Sunday, November 21, 2010

9 Bad Excuses to Not Write Women: Excuse #2

This is mostly a fantasy excuse, although I have seen it pop up in science fiction when the writer is looking to modernize, for instance, the Roman Empire or some other monolithic civilization. So, if you're thinking science fiction, just replace "magic and dragons" with "FTL and spaceships." :D

2) I want my book to be historically accurate, but with magic and dragons.

For starters, women in history led diverse lives, but we'll discuss the real roles of women in history later. Let's just take this excuse as “I want to maintain realism in my setting.” While I fully support the building of a full and complete world in which things like flora, fauna, resources, political motivations and the role of gender is taken into account, fantasy written to historical specifications isn't fantasy. It's historical fiction. The attitudes about gender need not be the same. Chaos theory dictates that adding even a single dragon into a world should create a ripple of changes (many of them unpredictable just from knowledge of the catalyst) throughout the world's history, and therefore its society, and its attitudes as well.

A created world that is 'medieval Europe' with magic and dragons should look different in many ways from our own medieval Europe, because all the years before also had to include that magic and those dragons and that changes things. It can't help but change things. The entire evolution of the planet, the various species and the cultures have to be different, because there was magic, and dragons.

Even if you want to use gender roles that are accurate to a historic setting--and do your research on what those gender roles are, because you might get a surprise--that is no reason to cut out female POVs. If anything it's a reason to add them. In a society where gender roles for men and women are distinct and separate, not showing the female perspective fails to show a full and complete view of the culture. The men in your story cannot have the same experience as the women have, because the gender roles are distinct and different. By excluding women from the story, you eliminate the experience of a full half of the population. Why would you ever do that? Why would you lessen the depth and realism of a culture you worked so hard to create?

And, as to science fiction: It's all well and good to say you want to explore the ways in which the Roman Empire managed to dominate for so long, or see their culture's decline in a setting that helps a modern person understand them. But you're not going to be able to do that without the Roman women.

Last Excuse | Next Excuse

5 comments:

Botanist said...

So true, Marion! To use this excuse is to imply that women, whatever their position in society, had no worthwhile perspective and had no life story of their won. Which is not only untrue, but deeply insulting.

Not to mention, missing out on a wonderful opportunity. The best stories are about struggles and challenges, and the best POV is usually from the repressed underdog, not the dominant members of the society.

Merc said...

*nod nod*

Another good installment. :) I'm looking forward to the others!

Marion Sipe said...

@Botanist - Exactly! As if the deeds of women are somehow less important than those of men. It's mind boggling to me. And, you're very right about oppressed characters. There's so much opportunity for tension and interest, regardless of whether that repression is about gender. I think that, in a lot of ways and to many people, genre fiction is about freedom and it seems only right that it tackle such issues.

@Merc - Glad you're still enjoying it! My favorite ones are coming up soon. :D

Anne Beeche said...

Ahaha, I like this excuse because it implies that in the Middle Ages there were no women.

Where did the men come from, I wonder?

Marion Sipe said...

*laughs* That's actually coming up on the excuse list. The idea of tokenism and adding a woman just to have a woman.

Some people just don't seem to *see* the women. And they're not just men, which frankly is baffling to me. It's as if we've been led to believe that women didn't exist before the Renaissance.