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Puzzled

How many people does it take to say that the gender inbalance in SF outlets is a problem before it's seriously acknowledged, and accepted, as a problem?

Reasons, blame, motives, agenda, solutions and reason aside.

When is it allowed to be just ... an issue?

When will we be able to get past that discussion and start looking deeper at the more interesting aspects of it?


Comments

capnoblivious
Jan. 12th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
I dunno it feels belittling to hear that things about you are uninteresting.

I don't know how to address that. There are stories - typically female coming-of-age stories but other stories that engage heavily with the female experience - that I don't relate to. And, to my view, I don't relate to them because they're not aimed at me, the author isn't interested in engaging with me.

I'm sorry if that comes across as "you're uninteresting", but that's not my intent.

But .. would you feel the same about say ... stories about men of a different race or nationality as you?

Well, in the same context, I think I'd likely feel alienated to a greater or lesser extent by books for (as opposed to about) people of a different race or nationality - or, at least, they wouldn't necessarily be my first choice of reading material, and my reasons for reading them would likely be different from my normal reading reasons.
zillah975
Jan. 12th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
I think what may be happening is that -- as girliejones I think indicated -- girls are socialized to be interested in boy's stories in a way that boys are not socialized to be interested in girls' stories (or, now that I think about it, maybe it's that girls aren't socialized to not be interested in boy's stories, whereas boys are socialized to not be interested in girls' stories). So you get a lot of women who like to read men's coming of age stories and women's coming of age stories, and a bunch of men who like to read men's coming of age stories but believe that women's coming of age stories aren't relevant to them and they're not the target audience and can't relate to them.

Male authors aren't necessarily engaging with women or aiming their stories at women, and yet women still enjoy them, still learn from them, still relate to the characters. So, why would it be that men (not you specifically, but speaking in generalities here) wouldn't be likewise interested in stories of and by women? Why wouldn't they be able to relate to them, if women can relate to men's stories?

The way it looks from here is that it's assumed that the male experience is the default, that we're all the target audience of it, that it's the one we're all interested in because it's the human experience, whereas the female experience is only interesting to females.

I'm not trying to suggest that any individual person should or shouldn't be interested in any specific story, trope, or genre, or that there's anything wrong with not being personally interested in someone else's coming of age story, to stick with the first example. I'm just kind of thinking out loud about why it is that, to overgeneralize a whole lot, women are interested in stories of both genders whereas it seems men are interested in stories of men.
capnoblivious
Jan. 12th, 2009 08:20 pm (UTC)
Um. First up, thanks for the tactful phrasing. I appreciate that. :)

It took several attempts to write a response to gj, and one of the things I wrote and deleted was around the concept of a "general audience" - which is skewed to a male point of view (for historical/cultural reasons). Which means that while a "general audience" should be accessible to both genders equally, it tends to focus on a more "male" reading, and that's considered normal.

To my way of thinking, one of the ways that this gender skew has been addressed (or has been attempted to be addressed) is to write "female stories" for a female audience. And sometimes these stories are written to be more accessible to a male reader, and sometimes they're written to be alienating. It's filling a market gap - and without too much deep thought it seems that this would mean that women don't have to default to male stories if that doesn't interest them. Asking why female stories written for a female audience don't get much of a male readership seems a bit ... well, I never saw that as the point.

I think men can and will enjoy women's stories, but you're exactly right in that we're socialised not to. I think being able to read broadly, and outside your comfort zone, and outside your own cultural perspective, is a very good thing and should be encouraged.

(All of this makes it sound like I think "women's stories" are some kind of separate subgenre. I don't - I'm talking about subtle differences in style and mood and phrasing and content that sometimes lead to a particular reading. I'm talking about small perceptions and effects as if they were huge and concrete things. I worry that this projects a different perspective to that which I hold.)
zillah975
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:26 am (UTC)
I've been pondering your reply (in between crises at work and at home, that is... heh), because I think you're right about there being a niche market that's by women, for women, and -- intentionally in some cases, maybe, and unintentionally in others -- alienating to men.

But that gets me wondering about which are those stories, and what about the ones that aren't in that niche, that are written by women, about women, for...whoever wants to read them?

For instance, take Maxine McArthur. I've only read one of her books -- Time Future -- but only because I've managed about one book a year for the past mumbltymumble. One of the awesome things about the book, to me, was that there was a host of strong female characters both in the book and in the history of the characters in the book, but this wasn't presented as "look at these remarkable women, isn't it great we have such strong, remarkable women in our past/in this book/on this space station?" It was no more an issue than the presence of remarkable men generally is in fiction. In that way, I found it incredibly refreshing and validating. (And okay, there was this weird and somewhat questionable plot point about her ex-husband and this pheromone thing he had going on, but I don't really remember that part very well, so, *handwave*.)

So, what I'm wondering is whether the fact that the protagonist is a woman, and most of the influential people in her life were women -- her mother, grandmother, etc -- mean that this is a niche novel for women and alienating to men?

I want to think not, but I don't know how to tell.

How do we tell which books are "for women" and which books are just by and about women but "for" everyone?

That's not rhetorical or meant to be putting you on the spot or anything -- just trying to work through this stuff together. :)
capnoblivious
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:59 am (UTC)
But that gets me wondering about which are those stories, and what about the ones that aren't in that niche, that are written by women, about women, for...whoever wants to read them?

I've been thinking about much the same thing. These are what I was, in my initial comment, thinking of as "people stories". They're pitched generally, and I fit in the "general" category, ergo, I'm theoretically interested.

There's a lot of complicated arguments about how what might be thought of as a "general audience" is slanted to a male point of view and all, but that general audience is kind of what I was thinking of, and it's kind of where I'd expect most works to end up.

I haven't read Maxine's novels, but I was thinking Connie Willis - her novels are among my favourites, and I'm quite fond of her shorts. She uses male and female protagonists in different contexts.

I cite Willis because there's a couple of her shorts that have triggered that "I am not the target audience" response - sometimes strongly, sometimes not - and some that, while clearly focusing on a female experience, were more accessible and general audience-y.

How do we tell which books are "for women" and which books are just by and about women but "for" everyone?

Experience? Marketing? Word of mouth? I mean, a friend's review of "Twilight" as a "magical boyfriend" story gave me the impression it was something of a teenage girl's wish-fulfilment fantasy, and not something I'd expect to connect to.
zillah975
Jan. 14th, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
How do we tell which books are "for women" and which books are just by and about women but "for" everyone?

Experience? Marketing? Word of mouth?


I think I phrased the question badly. Let me try again.

How do we women writers tell whether what we're writing will be accessible to men? What makes a story that's by a woman, about women, accessible to men? Are there things (characteristics, or what have you) that a story by a woman and about women needs to have, or to not have, in order for more men (assuming men who are interested in the genre or subject at all) to find it interesting and accessible than not?

Like, is it that as long as she doesn't add romance? Or, as long as there are strong male characters backing up the female protagonist? or as long as she doesn't have daddy issues and bitch about her ex-boyfriend?

What was it about the Connie Willis short stories you mention that triggered your "I am not the target audience" reaction? And, having decided you weren't the target audience, did you read them anyway?

I'm definitely not the target audience for some of the things I enjoy. Stargate: Atlantis, for instance. Mixed martial arts fighting and Gracie jiu-jitsu. Professional wrestling. Automobile shows. Despite things that are off-putting about them, either as hobbies or as spectator entertainment (and wow, are there some off-putting things), there are enough things about them that I do enjoy to keep me coming back.

Gah. My brain is shutting down for the night, so I hope this made sense.
(no subject) - capnoblivious - Jan. 14th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - monissaw - Jan. 14th, 2009 09:15 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cassiphone - Jan. 14th, 2009 10:08 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zillah975 - Jan. 14th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
bluetyson
Jan. 14th, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
Nope, to me Time Future (and Time Past) are pretty standard SF novels.
girliejones
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)
Awesome response! Thank you so much. This is exactly what I was trying to say but done so far more eloquently.
zillah975
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:28 am (UTC)
*phew* I'm glad I didn't misrepresent what you were getting at. :)
girliejones
Jan. 14th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC)
Not at all!
girliejones
Jan. 13th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
It's interesting what you say and thanks for sharing it. It's also hard to express how I feel without wanting to make other people feel bad but yeah, it's how it sounds and feels when people say stuff like "I'm not interested in it". Because ... yeah, I mean. You read my blog and that's inherently a female story.

I never really realised how much I have lived in a world where I don't get to not be interested in male stories cause that would then mean I would miss out reading a genre. It's weird to think you could do that, I guess. Or maybe weird to think half the world doesn't have to do that. And that's kind of fascinating. And also that half the world could be oblivious to the other half's experience of the world.
capnoblivious
Jan. 13th, 2009 06:28 am (UTC)
Well, hey, I'm not oblivious (obvious comment aside). I guess I have the privelege, if you want to call it that, that I could be if I wanted to be, but ... yeah, I think it's all fascinating too.

It's just ... specfic hasn't proved the best vector for me to seek understanding of the female experience, you know?
girliejones
Jan. 13th, 2009 06:31 am (UTC)
Well that's not surprising
capnoblivious
Jan. 13th, 2009 07:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, well, it is fascinating, isn't it?
girliejones
Jan. 13th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
I think so. When you get past all the blame and accusations, it is really fascinating.
(no subject) - capnoblivious - Jan. 13th, 2009 07:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 13th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC) - Expand

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