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How much sympathy is left for people who still like traditional gender roles?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Mythopoet, Nov 23, 2015.

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  1. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Let me get right to the point: I am a woman. I am a wife and a mother. I am a Christian (Catholic variety). And I still like traditional gender roles. I enjoy being a stay at home mom. I enjoy taking care of my children and my house rather than having a job or career. My only real aspirations are to have a healthy and happy family life and to become a self-published storyteller.

    I enjoy being female and feminine. I like that my partner in life is male and masculine. I try my best to let my children, 2 girls and 3 boys, develop naturally but as a Catholic I do believe that human beings are either male or female, there is a distinct biological difference. Though I do not automatically subscribe to all of the male and female stereotypes of society. I prefer to think about such things for myself and decide whether they truly have anything to do with being male or female or whether they are just the image our warped society chooses to believe is male or female. I do, however, believe that only women can be mothers and only men can be fathers. And yes, I do believe that marriage is only between a man and a women, for their mutual spiritual edification and for the formation of a family.

    Despite laying this all out, I don't want to argue or debate here about whether anything I believe is true. I'm 33 years old and I've spent the better part of the last 10+ years contemplating what I truly believe so it's not likely an argument on the internet is going to sway me.

    No, what I want to know is, how much sympathy is there among writers and reader in today's society for someone like me who has such strongly founded beliefs and is not willing to compromise them?

    I'm not going to write homosexual couples. I'm not going to represent any kind of gender fluidity in my writing. Nothing about my stories is going to celebrate anything that goes against Catholic doctrine. On the other hand, I have no intention of making my personal morals the center of my stories. I do not write Christian Fiction. I would say the way I approach it is closest to J. R. R. Tolkien. As he said, his LOTR was fundamentally Catholic, even though he went to great pains to keep "religion" out of it. Honestly, I prefer to focus on magic and adventure and universal themes.

    Lately, I have become increasingly aware of how much today's modern morals and worldview are pushed by fan communities and communities of writers. It seems to be becoming more and more expected that all writing should represent today's world. I can't do that. Is there still a place for my stories in this environment?

    I'm not likely to stop writing, whatever the answer. But I am curious. And I would really, really like this thread to not descend into flaming. Let's try to respect each other's beliefs as much as possible.
     
  2. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Hi Mytho! I love when people get personal on the forums :) I now have a better understanding of who you are, instead of imagining you as an 18 year old nerdy boy!

    I'm a 31 year old mother of 2.

    I think the trend in writing is towards breaking stereotypes/cliches and representing minority groups. Bit this can be done in many ways. writing from the perspective of a child or person with disabilities, giving a character a handicap, representing a variety of races and cultures... Overcoming challenges has always been what fiction is about, but challenges can just as easily be found in a traditional household as an alternative household. If you are not comfortable writing about homosexual couples or gender fluidity then don't! Write about what you feel and what you value and you will have readers that feel the same.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  3. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    It seems to me that there are a lot of threads here at MS that focus on these kinds of issues. I think that focus over-represents the market desire for those kinds of issues.

    If you go to a site where people focus more on the business side of things, I think the impression you'd get is that a) there's definitely a market for those kinds of stories and b) there's also a huge market of people who couldn't care less about whether those things are included or not.
     
    Thoras and Xitra_Blud like this.
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    My impression - when it comes to gender, at least - is that there's left, and neutral, and that you'd have a hard time trying to go to the right, unless you were specifically marketing to, say, church groups, which many people do.

    That's unfortunate because it really means there's left, neutral, and a jump to the far right. There's not much in the moderate-to-middle right.

    But that's just my impression of things. I could be all wrong.
     
    TheCatholicCrow and Mythopoet like this.
  5. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Okay, unless you become an overnight sensation as an author to the point where mainstream media is covering your books and people are posting op-ed pieces about your work...you don't freaking have to worry about what fan communities want or people with blogs coming after you for writing an all-white all-straight cast. Unless you're controversial, no one will care.

    You can ignore the writing advice blogs on diversity if you want, because the status quo and the vast majority of the body of fantasy work agree with you. Wanting to stay there isn't taking a stand or anything.

    Sympathy for what? Interjecting into conversations about diversity isn't going to win you a lot of applause for your views, true. But step outside of that bubble of people online who care about social justice, and you'll be right at home. I guess I just don't get it.
     
  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I think that this is an excellent read of the situation. Well-stated.
     
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    What would a neutral viewpoint be?
     
  8. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Does this include non-human races, extraterrestrial races, mythical/alien animal species, etc.?
     
  9. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Good question. I would say that it would hold true for any humans, reasonably humanoid races, or races that can interbreed with humans. I would not rule out the possibility for any significantly different race/species, but there would have to be a good in-world, natural reason for it.
     
  10. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Thanks, Helio.

    I would like this to be true. That what really matter is representing people overcoming struggles. But the more time I spend around fans of various things, the more this seems to be changing.
     
  11. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Here's a question you need to ask yourself, though: are the "fans of various things" you're spending time with truly representative of the reading public?

    If I were to gauge the market based on posts here on MS, I would think that it is absolutely necessary to have my works preach diversity. As far as I can tell, that is a huge market of readers who really just don't care about whether or not you include diverse viewpoints; they just want a good, well-written story.
     
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  12. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I'm currently on my third Robin Hobb Farseer trilogy, and I don't recall a single case of a homosexual couple or gender-fluid individual in the whole lot. It's not exactly something I've "noticed" missing, while reading. And her books sell pretty well.

    In her very latest book, there is one character who is female but dresses as a male much of the time, but this relates to her past. She was born and raised in a brothel, and her mother treated her as a son from the very beginning, in order to protect her. Plus, she's in training to be a spy/assassin, so being able to be a convincing boy or girl comes in handy. But I don't have the impression of her that she's authentically gender-fluid (even if she's more comfortable in her male persona, simply due to her upbringing.) In fact, she has a budding crush on a young male character in the book.

    I'm a gay man, so I'm somewhat open to finding gay characters or gender-fluid characters in the books I read–somewhat, because I can be extremely annoyed by poor portrayals or simplistic sterotypes. Even so, I not only tend to expect a primarily traditional sex/gender cast of characters, I'm not at all annoyed when an entire cast fits that bill. Most of the great stories are neutral: They can be told with traditional sex/gender characters or with a mixed cast of characters. This doesn't mean that I won't be especially pleased when a well-written gay character appears in the cast or indeed is the MC–I probably will find a slightly deeper connection. But I don't miss the absence of such a character.
     
    Thoras, Miskatonic, Creed and 2 others like this.
  13. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    That is precisely what I am asking myself. That is the purpose of this thread, to discuss the question with others who might have other experiences that shed light on it.

    The fact is, no one really knows anything about the market for books. But we do know one thing: that word of mouth is the best promotion you can get. Word of mouth generally takes off among people in the book audience who are vocal about what they like. Thus, I would suggest that online communities of fans are not a bad place to gauge reader reactions. These are the people who are going to go on twitter complaining if they think there's an offensive racial stereotype in your book, and who are just as likely to rave about the books they really liked.

    My recent observations is that the outspoken fan community has become much more outspoken about what they want out of stories, and often what they want is a very modern approach, regardless of genre.

    The purpose of this thread is to see whether others have the same experiences and also what you personally as a reader feel about this issue.
     
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Ohh. I don't know. I would say that Tolkein's portrayals of women are fairly neutral, except that there's very few of them.

    I think giving a female character some kind of agency in the plot (that is, they don't just do things, but in some way help make the plot happen) strikes me as a reasonable request, unless maybe you're writing a guy's relatively straightforward coming of age story from a tight 3rd person POV.

    I don't think you have to fight gender norms or de-feminize women. I would consider that leftward (for the purposes of this conversation). But the biggest and most reasonable complaint that people have is that women are just left out (which, I would not really put on the left-to-right spectrum). Including women, and making them solid characters, should be doable for anyone. You can do that and be reasonably neutral about gender roles.
     
  15. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yes, I agree with BWFoster and FifthView.

    I think that most readers are just looking for a good story. I was excited about watching The Imitation Game because I was excited about seeing how the man broke the German enigma code. When they threw in the struggles he had at the time with his sexuality I found it really heightened the sympathy I felt for his character and ALL of the struggles he faced, but his sexuality did not influence the main plot and the main plot would have been just as interesting without delving deeply into his personal life.

    Like I said, I think that overcoming conflict, any conflict, is what people are looking for. If that means a boy wakes up every day in a different body, or a child with non-verbal autism witnesses a murder, or a white dude goes on a quest to stop an evil white dude, it doesn't matter, so long as it is told in a compelling way.

    And on a personal note, I was in the process of writing a sword and sorcery short about a lesbian couple for a magazine that looked specifically for those sorts of stories… but the magazine folded… so obviously not as big of a market as one might think ;)
     
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    You could try Strange Horizons, which specifically looks for that kind of material. Lightspeed Magazine is normally neutral, but they ran a successful Kickstarter for a special issue focused on the LGBT community. Both should be easy to find and pay over 6 cents a word.
     
    Heliotrope likes this.
  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Huh?

    If you want to know about the market for books, simply study what's selling on Amazon. A snapshot of one day isn't a great measure because promos can make books shoot to the top and only stay there a short time. Instead, record what books are at the top of your genre over a couple of months. That will tell you exactly what is selling.

    Saying that no one knows the market doesn't make any sense. All the data you need is right on Amazon.

    Again - huh?

    No. The best promotion you can get is a Bookbub. Put out a book, promote the heck out of it, and let Amazon's algos do the rest of the work for you.

    Word of mouth? Where are you getting your marketing information?

    I'm just not sure that the vast majority of the reading public takes part in online communities. They go to Amazon, pick a book, read it, and then go back to Amazon.

    Maybe you're right, and this is a good place to mine for information on what readers want. My problem with it is that I don't know enough about how representative those communities are. I much prefer to base any conclusions on what is actually selling.
     
  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Well, the idiot that I am forgot one of the MAIN CHARACTERS in Robin Hobb's series: The Fool. Anyone familiar with the series needs to slap me, repeatedly. There's a whole running question throughout the series about whether he's male or female. None of the other characters knows the answer to this, and The Fool won't reveal the answer. It just so happens that The Fool's given name, given by his three parents (!) is Beloved. So the MC, Fitz, eventually calls him Beloved, and there is a sort of love between them–but it is a deep love that friends can share, not a romantic love. The Fool, also, sometimes assumes a female persona, sometimes a male persona, depending on what sort of disguise he needs, and is quite convincing either way. But The Fool comes from a distant land and it's always suggested that he's not human.

    And to be honest, I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with some of the interaction between Fitz and The Fool.
     
  19. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

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    Also, I'd like to point out that third-wave (i.e. modern) feminism is definitely concerned with valuing femininity and women's work no matter where it takes place, as in addition to traditionally "masculine" roles or careers. That women's work in the household and the emotional labor of taking care of a family should be given its due.

    Devor has it right. A character doesn't have to pick up a sword to be a feminist character; she just has to have power and value of some kind in the story.

    If you don't want to write a story about women fighting wars and being indistinguishable from men, that's not the opposite of feminism. I'm writing, or trying to write, a story where the main character is very traditionally feminine; she was married, she works as a maid and a healer, and one of her driving motivations is concern for the safety of her unborn child. And I think this is a very feminist story, not only for some of the themes but for the focus on women, that they take up their fair share of the story, that they are important and world-changing.
     
  20. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Thank you Nimue, for bringing this up.

    As a modern feminist, a professional woman with a masters degree, and a stay at home mom this is a hot button issue for me. For a long time we tried to say that in order for a woman to be strong, she must behave like a man. I actually feel (and this is a whole new can of worms…) that 80's feminism was almost misogynistic, in that it tried to erase the female completely and establish an entirely male culture, where everything that was traditionally feminine was degraded and left to under paid help (nanny's, daycare, housekeepers, etc).

    We ARE seeing a shift now towards embracing the feminine and demanding not equality, but choice (for everyone, male and female)… I think more and more readers are not looking for women dressed up as men, behaving like men, as much as they are looking for women who are alive. Making choices, having thoughts and feelings and opinions…

    Cercie Lannister is definitely my favourite character on GOT. She is a mother, a lover, a siren who uses her sexuality and femininity for destruction… but her motives are entirely human. She loves her children. She would do anything to protect them. She loves her country, and would do anything to protect it. She is the ultimate mama bear. She is very strong, though VERY anti-feminist.

    On the flip side is my other favourite character, Arya, who is the opposite. All 'boy' but still a great read.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
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