Men get a lot of crap for the way our society is. I don’t necessarily think that’s fair.
I just attended a conference in Washington about women in Fantasy. I loved it, as I love Fantasy. But there was an overarching theme that I felt throughout the conference.
I seemed to feel I wasn’t the “right kind” of feminist for this conference.
Here is what I think defines feminist:
Wants women to be equal to men
That’s it. I don’t blame guys for the fact that it’s a patriarchal world. Old traditions and habits are hard to break. It’s hard not to want guys to be “manly” while protesting loudly that they shouldn’t put women in a box.
Which brings me to my headlining thought:
Are we, as women, boxing ourselves into stereotypes?
When I was at the conference there was one panel in particular that really kind of rode on my nerves a little bit. They were talking about how they were tired of seeing women in stereotypical roles. They were complaining that men don’t write women well(which I actually disagree with. I think both George R.R. Martin and Brandon Sanderson write fantastic women but more on that in a second) and women feel they need to hold the mantle of womanhood on their shoulders when they write our gender so they make them a stereotype as well.
That’s a fair point. Not a completely accurate one, in my opinion, but a fair one.
Here is where I started to notice hypocrisy. While bemoaning how men write women, they started to say what a woman needs to be in a book for her to be a “good” female character. Essentially taking the stereotypical female warrior, queen, mother etc…out of one box and placing her into a completely different one. But it was still a box. The women at this conference said “well we only see one woman in books so she needs to be…” and so on. They complained about the female characters in Song of Ice and Fire.
Which didn’t make sense to me.
George R.R. Martin’s women are women in whole. He writes them very very well. They are multi-dimensional. They aren’t “just the mother” or “just the tom-boy” They are incredibly complex women. Like real women. But the problem I seemed to notice was that his characters didn’t fit into what they wanted to see as female characters so they weren’t “good”. But women don’t fit into stereotypes. We aren’t all “just the housewife” or “just the mom” or even “just the Queen” We are housewives and mothers and readers and writers and artists and dreamers. We are insecure some days and think we are smoking hot the next day. We have bad hair days while our men can’t tell the difference between how we wore our hair the day before and how we are wearing it now. Sometimes we are mad for no reason and sometimes our reason is cryptic. But we are valuable and we are important. We are not one archetype. We are not just the “Strong Warrior” or the “Queen fighting for her kingdom” We are both, and none all at the same time.
And that’s okay. It should be okay for us, as women, to say to one another “You aren’t perfect. You inherited this kingdom rather than conquered it but it doesn’t take away from your capabilities as a ruler” (that was another discussion that was had) We need to be able to look at the female characters in books and find something in ourselves. Whether that character is one-dimensional or multi-faceted…if the character touches you-if you find something in you that you didn’t know was there-than who cares? Some women are conquerors and some women just want to stay in and read about conquerors. And it should all be fine.
Don’t get me wrong, feminists of the male and female variety have a long way to go. Don’t believe me? Check out this blog post made of the most popular search terms when searching things like “women should” and “women need to”
Working at Gamestop taught me that there is still a ridiculous amount of ignorance surrounding women in the world.
But not all that ignorance comes in male form.
Let me be clear on one thing before I go: I loved the conference I went to. I had a great time. Despite my crippling shyness(and being with someone who was equally shy) I met some great people. I had fun and I will go again. The hypocrisy I saw is not limited to these women nor do I think it is intentional. They were all incredibly kind and wonderful. They just want the best representation they can for our gender. That being said, I feel like perhaps they have not chosen the best way to go about it.