1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    'We Have Always Fought': Challenging the 'Women, Cattle and Slaves' Narrative

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by GingerCoffee, Aug 25, 2014.

    Insight from an impressive author, and it won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work.

    That's to interest you to read the piece. ;)

    This is about Kameron Hurley's piece, not my comments about it. So I'll quote this section and let people discover the truth for themselves:

    "I often tell people that I’m the biggest self-aware misogynist I know.

    I was writing a scene last night between a woman general and the man she helped put on the throne. I started writing in some romantic tension, and realized how lazy that was. There are other kinds of tension.

    I made a passing reference to sexual slavery, which I had to cut. I nearly had him use a gendered slur against her. I growled at the screen. He wanted to help save her child… no. Her brother? Ok. She was going to betray him. OK. He had some wives who died… ug. No. Close advisors? Friends? Maybe somebody just… left him?

    Even writing about societies where there is very little sexual violence, or no sexual violence against women, I find myself writing in the same tired tropes and motivations. “Well, this is a bad guy, and I need something traumatic to happen to this heroine, so I’ll have him rape her.” That was an actual thing I did in the first draft of my first book, which features a violent society where women outnumber men 25-1. Because, of course, it’s What You Do.

    I actually watched a TV show recently that was supposedly about this traumatic experience a young girl went through, but was, in fact, simply tossed in so that the two male characters in the show could fight over it, and argue about which of them was at fault because of what happened to her. It was the most flagrant erasure of a female character and her experiences that I’d seen in some time. She’s literally in the room with them while they fight about it, revealing all these character things about them while she sort of fades into the background."
     
  2. DromedaryLights
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    DromedaryLights Active Member

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    This is very interesting, well-written, and important! Thanks for sharing!
     
  3. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    Thanks for posting this Ginger, very interesting. Actually reminds me of some surprising things about my WIP. The more I understand my characters, the easier it is for me to distill the essence of their experience and then bring them alive.

    Quite without realising it, I've made all my villains women in my current WIP. There is a natural ambition in women that doesn't get illustrated much in fiction. Not talking about the usual fight for equality in a patriarchial society. No, more the different flavour that ambition takes on when it comes from a female. Power, is not an end. Its not enough to simply own something, be able to determine the fate of another. What I found is a need to exert power through the indirect force of having the victim choose you as their fate. Of all the terrible ends they could come to, they still prefer the terrible end you represent over any other.

    Its a twisty kind of logic taught to me by possibly one of the most toxic women I know. And yet, I innately understand that logic and the deep need she is seeking to fill in the application of it.
     
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  4. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like the article, although since I strive for realism in writing, there were a few things I was unsure about. I wouldn't exclude e.g. rape from female characters' sphere of experiences just for the sake of "I shouldn't victimize women." It happens, a lot, and I almost got the feeling she was near dismissing it on the grounds of that's not feminist narrative. She isn't even the first one to reject rape narratives, I've read similar blog posts before, and they often left me feeling like a traitor. Warped, huh?

    That said, yeah, the second villain in my and T's WIP is a woman, and she also hungers for power -- and gets it. While not necessarily typical for women, such individuals do exist, so why not jump into her shoes for a change, then.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm not sure if you missed the point or I just see it differently.
    She's not saying don't write about rape. She's saying, don't throw in a rape trope as the only thing you do to develop your female characters.
     
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  6. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I get the point, and I agree it shouldn't be the only way to develop female characters, or even the go-to way 'cause not all women get raped in their lifetime, thank god. But unfortunately that's what the bad guys often do, so going out of my way to come up with some way for the male villains not to do it, as in real life it happens so often, feels strange, if you know what I mean?

    This makes me feel like what if, when I do write rape, there's a bunch of feminists going "Jesus, always with the rape! Ugh, can't you come up with any other way to develop your female characters?" Like, how many writers in actuality use that as the only thing anyway? Not that I'd allow that to really bother me, or even dictate my writing 'cause I'm pretty confident about the decisions I make regarding female characters. So if someone pointed out, "oh look, the woman is only the second badassest and dangerous villain in that story, how patriarchal", I know why she isn't the number one and comments like that wouldn't sway or bother me. With rape, I think I just get this feeling like rape experiences are cheapened to the point of a trope -- as if it was really something you could just plaster on (of course you can, but it'd read terrible). I said it's warped, so we'll just have to disagree, then.

    In my and T's WIP there're actually two scenes where the women getting raped really would not work. Of course we couldn't ignore the fact that it'd cross the bad guys' minds as that's what the kind of groups they belong to often do. Yet they don't do it, and neither of the women have rape in their experience repertoire as a development bump. But it's not a feminist decision, or a let's-write-non-cattle-female-narrative decision (we've done those, for sure).

    Anyway, she did talk about societies with little to no sexual violence towards women and a society where women outnumber men, so in that sense the chances of the protag getting sexually assaulted seem smaller than in a more patriarchal setting, and there going for the rape could read like a tired trope. I'd never read it like that myself, though. Rape is not about sex anyway, and brutal acts of power can be done by both sexes. To me her (or you) going for the option of the rape reads like you understand what a woman's fate often is in a given society.. If it then turns out it doesn't fit the society, or the characters act like they really shouldnt, throw it away. But to me it's not a tired trope, a What You Should Do thing.
     
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  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Interesting. I get what she's saying but at the same time I think it's more an issue of genre tropes rather than just gender tropes. Plus, I have issues with someone purporting think outside the box but the artwork of the woman are all slender, toned, lips pouty - c'mon lol.

    I accidentally hit enter. I was going to relate a tale of how in fifth grade an student from England created a stir. The child was very stocky, tall, and a bit of a brute. A bruiser on the sports field. My friend and I developed a crush on 'him' ( our teacher was very sporty and called everyone by their last names. ) A week later we discover our hunk was really a girl. Our crush ended but we all became friends. lol. I guess what I'm trying to say is sometimes the writer can box themselves in by creating a character whose looks draw more tropey attention.

    Plus, rape in military situations I don't really find a trope it happens even to men. Maybe that's the thing though. Change the motive - make it less sex motivated, more humiliation driven.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2014
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  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is what I was trying to communicate in a meandering, confusing way. :oops: Thanks for nailing the thought. :)
     
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  9. Mckk
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    I've always written all my women as weepy willows - and I have no idea why. Sometimes I wonder if it's the influence of watching too much anime. It wasn't until my collab where I tried to make my co-author's character cry every single time I wrote her, and every single time my co-author came back saying, "That's not my characrer!" that I realised I do this. I primarily write male MCs, and naturally want to give my MC the coolest things to do, meaning he's always saving the girl. I think the fact that I actually find it romantic for a strong man to come save a weak woman has something to do with this too.

    Perhaps it's time I made myself write a female MC. I used to write women when I was a teen lol. I think up to the age of 14 or so, my MCs were primarily girls.

    PS. given the content of the article, I found it irritating that the first picture of a black warrior woman was wearing long dangly earrings. Because, well, when you're a woman, you have to look pretty even in battle? C'mon you wouldn't even wear that at a Wimbleton tennis match, let alone war! Your earlobe would get ripped out! And what's with the loose long hair? My long hair is ALWAYS tied up in a ponytail at school because heck, it gets hot when you're standing all the time and it gets in your face. So how much more so would you tie your hair up if you're going to frigging war? Heck, you'd cut it short probably! But now, that wouldn't be pretty, would it? :whistle:
     
  10. peachalulu
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    I think there's always going to be a touch of this in a lot of woman. I think it has to do with wanting to run to daddy and having him make you feel safe and secure. Boys are usually pushed faster into their independence. They have to build their own security based usually on their accomplishments of independence. Well, it could be different nowadays. My brother was allowed to venture to the store four blocks away at the age of four. I wasn't allowed until I was about five and usually had to take my cousin ( a boy ) with me. There is a vulnerability in being a girl as a child. Hard to shake as you emerge a woman.
     
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  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Avoiding all things feminine is definitely not the message I read in that piece. Never writing another rape trope is not the message. Those seem to me to be reactionary POVs to the article's message. There was a similar reaction in the Bechdel Test thread. People didn't want to write female characters to satisfy the test. But that was never the point of the test, to get more women characters out there for the sake of equality.

    The point of the Bechdel Test and the article in this thread as I see it is to open people's eyes to something otherwise invisible about gender issues. With Bechdel it was shocking to find how few movies passed the test. It wasn't a test measuring gender equality in the movies, it was a test measure if women were characters at all in the movies or just props. Think about it, two women having a conversation about something other than men. It's sometimes shocking when someone makes an invisible thing visible.

    In 2013 a new reality was revealed by the test: Movies that passed the Bechdel Test made a lot more money at the box office than movies that didn't.
    See what happens just by making something that was invisible, visible. Turns out there was a market after all for female characters in the movies. No one had to force token women into the story somewhere.

    From the article:
    That does not say, don't write about rape, don't include rape tropes.

    It says don't use rape like a prop.

    From the comments following the article:
    The point of the article is to make something invisible, visible. The rest follows on its own.


    For the record, sex trafficking, the rape culture and second class status are serious issues for women that I would hope people don't think this article is saying not to write about. When no one writes about such things, they remain invisible. I'm trying to use Hurley's advice in my own work to improve on the way I tell those stories.


    Finally, as for the artwork, the women are all beautiful, yes. They have on armor and hold weapons. They are soldiers. Not one of them is of a large busted, skinny waisted, scantily clad female soldier trope.
     
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  12. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    To me that article is not above criticism. I doubt she had been about to use rape as a prop. Or maybe she was, then, and good thing she did change her mind and did something else.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If/When you have time @KaTrian, I'd be interested in a few more specifics about your reaction to the article.
     
  14. elynne
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    of all the stuff I've written, I've only ever considered including one rape scene--and that scene is the crux of the entire story around it, where the secondary character's slide into insanity ends up violating the main character's trust, and it doesn't just shatter their relationship, it almost shatters the victim's personality--and then nearly causes the end of humanity. incidentally, both characters are identified as female.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    What I'm getting from the article is that if Character A is raped, that situation is about Character A. It's not about Character B who raped her, or Character A's male protector, who is the reason why she's allowed to exist in the story. The aftermath, the emotions, the plot progression, should be about Character A.

    If the rape is just there to show that Character B is bad, or that Character C is good and protective, then Character A is essentially an object, not just to Character B, but to the author. She may as well be a puppy that Character B slaughtered, or a masterpiece painting that he destroyed. She's Evidence That Someone Was Bad, rather than being an actual person.

    As the article says:

    "But this is our narrative: two men fighting loudly in a room, and a woman snuffling in a corner."

    The communication and character development shouldn't be exclusively about the men. It should not just include the woman, but in most cases be primarily about the woman. Edited to add: Where "about" means that the woman gets to speak and act, rather than Character C speaking and acting for her.
     
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  16. KaTrian
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    @GingerCoffee and @ChickenFreak

    Well, I'd be mad to disagree with that. I don't want women to only be evidence of someone being bad, either.

    I also don't believe Hurley's saying we shouldn't write rapes anymore, but maybe it's the way she's expressing herself that's rubbing me the wrong way? I try to open up my POV a bit, let's see how it goes.

    First thing I thought: She's writing about a woman who's helping a man to get to power. Yeah, that sounds like an idea the most self-aware misogynist she knows would come up with.

    But, okay... the social position of the woman doesn't really matter. What matters is how she's portrayed in her position, and I can dig that.

    But then Hurley discards the idea of romantic tension as lazy. Well, it can be lazy, I'm sure there are a gazillion other interesting things to write about, but if somebody decided to write romance between the characters, it isn't inherently lazy, and another thing she could've done is "hey, I want to write romance. How could I make it fresh and interesting?"

    Well, makes sense if you aren't writing a world where this happens. But I'm sure it's possible to depict sexual slavery in a non-llama way, and to portray women in such plights in a non-triviliazing, non-excluding way. It's starting to feel like Hurley's just closing her eyes and going la-la-la, but I bet that's not what she meant. A story about slavery doesn't have to be a slave narrative (I mean in the way she seems to define it).

    If she cut it because she had done a poor job at world-building, fine. If she cut it, 'cause that wasn't what she wanted to write about, fine. If she cut it 'cause enslaved women is a tired trope, I can't help but scratch my head in confusion.

    People do this all the time. If it doesn't fit the story's society, don't use them. If it's anything like our world, she'll be called all the sluts in the world and the guys will be called all the dicks in the world. To leave these out because, I don't know, #tiredtropesandmisogyny, I just find it unrealistic, and I don't like unrealistic. I just don't believe in sacrificing realism so as not to write llamas. She's free to do it, and she's a Hugo Award Winner so she must be doing something right, and I applaud her for creating worlds where women don't have to deal with everyday sexism, but I don't find stories and situations like that tired. I find them quite relatable.

    She isn't talking about it being a prop yet, or it being about the men, or showing through a woman that some people are bad. She's just saying rape in literature is a tired trope.

    Of course I'm glad she realized she has been doing it for the wrong reasons, but I hope this realization doesn't limit her or other women writers in the future, or make them shut their eyes and ears from the ugliness of sexual violence. I get it this isn't meant to be read that way, but she's doing a good job at making it sound like that.

    Now, then. Women telling we shouldn't write rape... Do they exist?
    Here's another blog post on the subject, and a reference to a publisher who isn't interested in the "rapeability" of women.

    I do agree that there are other ways to develop female characters, other roles they can take in the story, and that rape is not the only one, but this kind of commentary also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. This other author, Linda Adams, actually says about a rape attempt she wrote:
    "Even though it is a reality for women in the military, I took all that out."
    It's her right to do it, of course, but I don't find that particularly sensible reasoning. To me a bigger "problem" is that her female MC is the sidekick of a man, the guy is her boss. Both these self-aware female misogynists still write women as subservient to men. Huh. Okay.

    If a writer is not interested in portraying rape, there's no obligation. They can write a story of a woman in the military and she never gets sexually assaulted -- that's what T and I are doing too -- but I wouldn't leave that story untold on the basis that it might be a tired trope, and I wouldn't write her in a situation where she's kidnapped by a group of rebels who, in the real world, would've hurt her badly, if I want to avoid, I don't know, emphasizing her rapeability.

    But like I said, I do agree with this point Hurley makes:
    Granted, I think it's fine to do both. She can be a character of her own and through her, the author can show that it's a shit world out there. At least I have no issue with that.

    I also think it's possible to go overboard with self-policing and llama avoidance. I think it comes down to how you portray that character. On paper, she may look like part of the cattle, but it doesn't have to be a cattle narrative. There is nothing inherently tired about writing a story of a woman breaking free from slavery, not to me anyway.

    Maybe I'm having problems with how some of the women writers challenge these issues, how they express themselves. I'm not sure if I could do it myself. Maybe I'm too close to issues like rape, and my vision is clouded. Perhaps I would've worded the message differently.
     
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  17. EllBeEss
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    I'm all for realism, I cringe when everyone in the book is ignoring the elephant in the room to make the story go or stop the story from going a certain way but at times it just doesn't fit. Many of the fantasy books with a female MC had pretty much the exact same scene in them. MC is wandering alone at night. Obnoxious minor main character tries to rape her. Love interest saves her (I must admit once or twice he arrived after she got herself out of it) and they fall in love. I always hated to read this because it was always like it was thrown in as an incident to get the MC with the love interest and to be completely forgotten about. Rape/attempted rape in novels isn't itself a trope but when it's used like this again and again I believe it is.

    Personally I think avoiding issues like this altogether in writing is just as bad as throwing them in for drama. One says these things happen all the time, normalizing them, the other says they don't happen and makes the issues invisible.

    Writers have the right to include or not include things as they see fit but hopefully articles like these will get people thinking about their motivations for writing such scenes.

    This article did really get me thinking and questioning things in my WIP. In the opening chapter I described a 17yo woman from the POV of a 12yo as a girl. The thing is 500 words later I described a boy of similar age as a man. I thought about how I think about my friends. I refer to my male friends from school in my mind (all 18) as men or guys but all the girls (one of them is 19) as just that, girls. Why? Girls mature earlier than boys it makes absolutely no sense to describe a female character who is pretty much indistinguishable from an adult as a child while a boy who would still be growing a little is described as a man. I realized I had unconsciously been reducing half of my friends, myself included to children while considering the (generally) less mature half as adults. It may seem like an insignificant detail but women are expected to tolerate being compared to children while I have never heard a woman call a man of comparable age a boy.
     
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  18. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    T and I have had similar discussions. There's a 21-year-old woman in our WIP and she was and still would be called 'a girl' if we had used the terminology that would've best reflected the way he perceived the character, while I, on the other hand, would've preferred to call her a woman. I'm unsure if it's a matter of taste, or if there's something else at play. Maybe the male POV matters. However, we did away with all such depersonalizations in the end because we couldn't reach a common consensus on the issue, and frankly, it was getting pretty annoying, and we had to do something 'cause she's the main female hero.

    Funny thing is, of the two other POV characters, my 19yo female character is a woman to me, while his 19yo female character is a girl, so in this sense I gotta wonder if men are more inclined to girl a female. But then, even to me, referring to my 19yo as a woman read somewhat... off. I felt compelled to modify it with "young."

    On the other hand, I see my 15yo male POV character as a boy, while I can't consider T's 20yo male character a boy anymore, and he doesn't either (the character was referred to as a youth / a young man in some earlier drafts).
     
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  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    From my reading of Hurley's piece (it is all just opinion after all):

    I think it's telling that you describe the point as not writing about llamas while I would describe it as not writing about cannibal llamas. Not to make too much of your shortcut, but it seems symbolically like missing the forest for the trees.

    It can make one question what one is writing to hear this kind of exposure of the tropes involving females. The dilemma one has to sort out is, rape, sex trafficking and subordinate women are real issues in the real world. One can write about those issues with meaning and purpose, rather than superficially in a way that leaves the women in the story invisible and the rape no more than a plot device.

    I don't see Hurley's piece saying not to write rape tropes. Rather, I see her reevaluating her female characters and the story they have to tell. She describes herself writing a plot then realizing the female character was superficial, hollow, an Anastasia Steele or a Bella Swan.

    Think instead, Scarlett O'Hara, who starts out in a very much stereotyped bell of the ball role, yet that is not the character we see by the end of the book. There's a romance, the handsome macho Rhett Butler, but that relationship is not the focus of the story. The two males' love interest in Katniss Everdeen is in the background, rather than being the focus of her story.

    Think how different those four female characters are, Bella and Ana vs Scarlett and Katniss. In all four books the protagonists are female characters. All four novels were best sellers. Maybe it's not fair to throw "Gone With the Wind" in there, and both "Twilight" and "50 Shades" suffered from poor writing. But just taking the aspect of the female protagonists, which two books do you consider the main character to be a well written female?

    My protagonist is subject to gender discrimination, she's almost raped (but rescued by other women), two men are attracted to her but only one is her love interest and the rivalry is very much in the background. Hurley's piece is not making me question those story choices. But it is helping me stay on track with my female protagonist and I can better see how to avoid some cliché female tropes that might have otherwise slipped in.
     
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  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    When it comes to referring to girls and men, I have the same problem. I wouldn't call a female over 25 a girl, but I would use terms like 'out with the girls' and girlfriends.

    A man can still be a boyfriend but not a boy and 'out with the boys' is not a problem.

    But that leaves teens and young adults in the awkward stage when it comes to gender biased nouns. Guys and gals doesn't work in every sentence.

    I too, see no solution except to avoid the nouns, girl and man, in some situations.
     
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  21. ChickenFreak
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    A general thought: Even if there's nothing inherently wrong with plot devices A, B, and C, if they're always used for character type X, then they have an air of cliche. So that, alone, could be a reason to try to avoid using them.

    I agree that there's nothing inherently wrong with romantic tension. But I seem to remember a writer--I don't know if it was this forum, NaNo, or somewhere else--saying something like "I could make that supporting character female, but I don't want to introduce a romantic element." As if a female character automatically means romantic tension. As if "I'm introducing a female character" is synonymous with "I want to write romance." I can see wanting to break that habit.

    But it can be a cliche. And there are plenty of other kinds of slavery. And in this case, she wasn't even talking about an actual plot element, but a sly aside in conversation. I can see that she'd like to sometimes have her characters' conversation include females in a context that isn't entirely about sex.

    Well, I would have liked this (the gender slur) to be better explained. If her point is that the female character has power over the male one because she helped him get his power, then it would be rather tired for him to nevertheless feel free to habitually insult her, and rather tired for her to feel that she has to tolerate it. And I think it would be rather tired for their relationship to be entirely about male-versus female, instead of the many other conflicts that two people can have. (The pragmatist and the idealist, the analytic and the impulsive, trust versus betrayal, etc.) Like female characters always meaning romantic tension, female characters always meaning gender-based conflict is unnecessarily limiting.

    In this case, I think that she was mocking herself for introducing it in the violent female-dominated society that she describes. In that society, male-on-female rape just doesn't seem at all likely, compared to all the other possible traumas in the world.

    I interpreted this, again, as being a cliche. Ten thousand different traumatic things can happen to a male character; a female character is pretty likely to experience that one thing. (Edited to add: That is, in the average piece of fiction.)

    I agree, but I think that if you (the general "you") don't try alternatives to the cliches, you may not fully understand how big the world of alternatives is.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
  22. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's one of my pet peeves: male warriors are all about being strong and muscular with practical outfits and haircuts, sensible gear and weapons etc. and then we have the female warriors: usually way too flimsy (especially those who are supposed to do melee battle or work in some HC spec-ops unit where their male counterparts are huge, tall, muscular bruisers), have impractical hairstyles and cuts, often impractical outfits and even gear (often they wear no or too little armor and their outfits are way more form-fitting or revealing than the men's), and quite often their weapons aren't sufficient for the task at hand 'cause, you know, there's no way a woman could wield a light and agile longsword or a select fire rifle, so give her two daggers instead of a proper sword or a pistol or two instead of a rifle. And in both cases, those weapons would be inadequate for the task if the male warriors need the bigger weapons to get the job done; there's a reason real militaries give women the same weapons, armor, outfits, and gear as male soldiers, and there's a reason why modern female (and male, of course) HEMA fighters use longswords instead of knives or daggers when taking part in melee tournaments.

    And of course the woman is usually tall and skinny, like a catwalk model (e.g. most of Joe Abercrombie's female warriors), or short and dainty, like an anorexic school girl (most female fantasy characters I've encountered), or skinny but very curvy, like a stripper with plastic boobs and shaved ribs (e.g. the part-time porn star, part-time monster hunter in Sandman Slim), yet none of that affects the female warrior's performance: either she kicks everyone's ass in a truly unrealistic fashion, or is completely useless and exists mostly to get captured and then rescued by the real warriors, i.e. the men.

    It's as if artists are afraid of portraying a physically strong, truly muscular woman with short hair (or long hair worn in a practical style, like cornrows), no make-up, and sensible armor, gear, and weapons. At least G. R. R. Martin has Brienne of Tarth, one of my favorite female warriors in literature. Too bad even Elizabeth Moon had to make her tall, very athletic female warrior also extremely beautiful, leaving permanent imprints inpeople's minds, attracting crushes wherever she went.

    If you look at real female warriors, like Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Cristiane Justino, Samantha Swords etc. they put their job first and looking pretty is pretty low on their list of priorities when they fight. Many of them even mold their bodies to help their performance (e.g. building bigger muscles to become stronger, shedding off body fat to stay agile even if that means their tits all but vanish [which many combative women welcome because let's face it; in a fight, huge tits are a hindrance] etc.) instead of staying small and "feminine" (in this context means "weak") so that the men around them would like them better.
    When Pavlichenko visited the USA, a reporter asked her why women's dress uniforms in the Russian army have such unflattering, long skirts, and the reporter actually said her uniform made her look fat. She was just stunned as she saw her uniform as a symbol of her country, status, her patriotism and dedication etc, not something that's supposed to make her look sexy. She focused on what she did as a soldier, the reporter focused on what she was as a woman and basically insulted her for not being skinny, sexy, flirty etc.

    Apparently real female warriors aren't media-sexy enough, so only very few artists pick such women as their protagonists or subjects for visual art. I'm pretty sure finding such women as models is pretty difficult as well since women are generally pressured (in several, often subconscious ways) since birth to stay "feminine," weak, small, and unpragmatic (high heels, pencil skirts, make-up, long hair etc) but still always, of course, with big boobs. That is, if they want to attract men and to be generally accepted and seen as real women by their families, friends, and others around them. I think that says a lot about just how fucking patriarchal our societies still are, how deeply rooted and universal those ancient ideals from the hunter/gatherer years still are.


    Maybe we define "large-busted" differently, but I think I spotted some of the women sporting "boob plates," i.e. fantasy armor where the aptly named breast plate has been altered to house the woman's breasts even though the reality is that unless the wearer is ridiculously busty (and rich!), she would wear armor as flat as men's simply because boob plates are unnecessary for the vast majority of women when looking at it from a physiological standpoint. From a... sociopolitical (?) standpoint, the boob plates are usually undesirable because they immediately draw people's attention to the wearer's sex, so if you draw, paint, or write one for your heroic warrior, for most intents and purposes you won't be presenting a warrior; you will be presenting a female warrior.
    Sure, this is a step up from chainmail bikinis, but it still makes a point of the wearer's sex. Instead of drawing attention to what she does (as is the case with male heroes), it draws attention to what she is (as is usually the case in patriarchal portrayals of female characters). That's why I'm so glad Hollywood seems to have taken a baby step towards the real thing with characters like this.

    I'm still waiting for the day when physically strong female warriors who are built like their real life counterparts make an appearance in fiction as protagonists, characters who can be physically strong like real spec-ops operatives, medieval mercenaries, knights etc. without "apologizing" for it by e.g. being extremely beautiful, as if to compensate for their muscular physique and tall height (like in the Deed of Paksenarrion), as if being weak is feminine and good, and makes the character more of a woman while strength is masculine and bad, and makes the character a lesser woman.


    I'd say it has more to do with the individual characters, their level of maturity, their personality etc. My character is very immature, partly due to lack of education, partly due to psychological disorders, partly due to nurture etc, so her behavior is closer to that of your average 14-15yo girl whereas your 19yo has been forced to mature faster than normal, she has her own company, she's responsible for putting food on the table, she's had to do a lot of self-reflection because of all the loved ones she has lost etc. so to me it makes sense she's far more mature, a woman, whereas the other 19yo is immature, unable to take care of herself, has unrealistic expectations etc. so her level of maturity is what makes me think of her as a girl,

    For a novel, though, you can't have both, I think: a 19yo woman as well as a 19yo girl, so we got rid of both and I really think it was for the better.
     
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  23. GingerCoffee
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    Why would the armor have to masculinize the women? That's going too far the other way, turning women soldiers into men.

    As for cost, those are images from fantasy, not history. I see no reason a female soldier can't have breasts or a breast plate that fits.

    I do like your comments for the most part though. :)
     
  24. aikoaiko
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    Ditto this. I have become aware of the same problem in my WIP, but in thinking it over for awhile, we need to also consider the fact that we are trying to write realistically. While it makes perfect sense to try to balance the use of man/woman, guy/girl, girl/boy, etc. every time we write, that's not reflective of its use in society, or at least not the one I writing in. Should we be trying to reflect the society that is ideal (and basically non-existent?), or the one that is?

    There are a lot of debates lately about what is right or wrong or fair. I don't know that a novelist's role is necessarily to change the world, because in becoming slaves to what is politically correct (in how we portray people, problems, etc.) we come dangerously close (IMO)to sacrificing the truth.

    Are there unfairnesses in the world between groups of people and genders? Of course there are. Is there any hope that these will ever be ironed out and disappear? Probably not. At least not completely. But to portray an issue boldly, without apology, or without worrying who you offend is fundamental to good writing. And no good point was ever made by being 'careful'.:(:(

    Some of these discussions can become circular if we aren't careful. There are differences between men and women and that is a good thing, IMO. Not something to avoid. Women have strengths that men do not, and that's nature. Society isn't perfect but it IS all we have to work with, as writers and human beings. Just an observation.:)
     
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  25. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That's the thing: I don't think standard armor makes women more masculine. Female soldiers today wear the same armor as men, like these soldiers from the Lioness program (pioneers in a unit of women partaking in combat). I don't think they are any less feminine than the men around them are masculine; I just see Women with a capital "W" whose strength and bravery make them more feminine instead of less so because I think it's complete BS that we view things like strength, courage, logic, pragmatism (as is the case with these body armors) etc. as masculine things. I think they're gender-neutral because I believe we have millions of examples all over the world that prove women can be just as brave, uncompromising, honorable etc. as men.

    When we lived in hunter/gatherer societies, it made sense the men were replaceable and would tackle the most dangerous tasks like hunting because one man can impregnate a different woman every day, knocking up hundreds of women while a woman can generally give birth to one child per 9 months, so women were far more irreplaceable.
    But we don't live that way anymore, so why do we still adhere to those ideals that should've grown obsolete centuries ago? Now women can make themselves physically strong, train themselves for combat, join the military, or do other "masculine" stuff like play guitar or drums, play metal, punk, prog, fix cars, play football or hockey etc. instead of cooking, knitting, playing with baby dolls etc. There's nothing wrong with the latter, but there IS a fuckload wrong with pressuring girls into choosing one or the other direction for what are essentially sociopolitical reasons; why should a girl be discouraged from picking up drum sticks, starting competitive shooting, joining an MMA club, starting to tinker with cars etc? Even passive discouragement is wrong, i.e. she's not directly criticized for doing the "masculine" stuff, but she's praised when she does something "feminine" like sowing a patch on her jacket, preparing a meal or whatever.

    To return to boob plates, they are more expensive and they distinguish the wearer as female, meaning that information could be used against her, e.g. by a big guy targeting her and using raw strength to overpower her, knowing her upper body strenth is no match for his, by choosing not to kill her when dealing with prisoners, i.e. instead of slitting her throat, she's put to the stocks in the castle courtyard, naked, for the "enjoyment" of her capturer's men to be raped until she or her male companions give up the information their capturer's want. Or it could be tactics: many men have a base instinct to protect women, particularly their female companions, so the enemies could target the boob-plated fighter to draw her male companions away from their real target the men are supposed to protect or hunt down or to bunch them all together to surround and capture or kill them etc.

    I don't really see any real advantages to the boob plate, at least definitely none that would overcome the negatives. Oh, and from what I've heard, boob plates aren't as strong structurally as normal plates, so unless the fighter has breasts so massive they don't fit under normal armor, she would be better served by standard gear. I don't think that sort of pragmatism detracts from a female soldier's femininity but reinforces it as an example of a strong, resourceful, smart woman who's focused on what she does instead of what she is. A man is usually valued by his actions and capabilities instead of how cute or sexy he is; why not the same with women?

    All of the above is why I think a muscular, short-haired, combat-trained, armored female soldier is just as feminine, just as great of an example of a Real Woman as e.g. a stay-at-home mother who loves cooking, cleaning, knitting, gardening, and spending time with her kids, her workout regime consisting of walks at the beach and shopping sprees.

    Wow, never expected boob plates to actually make me think. :D Incidentally, this post by Samantha Swords appeared on my news feed:
    What the longsword champion thinks of boob plates.
     
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