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Gender roles in Wheel of Time

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Zero Angel, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    This came up in another forum. Here's my OP. Discuss:
    Steerpike went on to say:

    And then Ankari chimed in with:

    And then Phil the Drill asked the logical question to prevent further derailment:


    It should also be noted that my OP was in response to Mindfire saying how keeping people from knowing something that characters know was stupid...

    Sums up everything so far? And go:
     
  2. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Here's the deal. Readers have a hard time wrapping their heads around such an absurd notion that the opposite sex is completely untrustworthy. We, as readers, evaluate such a concept from our person experiences. Who in their right mind totally disregards the opposite sex simply because they are the opposite sex? There are a few, but I'm talking to the people that are not living on the fringe of society and moral norms.

    After giving it some thought, I can understand how Jordan wrote this into his world. For 3,000 years you have an understanding that one gender, males, brought about the Breaking of the World. You're warned by your mother that if you're bad, the Dragon will come and take you away in the middle of the night (second POV there, Steerpike!). Men claiming to be False Dragons go nuts and must be put down like wild animals or else their immediate surrounds will fall under the devastating power of their tainted connection with the One Power. Aes Sedai, while not completely trusted, are the ones who corral and put down these wild animals.

    Oddly, Jordan, who is known for describing a blade of grass to death, doesn't fully explain male-female relationship. He shows it. He wants the reader to pick up on this. But, as stated above, we have a preconceived notion of what male-female relationship should be like. We can't wrap our heads around this foreign concept.

    When Rand becomes the Dragon Reborn (btw, I think half of the success for this series can be attributed to that awesome title) he shatters 3,000 years of ingrained fear. Think of it like the movie Contagion. Your friends and family, those who you never would betray and would die for, are suddenly anathema to you. You can't be around them and don't fully trust them. Sickness calls to a deeper fear, a dread of wasting away while knowing your ultimate fate.

    With the coming of Rand, males become that plague. Suddenly your husband and brother are no longer fully trustworthy. What if they can channel and go crazy with your family around you?

    The Aes Sedai-Rand relationship drives me absolutely bonkers. But I understand it. Rand seeks to challenge their way of doing things, the covenant they carried for so long, simply because a few words were spoken about his significance.
     
  3. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    See Ankari, I have no problem with the way people treat men channelers and the relationships between Aes Sedai and Rand etc because I found it believable.

    But they (and by they, I mean all females) treat Mat and Perrin the same as Rand, and Mat and Perrin treat all women the same way as they themselves are treated.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, I was going to say the same thing Zero Angel said. It's not just Aes Sedai and everyone having an attitude toward men that can channel. It is all of the female characters in relation to all male characters, Matt and Perrin included. Even Perrin's wife gets in on it. You get in a situation where all of these people who have known each other for their entire lives and are all on the same side of this epic battle that's coming withholding vital information from one another in situations where any halfway reasonable person would divulge it. And the men do the same thing in reverse to the women. It passed the point of abject stupidity for me a long time ago, and had Sanderson not picked up the series I doubt I'd ever finish it, but since he did I'm going to give it a shot.
     
  5. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    After a while it's hard to find the motivation to care about the difference.

    You don't have to look very far to find a real world example. The Sikh bombing that killed 6 (I think) recently. They were killed because people couldn't distinguish between a Sikh and a Muslim. Now, ask people to distinguish between a Muslim and a terrorist. And this after only 11 years. Imagine 3,000
     
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Doesn't make sense. These people have known each other their entire lives. Further, there is nothing to suggest that in the entire world every man and every woman are at odds in this manner; it is just the important characters. I sometimes wonder if it wasn't merely a cheap way to avoid resolving issues so that he could keep the series going longer and longer.
     
    Zero Angel likes this.
  7. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    I was thinking of Perrin's wife when I was writing my last post! I'm sure I would have finished it, but it was to the point that I was annoyed while reading even when I enjoyed what I read.

    My major issue with the series is that it dragged on too long in the middle there. Since the last few when Jordan knew he was nearing his end and since Sanderson picked it up, the "rewards" have been coming by the page. Although, I am also pretty prepared to be completely disgusted by the ending. I've been prepared for this since the entire "WHEEL OF TIME" motif says that everything keeps repeating and that there is no end. I almost left the series also when they discussed the parallel worlds where the dark lord won. I'd say that the way I handle time travel, parallel worlds and prophecy in my book is most largely influenced by Wheel of Time--although not a positive influence.

    I think anyone that deals with Muslims or people from the Middle East on a regular basis don't have any issues distinguishing. These people dealt with men and women on a regular basis and the ones that could naturally channel were the freaks that went away and died or were stilled and killed by the Aes Sedai. Kinda' like serial killers or sociopaths. Since 99% of the men that people encounter were the "safe men" (until Rand) and 80% of the women that people encounter were not "Aes Sedai", I think they would (and SHOULD) be able to tell the difference.

    But even in their politics it is the same way! Almost EVERY political body in that series is overtly sexual...err, sexist.

    (ostentatiously sexual or ostensibly sexist--gotta' love word endings)
     
  8. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I don't know. My early years in grade school come to mind. That particular philosophy was quite popular back then. Even now the sound of female giggling makes me nervous. It never means anything good. :p
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2012
  9. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Let's take the an example from the series and dissect it. If anyone hasn't read the series, don't go on. We're going to share a lot of the later content.

    Egwene was supposed to be Rand's wife. They grew up together, as you said. Suddenly an Aes Sedai sweeps in to take her, a couple other girls, Rand and his two friends away from the Two Rivers. Egwene learns in the Tower that all men who can channel are tainted. They are in possession of a power that will drive them mad and may cause devastation in their wake. She then studies with the Wise Ones. The Wise Ones hold to the belief that the chiefs of the clans are children who need their (Wise Ones) leadership to balance the constant bloodshed between clans. She studies a long time with the Wise Ones. And they all seem resentful of men.

    Next, she continues her studies with the Aes Sedai rebels. Logain is in camp, a constant reminder of what happens to men when the possess the One Power. She is raised to the Amyrlin Seat and burdened with the responsibility of mending the fissure between the Aes Sedai. She has 3,000 years of precedent to live up to concerning her obligation to the Aes Sedai and role they impose on the rest of the world. It's a constant them with her: the Dragon Reborn is to ride into Tarmon Gaidon with the White Tower guiding him. She isn't Egwene any more. She is the Amyrlin Seat that is crushed under 3,000 years of expectation.

    So then you have Rand. He is the Dragon Reborn. He hates scheming, hates selfish desires, hates petty conflict. He has a voice in his head warning him against Aes Sedai. He has been shielded by Aes Sedai, beaten by them, and finally forced to kill a whole bunch of them. He knows what his task is and accepts that he will die doing so. He just wants everyone to stop resisting and follow him so he can get it done.

    When the two meet, after Egwene becomes Amyrlin, they have a conversation. He doesn't see her as Egwene from Two Rivers any more. She is the Amyrlin Seat. The unfortunate thing is that she can't treat him as Rand from the block. He is the Dragon Reborn who has shown signs of what all human dread from a man touching the One Power.

    Rand wants the White Tower to bend knee to him. Egwene is afraid of the Black Tower and of what bending knee to Rand implies. He has shown that he is more ruthless than Aes Sedai. He has killed and expects all to do the same at his command. The Black Tower trains their recruits to be weapons. Aes Sedai hold to the rule that they should not kill unless threatened or against the encroaching Shadow.

    So taking all this into account, you can see why they don't trust each other. It's similar to two brothers that play for two different football teams. They understand themselves to share blood, but they have to do what's in the best interest of their respective team.
     
  10. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    This all sounds like it might be interesting enough to read if I wasn't constantly irked by Jordan's awkward name structures and reputation for going on far too long. Maybe when they put out an abridged version I'll read that instead.
     
  11. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Just showing the example of Rand and Egwene isn't enough. If that's all there was to it, it wouldn't be so bad. Even if it was everyone with respect to their attitudes toward Rand and his channeling men, it wouldn't be so bad. But it's all of them, including as noted above Perrin's wife toward Perring, Matt and his girlfriend/wife, Egwene and the rest of them toward Matt and Perrin, and so on.
     
  12. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Maybe these people are just fundamentally different from us in a way we don't fully get? They live in an alternate world. Why might they not simply have natures different in some ways from our own? Maybe their society just has a larger gender gap as a side effect of the magic disturbance.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    It's not set up that way, however. There is nothing at all to suggest the whole world acts this way. It is just the main characters, and primarily when not talking keeps one side in the dark long enough to complicate the plot. If you haven't read it, you won't fully understand the lengths at which this goes on in the books and how contrived it gets by the time you start getting six or seven novels in.
     
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Um... politics? Mistrust? All out hatred? All of these are potential reasons for not sharing information. Heck, within our own government it takes a lot of pressure to make the FBI and CIA play nice together. Not to mention the rest of the intelligence/law enforcement community. It's not terribly unrealistic in that sense.
     
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Mindfire - read the books, then get back to me.
     
  16. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Not a chance. I'm reading summaries. :p
     
  17. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Heh. Well, unless you actually read them, you can't understand the absurdity of it. You can throw out all the speculative reasons you want, but the truth is none of those things are supported in the story and the way it plays out, with the withholding of information, really does get ridiculous.
     
  18. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    It really is absurd. But the existence of it is one thing. I remember being frustrated WAYYY back in Book I and going, well, these are young characters, we will see them develop as the series goes on...boy was I wrong. Anyway, the existence of it is one thing, the fact that it n-e-v-e-r ends is an entirely different beast.

    Even when the characters are repeatedly confounded by their sexist attitudes and the sexist attitudes of those they interact with, it never freaking ends. No character ever wakes up. No character ever realizes, hey, maybe they're not so bad. Even as the characters are "developing" to the point where they tolerate those they are prejudiced towards, they still twist it in their heads so that it the relationship comes out sexist and absurd. It is so freaking absurd. Sooooo freaking absurd.

    (Well, Lan seems mostly OK from what I remember.)

    But it's not even just that. MANY of the characters are possessed of a ridiculous sense of ego and the belief that they know what is best for the world and everyone else around them no matter what. This is between females mostly, although Rand does this with everyone (to be fair, Rand seems to be mostly right). So men hate females and women hate males, but women also hate women.

    At least, that's my interpretation of his works -_-
     
  19. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Wow, quite a bit of in depth analysis above.

    WoT is my favorite series evah, but even I don't claim that Jordan is perfect.

    I get Steerpike's frustration, but it (the problem, not Steerpikes frustration - gotta watch those antecedents) doesn't bother me that much.

    My take on it from the beginning was that it was a simple mechanism to interject humor and conflict that ended up being taken WAY to far. It's annoying at times, but, for the most part, I overlook it.

    Something that actually annoyed me quite a bit more:

    Moiraine (and everyone else) is so skeptical that Rand can cleanse Saidin. Help me out here. Everyone keeps referring to the cyclical nature of their world. At some point, Saidin is clean and becomes sullied. At some point, it HAS to be clensed. Is it really that much of a stretch to think that it is the Dragon Reborn that does the cleaning? Really?
     
  20. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Even though I'm providing argument in favor of Jordan's usage of this contrived tension, I actually hated it too. At more than a few points in the story I'm thinking "Rand! Lay down the hammer!" He does a few times, especially towards the end. But I wanted to see so more of that assertiveness. Especially with the White Tower. I really wouldn't have been surprised if Rand would have stepped in and said "Enough of the BS. You're either following me or getting Balefired!"
     

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