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Author Topic: fantasy women  (Read 44667 times)

deflective

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on: April 16, 2008, 06:50:38 PM
this started in the run of the fiery horse thread.

Rachel is known for going well out of her way on the topics of gender equality and women's rights. Her personal views should not color my enjoyment of a piece nor my view of the podcast.

If the editors don't run good fiction ... then we can all vote with our dollars and our downloads. Until then I think we should let Podcastle take its own course and keep our speculations relevant to the stories at hand.

i didn't know that Rachel defined herself as a feminist when i posted. it feels like this has been reinterpreted as a personal attack on the editor and that was never my intent.

i disagree that the only feedback we should give is to stop listening to the show (probably isn't what you meant but it's what was said). podcasting is built around two-way media. feedback early, feedback often. i assume that every one of my posts comes with the caveat that it's just opinion and i'm posting to share it.

Any time you've got a woman overcoming obstacles, it's going to read, from a certain angle, as explicitly feminist.

Terry Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax may have first appeared in equal rites, but soon after that she would have quickly sorted out anyone (man or woman) that tried to define her in terms of a feminist agenda.

By the by, I crunched some numbers last night, and looking at what we have in stock, we have, depending on what slice of stories you look at (scheduled or not, etc) somewhere between 43 and 55% stories written by and narrated men (oddly, the numbers for narration and writing are dead even, even though we have plenty of men writing as women, and women writing as men, and so on). As a point of contrast, Steve says last time he crunched numbers, only 30% of Escape Pod stories were written by women, and Ann tells me that only two of his last sixteen pieces had female narrators.

I do appreciate the compliments in the thread, and that these critiques are offered in a spirit of helpfulness and desire to see PodCastle rockin'.

i want to repeat that this was about the content of the stories and not the gender of the people. there seems to be a popular mindset that minority issues are a matter of equalizing numbers (don't know how women wound up defined as a minority) but this is just a limit of enforceable law. most teenagers could handle alcohol just fine and there are adults that should never be allowed to drink but a drinking age is the best we can do from a legal standpoint. all the stories have been good, it's just the overall trend (especially when the other podcasts are included) that has put me off.

it's never easy to offer unpopular criticism but it's important to know that an editor can take it in the spirit it has been given. things are off to a good start, i look forward to see what happens next.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #1 on: April 16, 2008, 07:21:06 PM
I'll reply here once, and then probably not again. I appreciate your attempt at engagement, deflective, but I think mostly I've said what I have to say. :-D

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soon after that she would have quickly sorted out anyone (man or woman) that tried to define her in terms of a feminist agenda.

The definition of feminist is tricky. However, I would say that I believe women have historically been disadvantaged (see also: our only recent right to vote) and continue to be disadvantaged in modern society, and world-wide (see also: wage gap persistence even after statistical fiddling, the fact that both men and women rate the same speech higher in terms of its intelligence if it's delivered by a man than by a woman, the repeatable studies showing that orchestra auditions conducted behind a curtain result in hiring more women than when the people are visible, and so on). I believe these things suck, and am a proponent of women's equal social and legal rights in society.

I'm not really up for arguing that stuff here, but you can use that as a working definition of feminist when dealing with me, if you like.

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I don't know how women wound up defined as a minority


The definition is sociological, not numerical. Minority in terms of power, etc.

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it's just the overall trend (especially when the other podcasts are included) that has put me off.

Yeah, that was totally coincidental. The editors do not consult on the material that's going into the podcasts, except inasmuch as I talk to Steve about what I'm doing 'cuz I'm new. I think it's truly unfortunate -- though coincidental -- that my story "Heartstrung" aired near the beginning of PodCastle. That's in no way Ben's fault; I don't think the unfortunate coincidence would have been predictable beforehand.

I wrote the story when I was 21. It was something I felt deeply at the time. It is not the story I would write now. I try not to respond to criticism, as I think most authors should avoid doing. I will, however, say this about the piece: I am deeply touched by the people who have emailed me to say it touched them, and the editors like Ben Phillips and Andy Cox and Jetse deVries and Rich Horton who have deemed this story worth running -- all men, I note.

Nevertheless, at this point five years later, the story feels like it was written by someone else. As I said, it's not the story I would write now. I think the story is interesting, but it's certainly not comprehensive--it's like a piece of a painting, perhaps, what I believe art critics call a detail. A certain vivid but partial image, like part of a dream.

OK, I'm out of the conversation now (and again can be reached by PM). Have at. ;-)



DKT

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Reply #2 on: April 16, 2008, 08:16:33 PM

I wrote the story when I was 21.


You wrote that when you were 21?  Geez, I think I just might hate you in the best way possible.   ;)


deflective

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Reply #3 on: April 17, 2008, 01:09:50 AM
Quote from: Rachel Swirsky
I appreciate your attempt at engagement, deflective, but I think mostly I've said what I have to say. :-D

aye, you've made yourself very accessible. =) thanks for the prompt replies.

this thread may help to keep story threads on topic, i'll probably be back to it if the upcoming batch of stories continue in the same vein.

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The definition of feminist is tricky. However, I would say that I believe women have historically been disadvantaged ... and continue to be disadvantaged ... these things suck, and am a proponent of women's equal social and legal rights in society.

defining feminism is tricky, like any politically loaded term (atheism, middle class & global warming cause problems). everyone assumes they know what it means and everyone's definition is slightly different. debate goes on for pages before anyone takes a breath and realizes they're talking about entirely different things.

i've never actually sat down and thought about it before but i break feminism into two broad camps, both which seek social & legal rights. debatably they both seek equality but one does it explicitly while the other grabs any & all available power with the argument that the deck is stacked heavily against them so any reverse-discrimination is reparation.

one is inclusive, the other combative. they're both important and serve their purposes but i react badly to the second like i do any group with an us/them mentality.


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I wrote the story when I was 21. It was something I felt deeply at the time. It is not the story I would write now....

i sometimes feel like this looking at something i wrote a month ago =)

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I think the story is interesting, but it's certainly not comprehensive--it's like a piece of a painting, perhaps, what I believe art critics call a detail. A certain vivid but partial image, like part of a dream.

and what more could we realisticaly want from a short story? horror in particular, classic pseudopod.



hautdesert

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Reply #4 on: April 17, 2008, 12:36:02 PM
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i disagree that the only feedback we should give is to stop listening to the show (probably isn't what you meant but it's what was said). podcasting is built around two-way media. feedback early, feedback often. i assume that every one of my posts comes with the caveat that it's just opinion and i'm posting to share it.

I completely agree--I think the strength of things like this message board is that it allows two-way discussion.  Editors, narrators, and authors get to hear what the audience thinks, and can answer questions if they want.  Everybody learns things, so it's all good.

Rachel's already said some of this, but I'll echo it anyway.  There's some frustration--not directed at any particular commenter--in hearing the "what's with all the girl power?" thing.  Deflective, I think your post wasn't offensive at all, I want to be clear about that, and as I said above, one of the things I really value about the board is the way listeners can react and comment and question things.

The frustration isn't neccessarily from feeling personally attacked.  It comes from a larger situation.  A commenter on the blog put it really well, I thought.

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It’s commonplace for podcasts to be organized by male editors, with stories by male writers, about male protagonists, and read by male readers. It’s not uncommon for there to be several such episodes in a row.

There’s nothing wrong with male writers, editors, readers, or protagonists, of course.

What is problematic is the double-standard. That the large majority of published stories are by men, published by men, and about men is something we’re used to; it’s invisible, like water for seahorses. But even one or two podcasts that involve multiple female creators will be objected to,

So any frustration isn't with you, Deflective, or with anyone else in particular.  It's the thing the commenter mentioned above--a long string of guy stories is normal, unremarkable.  A short string of girl stories gets very different attention.

There was research done--and if I could dig it up, I'd link to specifics--showing that, in a room divided fifty-fifty between men and women, a person (male or female) asked to describe the people in the room said it was mostly women.  A room with, say, two women and ten men was described as being fifty-fifty.  Part of the same double standard.  It's something I see in my daily life all the time, and it's very frustrating to me.

Anyway.  I do hope that commenters feel free to express their opinion of any story regardless of whether they think an editor (associate editor, in my case--I don't pick any stories, I just read slush and give the Chief Editor my thoughts on what I've read) or moderator approves of that opinion.

I also think a thread discussing women in fantasy is a very good idea.

If it's true--I honestly don't know if it actually is--that more women write and read fantasy than science fiction, and read it as well, then it may well be that the percentage of female-led and "girl power" type stories is going to be higher in the genre (as already noted in the other thread, I forget who said it).  And it might be interesting to consider what the roles are of the various main characters in some of the stories upcoming are.  It could be a really cool discussion.



deflective

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Reply #5 on: April 17, 2008, 07:10:56 PM
Quote from: hautdesert
There's some frustration--not directed at any particular commenter--in hearing the "what's with all the girl power?" thing. ... The frustration isn't neccessarily from feeling personally attacked.  It comes from a larger situation.  A commenter on the blog put it really well, I thought.
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...the large majority of published stories are by men, published by men, and about men is something we’re used to; it’s invisible, like water for seahorses. But even one or two podcasts that involve multiple female creators will be objected to,
...a long string of guy stories is normal, unremarkable.  A short string of girl stories gets very different attention.

i forgot about the blog, guess you really have been getting this from all sides.

you may have meant your post to be a general reply to all these comments but, for the fourth time, i'm not talking about gender. it's the content of the stories.

since it keeps coming back to numbers, lets talk numbers. over the past three weeks, since podcastle began, six of the nine podshows have centered on woman (behind the rules, heartstrung, living in sepia, and all of podcastle). this is close to a month with well over 50% female content, fair enough. with all the attention the numbers get it's important to people.

but, speaking for myself, the problem is that five of those six (all but come lady death) center on a protagonist struggling against oppression, specifically male oppression. now we've got a month where over half of the stories include the same theme and that quickly becomes stale. add that pseudopod had two more stories last month (the little match girl and the language of crows) and now you get people commenting.

from this perspective it isn't just a podcastle issue, it's a growing trend in pseudopod that coincided with podcastle's launch. you probably caught flack because of that.

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...it might be interesting to consider what the roles are of the various main characters in some of the stories upcoming are.

the breakdown serves to highlight the issue, so far we're looking at close to 90% of female stories relying on the victim of oppression/demonization theme. a large part of that comes from the nature of psuedopod's stories though.


it's still way too early to be breaking down numbers. this really isn't meant to prove anything, just put my point of view into the language that's currently being used.



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Reply #6 on: April 17, 2008, 07:47:35 PM
<snip>
since it keeps coming back to numbers, lets talk numbers. over the past three weeks, since podcastle began, six of the nine podshows have centered on woman (behind the rules, heartstrung, living in sepia, and all of podcastle). this is close to a month with well over 50% female content, fair enough. with all the attention the numbers get it's important to people.

but, speaking for myself, the problem is that five of those six (all but come lady death) center on a protagonist struggling against oppression, specifically male oppression. now we've got a month where over half of the stories include the same theme and that quickly becomes stale. add that pseudopod had two more stories last month (the little match girl and the language of crows) and now you get people commenting.
<snip>

Well, person v. society tends to be a pretty common theme in literature, and the world we live in, while it's getting better, still has more men in positions of power than women. And especially with fantasy, which often takes place in the past, the power structures were/are normally male-centered.

I wouldn't put anything to purpose which can be explained by coincidence, and this seems like coincidence. There have been other microtrends, I'm sure this one's just random chance and will end. There will be male narrators on the stories, and male main characters — I've seen the numbers. But we've also had many stories in the EP/PP/PC verse that's man vs. society(male), so I wouldn't call it an overall trend when we look at the history.  I certainly remember people being annoyed when EP went a month or two without some space opera, so I'd liken this to that.

There's a good discussion to be had about these themes in the story threads, and independent of the stories. People might also be taking things a bit further than the authors meant. I saw PC002 as feminist, but I didn't think that the church patriarchy was made up of males because the author wanted to say something about men — Most churches are mostly male in the clergy. Personally, I was wondering how they dealt with the male/female ratio being out of whack because of the culling of females in the small community.

Quote from: deflective
the breakdown serves to highlight the issue, so far we're looking at close to 90% of female stories relying on the victim of oppression/demonization theme. a large part of that comes from the nature of psuedopod's stories though.


It's rarer to see male protagonists with those themes, but they do exist. Escape Pod just ran one. I'd argue that it's more that the slush piles have more stories coming in with female protagonists being oppressed than with males protagonists being oppressed (but I don't have access to the slush, so I don't know). Which isn't necessarily a good thing, but I'd point my finger at society on that before the editors. And I'd hazard a guess that most of these stories would still work if you switched genders, but I didn't write them so I can't really say.

Anyway, this is my two cents. I just think it's a more interesting conversation to talk about the themes and how society brings them up rather than how they've expressed numerically in EP/PP/PC. They're interesting themes to bring up, and they get brought up often. I don't see an editorial viewpoint, just a bit of coincidence.

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #7 on: April 19, 2008, 03:24:38 PM

Quote
It’s commonplace for podcasts to be organized by male editors, with stories by male writers, about male protagonists, and read by male readers. It’s not uncommon for there to be several such episodes in a row.

There’s nothing wrong with male writers, editors, readers, or protagonists, of course.

What is problematic is the double-standard. That the large majority of published stories are by men, published by men, and about men is something we’re used to; it’s invisible, like water for seahorses. But even one or two podcasts that involve multiple female creators will be objected to,

So any frustration isn't with you, Deflective, or with anyone else in particular.  It's the thing the commenter mentioned above--a long string of guy stories is normal, unremarkable.  A short string of girl stories gets very different attention.


In other words:


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hautdesert

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Reply #8 on: April 19, 2008, 03:44:36 PM
Yes, TAD, exactly.

More or less, what Heradel said.  I'd also like to point out that the perception that any story with a heroic female MC vs society must be "women triumphing over male oppressors" is related to the numbers issue.  And also related to the idea of male heros as being "default" and unremarkable.  Just one female hero is enough to make a certain percentage of readers say, "hey, she must be female because the author wants her to triumph over male oppression!" because the assumption is that a main char is going to be male, unless there's a specific reason to make them something else. 

It's part of a systematic set of assumptions.  It doesn't make the people who make those assumptions bad people, or stupid, or whatever else.  But it's good to question them.  Maybe in the end a given person would make conclusions that differ from mine, but it's worth examining.



deflective

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Reply #9 on: April 20, 2008, 05:58:34 AM
I wouldn't put anything to purpose which can be explained by coincidence, and this seems like coincidence.
...
I'd point my finger at society on that before the editors.
...
I don't see an editorial viewpoint, just a bit of coincidence.

nobody ever suggested that any of this is was on purpose.

since i've started posting my position it has been constantly, wrongly, reinterpreted to be (1) i think there are too many females in my podshows (instead of an overused theme) and (2) i blame the editors for this (instead of mentioning so that they know that listeners are starting to notice). having to constantly refute strawmen distracts from interesting debate.

in any politically charged debate it's easy to dismiss the people that you disagree with if you interpret everything they say as stereotypical hardline argument.

It doesn't make the people who make those assumptions bad people, or stupid, or whatever else.  But it's good to question them.

indeed. i've seen the value of having determined dissenters on the political boards of 2003-2004. i'm self-appointed jester in this issue, without the funny.


Quote from: hautdesert
I'd also like to point out that the perception that any story with a heroic female MC vs society must be "women triumphing over male oppressors" is related to the numbers issue.

interesting, my number wasn't 100%. care to give your interpretation of which stories employ the theme?

Quote from: hautdesert
...the assumption is that a main char is going to be male, unless there's a specific reason to make them something else.
Quote from: Heradel
It's rarer to see male protagonists with those themes, but they do exist.

here's something worth talking about. how often do short story authors employ female main characters and why?

from the stories we've been hearing it's usually used as a quick way to create conflict. this isn't true in stories considered higher literature but in these stories it's noticeable.

understandable? sure. short stories have limited space and shortcuts let you quickly build the scene. desirable? not so much. relying on a known meme quickly relates information but it also reinforces the stereotype. there's a line somewhere between ignoring an issue and fixating on it, a line that's in different places for different people.


Quote from: Heradel
PC002 ... I was wondering how they dealt with the male/female ratio being out of whack because of the culling of females in the small community.

it was one sacrifice over a year over a nation. =) i'm sure some guy somewhere was willing to spend his time playing WoW to even it out.



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #10 on: April 20, 2008, 06:02:07 AM
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(1) i think there are too many females in my podshows (instead of an overused theme)

If you check out the blog, people have suggested this is on purpose, and that the problem is the presence of too many women in the podcast -- not just as characters, but as narrators, hosts, and editors.

A quote: "This cast has also started off with (IMO) an unfortunate “by-women-for-women” overtone."



deflective

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Reply #11 on: April 20, 2008, 07:04:30 AM
fair enough. i do consider that comment out of line.
i've been very careful to qualify my position previously, repetition is taking its toll.



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #12 on: April 20, 2008, 12:47:06 PM
fair enough. i do consider that comment out of line.
i've been very careful to qualify my position previously, repetition is taking its toll.

Just so you don't feel so... oppressed... you aren't the first male to find yourself in this weird "I'm arguing against people with whom I basically agree" situation.  See the Gender & Identity in Online Culture thread if you want to see several of us sticking our limbs into the same tarbaby.  :)

Do enjoy yourself... we'll probably still be here when you get through all of it!

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Thaurismunths

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Reply #13 on: April 20, 2008, 01:23:01 PM
Quote from: hautdesert
...the assumption is that a main char is going to be male, unless there's a specific reason to make them something else.
Quote from: Heradel
It's rarer to see male protagonists with those themes, but they do exist.
here's something worth talking about. how often do short story authors employ female main characters and why?

In genera wide? I can't say. I've only read so much fiction and can listen to so many podcasts. I would say that an overwhelming number of the characters I've read about are male, but I've also focused on reading the classics. As for audio, I'm guessing it's closer to 50/50 or 40/30/30 men to women to neutral (male and female leads, or characters that aren't either). I think the podcasting story market is much more evenly balanced.

Quote
Quote from: Heradel
PC002 ... I was wondering how they dealt with the male/female ratio being out of whack because of the culling of females in the small community.

it was one sacrifice over a year over a nation. =) i'm sure some guy somewhere was willing to spend his time playing WoW to even it out.
That's hilarious. :)

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


hautdesert

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Reply #14 on: April 20, 2008, 02:33:25 PM


Quote from: hautdesert
I'd also like to point out that the perception that any story with a heroic female MC vs society must be "women triumphing over male oppressors" is related to the numbers issue.

interesting, my number wasn't 100%. care to give your interpretation of which stories employ the theme?


Actually, in the Fiery Horse thread, you said,

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but there's one thing about podcastle that's beginning to bug me, all three stories have had a heavy theme of female empowerment

Later you revised that, saying that no, Come Lady Death hadn't had that theme.  But consider your first reaction.  At first blush, you classed all three stories together as "female empowerment" stories.  Why?

Later, in this thread, you said,

Quote
speaking for myself, the problem is that five of those six (all but come lady death) center on a protagonist struggling against oppression, specifically male oppression

For Fear of Dragons does not feature a protagonist struggling against specifically male oppression.  You could make the priesthood female and the society a matriarchy and not change the story in any fundamental way.  You could make Jeanette a boy, and leave the priests male, and not change the story except for the need to find some sort of virginity test.

The protagonist of For Fear of Dragons is female because of the template she was working from--the maiden given to a dragon as payment/appeasement/sacrifice.  Her gender is what it is because it's traditional, not because it's a story of female empowerment.

Now, Firey Horse is a bit trickier.  But we have the words of the author--she'd heard about how the horoscopes of little girls affected their futures (or lack of it) in this particular society.  She wondered about those little girls.  She sat down and constructed a story out of the elements she found.

Now, in this case you can't change the genders quite as easily.  Boys didn't get their feet bound in China. No one was worried if their son was a Fire Horse.  You can't just change the protagonist to male and have the same story.  It's clear that the gender of the protagonist is essential if the author wants to stay in China in that period and ponder Fire Horse girls.

Is the essential conflict of the story one of a woman triumphing over male oppression?  Personally, I don't think so.  It's part of a whole flock of "outsmarting the devil" stories, of which "The Devil and Daniel Webster" is one of the more famous.  The antagonist isn't The Patriarchy, or Male Oppression, it's the demon/devil with which she makes the deal.

In fact, she receives a lot of assistance from her father.  Her father has not oppressed her at all.  He refused to expose her when she was born.  That fact, and his character later, makes one wonder just how encouraging Tsi Cha had to be, to convince him not to bind her feet.  It's her father who assists her in overcoming her adversary.

Yes, she's brave and smart and overcomes--but what she's overcoming isn't "male oppression" unless you assume that any heroine triumphing against a male adversary is "female empowerment."

And assuming that, as I see it, is part of that "numbers" illusion I was talking about earlier.

Quote

Quote from: hautdesert
...the assumption is that a main char is going to be male, unless there's a specific reason to make them something else.
Quote from: Heradel
It's rarer to see male protagonists with those themes, but they do exist.

here's something worth talking about. how often do short story authors employ female main characters and why?

from the stories we've been hearing it's usually used as a quick way to create conflict. this isn't true in stories considered higher literature but in these stories it's noticeable.


Why do you assume that these stories choose female protagonists as a quick way to create conflict?  I'm speaking here of the Podcastle stories.

For Fear of Dragons seems to me to have chosen a female protagonist out of convention.  Fiery Horse, because it was the idea of all those baby girls who died during Fire Horse years that intrigued the author, according to the author's own testimony.

In neither case was there a desire to shorthand conflict.  And in any event, just putting a female character in the lead does not automatically create conflict.  Not unless you assume that any female protagonist must of neccesity be strugging against The Patriarchy.  Which I find an odd assumption.

I don't know the numbers of female main chars in fantasy.  I do know that as a writer, I choose the genders of characters because they seem right to me, for whatever reason.  Sometimes I pick a female lead just because all those years when I was a kid reading fantasy and sf I wished I had a few more stories with female leads.  Sometimes I pick whichever gender would be conventional, because frankly it's easier and I had other things I wanted to play with.  Once, pondering a type of story that would normally have a female lead, I put a male lead in.  The results were very interesting, to me at any rate.

Not once have I chosen the gender of a main character because it would shortcut creating conflict with male oppression.  And none of the writers I've spoken to have, either.  This includes writers I talk to who I know are explicitly feminist or political in their writing.



deflective

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Reply #15 on: April 20, 2008, 08:33:25 PM
... you aren't the first male to find yourself in this weird "I'm arguing against people with whom I basically agree" situation. See the Gender & Identity in Online Culture thread ...

our disagreement is subtler than most gender debates but it's still an important distinction. good to know about the other thread, i'll definitely take a look to see where people are coming from.

As for audio, I'm guessing it's closer to 50/50 or 40/30/30 men to women to neutral (male and female leads, or characters that aren't either). I think the podcasting story market is much more evenly balanced.

that surprises me. i'll start paying more attention to how often stories leaves gender unassigned.

Later you revised that, saying that no, Come Lady Death hadn't had that theme.  But consider your first reaction.  At first blush, you classed all three stories together as "female empowerment" stories.  Why?

i specifically answered that:
you're right to point out that come lady death doesn't really belong in the trend. it probably felt that way because it came out the same week that the other podcasts had their stories and a large part of the episode's discussion concentrates on death's sex.

podcastle was the flash point for a larger trend across all three podshows.

Quote from: hautdesert
For Fear of Dragons does not feature a protagonist struggling against specifically male oppression.  You could make the priesthood female and the society a matriarchy and not change the story in any fundamental way.  You could make Jeanette a boy, and leave the priests male, and not change the story except for the need to find some sort of virginity test.

The protagonist of For Fear of Dragons is female because of the template she was working from--the maiden given to a dragon as payment/appeasement/sacrifice.  Her gender is what it is because it's traditional, not because it's a story of female empowerment.

it takes a lot of tap dancing to try to make your case in a story that spends its first half sacrificing specifically females and the last half demonizing specifically females while every character doing it is male.

you appear to be saying that the story doesn't contain male oppression because it could have been rewritten so that it doesn't contain male oppression. some part of me applauds this bit of Orwellian mental gymnastics.

Quote from: hautdesert
For Fear of Dragons seems to me to have chosen a female protagonist out of convention.

this is, in fact, my point exactly. the theme of male oppression isn't necessary for the story but it's included anyway because it's low hanging fruit, a quick way for the author to set the scene. all you need to do is mention dragon sacrifice or witch burning and everyone immediately has an image in mind. in general this is fine but when it's used excessively, especially across multiple stories, it begins to reinforce the stereotypes it invokes. in this case, the stereotype of woman as victim.

Quote from: hautdesert
Now, Firey Horse is a bit trickier.
...
what she's overcoming isn't "male oppression" unless you assume that any heroine triumphing against a male adversary is "female empowerment."

i would argue that since his attention in her becomes sexual and she specifically uses her sex against him it does become a male / female issue.

Quote from: hautdesert
Quote from: deflective
how often do short story authors employ female main characters and why?
from the stories we've been hearing it's usually used as a quick way to create conflict.
Why do you assume that these stories choose female protagonists as a quick way to create conflict?
...
Sometimes I pick whichever gender would be conventional, because frankly it's easier and I had other things I wanted to play with.
...
Not once have I chosen the gender of a main character because it would shortcut creating conflict with male oppression.

there's a subtle difference between our topics, i didn't use the word choose. sexism doesn't have to be a conscious decision, a point struck upon repeatedly in discussion about wage disparity and other feminist issues. in fact, this ingrained mindset usually isn't even visible to the parties involved.

i've said which stories i think are using male oppression and why. you've said that you think the theme doesn't appear at all in any of the stories. if we haven't found some sort of common ground by now we probably should just respect each other's point of view.



deflective

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Reply #16 on: April 20, 2008, 08:40:50 PM
so i've caught up with the week's podshows: giant, freedom with a small f, the wild y. all of them include men violently oppressing/objectifying women, all of them include women aggressively using their sex to manipulate men.

...I haven't picked up on any of the sexual politics others have in the EPFVerse (?) of late. I take this as a good thing, because it means I really do accept the place of women in my society.

really? you're proud that you're so used to these type of relationships that you don't even see them anymore? this is the place of women in society?

over the past month woman's representation on the podshows has exploded and we've seen maybe one story with a healthy relationship. it is easier to write a short story if you have the conflict of a rocky relationship but is it really this much easier?

and what gets me, what bugs me the most, is that so many of these stories are good. some are great. if they were spaced out over other shows i could have really enjoy them instead of just waiting for the shoe to drop. what will it be this time? woman manipulated into stripping through hypnosis? husband strangling his wife?



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Reply #17 on: April 20, 2008, 09:13:45 PM
so i've caught up with the week's podshows: giant, freedom with a small f, the wild y. all of them include men violently oppressing/objectifying women, all of them include women aggressively using their sex to manipulate men.

I really think you are assuming the three podcasts collude more than they do. As far as I know, they don't talk to each other about their lineups at all. So if you are going to criticize them, you have to do so each on its own basis.

Giant, to me, does include what you're talking about: men violently oppressing women and the women responding using the tools at their disposal to break free. However, this is a rewritten fairy tale. The events are those in the fairy tale. What is rewritten here is the complication of the character of the giant. The core of the story is about him, and his motivations. So it goes from being a narrative about a brave man who rescues a maiden from a terrible other man, to a story about a man who is trying to break free of the training he has received from his father, and gets screwed over for it, but he feels that it is worth it. That is really an inherently different kind of story than the others (run by PodCastle) that you refer to.

Mod:fixed formatting
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 09:16:36 PM by Heradel »



Bdoomed

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Reply #18 on: April 20, 2008, 09:40:59 PM
Ooookay.  This thread is getting a little rediculous.  It should be obvious by now that any and all women empowerment stories coming out at the same time was merely coincidence.  There is no evil plot to force feminist ideals on us listeners.  there is also no collaboration by the editors to mess with us. (or what if there is? bum bum buuuuum)

i hope we all agree that double standards are bad, and that they still exist.  Can we do anything about it? no.  not really.  Those of us who CARE enough can.  and all the more power to you if you care.  i dont enough to try.

i hope we ALSO all agree that these stories are good, if not amazing.  As long as we're entertained for 30-50 minutes, everything should be fine.  Personally, i never really noticed a trend until it was brought up, nor did it affect me in any way.  I still get just enough enjoyment out of the stories as if i never knew.  It really should not matter.  If women empowerment/male oppression stories arent your cup of tea, dont listen to them.  its as simple as pressing pause.  you can even lie to yourself about listening to them by skipping to the outro or last 10 seconds.  whatever makes you happy ('you' is not referring to anyone, but everyone in general by the way)

Honestly none of this matters enough to fret over it.  To some, its an odd launch for pod castle, to others, it doesnt matter, and others might be happy about it.  In any case, its all coincidental, and its also WAY too early to start drawing conclusions about the podcast as a whole.  if by, lets say september, it is still overly female, stop listening.  But Escape Artists is good at presenting a multitude of stories, in a very wide variety of categories and appeals.  Im 500% sure that everything will be fine.  I trust Rachel will be/is a great editor, and i also trust that Steve won't let anything happen to Pod Castle that will make a great number of people unhappy.  He's good at that.  Now can we please stop arguing? there really should not be anything to argue about here.  If this matters that much to you, give the 'cast more time so you can gather more evidence and slam it down on all of us poor wretched souls.

Any questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  I really don't care, but post them if you must.

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Heradel

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Reply #19 on: April 20, 2008, 09:52:52 PM
I wrote most of this before Bdoomed posted his excellent statement, I agree with him completely. But I have this mess of text, and I'm putting in one last rebuttal from me. I'm taking myself out of the argument after this, unless my blue stars are needed.

Quote from: hautdesert
For Fear of Dragons does not feature a protagonist struggling against specifically male oppression.  You could make the priesthood female and the society a matriarchy and not change the story in any fundamental way.  You could make Jeanette a boy, and leave the priests male, and not change the story except for the need to find some sort of virginity test.

The protagonist of For Fear of Dragons is female because of the template she was working from--the maiden given to a dragon as payment/appeasement/sacrifice.  Her gender is what it is because it's traditional, not because it's a story of female empowerment.

it takes a lot of tap dancing to try to make your case in a story that spends its first half sacrificing specifically females and the last half demonizing specifically females while every character doing it is male.

you appear to be saying that the story doesn't contain male oppression because it could have been rewritten so that it doesn't contain male oppression. some part of me applauds this bit of Orwellian mental gymnastics.
The point Hautdesert was making is that the story contains it, but it's not a story about it. 1984 is a story about repressive government regimes, and the government was male-dominated at the top. But it wasn't about males oppressing, it was about government oppressing. In Fear of Dragons we got a story where is was a religious order than was oppressing a segment of the population. It was a male-dominated religious order, but it didn't need to be.

There is a difference, and it's a fundamental one for interpreting the story.

Quote from: hautdesert
For Fear of Dragons seems to me to have chosen a female protagonist out of convention.

this is, in fact, my point exactly. the theme of male oppression isn't necessary for the story but it's included anyway because it's low hanging fruit, a quick way for the author to set the scene. all you need to do is mention dragon sacrifice or witch burning and everyone immediately has an image in mind. in general this is fine but when it's used excessively, especially across multiple stories, it begins to reinforce the stereotypes it invokes. in this case, the stereotype of woman as victim.
I'm not sure it's really a theme. Most of these stories contain characters which are human, and thus must have a gender (Male/Female/Eunuch/Transsexual). Just because a character is male doesn't mean that the story is about male repression of women. Especially where there are a lot lower-hanging explanations for the repression (in this case, needing the populace in a state of fear in order that the religious order can maintain their power, their decision to only use girls for sacrifice because of the presence of a hymen is sexist, but not the reason for the original repression against the society).

Quote from: hautdesert
Now, Firey Horse is a bit trickier.
...
what she's overcoming isn't "male oppression" unless you assume that any heroine triumphing against a male adversary is "female empowerment."

i would argue that since his attention in her becomes sexual and she specifically uses her sex against him it does become a male / female issue.

I would argue that the sexual attraction would have worked if it was two gay men or two lesbians. To limit it by making it strictly male/female and also ignore the role her father plays isn't fair to the story.

There's plenty of great fiction where the characters (male, female or otherwise) use sex to achieve ends, sex and sexual attraction are an integral part of humanity. To give a for-instance of a show that plays with sex among various characters I'd point to Torchwood, which certainly colours outside the traditional lines. Just because sex is depicted with the power it has, even in heterosexual relations, doesn't make it a larger statement. It just makes it more true to life.

Quote from: hautdesert
Quote from: deflective
how often do short story authors employ female main characters and why?
from the stories we've been hearing it's usually used as a quick way to create conflict.
Why do you assume that these stories choose female protagonists as a quick way to create conflict?
...
Sometimes I pick whichever gender would be conventional, because frankly it's easier and I had other things I wanted to play with.
...
Not once have I chosen the gender of a main character because it would shortcut creating conflict with male oppression.

there's a subtle difference between our topics, i didn't use the word choose. sexism doesn't have to be a conscious decision, a point struck upon repeatedly in discussion about wage disparity and other feminist issues. in fact, this ingrained mindset usually isn't even visible to the parties involved.

i've said which stories i think are using male oppression and why. you've said that you think the theme doesn't appear at all in any of the stories. if we haven't found some sort of common ground by now we probably should just respect each other's point of view.

Emphasis mine. That usually isn't helped by stating that the other person is using "Orwellian mental gymnastics" to come to their point.

I agree with Cammo and Opabinia here, I think you're finding these things because you're looking for them, not because they're there. Freedom with a small f has a female lead that is horribly mistreated by the Union, and perhaps Mr. Derego will pop by and explain it more, but I didn't think the reason for having a female lead was to make some big point about how men mistreat women. The Union Dues arc has certainly shown that the superheros as a whole get screwed, not just the female ones.

Escape Artists runs a lot of stories with strong female characters. It also runs stories with strong male characters. And there are weaker characters. Perhaps there has been a spate of strong females going against the patriarchy in the last few weeks, I didn't see it that way, but if you did that's ok. Like BDoomed said, Escape Pod and Pseudopod have pretty long archives at this point, you can check in there to see if your postulate holds true. Podcastle doesn't yet, but I don't think that this trend will continue.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2008, 09:54:49 PM by Heradel »

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hautdesert

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Reply #20 on: April 20, 2008, 11:11:20 PM
Deflective, Heradel is right--contains isn't the same as about.  I performed no gymnastics at all.  Significance is very important--as it happens, the genders of the oppressors and oppressed in Fear of Dragons is so insignificant that you could change it and not change the story in any essentials.  It would still be about the same things, it would still be the same story.  When something is essential to the story, removing it destroys the story, or changes it radically.

It's your assumptions, not what the story was about, that makes you see the genders of the oppressed as somehow essential.

Heradel is also correct that the sexual attraction angle would have worked in Fiery horse if both had been male, or both female, or if the genders had been reversed.

And, you know, pretty much everything else that Heradel said is right on the nose.



deflective

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Reply #21 on: April 20, 2008, 11:30:12 PM
Bdoomed, Heradel, i'm almost certain this wasn't intentional but between the two of you you just reminded me that you're moderators and asked me to stop arguing. i need to know that you weren't asking me as moderators.

i've gone out of my way to move any and all conversation on this topic into one thread and have only talked to the people that were already talking about it. if i've gotten shrill or there's something i should be doing please let me know, i'd prefer a message as not to distract from the thread.



Heradel

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Reply #22 on: April 20, 2008, 11:46:15 PM
Bdoomed, Heradel, i'm almost certain this wasn't intentional but between the two of you you just reminded me that you're moderators and asked me to stop arguing. i need to know that you weren't asking me as moderators.

i've gone out of my way to move any and all conversation on this topic into one thread and have only talked to the people that were already talking about it. if i've gotten shrill or there's something i should be doing please let me know, i'd prefer a message as not to distract from the thread.

Bdoomed might have been, I wasn't. I was involved in the thread, so I have a conflict of interest, which was why I asked Bdoomed to come in and take a look. I was almost about to hit post, went away to grab something to eat, got back and he'd posted. I had the post, wanted to respond, which I did, and as stated, I'm out of the thread unless my blue stars are needed.

As a rule, we don't usually put the breaks on threads. I'm pretty sure all the non-spam threads that have been locked I can count on one hand. Personally I wouldn't intervene in a thread unless someone's exercise of free speech was infringing on the rights of others. Usually via ad hominem attacks or through hate speech/ one of the bad -isms. Personally I feel like your statement concerning Orwellian mental gymnastics crossed the ad hominem line, but being COI'd, my text here has no added weight save that of someone that's been here for a while.

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deflective

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Reply #23 on: April 21, 2008, 12:42:00 AM
the three podcasts ... don't talk to each other ... So if you are going to criticize them, you have to do so each on its own basis.

the point i'm trying to eventually get to will eventually cover all the fiction. i agree that the way this thread wound up in the podcastle forum is unfortunate, there's no one place it belongs.

It's your assumptions, not what the story was about, that makes you see the genders of the oppressed as somehow essential.

ah, here's the problem. i wasn't trying to claim that it was essential, just that it was definitely, blatantly a part of it.

i may have been misusing the word theme, perhaps device would be more appropriate. would people be able to generally agree if i stated my position as follows?

the recent stories have relied on male oppression as a device.
(include all standard qualifiers about being non-accusative and only referring to the stories previously mentioned)



Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #24 on: April 21, 2008, 12:56:46 AM
Hey Deflective,

I appreciate that you're still here and willing to chat, even with so much disagreement. I get that you're being non-accusative ,and I really appreciate it. These are definitely issues to think about.

I'll say that some of the reasons I actually like "Run of the Fiery Horse" and "Giant" are because they don't just work with male oppression.

"Run of the Fiery Horse" has this beautiful, healthy relationship between Li Chi and Master Li. He's a fantastic father. He knows her flaws; he knows how deeply she doesn't fit in their culture; he urges her to medidate and find peace. He loves her anyway, and she trusts him.

I see "Giant" as one in a long line of fairy tale retellings that works specifically to counteract the obnoxious black and white assumptions of folktales. What's appealing to me about "Giant" is the giant's tenderness as he strives to be a better person, his need to trust and to love, his having been cut off from affection since he was a small child and his desire to reconnect to that affection. He's willing to risk (and lose) his life in order to pretend that he's loved -- and to me, that's so much more poignant and interesting than the original fairy tale version, in which he reveals his secret thorugh accident, stupidity or arrogance.

I actually made the comment to my fiance a few days ago that I see this as a story of male empowerment -- if we were to use the framing of the men's rights movement, we could see the giant as a gender-deviant male, one who is not like his alpha male father, who's using the tools at his disposal to obtain love in a forbidding environment, and who is ultimately screwed over by society's (his mother's, his father's, the princess's) expectations of what an alpha male, a giant, must be.

As a side point, in "For Fear of Dragons," "Run of the Fiery Horse," and my story "Heartstrung" (which is in the run of what you're seeing as feminist stories -- and, as the author, I can definitely say it was intended to be a feminist story) women are all contributing to the oppression of other women. It's not Master Li who wants to bind Li Chi's feet; it's Dowager Eng who crows about how her massive feet and massive energy must be contained. The protagonist of For Fear of Dragons is introduced to the normalcy of her role as sacrifice by her mother. And the seamstress in "Heartstrung" is, perhaps, the piece's main villain -- she chooses to hurt her daughter, as she has been hurt, and fails (perhaps understandably, if I did my job) to envision an active method to end the cycle of violence that is perpetuated by mothers against their daughters. One of the things I was trying (perhaps unsuccessfully) to establish in that story was women's role in oppression.

That's just how I see the stories. I'm just trying to share what I think; I don't want you to feel overwhelmed or anything. I hope to meet you in the same spirit you're offering your criticism, by explaining my take, in case there's something there that's a litlte interesting. I hope it's a little helpful, anyway.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 01:00:46 AM by Rachel Swirsky »



Bdoomed

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Reply #25 on: April 21, 2008, 01:29:29 AM
No, i would make it clear if I were acting as a moderator, perfectly clear.  sorry if i confused.  i was merely trying to point out the rediculousness of this argument, and i stand by my conviction.  If you still want to carry on, feel free, just keep it light and healthy and i wont be convinced to end the argument completely.

Yes i want the argument to stop, but not as a moderator, as a citizen of the forum.  I just think its completely rediculous.  im not going to opress anyone from stating their opinion, as long as it is not overly offensive.  Freedom of speech until you piss me off :D (haha)

I'd like to hear my options, so I could weigh them, what do you say?
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hautdesert

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Reply #26 on: April 21, 2008, 02:02:34 AM


It's your assumptions, not what the story was about, that makes you see the genders of the oppressed as somehow essential.

ah, here's the problem. i wasn't trying to claim that it was essential, just that it was definitely, blatantly a part of it.

i may have been misusing the word theme, perhaps device would be more appropriate. would people be able to generally agree if i stated my position as follows?

the recent stories have relied on male oppression as a device.
(include all standard qualifiers about being non-accusative and only referring to the stories previously mentioned)

No, actually, I don't agree. About Fear of Dragons using male oppression of women as a device, I mean. 

The argument could be made about Fiery Horse--but once again, I wouldn't say it's being used as a device there.  It's an integral part of the setting. Any society that practices footbinding, and exposes infant girls because their most suitable husbands wouldn't dominate them, is oppressing women.  Since the author was specifically interested in that particular society, the oppression wasn't avoidable.  It is not, however, a device used in the story, or the point of the story.  It's the setting.

Dragons--no.  The genders of the participants are not part of a device.  Once again, it's an integral part of the sort of tale the author was telling, and that tale can function identically no matter what the genders of the characters are.  I'd be more likely to consider it a device if she had changed the genders.

Given your posts so far, it seems that any time any sort of male oppression of women is acknowledged or even mentioned it's feminist, or glaringly, blatantly about female empowerment.  How, then, is one to write about male and female relationships that aren't perfectly harmonious?  Societies that aren't utopias?  It can't be done.  People have genders.  And while some writers do deliberately use those genders to make political statements, and some writers' beliefs can be inferred from the way they construct their stories (though it's not wise to be too confident about conclusions drawn from a single story), still it's not the case that every story featuring a heroic female protagonist succeeding against a male adversary is feminist, or a story of feminine empowerment.



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Reply #27 on: April 21, 2008, 02:22:55 AM
From what it sounds like, Rachel has already said (in the story thread for Run of the Firey Horse) that it was just a coincidence that there was a run of similar themed stories.  To be honest, I didn't even notice until I read this thread.  They were all fantastic stories.

I can see Deflective's concern though.  EP, and PP pick stories on the quality of their writing, not their political or social messages (although they do carry SOME weight).  I'm sure that PC will do the same.  I, for one, enjoy a good chainmail bikini clad sword swinging fantasy story once in a while (as long as it is well written, which Rachel said was hard to come by).  I think deflective's concern, correct me if I'm wrong, is that PC will become a podcast more about women's issues than about fantasy stories.   Based on the episodes thus far I can see how one might draw that conclusion.  However, right now I think we all have to just sit back and wait.  We're jumping to conclusions on a very small sample of stories.  Podcastle has already done and I have confidence will continue to do great things.  Keep up the good work, Rachel!

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CammoBlammo

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Reply #28 on: April 21, 2008, 03:50:26 AM

...I haven't picked up on any of the sexual politics others have in the EPFVerse (?) of late. I take this as a good thing, because it means I really do accept the place of women in my society.

really? you're proud that you're so used to these type of relationships that you don't even see them anymore? this is the place of women in society?


Yes. I'm used to having strong women around me in all sorts of positions of authority. So when I say that I accept the place of women in society, it's as my equals, and not the place my grandfathers' society reserved for them.

To the case in point, I'm equally used to men and women being heroes. I simply didn't notice the apparently anomalous run of female centred stories.



deflective

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Reply #29 on: April 21, 2008, 06:10:32 AM
i originally intended to arrive at this point using some clever variation of the Socratic method. it's time to admit that's not going to happen.

mainly, i want to frame the current run of woman's stories in such a way that hardcore defenders will be able to understand why people might make objections. from the comments it appears that there are people who already understand (and people who don't want to understand). i'm going to go through my argument in case it helps someone.

there is, by far, one common retort when someone mentions the string of woman's stories: "you never notice men's voice in stories but get three stories in a row with a woman's voice and you complain." there may be an element of truth to it, i can't speak for everyone, but this isn't what catches my attention.

i want you to consider the possibility that, like male characters in podcasts in general, there may be an element that's common to female voiced podcasts. and, like male characters in general podcasts, it's so common that you don't even notice it anymore. can you see possibility that people may object to this element rather than the female voice?

for me, this element is male domination / female victimization. it's present in almost all of the current female voiced stories and while i understand its presence, even appreciate it, the constant exposure to it over extended periods is bad. at some point it stops serving as a warning and becomes a self-reinforcing stereotype.


...I don't agree. About Fear of Dragons using male oppression of women as a device, I mean.

i see gender in a story that invokes both virgin sacrifice and witch burning. saying that it isn't there because it could be removed... that's a thought process i just don't understand. we aren't going to find middle ground on this.

Quote from: hautdesert
How, then, is one to write about male and female relationships that aren't perfectly harmonious?

i've given a couple examples before. come lady death and books of Terry Pratchett that aren't focused on gender.


I'll say that some of the reasons I actually like "Run of the Fiery Horse" and "Giant" are because they don't just work with male oppression.

i can appreciate giant for what it tries to do. you outline it well, there's little i would add to your synopsis. male empowerment is interesting for the role reversal it forces you to confront.

Quote from: Rachel Swirsky
As a side point, in "For Fear of Dragons," "Run of the Fiery Horse," and my story "Heartstrung" (which is in the run of what you're seeing as feminist stories -- and, as the author, I can definitely say it was intended to be a feminist story) women are all contributing to the oppression of other women.

this is an important distinction as well. there was a comment on heartstrung from somebody who said he was ok with the story right up to the point that the father slapped the daughter. his comfort level fell right between the male domination / female victimization line. i can say i understand it, it can feel like a tepid accusation every time there's a belligerent male. sometimes just having a sympathetic male character to associate with can be enough (run of fiery horses).

but all of that is in small doses. week after week of victimization wont sit right with me, no matter how well it's done. lets have a newlywed couple forging their home in the wilderness, a family that finds out their daughter is gifted, three witches bickering, castles sieged and taken, the politics of angels, a wizard with his soul in peril, paths that never end.

Quote from: Rachel Swirsky
I hope it's a little helpful, anyway.

thanks for showing up, it really did help.



Heradel

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Reply #30 on: April 21, 2008, 06:35:46 AM
i originally intended to arrive at this point using some clever variation of the Socratic method. it's time to admit that's not going to happen.

The Socratic method, while a valuable tool, is a bad tool to use in an online discussion. As a moderator, it is impossible to distinguish from trolling. When I see someone asking the same question, showing little to no evolution of thought or argument, and continuing with a dogged persistence, my gut instinct is to think troll.

The same happens in the meatspace if you use that method — one of my philosophy professors had a story about a student that dressed up as Socrates for Halloween and was kicked out of a party in something like five minutes — he had never declared himself as Socrates, and they thought he was playing a frat boy. A few days later when one of his friends finally answered their phone and the student explained himself they understood, but it did take a few days for just one of them calm down enough that he'd pick up when he saw him on caller ID.

It's a good way to suss out the underlying architecture of a person's arguments, but unless it's declared you end up looking like a troll. I'm not saying that you are, but there is no way to distinguish Socratic Method from Trolling unless you're able to read the intent of the poster, and since Steve  won't shell out for the Telepathy v1.2 module for SMF forums(motto: "We know they're trolling before they do, and we also know what they did last summer, though we really wish we didn't"), I don't have anything but your text to work with.

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Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #31 on: April 21, 2008, 08:14:37 AM
Hey Deflective,

Standard disclaimers. Just trying to give you my honest response to what you're saying. Hope it doesn't come across as personal, and all that. :-D

I wasn't sure whether to hop in again or not, but it seems to me like you're really thinking about and engaging these issues, and I want to respect the time and thought you're willing to put into our podcasts. (Your engagement is really cool, in my opinion.) I just hope I'm not coming in too much with the stentorian editorial tones. ;-) If I am, it's totally unintentional, and I apologize. Just let me know if I'm crossing a line for you.

Quote
come lady death and books of Terry Pratchett that aren't focused on gender.

I sure do love me some Terry Pratchett. Can you name an example written by a woman that you're comfortable with?

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i want you to consider the possibility that, like male characters in podcasts in general, there may be an element that's common to female voiced podcasts. and, like male characters in general podcasts, it's so common that you don't even notice it anymore. can you see possibility that people may object to this element rather than the female voice?

This is possible... perhaps even likely. See also: K. Tempest Bradford on "penis versus vagina stories." (Gah. I have no link. It is late. Someone want to dig it up?)

Although of course, all this gets muddy rapidly. We occasionally get subs from men that I am damn sure come from women -- and once in a while when there are ambiguous first names, I'll pick the wrong honorific in reply. (The only time this has happened that I know of for sure, the man wrote back saying he was flattered, since he was glad he'd nailed the feminine voice so well.) And of course there's the famous example of James Tiptree, who was really a woman (Alice Sheldon) who wrote as a man (James Tiptree) and was described by Robert Silverberg (who thought she was male) as having a voice no woman could ever have, one that was "ineluctibly masculine." (Interestingly, all her stories revolved around partriarchal oppression of women in a blatantly feminist fashion.)

After it was revealed Tiptree was female, Silverberg made some references that tokenized her - indicating he felt she was a one-of-a-kind exception to the rules about how and whether women can write. (For a much more belligerent example of this, see Vox Day, also known as science fiction writer Theodore Beale, who has written that women can't write hard SF because our brains can't hack the science.)

Still -- there are certain generalities that can often be drawn between "male" stories and "female" stories, just as one can often detect the voice of a person of color. This is to be expected. The social experience of men and women, and of whites and people of color, is usually different in some important ways.

So, it's not just male narrators that go unremarked -- it's also a male perspective. It's what's called in sociology "defaulting" -- we're used to the default narratives that support the perspective of our society's defaults, which are white, heterosexual, etc etc. Perspectives that come from other places are "othered."

In other words, it's not the mere presence of a female voice that catches one's attention -- though it often does (and that was part of the point of bringing up the studies about what percentage of people are in a room versus what the perception is of those percentages, or who gets hired when you listen to them play a violin while you can see them versus when they're behind a screen). It's also the presence of non-male (non-white, non-straight, etc, but basically "othered") perception.

It may be -- though it's not necessarily -- this element of female voice that's bothering you. I don't really know. We've got way too small a sample size, and certainly I can totally see where all your analysis of - say - "Heartstrung" is on target. 

I don't mean any of this to be accusatory; it's just my response to what you're saying. I am trained in anthropology, so I use tools of sociological and cross-cultural analysis to look at how people look at things; I'm also trained in literature, so I tend to use lit theory. These are, of course, limited tools, as any set is. They're just what I have to bring to bear.

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week after week of victimization wont sit right with me, no matter how well it's done.


OK. Well, I think we can agree on there being two stories that play with these ideas, at least on some level, in PodCastle itself, "Run of the Fiery Horse" and "For Fear of Dragons" (Although I've already mentioned why I don't necessarily see them as straight-up male v female stories, I do see where you're drawing textual support for sustaining those readings). Personally, I really don't see "Giant" as fitting in, unless basically all fairy tales do, but that's a different argument. So, we're back to small sample size -- although again, that's just the material with me as editor, and I understand that your broader point is about all the podcasts simultaneously.

Unfortunately, since I'm the editor of PodCastle, I'm PodCastle focused. (Terrible confession: I haven't even listened to the Escape Pod episode that's been mentioned in these discussions.) So, please forgive me for continuing to think about our podcast. ;-)

This coming week's piece has a female hero -- but also a female villain. It involves collusion between a man and a woman with a happy result, and it ends with a happy relationship between equals. Perhaps it'll work better for you.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2008, 08:21:27 AM by Rachel Swirsky »



deflective

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Reply #32 on: April 22, 2008, 12:57:16 AM
right off, i need to say that i misused the word 'voice'. i intended it to mean a female main character, point-of-view may be the proper term. i blame my mistake on the medium! a female character gives you a female narrator here.

still, unintended consequences, you response brought up points i wouldn't have considered otherwise.

Can you name an example written by a woman that you're comfortable with?

JK Rowling's stuff is enjoyable. Anne Mccaffrey & Margaret Weis is far in my past but i read several books from each so i must have enjoyed them. (side note: i just saw Weis's picture at wikipedia, after spending a lifetime associating her with the picture in the back of dragonlance chronicles i feel a little older.)

i wouldn't say that i have a real feel for male / female writing styles but, looking at my shelf, i don't own a single book by a woman. maybe Mary Shelley in a compilation. obviously i have my preference even if i'm not aware of it. on the other hand, well over half my shelf is british as well so i might just be very predictable.

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It's also the presence of non-male (non-white, non-straight, etc, but basically "othered") perception.

It may be -- though it's not necessarily -- this element of female voice that's bothering you.

with my clarification of voice as main character, it's pretty straight forward what bugs me about the female point-of-view in recent podshows (including the other feeds as well): it's pretty much guaranteed that she will face victimizaton. she may face it very well, but it's always there.

in terms of my reading habits, i'm going to start paying more attention. the whole british thing is freaking me out a bit. does anyone have suggestions for favourite stories/books with a distinctly female voice? ideally without the victimization hotbutton, but variety's the key.



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Reply #33 on: April 22, 2008, 01:02:53 AM


 and perhaps Mr. Derego will pop by and explain it more,


If you are referring to me, it's actually Ms. Debergo. And to explain my comments on The Fiery Horse comment area: First, I made my comments because this podcast is new and (one would assume) open to feedback on format before settling into a routine. Second, my question/comment was more about the format than anything else - at the risk of inciting more fracas, having an intro to an intro where someone comes on talking about her pokemon toys struck me as being a bit like, "hey girls, let's talk about nail polish". That's where the "by women for women" thing came in. I tune in for a story, brief simple intro/extro is really all (IMO) that's needed. I like strong female characters, and I very much enjoyed the first couple of stories I heard. I never meant to suggest anyone should ever scrutinize how many male versus female writers or protagonists are published - balance is nice, but high quality stories trumps everything else.  I put the question out there (obviously not very well) as to whether other listeners felt the same about the additional "front matter". I apologize for causing a stir - really, *truly* didn't intend to insult or offend anyone.



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Reply #34 on: April 22, 2008, 01:05:42 AM

I don't have anything to add to this discussion -- anything I might say has already been said better better by someone else -- but I am impressed by it.

On most forums I've frequented, this type of topic would have quickly degenerated into name-calling and useless personal attacks.  Possibly ending in forumites taking sides, moderator intervention, and temporary or permanenent bans.  Too often, the tools of Web 2.0 seem to be governed by the social code of the middle school cafeteria.  

By contrast, you've managed to disagree, but kept it substantive, and given the participants and observers something to think about.

Good job, group...
« Last Edit: April 22, 2008, 01:07:18 AM by Windup »

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Reply #35 on: April 22, 2008, 01:29:32 AM

 and perhaps Mr. Derego will pop by and explain it more,

If you are referring to me, it's actually Ms. Debergo. And to explain my comments on The Fiery Horse comment area: First, I made my comments because this podcast is new and (one would assume) open to feedback on format before settling into a routine. Second, my question/comment was more about the format than anything else - at the risk of inciting more fracas, having an intro to an intro where someone comes on talking about her pokemon toys struck me as being a bit like, "hey girls, let's talk about nail polish". That's where the "by women for women" thing came in. I tune in for a story, brief simple intro/extro is really all (IMO) that's needed. I like strong female characters, and I very much enjoyed the first couple of stories I heard. I never meant to suggest anyone should ever scrutinize how many male versus female writers or protagonists are published - balance is nice, but high quality stories trumps everything else.  I put the question out there (obviously not very well) as to whether other listeners felt the same about the additional "front matter". I apologize for causing a stir - really, *truly* didn't intend to insult or offend anyone.

Actually, I was actually referring to Mr. Jeffery Derego, who posts as jrderego on the forums quite regularly and wrote one of the stories in question (Freedom with a small f). I wasn't referring to you in any way, I must admit that I don't usually look at the blog comments and that I only went in to drop in the link to this thread after I'd been made aware that similar comments were being made there as well. I'm sorry for the confusion, though it was a bit of a freak coincidence with the name (for the record, I only attach the Mr/Ms/Mrs if I know for certain which to use, an old boss beat that into me when I was younger).

But let me just say — welcome to the forums and I hope you like it here.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2008, 01:31:36 AM by Heradel »

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Reply #36 on: April 22, 2008, 01:40:07 AM
Heradel,

Many thanks. And my apologies once more.




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Reply #37 on: April 22, 2008, 01:47:44 AM
Heradel,

Many thanks. And my apologies once more.

You brought up something that bothered you, I don't think you need to apologize for that. You weren't the only one that noticed it — deflective in fact posted about 16 hours before you did. Honestly, we welcome criticism about both the stories and the nuts and bolts of the podcasts, including intros to intros.

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Rachel Swirsky

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Reply #38 on: April 22, 2008, 06:26:52 AM
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including intros to intros

The explanation for that one's simple. We had a last minute narrator change. Actually, two, despite a large amount of time and redundancy built into the schedule. Tempest swung with the first one, but by the time it was 3am the night before the story was to be edited and it was clear that I had to record it myself, it was no longer feasible to have Tempest rerecord the "here's who's narrating" bit, so I did it.

Can't guarantee it won't happen again. It's not ideal, though, definitely.



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Reply #39 on: April 22, 2008, 06:33:46 AM
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does anyone have suggestions for favourite stories/books with a distinctly female voice? ideally without the victimization hotbutton, but variety's the key.

Just from the Brit thing, you might enjoy Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (I've probably biffed that title. Anyone want to help?)

Maybe Marion Zimmer Bradley, or Andre Norton, or C. J. Cherryh?

Mod:Put in an EPized link, added Strange to the title, so it's, er, de-biffed. Biffed?
« Last Edit: April 22, 2008, 07:08:21 AM by Heradel »



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Reply #40 on: April 22, 2008, 01:00:24 PM
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does anyone have suggestions for favourite stories/books with a distinctly female voice? ideally without the victimization hotbutton, but variety's the key.

Just from the Brit thing, you might enjoy Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (I've probably biffed that title. Anyone want to help?)

That's the correct title, but I don't think there's anything particularly "female" about the voice in that book.

Maybe Marion Zimmer Bradley, or Andre Norton, or C. J. Cherryh?

I'm very fond of Cherryh and have most of her books (some still unread though).  Actually I'm only fond of her science fiction -- I read Faery in Shadow and only got through it by reminding myself that every page turned brought me that much closer to the end.  I'll give her fantasy another try with Fortress or The Dreaming Tree before I write it off entirely.

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Reply #41 on: April 22, 2008, 04:31:46 PM
I would recommend Marion Zimmer Bradley, but probably not to Deflective.  At least not the ones I've read. 

I thought Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was an excellent read, but I agree with StePH.  Aside from being written by a woman in a breezy Jane Austen-esque voice, it doesn't really focus on any female characters.  I really like what I've read by Naomi Novick, but again -- the book I've read focuses on a guy. 

Are you looking for straight fantasy, Deflective?  Or are you open to SF as well?  I would definitely recommend Elizabeth Bear's Hammered -- I liked it enough to buy the other other two in the series the next time I was at the bookstore (have not, unfortunately read any of her fantasy books).


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Reply #42 on: April 22, 2008, 07:06:16 PM
I thought Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was an excellent read, but I agree with StePH.  Aside from being written by a woman in a breezy Jane Austen-esque voice, it doesn't really focus on any female characters.  I really like what I've read by Naomi Novick, but again -- the book I've read focuses on a guy. 

I don't think a "female voice" is the same as "about female characters". I would think it's quite possible to have a novel with a "female voice" about men (and I agree that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one), just as it is possible to write a novel with a "male voice" about women.



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Reply #43 on: April 22, 2008, 07:20:29 PM
I don't think a "female voice" is the same as "about female characters". I would think it's quite possible to have a novel with a "female voice" about men (and I agree that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one), just as it is possible to write a novel with a "male voice" about women.

I agree.  I think the voice of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is pretty perceptibly female.  And I agree that "from a female perspective" doesn't neccesarily equal "focusing on women."

Cherryh is definitely worth reading--stepH knew I'd agree on that--though like stepH my personal favorites are the science fiction ones.  I myself read way more Andre Norton in my youth than was probably good for me.  Most of the Witch World novels are great fun, at least in my opinion.  My personal faves would be The Crystal Gryphon and The Jargoon Pard with The Year of the Unicorn and the trilogy (Three Against the Witch World, Warlock of the Witch World, Sorceress of the Witch World) ranked just behind.  Of course, that was a taste that was firmly established when I was quite young, so it may or may not hold up for adult readers.

I haven't read Naomi Novik, but I've heard good things.  I've spent so much time reading short fiction the past couple of years, it's hard for me to bring recent novel titles to mind.  I'm going to have to remedy that.



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Reply #44 on: April 22, 2008, 08:08:05 PM
I thought Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was an excellent read, but I agree with StePH.  Aside from being written by a woman in a breezy Jane Austen-esque voice, it doesn't really focus on any female characters.  I really like what I've read by Naomi Novick, but again -- the book I've read focuses on a guy. 

I don't think a "female voice" is the same as "about female characters". I would think it's quite possible to have a novel with a "female voice" about men (and I agree that Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one), just as it is possible to write a novel with a "male voice" about women.

You're absolutely right.  I meant to just make the distinction between a female voice and a story that focuses on a female character, because I wasn't sure if Deflective was looking for one or the other or both.  But I may not have been clear enough.  Thanks.


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Reply #45 on: April 22, 2008, 08:53:24 PM
I think the voice of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is pretty perceptibly female. 

Perhaps it's just because I'm male and totally insensitive to this sort of thing :) but I never notice literature as having a "male" or "female" "voice".  I have trouble distinguishing an authorial "voice" at all.

(Of course it probably doesn't help that rather than read this book, I listened to the audio which was read by Simon Prebble.)

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Reply #46 on: April 22, 2008, 11:41:53 PM
If we're recommending fantasy novels by female authors with distinctive voices, I've recently been enjoying the work of Steph Swainston.

(Moderators, feel free to sort out the link.)
« Last Edit: April 23, 2008, 01:32:11 AM by Bdoomed »



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Reply #47 on: April 22, 2008, 11:56:01 PM
If we're recommending fantasy novels by female authors with distinctive voices, I've recently been enjoying the work of Steph Swainston.

(Moderators, feel free to sort out the link.)

Unfortunately the affiliate system only works with individual items, not the results of a search.

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Reply #48 on: April 23, 2008, 12:25:33 AM
Just from the Brit thing, you might enjoy Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

i jogged down to the local library to pick up a copy. holy stack of paper! it was like weight training on the way home.

I'm very fond of Cherryh and have most of her books

i was surprised to find the chanur novels when i looked her up. some time ago i read the first one but didn't realize there was an option to keep going. space faring lions, what's not to like? =)

Are you looking for straight fantasy, Deflective?  Or are you open to SF as well?

anything you think appropriate really, especially if it highlights a point you want to talk about. i'll check out hammered once i start catching up.



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Reply #49 on: April 25, 2008, 01:53:05 AM
I would definitely recommend Elizabeth Bear's Hammered

it's easy to understand why after hearing tideline