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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

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.
capnoblivious
Jan. 14th, 2009 05:35 am (UTC)
It makes sense, but these are big questions and I'm not sure I can address them to everyone's - or anyone's - satisfaction!

With Willis, I'm thinking of two stories in particular. One is "Even the Queen", which is about intergenerational relationships, and menstruation. In the intro, Willis specifically flags this as a "women's issues" story. It's a cliche and I feel like I'll be told off for saying so, but menstruation is a big flapping "this is a women's story" flag. The particular style of intergenerational relationship is a similar flag.

The other is "All My Darling Daughters", where a girl on a space station finds all the boys enslaved to small furry alien creatures with enormous human-like vaginas that squeal in human-like pain and suffering when penetrated. I read an enormous "men enjoy raping innocents" subtext to the story, which, as you might understand, I found highly offensive.

Interestingly, I've spoken to women who thought I was mad for reading that particular subtext into the story. They couldn't see my objection.

Why did I decide to read them anyway? Because I like the author, and they were in her anthology.

I don't find romance a turnoff. In fact, it's one of the reasons I like Willis' novels - she handles it well, or at least, in a way that appeals to me.

I'm definitely not the target audience for some of the things I enjoy. ... there are enough things about them that I do enjoy to keep me coming back.

And, you know, there's enough things about, say, spec-fic romances that I enjoy that keep me coming back.

But, you know, there are things where I am the target audience that I'm not interested in. It's a big world and I have a small brain. I'll follow the things I am interested in more than the things I'm not, without wishing oblivion on the things in the latter category!
monissaw
Jan. 14th, 2009 09:15 am (UTC)

You reminds me of a book I read last year, by a male writer using a female pseudonym. The (first person) narrator was a menopausal female cop with rather energetic breasts (they had a tendency to go sproing! all the time). I'd point it out as a very good example of how not to write the opposite sex. I don't know whether he was trying to give female readers something to relate to or trying to hard with the "pretending to be a woman" thing. Either way, someone needs to tell him to stop.

(Homicide, My Own, by Ann(e?) Argula, it did win some crime writing award & it is a very quick read, so it's not all bad.)
cassiphone
Jan. 14th, 2009 10:08 am (UTC)
Some men really are appallingly bad at writing women. Though I'm sure our male readers can cite equally bad examples of women writing appalling men. (snerks, the ones that read female authors, that is)

My absolute favourite is where a hint of lesbianism is thrown in for titilation rather than, say, character development purposes.
zillah975
Jan. 14th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC)
....

"Sproing"?


I just.

Do you have a copy handy, that you can...share a quote or two? I could use a good laugh today. :)
bluetyson
Jan. 14th, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
Nope, to me Time Future (and Time Past) are pretty standard SF novels.

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