, it’s not a bed, it’s a chair. And frankly not that comfortable. But I am still posting Friday links because I’m not good for much else today. *eyes novel-in-progress sadly*

For a start, I forgot to tell you all that the Doctor Who in Conversation blog series with me, David & Tehani has gone audio – we have done our first podcast, looking at Spearhead from Space (1970) after both David and Tehani watched it for the first time.

I’m kind of loving the Comic-Con coverage this week, and how those of us stuck home get to experience some of the panels, vids and other program items. Such as the Futurama panel, the Community gag reel, the Firefly reunion and so on. Also, adorable child cosplay and Doctor Who revelations!

The Mary Sue updates us on Sarah Robles, US weightlifting Olympian, and which company brought some serious sponsorship to her party.

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Friday Links is on the Side of the Bronies

Tor.com on In Defense of Bronies – the Quest for Gender Equality in Fandom. The patriarchy hurts men too, especially men who like cool cartoons about adorable ponies!

Alisa on The Knitting Olympics, and why the spat between the Olympics committee and Ravelry is a feminist issue for her.

Jennifer Crusie, queen of the collage-your-novel technique, talks about brainstorming with yarn, and other art and craft. It’s all about YARNSTORMING!

Bluemilk responds to the Atlantic article about Women Having It All, pulling the best points from the article and providing a bunch of links to interesting followup blogs.

The fabulous epic fantasy writer Karen Miller talks publishing, fantasy and feminism in Five Questions.

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Friday Links Is Hopping on the Train to Earth 2

The Mary Sue previews the exciting upcoming new DC titles with women front and centre, including Worlds’ Finest (squeee!) and The Ravagers (featuring the most interesting characters in the Superboy book, making me wonder whether I’ll be continuing with his title) but they also called me attention to the delightful revelation that the Earth 2 Wonder Woman may actually be Donna Troy, one of those characters who has been noticeably absent from the new 52. SQUEEEE! (Is it too much to hope Wally West is over there too? If so, I’m totally moving in over there)

Some discussion went around the internets a week ago about Madonna, and how the media has always enjoyed hating her so much – and no, it doesn’t mean that people who don’t like her music are automatically sexist, but a lot of the invective used against her *is*.

Speaking of assumptions, there’s a lovely interview with Sophie Kinsella, who has made a name for herself writing the fun, comedic Shopaholic novels. She talks about the way she is perceived, and defends the moral issues of her books as well as talking positively about comedy for women. Also from a writerly point of view, I thought it interesting how the article presents her two separate author names and identities.

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series possibly being made for TV – wow. I managed to miss the Darkover series, which is one of those things like Anne McCaffrey’s Pern that makes me sad. I have heard there’s a lot of hefty 70’s style feminist type stuff in there, though, and would be fascinated to see how they adapt it, and how much the material has dated. Far more than the George RR Martin series, this intrigues me enough to read the source material and compare to the TV if it gets that far.

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Or maybe sometimes Equality MIGHT Mean Half… [the Paul Cornell Parity Project Edition]

Why does this stuff always happen in Galactic Suburbia’s off week?

A few days ago, Paul Cornell, a very popular and well regarded SF, television and comics professional writer who regularly appears on panels at conventions around the world, made a bit of a splash with his announcement about how he plans to address the problem of parity on said convention panels.

Much like the male SF and fantasy authors (like Charles Stross) who have pledged publicly to step aside from appearing in SF anthologies which perpetuate the bad SF tradition of not including nearly enough work written by women, Paul Cornell has pledged to step aside from panels that do not offer at least 2/5 female participants. Naturally enough, responses to this are mixed.

It’s a gimmick. Obviously it’s a gimmick. It’s also a stunt. It is a great big, messy, epic gimmicky stunt. It’s going to make some people angry. It’s going to make some people embarrassed. It’s going to make a whole bunch of people complain loudly on the internet. I’m sure plenty of them already have, but I’ve become better and better at avoiding that kind of thing.

But, and this is important, it’s unlikely that Paul will receive the same degree of anger, dismissive language and abuse that a woman would receive, should she pledge to enact some kind of public protest at conventions that do not offer equal numbers of male and female panellists. It’s irritating, but true.

His plan is not going to fix everything. It’s not going to heal the world. It may not even make much of a difference to a whole bunch of conventions. But that is not a reason for him not to do it. Because Paul can get away with it. He’s a lovely guy, good-humoured and presents well in public. If he does end up having to do this piece of comedic pantomime, physically stepping down in front of an audience and finding women to take his place, then people will remember it, and they will likely forgive him for it. He’ll make it entertaining, and the point will be made, with far less fallout than would occur (sadly) if a woman was the one trying to make the same point.

[there are a lot of potential problems with his proposed system of course – such as the potential embarrassment of female audirnce members called upon without preparation to take his place, and the pressure on such women to be brilliant and witty to justify the choice – it’s an awkward position to put them in, and I think Paul may have to relent on his current plans not to make prior arrangements with potential replacements. Often there are quite sensible reasons why particular women are not sitting on a particular panel, such as having ALREADY been overloaded with a bunch of panels at a convention because programmers are often desperate to try to reach something close to parity, and once a woman is known to be good value on panels, she will often be massively over-scheduled. Unlike many other critics, I don’t think the possibility that the female replacement might be less qualified or interesting than Paul Cornell is actually a reason not to do it – I have sat on far too many panels with dull and uninformed male participants to worry about that. But of course, a boring male participant is not seen to represent his entire gender if he fails in public… so, yeah. A lot of pressure.]

If it makes some conventions think differently about their programming, if it makes some women feel more confident about volunteering for panels, and if it makes some more men think seriously about whether they’re really the most (or only) qualified person for the topic they’ve been asked to speak on, then it’s worth doing. And if that means that Paul Cornell stops being invited to speak at conventions (which seems unlikely) then at least he’ll have more time to write! A plan with few drawbacks!

Maybe it will be a helpful stepping stone in the process of making these events more inclusive of women, and maybe it won’t – but at least it’s getting us talking about the issue, and it’s one worth talking about.

Farah Mendlesohn has some thoughts about Paul’s plan, and about positive discrimination being at times a, you know, positive thing. As ever, she speaks good sense. I also very much enjoyed Cheryl Morgan’s witty and energetic response to the Paul Parity Plan (it needs a catchier title, yes?).

Sometimes you have to stop worrying about the little details that might go wrong, and appreciate the joy that comes from a glorious, messy, gimmicky consciousness-raising stunt. While eating popcorn.

On the Gollancz blog.

Equality, Apparently, Doesn’t Mean Half [the National Year of Reading Edition]

The thing about feminism is that an awful lot of people in the world don’t think about it. They don’t think it’s necessary. Worst of all, they think it’s an anachronism. Because women have equality now, right?

Sure they do. Except in the many, many, tiny little ways that they don’t. Some of those ways seem small, like tiny nicks in the glass of a car window, the sort of thing you can overlook on its own. But when it’s nick after nick, dent after dent, hole after hole… once your awareness has been opened to it, it feels like the window is cracking open, from edge to edge. You can’t not see it. It’s everywhere.

Elizabeth L Huede, the powerhouse behind the gone-viral-or-what Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading challenge, blogged recently about how disappointing it is that the list of books chosen for the National Year of Reading project – one from each state, books chosen to represent ‘our story’ as Australians – consists of seven out of eight male authored works.

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Friday Links Didn’t Burn Any Bras

Eh, I’ve been trying and failing to write an essay about how often women (fictional and otherwise) end up being shamed, dismissed or hurt in the name of feminism, but it’s tangling me up in knots, so I’m going to stop now and do something productive instead.

Hoyden talk about the myth of the bra-burning feminists, an idea which has been used to try to make women look stupid for decades, and how the false story was spread.

The Moffat’s Women series continues on Tor, with a comparison between the main female character in this Christmas special and last year’s. I find it very interesting how quickly people have leaped to criticise Moffat for writing a story in which the mother is the hero, so this article made me happy.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s response
to the post we linked to in Galactic Suburbia about the wealth of positive girl heroes in YA right now.

One that I meant us to discuss on GS but forgot at the last minute (sorry, Sean!) – Sean the Blogonaut surveys his reading after a year of trying to change his reading habits, genderwise.

Linda Nagata talks about her rationale for self publishing rather than going back to big publishers.

The ever awesome Mary Beard comments on the latest salacious media drama about Ancient Romans and brothels. Yes, really. As ever, her pragmatism wins the day.

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Friday Links removed a Womble’s Head

OK this is my favourite news article of the week – a Womble performer traumatised a nation (well, the six year old portion of the nation) when he accidentally removed his head during a live webfeed. Now, my first reaction was basically that it’s awesome that the Wombles are a THING again for today’s kiddies. As a mother of a six year old myself (who broke my heart with her reaction to finding out about the Santa thing last year)… seriously?

Parents from around the UK said the ‘damage had already been done’ and that they had been forced to come up with ‘all kinds of explanations’ about why there was a human inside a Womble.


Elsewhere in the world, Aqueduct Press continue their marvellous blog series of posts about the Best Reading, Listening, Viewing, etc. in 2011. I like especially that the contributors are asked to talk about what they enjoyed, but not limit themselves to work published this calendar year. And I was honoured to be asked to talk about my own favourite things of 2011. I forgot lots of things, of course, but that’s what my own blog is for!

Also, Brit Mandelo of Tor.com blogs about her new reprint anthology, Beyond Binary, which includes a story by MEEEEE as well as a whole bunch of more famous and wonderful writers. Hooray for genderqueer SF being talked about!

Nnedi Okorafor blogs powerfully about her discomfort in discovering, in the wake of her marvellous World Fantasy win for Best Novel, that the trophy depicts the head of a very racist, unpleasant person. Ie. H.P. Lovecraft. Which has led to all kinds of conversations across Twitter and other forums about, you know, what kind of alternative trophy could better represent excellence in fantasy fiction, or the history of fantasy literature. I suspect TRADITION is going to win out on this one, or at least a combination of tradition and resistance to change, which are not entirely the same things, but personally I can think of a whole bunch of other unpleasant heads which could take his place. Like Medusa!

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