Thursday, January 22, 2015

How do conservative and liberal writers write women?

I want to preface this by saying that I myself while Theologically Conservative have become increasingly socially and politically liberal (a left leaning Libertarian as opposed to most American Libertarians) and I certainly consider myself a Feminist.  So please do not interpret these observations as an endorsement of conservatism.

I had a post early in this blog's history where I discussed the strong women of French Pulp Fiction, (I've recently added to that post, and will add more).  I had promised back then that I would make more posts on that title subject.  And I still intend to do so, but this post is more so a follow up to a different aspect of that post.

The centerpiece of that post became my observation that.  "the two who were the “Conservatives” in the context of post Revolutionary France (in being devout Catholics and Royalists) Feval and Ponson. Seem to me to have over all been more inclined to write surprisingly strong independent women."

I want here to speculate how this trend might exist beyond simply the comparing of those 4 writers.

What I will say first is mostly that male authors who are liberal and feminists often fail, (not without successes to praise of course, my favorite characters in anything tend to always be the women) while if women are actually involved in the writing, like on a show like Pretty Little Liars  then women as characters and the handling of gender issues are each done much better then usual.

Hollywood writers tend to be liberal, many are not the Hollywood Liberal caricature Fox News pundits imagine, but they are liberal.  As are Comic Book writers and so on.  Yet that doesn't stop the handling of female characters and gender related social issues in those writings from being problematic.

The LadyGeekGirl blog deals with a lot of those issues, as does themarysue.com I don't always agree with them but their articles make good eye opening reading.  But two posts from different blogs are the center of my thinking here.  I hate Strong Female Characters and this post which follows up on that.

I'm also intrigued by something I read on TVtropes about Pullman's His Dark Materials series.
"As a Reason.com review pointed out: Its kind of ironic that Phillip Pullman labels other works like Narnia as sexist and full of class snobbery, when Will the male hero, is the one who gets to fight the most and even becomes The Chosen One in control of the mystical Subtle Knife, meanwhile Lyra's greatest feats are accomplished by "feminine" wiles like lying and manipulation. "
Narnia (written by the very traditionalist C.S. Lewis) meanwhile is definitely not a work of Feminist literature, but it's handling of female characters is surprising.  The Pensvises are 2 girls and 2 boys, and A Horse and his Boy is also.

In the first book when the kids are given their weapons by Father Christmas he tells the girls that theirs are "Just in case" and doesn't intend them to be in battle.  But they are in the battle at the end, and it's Aslan who brings them there.  Also A Horse and His Boy criticizes the practice of arranged marriages.  Though admittedly by that time few even radical Christians stood by that practice, thought even today you'll find some defending it in concept.

Susan's fate is the main part of the Criticisms of Narnia as sexist.  Three things.

1. She did not go to Hell, Lewis himself said she could and probably will go to Aslan's country later.  In fact she's the one character still alive, in a story from her POV everyone else was fridged.

2. The negative things said about her are not really by Alsan or the narrator but other characters, her siblings.  Maybe their perception of things is flawed.  Remember Lucy had her jealously issues with her in Dawn Treader.

3.  It seems Lewis felt someone had to be left behind in The Final Battle for some thematic reason, and process of elimination left Susan the only logical choice, for reasons not related to gender.

You can validly look at it as Susan was the only one who Grew Up.

I'm the kind of person who rarely discuses Lewis without also discussing Tolkien.  But in this case I feel a discussion of Women and gender issues in Tolkien could be another post.

The Apocalypse series of Christian straight to Video movies from the the early 2000s were definitely made by Christians with highly conservative political values, and some disturbing homophobic implications.  But Hellen Hannah is the main hero of the series, and is very well written and acted.

The creator of Attack on Titan has gotten in trouble for defending Japan's actions against Korea and China during WWII.  Yet his handling of female Characters is among the most progressive of any Anime

So this clearly doesn't always happen, but it happens enough to warrant some wondering.  Maybe male liberal writers are sometimes more concerned with making their female characters Feminist friendly then with actually making them characters.  That wouldn't quite explain Pullman though.  Sometimes it may be simply that to men no matter how Feminist they are other liberal agendas are more important.

I think even the most Feminist viewer of media would agree that a female character who's traditional but well written with depth is better then a "Strong" woman who has none.

Why are some "Conservative" writers surprising in this area?  My argument is not just that the women are well written regardless of being traditional.  Rather it's that sometimes they do defy gender norms without being vilified or even criticized for doing so.

Maybe sometimes the criticism is so subtle I mis it simply because I don't agree with it.  But if the writers who wrote Helen Hannah agree with many Baptists that women shouldn't be pastors, then their choice to write a woman as the leader of these End Times believers is odd.

Maybe it's the subliminal influence of ancient source material that isn't as "Traditional" as modern "Traditionalists" think they are.  Chief among those being The Bible. Deborah was likely the model for Helen Hannah, yet many "Conservatives" preach on Deborah blind to how her very existence in the Biblical narrative undermines their patriarchal assumptions.

In the case of the ones who are truly believers (I am an Evangelical Christian in case you didn't know) maybe The Holy Spirit worked through them in-spite of themselves.  And yes I think it's possible for even Catholics like Feval or Tolkien to be saved in-spite of their Catholicism.  I was Saved for awhile before I fully accepted that the Roman Church I grew up in was incompatible with The Bible.

Maybe some of it is hypocritical, being selectively okay with women doing a Man's job if she does so in the name of some other Conservative cause.

Or maybe sometimes we should just see this as a reminder that people are complicated, and being conservative in one area doesn't mean conservative in others.  Or that believing in traditional gender roles as the norm doesn't always have to mean refusing to accept those who defy the norm.

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