Second post and it’s clearly about feminism. Truth be told, this is why I started the blog. I really wanted to have this rant, and I didn’t feel like I had anywhere to rant about it.
As a female, I think it’s perfectly alright to deal with trigger issues within the fantasy and sci-fi genre. These trigger issues are often racism and sexism. The problem arises when there is no trace of criticism within the works – sure, it’s fine if X-society is male dominated, but you really should, as a writer, demonstrate through your characters that it’s not really an alright thing. Could you seriously tell me that every single character in the world you’re creating agrees with the sexism? I think not. This doesn’t mean you should include a “token” character, but you shouldn’t ignore the issue.
Let’s use George Martin’s Game of Thrones series. It’s gotten a lot of criticism and a of fans standing up for it. So excuse my indulgance, but it’s mainstream enough that it will meet my point.
There is a lot of sexism in Game of Thrones. It’s a male-dominated society and women are not treated very well. And yet, we have examples of very strong and very weak female characters. Daenerys is an excellent leader, and yes, I recognize that he depicts her showing weakness by not being ruthless. She gets criticised for staying in Meereen and not abandoning the people she has taken on as being hers. She’s viewed by many characters as weak for taking this approach, but we, as the readers, can see how she isn’t. She has her idea of what she wants in society, and she’s not compromising very much at all to get it. I think she’s the best candidate to rule the Seven Kingdoms. She is the only one who actually cares about the people.
At the same time, we also have Arya, Ygritte, Meera Reed, Melisandra,Val, and evan Sansa Stark, who are all strong female characters. And let’s not forget the Sand Snakes. Each of them has been growing, and has rebelled against the patriarchy in some way or another. Yes, so we have Cersei and Caitlyn and Lysa who are all idiots – but that is because they are idiots, not because they are female. The other characters critise them mostly as being stupid females, and of course they would in their society, but we can clearly see that Martin does not condemn all female characters as idiots. (For brevity’s sake, we’re going to leave the topic of racism in Game of Thrones for all the other bloggers who’ve ranted about it). In fact, I think that Martin does an excellent job of depicting women – the men consistently underestimate them, and it will not do them well. Even Cersei and Caitlyn were underestimated – they were expected to be obedient and when they weren’t… well… the war is pretty much all their fault! If only the men around them had taken them more seriously….
Well. Enough about Game of Thrones. THAT wasn’t even the main topic I wanted to breach. One of my favourite webcomics, Goblins, written by Tarol Hunt. I had considered not mentioning the name of the comic, but there’s no way at all I can avoid it when I talk about this issue. (It’s an excellent comic, by the way. It’s got a lot of gore and Tarol actually makes me be ok with that….the plot and the characters has me absolutely attached to it).
Thunt isn’t afraid to tackle difficult issues in his comic. It’s based on D&D, and a lot of the comedy comes from understanding that as you read it – he uses and often flips around a lot of the stereotypes you get within D&D. As such, there aren’t very many female characters. Why? Because you don’t have nearly as many female players. At the same time, one of the main male characters we know is being played by a girl – and played well. One of the female characters is the reverse – played by a male. Now, the female character being played by a guy? Is an idiot. Thunt makes fun of the “typical” boy making a slutty female character just to be sexy. You see it in any game – the female characters are often dressed skimpy so that the guys can watch their floating boobs bounce around. Thunt doesn’t like that any more than I do, and while he has a character who behaves like that.. it’s a criticism. They are a terrible player. Yet the male character played by a female? Is an excellent roleplayer. You wouldn’t know they were played by a female aside from the fact that it got mentioned. Who which gender was being insulted? Male or female?
The answer my dears, was male. Thunt never insulted female characters. The closest you could get to that was the fact that the male being played by female? Isn’t nearly as bloodthirsty as you would expect a dwarf to be. And he’s a cleric. So I suppose you’ve got that stereotype – that girls are less likely to be violent gamers. Personally? I’m alright with this as much as I am alright with the silly boy who just make a character for the boobs. I prefer to think of it as the fact that maybe we ladies like to actually think before we act 😉 (I’m speaking as someone’s who ran off cliffs into a pile of monsters in an MMORPG… more than once… to be fair, this was usually due to an autofollow glitch as I was busy talking and NOT watching where I was running……)
Thunt has two main female characters within the different groups; there is Fox, and there is Kin. To put it plainly? Both kick ass. Fox attempted to defy fate; she completely rebelled against her society and has taken on adventuring levels (she is a goblin, thus a monster, and not supposed to be an adventurer). She did that on her own, without anything happening for her to decide to do that on her own (in contrast to the main group of characters, also Goblins, who’ve became adventurers to save their village and friend). She took the initiative on her own, and beyond that, she’s a Fighter class. Yes, we’ve seen her cry. We’ve seen her worry. We’ve seen her grow attached to another character. That’s alright, we’ve also seen the male characters cry, and get worried, and grow attached to other characters. Fox rocks.
Now, to Kin. Kin is not an adventurer. Kin is a monster (a yuan-ti, half-snake half-human) who is travelling with two player characters. She had been kept as a slave by one of the main antagonists. This antagonist was evil. Tortured many many kinds of monsters (very very racist this one). He kept Kin, but tortured her in a different manner than he did the other captive monsters; he raped her. Repeatedly. Kin was naturally traumatised, and Thunt doesn’t blow this off at all. It was a serious topic and he’s treated it as such from the moment it was mentioned. The characters Kin travels with are the dwarf (the male played by female) and a stereotypical dumb fighter. Kin doesn’t want to be touched. At all. And can you believe it, the stereotypical DUMB FIGHTER, understands that you DO NOT TOUCH her. He understands that, and why. The stereotypical dumb fighter kicks the ass of the antagonist when he realises what had been done to this monster…. he recognizes how wrong it is, even though he’s killed plenty of monsters himself. He recognizes that rape is NOT acceptable no matter what.
It was years ago in his writing that Thunt first let us know what had happened to Kin, and he’s never made light of it. Kin is a strong character, who has a traditionally tragic past. Which, for anyone at all familar with roleplaying, is incredibly common. Characters often have a tragic past, but usually it involves their entire family being killed.
So…. I guess the main point is that in regards to both of these, I’ve seen the overly zealous feminists go way crazy over the top angry about them. Why? Isn’t it better to see rape being treated seriously than to see it being ignored? Isn’t it better to see the rebellion against patriarchy being done in a more realistic manner? You never see a TOTAL uprising. It gets done in phases. Personally, I find it much more believeable, compelling, and intriguing to see the beginnings of rebellion. Which is often done on a much more individual basis. In Goblins – Kin is teaching some players about tolerance and senstivity. Fox is showing other goblins that female goblins are JUST as capable of taking care of their safety. In Game of Thrones – I wonder what the Seven Kingdoms will end up like if/when Daenerys takes over?