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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. Devouring Wolf

    Devouring Wolf Sage

    I have no problem with people not liking something and not buying it. I support people's right to criticize and make suggestions. However, I do find it incredibly annoying when people boycott something that in no way really effects them. If you don't like something, don't read it, but too often the people who dislike something attack others for liking something they personally dislike or find offensive. I have a "live and let live" philosophy which a lot of social justice warriors don't seem to understand.
  2. Brithel

    Brithel Dreamer

    As long as it is not forced down the readers throat or mentioned in a way that suggests that this state of affairs (women being housewives etc.) is some kind of universal truth that applies to real life (by which I mean make it too preachy) I see no reason to not to have it. The most flack I imagine you'd receive is if women are presented as mere household objects, but expect that wouldn't be the case. If they receive characterisation it should be fine.

    I, personally, have never cared all too much about the 'pc-ness' of things and I expect the mass market cares less than I do, so it shouldnt be much of an issue.
  3. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Speaking as a straight male I find this entire debate a little off target. There are several problems that stick out.

    The first can be summed up in the old mantra - "write what you know". I would not write a gay character etc, because I simply don't know how to. I have some friends who are gay, and I suppose I could ask, but really what I know is not that world so in attempting to write it I would probably be doing it a disservice. I try to write women well but even I know that when I do I'm really writing them as men with lipstick etc. I cannot get into the mindset of a woman. Having said that I once got rung up by my editor and thanked profusely for writing a strong self sacrificing female character - something that shocked me since she normally rings me up to abuse me!

    The second thing that strikes me as not really well considered is this underlying assumption that there is one homogenous audience. There isn't. The world is comprised of individuals, and whatever you write is going to be received well by some and badly by others. Lets take this out of the realm of womens lib for the moment and simply look at magic. People love Harry Potter right? Well there are in fact whole protest movements against him because he is "in league with the devil etc".

    Catch 22 - one of my favourite books ever - was lambasted as anti-establishment / communist / anti America and strangely to me another one Stranger in a Strange Land got similar treatment. Yet both were also powerfully supported by communities of readers. Clockwork Orange which I haven't read gets similar responces from the other side of the political spectrum. The authors dared to write some things that were controversial and got both praised and cursed by extremely loud vocal minorities. But I would guess that since the books were commercial successes, the majority of readers simply enjoyed the books for themselves and ignored the other stuff.

    Last, there is the idea in this thread that you can simply write to please your readers. I don't think you can. Writing is communication and communication is about spreading messages that others will agree and / or disagree with. It really doesn't matter what you write, someone, potentially someone with a loud voice, is going to take issue with it.

    One of my books - Wildling - has a review on it that actually scares me. The reader goes so far as to say he objects to my character's acceptance of guilt for a brutal killing he carried out. Personally that shocked me. The idea that someone could do what he did no matter how necessary and not feel something like guilt, shame and remorse does not sit well with me. But I do not respond and I do not let the opinion phase me. I wrote my character as I know and I am comfortable with him and the way he thinks.

    If some of my readers aren't happy I cannot stop them being so or saying bad things. As long as others are happy with it and say so, than I'm happy. Though actually that's not correct. I could stop them. I could simply never publish a book. Though that seems rather self defeating!

    My avice is write the books as you want and as you feel is right, and then give them to the world and stop worrying about what people think of them. Some may call them anti this or pro that. There's nothing you can do about that save not to publish.

    Cheers, Greg.
    Incanus and Heliotrope like this.
  4. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    Yeah, I wasn't looking for practical advice or anything. I was just interested in an intellectual discussion. Clearly I failed so I don't know.
  5. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hi, I'm rather late to this conversation (been killing Deathclaws in the Wasteland of Boston, ahem) but this is an interesting discussion.

    Mytho, what it boils down to is the same righteous advice as always, write what YOU want to write with a specific audience in mind. It's great that there's such a trend towards diversity in literature. More people get what they'd like to read. However, that doesn't mean that traditionalist views are dead, or that you have to write about social issues that you aren't comfortable with because it's the trend. I don't see it as being trendy, but more authors exploring ideas that are becoming more socially acceptable.

    There's a certain style/brand that we all lean towards in our writing. That's what we should stick to because it's where the heart of our art comes from. We do better writing about certain topics versus others. For example, I love to write about messed up heroines. I pretty much only write from the female perspective (although I enjoy writing from the male perspective too). But the reason I do this is because that's what I'm into. Women who have various issues and change over the course of the story. There are certain moral/social/thematic issues that I enjoy exploring in my stories that make them mine.

    Other writers explore ideas that call to them, and readers who are into those ideas buy their books. Readers who want to read what I write buy my books, etc. There's a market for everything out there. Write a book to the best of your potential, polish it, beautify it with a nice cover, write follow up books, and market them. That's the formula. The content inside of those books will call to a specific audience, YOUR audience, and they'll look to your books for a certain feel and mind play.

    What I'm saying is, don't think that you have to write anything you don't feel comfortable with or understand. I have no idea what it's like being any person other than a Hispanic female in her 30s, a mother, and wife. Therefore, my stories explore themes that come from my life experiences of addiction, co-dependency, marriage, whatever.
    Heliotrope likes this.
  6. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I find this approach so strange, a complete abdication of responsibility.

    As a straight white CIS well off male almost no social issues really effect me. Does that mean I should stand by and not act when I see something happening when I think it is wrong?

    Many people, me included, feel we have a responsibility to make society or the world a better place rather than simply stick our head in the sand when others are being harmed.

    The "live and let live philosophy" you appear to espouse is actually quite frightening.

    I kind of like the term "social justice warrior". If social justice is not worth fighting for...what is?
    Dark Squiggle and Gryphos like this.
  7. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I want to say that I'm in a similar situation to Mythopoet as a traditional Catholic. I'm not too concerned with traditional gender roles in my writing, but I also want the women in my stories to read as though their gender is a real part of them as characters, and not a simple interchangeable piece of the character's background. That can mean different things for different characters.

    I've said this before, but my primary focus in this area is to do right by my readers. I'm not concerned about social movements or pushing a political message or worrying about hitting a checkbox ideal. I don't have the emotional energy to get worked up about what anyone else is doing in their writing. But I want my work to appeal to as many people as possible. I want readers to be able to relate to the characters, and not feel "put off" because they're too much of one thing and that has to mean this, that or whatever (a statement which people will feel for things other than just ethnic or gender diversity).

    That is, there's room in many books for both Hermione Granger and Molly Weasley, so let's not get too heavy handed.
  8. DMThaane

    DMThaane Sage

    And what about when fighting isn't the answer? The problem with the 'social justice warrior', if such a thing can be said to exist, is not that they fight for what they believe in but that all they do is fight. All they do is engage and attack with no thought, consideration, or reflection. Believing oneself justified is not the same as pursuing justice. Do most of these self-righteous petitions and boycotts really make the world a better place or do they just make us feel better about ourselves?

    At the end of the day I believe that we have a responsibility, be it motivated by morals, ethics, or simple pragmatism, to make society or the world a better place but that doesn't mean attacking a bigot simply for being a bigot. It means seeking to understand the world, analysing it, identifying effective strategies for accomplishing lasting change, identifying (as much as possible) the actual effects of this change, and implanting those strategies that prove a positive influence. Good intentions are useful for paving a road to hell but it's good methods that help build a better world.

    Sorry for drifting slightly off topic but I see that argument so often and wanted to respond with something slightly intelligibly.
  9. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    ^Well put.

    When I write a woman, she's a woman. When I write "man in a dress," that's my failure to make a female character strong without making her masculine.

    I probably have done (and continue to do) things that are off-putting to some, but I do try to write characters who are not defined by gender or sexuality. When it comes to love, lust, sex, nudity... I try to treat a female character no differently than I would treat a male character.

    As a writer, I've always preferred to keep my nude scenes non-sexual, love/lust as feelings, and sex scenes I've written can be counted on thumbs and I plan to keep it that way.

    As a reader, I'm more open. I can't think of what I don't like about a given "type" of female character. If she's a bad character, it may be she was written as a man in a dress or token female, or she's just badly written and gender has nothing to do with the turn-off.
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

    In the first part of your post I think you put too literal an interpretation on the word "fighting." For instance both Ghandi and MLK eschewed violence per se but both could be said to be fighting for people's rights.

    There is no doubt that some people act in an ignorant, uniformed or overly aggressive fashion. How one fights for social justice needs to change from case to case and situation to situation. But a fight it is. There are lots of people who are embarassingly ignorant, aggressive and vulgar in their claimed pursuit of social justice. But just because some of the people who support the promotion of equality and freedom are misguided, despicable, selfish, egotistical morons, does not mean that the pursuit of social justice is any less worthy an endevour.

    Which tactics are effective for which cause, at which time, is a much longer more complex discussion, likely not suited for this site.
  11. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    What's happening in Boston? See? This is why I go to Quincy for Dim Sum. First it was the pigeons pooping on my daughter's face, and now we have Death Claws.

    Uh... on topic, it's interesting that you prefer to write "messed up heroines." Not a bad thing; you have a type of character you enjoy writing and there's nothing wrong with that. I think if you write a type you enjoy, the character will be strong. (Readers want variety; they read the works of many writers.)

    I tend to write characters that mean well and fight to protect the innocent rather than for collecting a bounty. There's no wrong reason to be the heroine. She just needs a flaw to be relatable. You choose addiction or whatever makes her messed up, while my heroine might be too inexperienced to fully understand the dangers surrounding her.
  12. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    It's so strange to me to see the conversation turn to how awful and combative SJWs are when there's so many people attacking from the other side. And not just the hate out there on the internet--there's been a lot on this forum over the last couple of days, to the point where I feel kind of appalled and incredibly unwelcome.

    This entire thread is everyone except Russ attacking the very idea of trying to bring social progress into fantasy writing. People who are looking for progressive fantasy are just "annoying", "offensive", "self-righteous", etc, etc. Not to mention other threads--

    Well, cool. I'm a feminist, and it sounds like I should go jump off a cliff.

    I don't know. I need a break from this site. It's possible that I'm being too sensitive about this, but it's hard to shrug it off when every other new post is a veiled insult towards "SJWs" or "Feminazis". I don't know if it's backlash from other threads, but there seems to be just this massive upswell against anything liberal or progressive. If you don't agree with modern social justice movements, fine, but is it really necessary to cast people as villains? Are these the conversations that we want to have here?

    How much sympathy is left for people who still like traditional gender roles? Don't worry about that, there's plenty. Sympathy in the other direction is feeling very scarce on the ground.
  13. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Making blanket statements like this are what's part of the problem. In my response, I mentioned that writers are exploring ideas that have become more socially acceptable and that's a good thing. I never said any of the things you mention in your response so I'd like to be kept out of it. I'm not a feminist but have no problem with others identifying themselves as such. People have a right to believe what they want and I'm always going to be respectful of their view points, so I'd like the same in return.

    I have mad respect for authors putting their work out there and creating a readership. Being a writer is so freaking hard, whether or not you do it full time. If anything, all of us should be supporting one another in this endeavor. Great minds think alike, right? And what a better thing to align us all than writing fantasy fiction and entertaining readers? Come on you guys. Love.
  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Having a character you can relate to is important whether it's a man, woman, dog, or monster. I draw up characters by choosing a theme and idea to explore, make that into a flaw, then draft up a character and story that best fits the idea I want to explore. It just so happens that I'm fascinated by broken spirits and how people rise out of that.
  15. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator


    This topic can be discussed civilly and with respect, and that's how it should be approached. Fantasy, as a genre, is a huge tent. There is plenty of room for traditional stories, as well as stories that explore different takes on gender, sexuality, etc. There's a tremendous body of great fantasy and SF that explores these latter topics. As writers we should be able to discuss what we like and don't like about these works, and what they're attempting, without resorting to insults or derogatory language.

    Words like "Feminazi" don't have any place in such a discussion, other than as an insult. Maybe the same is true of SJW - I don't take it as an insult, but it often seems, in context, to be offered as one. That level of discourse doesn't have a place on Mythic Scribes, so please refrain from it. Even if you want to argue against those kinds of works your comments should be made substantively, and without the use of such language.

    Thank you.
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  16. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    I'm sorry, I think that was an overexaggeration. It seems as though this discussion started out fairly well or at least neutrally, but somewhere in the middle the conversation turned from offering Mytho reassurance and, well, sympathy about what she wants to open hostility towards people who want something different from their fantasy. It's the nature of something like this that it will attract more extreme views, but I was genuinely blindsided by the tone that emerged here & elsewhere. It's not something I'm used to seeing in this corner of the internet.
  17. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    I think that's part of it. Over the time I've been here I've read an awful lot of threads that gave (to me, at least) the impression that if your story doesn't have some sort of progressive idea in it, you're failing as a writer. I don't object to stories that have progressive messages, but I think it's silly for it to be a requirement. If a writer wants to send such a message, all well and good. Have at it. But I reject the notion that a story must have a progressive message/theme/whatever. And the hazard that looms large in writing a story with a message is that the author goes from telling a story to delivering a sermon.

    Gender roles is a common theme that is bandied about here. It's not a topic that particularly interests me, but I think the Dragonsword Trilogy by Gail Baudino did a beautiful job of exploring it. An elite band of warriors in an ultrapatriarchal society is hit with powerful magic by an enemy sorcerer and turned into women. Most of these warriors, these uber manly men, were so devastated they committed suicide. The survivors responded in a number of ways. The captain of the troop adjusted to life as a woman, remaining a warrior yet gradually finding herself falling in love with a man. Others, also women who remained warriors, were attracted to women, and these relationships were portrayed quite beautifully. None of these characters were in the story for shock value or the token LGBT character. They were well realized, fully fleshed out characters. Another character was an uber "feminazi" and quite obnoxious about it - she was marinated in hate. But as the story progressed the reader finds out why she was like that, and then we get to see her confront that unpleasant aspect of herself and make a conscious choice to leave it behind to become someone better. I, someone who has no interest in themes of gender roles, was fascinated by how the author handled them. If an author has a message to send, this is how it should be done. All too often it becomes heavy-handed and preachy. That, I think, is what a lot of people here object to. That and in trying too hard to be progressive and diverse, their "diverse" characters end up as stereotypical caricatures of the demographic they want to portray, thus defeating the purpose of diversity.
    Miskatonic likes this.
  18. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    Well said (the quote above is abridged from the original). This is why I mostly don't participate much in threads that talk about what the contents of a project should or shouldn't be (well, except for right now).

    I know what I want to include in my stories. I'm not going to change those things whether people badger me about them or not, or praise me for them or not. The way I see it, if I change the content of my story to please the perceived preference of some group or another, I'm likely going to displease some other group. I see no compelling reason to try to swap one potential audience for another. If I stick to what I know and the things I want to comment on in the first place, I'm largely in the same boat anyway, but without the disengenuousness.

    Also, I intend for my stories to raise questions, not provide answers.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
  19. Nimue

    Nimue Auror

    Okay, I think we agree on some points--diversity should be meaningful and well-written and not simply token. (Although I really wish you could find *some* way to do that without comparing an entire political movement to Nazism, which among other things is disrespectful of the actual Holocaust.)

    However, regarding the proliferation of threads about writing diversely, I think they're just more necessary than threads about writing the same old. Many of us here don't have a lot of experience writing about groups outside of our own. It makes sense to have threads to talk about how to describe skin tone respectfully and how to use non gender binary pronouns when writing. These are new questions, and ones we need to muddle through and ask for sources.

    Absolutely, you can start a thread saying "I'm writing with a cast of all straight white characters!" And the response would be "okay, cool...?" Because that topic doesn't need advice and resources. It's been built into fantasy writing in the West since its inception.

    I guess I can see how, if you hang out on the Internet a lot, this might seem like an imbalance. But only if you don't look beyond the very thinnest surface! Acceptance and encouragement of writing white, straight characters is everywhere, it's implicit in everything. If you really feel like there's too much of an emphasis on diversity... Go to the bookstore or the library and look at what's there. Talk to the average person. Maybe accept that writing discussions and writing blogs are going to focus on new and salient issues.

    Christ, that's rambling. I'm not sure there's anything more I can say about this without repeating myself until I go hoarse. I'm traveling at the moment, and should probably focus on that--Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
    Gryphos likes this.
  20. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    You aren't the only one. That's been my impression from the beginning.
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