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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex in Media: Books, Magazines, Films, TV & More » Narrative approval of misogyny and gender roles

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Author Topic: Narrative approval of misogyny and gender roles
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This topic spawned from my recent complain topic, where I tried to explain what bugs me about George R. R. Martin's books. And I don't want this to become a flame war about A Song of Ice and Fire, because this topic is about books in general, and also applies to television or movies. If this doesn't fit the forum, I apologize.
That being said, here goes:

I'm required to read a lot, due to my major in university. And what's been really starting to get on my nerves is certain kind of narrative approval. (That is a term I coined personally, so bear with me.) I've read lots of books (and seen lots of movies) that contain severe sexism and sexual assaults towards women. And while the narrator doesn't explicitly state that such actions are wrong, they're never condemned, either. Most often the assaulters get away with what they've done. Examples: A Song of Ice and Fire, where women live in fear of rape and violence as the norm. The Collector by John Fowles, where a man kidnaps a woman and eventually she dies, and he never gets caught and kidnaps another woman.

I'm not saying that there can never be rape in books. But those books that I'm talking about, they make misogynistic actions the norm, the default, something that's bound to happen and that the women can't fight by any means. My question is: why is that? Why do so many authors write horrible thing happening to women, without any hope of vindication or justice? To quote someone who said it better: "But this IS a fantasy, not history, meaning the writers can imagine any world they wish to create. So why imagine a misogynistic one?", from this site.

Someone might argue that sexism, having been around since forever, is realistic. But often, the premises of books are not realistic, especially when it comes to fantasy/sci-fi. Why is it that authors change or develop a whole new geography, languages, species/races, magic, fantastic creatures, societies... but when it comes to gender roles, women must be inferior because it's "realistic"? Because it's "natural"? ...Really? Wow, then why the heck are we feminists still fighting for equality, women are inferior by nature!

Sorry, I got carried away. But it's just so annoying. I'd like to see a fictional universe where, for a change, both genders are under about equal threat of sexual violence, and where the division of power would be something more complicated than "Step 1: exclude all those without a penis". Where the statistical minor difference in physical strength between men and women wouldn't be the be-all-and-end-all of who gets to be a ruler and who gets to be a prostitute. (I could go on and on about how I "love" that in the God of War game series, they took all the sexual stuff of ancient Greece that appeals to straight males, and to ridiculous levels at that, but left out the "icky gay stuff"... But that's a whole another topic.)

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Jacob at Scarleteen
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I'm a pretty massive Pedro Almodovar fan... and if you're comfortable with watching films that contain sexual violence... Skin I Live In, really comes to mind as an example of one instance where the inevitability of female suffering is pretty righteously disregarded (at the end of the film). It's a pretty impossible film to talk about without giving the story away, as it has a lot of sci-fi gender-complications. But I would recommend giving it a go...

It is the most aggressive I've seen of his films which are usually the opposite. So for something slightly less dark, All About My Mother is also amazing (and makes me cry a crapload).

I'm sorry I'm more a filmy than a booky! But I think movies have that approval narrative voice too, just in often other ways than just the narator.

[ 04-17-2012, 06:34 PM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]

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Yeah, I agree. While I don't think it's wrong to explore a sci-fi/fantasy premise set in a world where misogyny is still rife and men are dominant, more diversity is needed, more queerness (in the LGBTQUIA sense), more women's voices and women as protagonists, ditto for non-white people (I say non-white only because racial minority is relative) and disabled people.

Maybe I'll post some book suggestions later?

Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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