I am not a feminist (thought of the day)

So, OK, this is going to be one of those times that people say “I am not…” and then proves the person to be exactly what they said they were not.

The other day, I was looking through various categories of books on Amazon, and I happened across a bunch of semi-erotic paranormal stuff with titles like “Claimed by the Alpha” (sorry if this is your actual book title. I’m not talking about any book in particular), written by women, where the female characters appeared to have little interest other than sucking up to some dominant male in the hope of getting smexytimes.

And I couldn’t help thinking: I am not a feminist, but did our mothers and grandmothers fight for women’s rights just so that women could publish submissive [expletive] like this? Handing the man the reins with which he can whip us and keep us at a short leash.

There was lots of it, so obviously someone is lapping this stuff up. I remembered the outrage about the “passiveness” of the main character in Twilight. And then I remembered that I wasn’t in particular bothered by it (yes, I read all four books). Because I also have a little trouble with the “must have strong female character” mantra. Characters should be like people: they come in all types. Monotony is good for nothing and no one.

So then I tried to disambiguate my feminist-flavoured outrage about submissive werewolf smexytimes, and I decided that I was probably missing several points:

I don’t like submissive smexytimes, but who cares what I don’t like? I was confusing my opinion with some sort of moralistic standpoint about what a liberated woman should read or write.

Writers tend to like the sound of their own voice, and as typical writer, I let this sentence ramble for too long. It should have gone like this:

Did our mothers and grandmothers fight for women’s rights just so that women could publish submissive [expletive] like this?

And yes, they certainly did. Because let’s not forget that in the past, and in many countries in the world, women don’t have a voice at all. Whether they should or should not use that voice to write submissive smexytimes is really not up to me, and I have no right to tell other women how to be a feminist, or, for that matter, how or when to be outraged. This goes both ways.

*peace, sisters*

*goes back to hating submissive smexytimes*


I am not a feminist (thought of the day) was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants


damned if you do, and damned if you don’t

There’s been a fair amount of kerfuffle recently about the representation of certain groups in Science Fiction, both as authors and characters. Granted, it feels like Science Fiction is one of the last remaining bastions of traditional white males.

I think part of the male/female problem is the very nature of Science Fiction, and the boundaries of definition of the genre. When reading SF anthologies or magazines, invariably the stories written by women represent ‘softer’, more sociological aspects of culture. Technology doesn’t seem to draw interest from many women, and there aren’t many of us writing anything near what could be termed ‘hard Science Fiction’. A lot of SF written by women slants off into fantasy, and one could argue, by some definitions of the genre, whether it is Science Fiction at all. For myself as writer, I can see a practical solution to the under-representation problem. I am a woman. I write hard Science Fiction.

A similar debate is raging over race/culture representation in SF. Alastair Reynolds says it eloquently here.

For me, as writer, this brings a different set of feelings. Yes, I’m a woman, and I also happen to be white. Not much I can do about that. I write about characters from different races, but often those races are made-up. I feel uncomfortable about writing characters from different existing cultures. I feel I’m intruding upon their turf. I feel like I have no authority to write about them, because they’re not my culture, and using the culture in a story may be construed as ‘patronising white person’. I just don’t want to go there. So I write about existing Earth cultures only in future worlds.

Race is not the issue, I think. I don’t spend a lot of time describing my characters, and don’t really care what colour they are on the outside. I leave that for readers to fill in. Culture, though, is on the inside, and I can only truly represent cultures that are my own, either real or made-up.

All of which means that my present-day characters are usually white.