Postings to the Feminist Science Fiction Mailing List, 27 October 1997 to 15 July 1998

Le Guin, The Dispossessed and Time | Starship Troopers | Star Trek Women / 7 of 9 | Thoughts on The Sparrow | Nature / Nurture and Cloning | Dreamsnake and the Morality of Sex | Fictional Same Sex Relationships & Reading Comfort | Pair-bonding in Humans / Sociobiology | Selfnames in A Door Into Ocean | McCaffrey and Female Characters | Documentation of Matriarchal Cultures | Women and Violence | McCaffrey and Female Characters | Male Heroes | BDG: Dreamsnake & STDs | BDG: Dreamsnake & STDs | BDG: Halfway Human | Dragon's Winter by Elizabeth Lynn | Reading Suggestions for a Young Male / McCaffrey | Barbara Hambly & Romantic Mismatches | BDG: The Mists of Avalon / Sexuality | BDG: The Mists of Avalon / Sexuality 




Subject: Re: LeGuin, Dispossessed and Time
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 21:25:49 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 05:46 PM 10/27/97 -0500, Rudy Leon wrote:
<snip>
>First, this is for a religion course, and I was very struck by the way
>LeGuin reclaims cyclical time as profane time/everyday time, which really
>fits into my idea of religion as absolutely intimate, not set apart/sacred.
>If religion is looked at this way, everything one does is affected by, or
>organized by, one's religion (ideology? I'm not sure if they are
>different). Similarly, I see that all the events in the book are intimately
>affected by an idea of time as cyclical and synchronous at the same time
>(Principles of Simultinaity and Synchrony).. the shape of the book does this
>(parallel events in Shevek's past and present), as does the epithet on Odo's
>grave _To be whole is to be part/The journey is return_ or something close
>to that.
>
>The physics seems to carry a philosophy and an ethics and a religion that
>would be so useful for thinking about our own world, and so much a carrier
>of LeGuin's, the message of the book, but I can't seem to untangle it
>myself....any thoughts on this?
 
Le Guin's work is much influenced by Taoism (she read and fell in love with the Tao Teh Ching when she was 12). Rather than a religion, it perhaps functions for her as a "world view". It is even more evident in The Left Hand of Darkness, Always Coming Home and the Earthsea series.
 
The Tao Teh Ching says:
 
"To be great is to go on,
To go on is to be far,
To be far is to return."
 
and
 
"The Core of Vitality is very real,
It contains within itself an unfailing Sincerity.
Throughout the ages Its Name has been preserved
In order to recall the Beginning of all things.
How do I know the the ways of all things at the Beginning?
By what is within me."
 
These notes are sounded time and time again in Le Guin's writing, as are the concepts of true names and the interdependence of darkness and light (yin and yang).
 
-- Janice
 
p.s. in this message I have drawn upon Larry McCaffery's Across the Wounded Galaxies, an excellent book of interviews with SF authors and the Shambala Publications "mini" of the Tao Teh Ching
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Radiohead, OK Computer; Tricky, Pre-Millennium Tension
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: Starship Troopers
Date: Sun, 9 Nov 1997 01:56:20 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@listserv.uic.edu
 
I too saw Starship Troopers this evening. Amazingly, I liked it, though perhaps my reaction has something to do with the beer I drank beforehand!
 
I have to say that I thought women in general fared pretty well. There were plenty of them among the soldiers, and their presence seemed taken for granted. The group shower scene, in particular, surprised me -- there seemed to be no sexual innuendo attached to the men and women being naked together -- it was just normal. There were also quite a few women officers.
 
However, there were some things that struck me as a little odd. As Allen mentioned, the brain bug's orifice seemed very like a vagina. Apparently there is something so disturbing about women's genitals that they're a natural model for evil alien nasty bits. (A recurrent visual element in the Alien movies' marketing is a glowing vertical slit.) And I thought Dizzy's last words, "At least I got to have you," were silly as all get out. She seemed obsessively fixated on Rico. But then Rico's choice to join the service was predicated on his obsessive fixation on Carmen...
 
Basically, the movie seemed tongue in cheek. Very cynical. I had heard some talk of it beforehand (I have not read the book), particularly regarding the "fascism". Yes, the military did come across as driven by propaganda (I too thought of the "War In The Gulf" television footage), and there was one hint early in the film that perhaps the bugs were acting defensively... but that was disregarded by everyone. I was very amused towards the end when the previously hypothetical brain bug appeared, and you know what? It actually looked like a brain! And when it was captured, helpless, surrounded by enemy troops, the "psychic" guy (Doogie Howser, MD) placed his hand on its quivering noggin and pronounced, "It's AFRAID!" Deanna Troi, he's out for your job!
 
I can only imagine that Verhoeven is laughing all the way to the bank.
 
-- Janice
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Radiohead, OK Computer; Tricky, Pre-Millennium Tension
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: Star Trek Women / Seven of Nine
Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 22:47:21 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 10:38 AM 11/10/97 -0800, Susan Palwick wrote:
>Now, since I don't have a TV and therefore haven't seen any of the zillion
>new versions of ST, I don't know anything about this character's
>*behavior.* If she acts like a bimbo, that's one thing. But the outside
>of the package has no correlation with the number of gray cells inside.
>Right?
 
Seven of Nine is far from a bimbo. She is somewhat similar to Tuvok, the Vulcan, in that logic and practicality seem to be the main arbiters of her behavior, though she is also capable of emotion. I think she is a great addition to Voyager, which has vastly improved this season.
 
I think her clothing is fine, except for the high heels, which don't fit it in at all with Seven's practical nature. However, I am bothered by the fact that so many viewers of the show have fixated on her breast size, rather than her character. I do think that the responsibility for this lies on both sides: the producers of Voyager wanted Seven to be perceived as a "babe", perhaps to compensate for her "cold" persona, so they dressed her in an outfit that would make the audience very aware of the body underneath her clothes. However, all the guys I've heard (particularly on Usenet) leering and/or sneering at Seven and the actress who plays her because of her outfit are still being jerks.
 
I guess what I'm saying is that many choices in our society carry a certain amount of symbolic baggage. What people wear, particularly "out in public" is calculated, more or less effectively, to achieve an effect. So I can't agree with Susan that the outside of the package has nothing to do with what's inside. But I certainly don't think that someone's appearance grants or revokes permission for immoral behavior on the part of others. The "she was asking for it" argument is reprehensible and all too common.
 
-- Janice
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Radiohead, OK Computer; Tricky, Pre-Millennium Tension
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Thoughts on The Sparrow
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 1997 21:40:33 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
I'm curious what other people thought of the roles of females in The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. In deference to people who may not have read it, I will now insert spoiler room.
 
*SPOILERS*
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Since this novel won the Tiptree Award for 1996, I expected to find something provocative regarding gender or sex roles, but I was disappointed. There is somewhat of a reversal in that the Runa females are the adventurous, roving sex and the males stay at home caring for the children, but this detail was fairly unimportant in the context of the novel. We never get into the heads of any of the Runa (except very briefly Supaari's secretary, near the end of the book -- I longed to learn more about her), even though the main characters spend the majority of their time with the Runa. In contrast, we learn quite a bit about the males of the Jana'ata (the females remain offstage).
 
Now that I think about it, it almost feels like the two species play against one another in a stereotyped male/female way -- the communal, peaceful Runa as the females and the predacious, highly "cultural" Jana'ata as the males.
 
By my count, there are only three actual females that play important roles in the book. 1) Anne Edwards, the middle-aged mother figure; 2) Sofia Mendes, the sexualized figure who tempts the main character to break his vow of celibacy; 3) Askama, the verbally facile, trusting Runa girl-child. Anne and Sofia are quite a bit more complex than that sounds. Anne is smart, outspoken & sexual. Sofia is a genius and writes the artificial intelligence routine that pilots Emilio home; she also changes history by teaching the Runa that they are many, while the Jana'ata are few.
 
But... I felt troubled by the spin put on each character. Anne seemed to exist just to "fix" other people. The shoulder to cry on, the supportive wise one who always knew how to draw someone out & ease their pain. Sofia was the tough, ultra-competent professional with a painful past whose healing came in the form of a heterosexual relationship and pregnancy. Askama was the loyal innocent whose death was the final blow to Emilio's fading sanity. These all seem very familiar roles for females.
 
Those who have read the book -- am I crazy? What did you think of the book and its characterizations of females? I'm inspired to write this message because I liked the book (could barely put it down), but felt a lingering discomfort with some of its elements.
 
-- Janice
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Radiohead, OK Computer; Tricky, Pre-Millennium Tension
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: another multi-topic jumble
Date: Thu, 15 Jan 1998 15:57:34 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
teragram inquired:
>Care to define 120% male? Or how being raised by a single female parent
>eliminates societal influences? Considering that studies have shown that
>infants are held and played with differently based on their presumed
>gender, I find it difficult to believe that the nature/nuture question
>regarding gendered behaviors can be answered that easily.
 
To which Maryelizabeth Hart replied:
> Which made me think of a discussion which came up at our book discussion
> group the other night. Someone pointed out that cloning humans will
> probably finally definitively answer the "nature vs. nurture" arguement.
 
I don't think there will ever be a definitive answer to this argument, as we will never be able to experimentally isolate nature from nurture.
 
As far as cloning goes... a clone is in essence an identical twin (if you subtract intra-uterine influence). There have already been studies on twins re: the nature/nurture debate, with some interesting results. Turns out temperament seems to be inherent in some ways, but the story is pretty complex. In case anyone is interested, there was an excellent article about the twin research in the New Yorker a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I don't have the cite -- can you help, Teragram?
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Radiohead - OK Computer
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin
 


Subject: Re: sex and morality
Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 21:30:22 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@listserv.uic.edu
 
This thread fits right in with a novel I recently finished, Dreamsnake by Vonda McIntyre (hi, Vonda!). I was intrigued throughout the novel by the sexual freedom of the characters -- sex is so safe that hosts routinely offer it to their guests, much as they offer food and shelter.
 
By safe, I mean:
 
1) There is no danger of sexual disease, since the healers are expert at inoculating against and curing infectious illness;
 
2) Women AND men control their own fertility through biofeedback (I think that's what it's called);
 
3) Rape is so uncommon that Snake has some difficulty understanding what Melissa is talking about when she describes her sexual abuse at the hands of her guardian;
 
4) As far as I could tell, there is no sexual discrimination in any of the societies portrayed, so neither sex is being exploited routinely in sexual matters as in the ole US of A.
 
There was a recurrent theme in the 2nd half of the book that really made me chuckle: Snake's friend Arevin is travelling through unfamiliar lands looking for her and is repeatedly asked by his hosts, "Is there anything I can do for you?" It is nearly the end of the book before he finds out that they are asking if he would like to have sex. Even when he realizes this, however, he declines, feeling that his thoughts are too fixed on Snake to be fair to his potential partner.
 
I liked the fact that Snake DID have sex with someone else, independent of the fact that she and Arevin were reunited at the end of the book. For several reasons. First, it's somewhat revolutionary to portray a woman who likes sex but is not a "slut" or femme fatale. Second, the book makes clear that there is a continuum of sexual attitudes among people. Though many, like Snake, are free with sex, there are others, like Arevin, who want sex with only one person, and no ill is thought of them. Third, Snake actually DISCOURAGES her sexual partner from travelling with her and developing an emotional attachment to her. His feelings for her are too loaded with what she has done for him -- she thinks he should move on. (If only more people had this attitude in reality!)
 
At 09:56 AM 1/20/98 -0800, Maryelizabeth Hart wrote:
>If someone on a single person space ship has a great relationship with
>their right hand, does that mean they aren't having "meaningful" sex until
>they encounter another person with whom they have a romantic relationship?
 
*Laugh* Indeed, I've always been puzzled by what qualifies as "sex" in our common parlance, let alone "meaningful sex". Some people won't use the term "sex" unless actual sexual intercourse is involved. This doesn't make sense to me. Neither does the compartmentalization of sexual experience into "meaningful" and "meaningless" halves. Sex always means something, whether one wishes to think about it or not.
 
She also wrote:
>As I see it, the only really good reason to demand an emotional commitment
>between partners is in the hopes our children will give due consideration
>before engaging in acts which could, god forbid, kill them.
 
This doesn't seem a compelling reason to me. People who care for each other deeply are still quite capable of doing foolish things. Education on all fronts seems the best solution to me.
 
She also wrote:
>There are probably several SF situations with people sleeping with their
>consenting, adult offspring and relatives, but Heinlein is the only one
>springing to mind. Is this immoral? Depends on who one asks, I suppose. As
>I understand it, there is no genetic problem, as long as inbreeding doesn't
>continue for generations.
 
Other authors dealing with such themes are John Varley ("Lollipop and the Tar Baby"), Joanna Russ (a story about her mother in The Hidden Side of the Moon) and Elizabeth A. Lynn (The Dancers of Arun). I was also amused by a mystery novel by Nevada Barr which I read recently called A Superior Death -- in it the protagonist gets to know two divers who are not only brother and sister but twins, then finds out that they have secretly been in a sexual relationship for years. Her reaction amounts to "whatever works for ya!" and she goes on about her business.
 
In general, I think the concern about close relatives having sex relates to the possible abuse of power between people who differ greatly in age and/or status in society. Unfortunately, even when there IS no abuse of power society's stigmas can still cause the participants trauma.
 
Regarding abuse of power: has anyone on the list read M.J. Engh's Arslan? I found that book absolutely riveting in its depiction of a warlord's relationship to his conquered protege. Early in the book, the warlord (Arslan) rapes a teenage boy (Hunt) in front of his troops and the entire town. He then takes the boy to his headquarters and holds him prisoner for several weeks, periodically entering his room and forcing him to have sex. Eventually, he begins to give the boy tasks as well, and over time Hunt becomes one of Arslan's officers (despised by the town residents who witnessed his humiliation). Hunt hates Arslan, but also loves him. The book showed in a more convincing way than almost any other I've read why someone might stay in an abusive relationship.
 
Strangely, the book's female characters are all minor & poorly characterized. I say strangely because the author is a woman and seems to have a gift for character.
 
Well, this post has become quite long enough! I look forward to some feedback.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Big Heavy World's Pop Pie; Lisa Gerrard's The Mirror Pool
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: Book themes
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 1998 19:46:41 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 06:02 PM 1/29/98 EST, Barbara R. Hume wrote:
>At the risk of being flamed, I'll mention that I'd rather not read books with
>lesbian themes. But I do have a question for list members with lesbian
>preferences.
>
>When I read the Star Trek novel The Best and the Brightest I was, unlike
>quite a few people on this list, displeased by the appearance of a same-sex
>relationship. But for the first time, the thought occurred to me: If I dislike
>the portrayal of such a relationship because I am heterosexual and I don't even
>want to think about women having sex with women, then are you repelled by
>all those heterosexual relationships in the books, movies, TV shows, and so
>forth? If so, life must be hard for you, because our society throws sex in
>people's faces, willy-nilly. Do you have to say "Yuck!" over and over when
>you're reading a love story between a man and a woman?
>How can you stand it? Or do heterosexual love scenes not bother you at all?
 
I am not a lesbian, but I do have some thoughts on this matter. Consider this, Barbara: since there are obviously quite a number of heterosexuals on this list who are NOT disgusted by lesbian themes, it would seem plausible that there are quite a few lesbians who are not disgusted by heterosexual themes.
 
As a heterosexual who is open to the possibility of same-sex relationships I enjoy the sexual aspects of stories about lesbians and gay men. They stretch my imagination re: sexuality, which I think is important because I believe (as my .sig indicates) that the personal is political. It's hard to explain my reasoning behind this -- maybe another day. But sometime in my college years I came to the same conclusion Joel has reached -- that there is the potential in every person to be sexually attracted to both women and men. Then I had to reconcile this belief with the fact that I have always been attracted to males. My sexual preference doesn't seem exactly "natural" since as an adolescent I was disgusted by the thought of ANY sexual activity, heterosexual or homosexual. My personal circumstances led me in the direction of heterosexuality, but at this point I can easily imagine a different outcome. The expansion of my imagination with regard to sexuality is due at least in some part to science fiction -- elective conditioning, in a sense.
 
I find depictions of heterosexuality in fiction much more disturbing overall than depictions of homosexuality. Often they're the same old sh*t that I've been dished my whole life which has very little relation to reality. When I read about attraction between people I want there to be a real, non-cliche reason that they are attracted to each other, not the mere fact that they are opposite sexes in a small group.
 
So there's my $.02.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Big Heavy World's Pop Pie; Lisa Gerrard's The Mirror Pool
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: [*FSFFU*] Pair-bonding in humans / Sociobiology
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 1998 14:09:47 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@listserv.uic.edu
 
Elisa wrote:
 
> The strong sexual drive of humans, including the female sexual drive
> (and the human female orgasmic capacity, not easily found in nature
> among females), is deemed to be responsible for the creation of
> pair-bondings, and by extension the family. If I'm not mistaken this is
> the thesis of Desmond Morris, in The Naked Ape. The fact that humans
> are less hairy than apes in general is only another trick nature has
> invented to increase sexual pleasure in humans, and as a consequence,
> allow for long term relationships - and the existance and perpetuation
> of families.
 
I'm not clear exactly what you mean by pair-bondings here. If you mean monogamous pair-bondings, then I must point out that humans in general are not monogamous at all. It takes a great deal of effort to get people to restrict their sexual urges to a single other person -- effort that could be much better spent otherwise, IMO (assuming safe sexual practices).
 
As for Desmond Morris -- SHUDDER. I watched the first two hours of his show "The Human Sexes" on the Learning Channel last night and I have to say the guy is a flaming idiot. If anyone cares to find out for her/himself, the series continues tonight from 9PM-11PM.
 
I have somewhat of an allergic reaction to any sociobiological claims (that is, claims that human psychology has evolved to meet adaptive aims - an example might be "men are in general more aggressive because they used to be hunters in human prehistory"), but there are takes on it that are less offensive and wrongheaded than Morris'. I recently read sections of a book called Demonic Males by Richard Wrangham & Dale Peterson which attempts to explain male aggression and violence via comparisons to chimpanzees & presumably our mutual ancestors. It's quite well written and the primate research appears to have been thorough. One of the most fascinating sections of the book is the chapter on the bonobo, an ape that is nearly identical to the chimpanzee but whose social structure is completely different. Amongst bonobos male violence is very uncommon and the relationships between females make up most of the social fabric. These relationships include near-constant sexual activity, younger females choosing older female "sponsors" and cementing the bond with sex. As far as sex goes, bonobos are getting a lot more than we are, and hair doesn't seem to be a problem. It is sort of implied in the course of the book that with time humans may become more like bonobos and less like chimpanzees. That's a future I'd like to see.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Radiohead - OK Computer
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin
 


Subject: [*FSFFU*] Selfnames in A Door Into Ocean
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 22:04:07 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@listserv.uic.edu
 
At 07:38 PM 2/13/98 -0500, Joel VanLaven wrote:
>Here is also the dilemma, should I work to be mediocre in the things I
>am bad in or should I work to be great in the things I am good in.
>Perhaps the Sharers would say take the meaningful name that you aren't
>going to work on much simply to remind you of your flaws and reduce your
>conciet.
>
>So suppose I chose Joel the bad writer.
 
I think you're missing an important element of the self-names: they do not concern vocations or skills; they are all about character, elements of a personality, not quantifiable knowledge.
 
Nisi the Deceiver; Usha the Inconsiderate; Merwen the Impatient; Shaalrim the Lazy; Lalor the Absentminded. The fact that someone has gotten to a level of self-knowledge that enables them to see clearly their own major fault(s) means in Sharer society that they are mature and ready to join in the decision-making of the adult group. It doesn't mean that each person spends a majority of her time in introspection and worry about her self-name and how to transcend it. Character flaws often take many years to address. At one point in the book it is pointed out that only one Sharer of Raia-el raft is "so old and revered that the Gathering had formally forgotten her selfname." So I don't think the society is putting a load of pressure on each person to fix her personality. Self names do encourage humility, though, and remind people that there is still much they can improve on.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Big Heavy World's Pop Pie; Lisa Gerrard's The Mirror Pool
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: [*FSFFU*] McCaffrey and female characters
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 23:43:18 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 01:27 PM 2/13/98 PST, Daniel Krashin wrote:
>Barbara, I don't know what McAffrey has said on the subject, but
>it seems a reasonable assumption to me. When technology collapses
>from starfaring to medieval levels, muscle power, drudgery and
>serfdom once again become the mainstays of civilization.
 
Say again? How is the collapse of technology related to the status of women? I see no connection at all. Julieanne drew a connection between muscle power (according to her theory, something men have and women don't) and the ability to cultivate food, which also seemed specious. I sense here a determination to make sexual discrimination somehow logical, when in reality it often isn't. Considering we've never seen technology collapse from starfaring to medieval levels it seems a little rash to declare what would "obviously" happen. I don't think McCaffrey has any more reasoned an explanation either.
 
I used to be a MAJOR fan of Anne McCaffrey. The Harper Hall trilogy was my favorite, though I also really liked the Dragonrider series and read a number of other works by her (The Ship Who Sang, Crystal Singer & its sequel). I read the books over and over and managed to memorize the names of all the dragonriders and their dragons, no matter how briefly they appeared. But sometime during high school I found myself, almost against my will, tiring of McCaffrey. Her treatment of women and male sexuality was the major turnoff. Men just seem to "lose control" in her books and for the most part the women love it! I still remember clearly a scene in The White Dragon when Jaxom, in a moment of turmoil, swooped down out of the sky and practically raped Corana in a field. She seemed a bit taken aback but she still wanted him. The dynamic between F'lar and Lessa always bothered me slightly as well -- it seemed like he was always roughly grabbing her and clasping her with bone-crushing force, etc. I gathered that McCaffrey wanted us to see that their relationship was passionate. Violent seems a better word in retrospect. Similar themes are sounded in much of her fiction, particularly The Rowan (IIRC) and a ghastly short story in her collection Get Off the Unicorn where a green-skinned guy rapes a woman and mid-way she realizes she really likes it.
 
I was also irked by the treatment of homosexuality -- there obviously were some homosexuals on Pern, but the only time I remember them actually entering into the story was when one of them died and someone went to tell his partner. I am grateful that I stopped reading the books before the "explanation" of newly-hatched dragons sensing the homosexuality of their riders -- now I have some distance & can laugh in disbelief rather than feeling violated. In the context of the other books it makes no sense at all -- in the early Pern books, human sexuality was entirely tangential to dragon sexuality, as the riders' minds were overwhelmed by the imagery and lust of their dragons' mating flights. In many cases, people who may not have liked one another at all in daily life ended up in bed together. I found that to be somewhat transgressive and genuinely thought-provoking, but it sounds like she's altered that original vision.
 
Other gripes: why is it WeyrLEADER and WeyrWOMAN? If size is associated with intelligence in dragons (as it is, according to her own scheme), then why aren't the queen dragons and their riders the Weyrleaders? It would make more sense, really, as the Weyrwoman remains a constant while she and her queen live (only one queen at a time in any weyr) whereas the Weyrleader changes depending on which dragon manages to outlast the others and mate with the queen.
 
I could go on and on, I suppose. My feelings about McCaffrey now are that she allows women a fair amount of power in her books, but she remains unconcerned about or blind to some of her own sexist views. I find said views, along with the general decline in her writing quality, distasteful enough that I no longer read her work, but I have fond memories of the old days.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Big Heavy World's Pop Pie; Lisa Gerrard's The Mirror Pool
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Documentation of matriarchal cultures -Reply
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 23:57:17 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 01:50 PM 2/13/98 -0500, Debra Euler wrote:
>However, I've read Eisler, Stone, and Gimbutas, and in my
>recollection their work is based largely on cultural interpretation,
>not on hard ethnological or archaeological evidence. They are
>controversial, not the last word. Just because someone wrote a book
>and put in a lot of footnotes, it doesn't make their thesis correct.
 
I have to agree with Debra here. I have read most of The Chalice and the Blade. I wanted to be convinced, even though I have a degree in Anthropology and knew the consensus on matriachies. I hoped Eisler would have some new evidence. But about 2/3 of the way through I concluded that all she had to offer were clever "takes" on the evidence that served to advance her agenda. The empowerment of women is one of my highest agendas also, but I just can't stand it when people distort facts!
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Big Heavy World's Pop Pie; Lisa Gerrard's The Mirror Pool
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: [*FSFFU*] Women and violence
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 17:02:59 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 12:55 AM 2/16/98 -0600, Marina Yereshenko wrote:
>Maybe it's easier to understand by comparison. The only place I've seen
>in US that remotely reminded my home city was South Bronx in New York,
>except that South Bronx seemed a lot safer. Imagine that you live
>in a place like that alone, and think how big you chances of survival
>would be compared to ones of a male.
>
>It's very simple. You are walking home on a dark street. There is a
>group of teenage guys hanging out that you have to pass. If you are a
>man, they might think before messing with you (especially if it's a
>culture where every male owns at least a switchblade).
 
A few thoughts:
Most male violence is directed towards other males. A man walking down a dark street and passing unfamiliar guys may be in even more danger of being assaulted than a woman (though he will probably not be raped).
 
If a woman has been trained in self-defense, a size or strength difference may not affect the outcome of a one-on-one confrontation at all. However, if her attackers come at her in numbers she will probably be overcome. The same goes for a man.
 
I guess what I am saying is that I don't think a woman is actually any more likely to be a victim of a crime than a man is. (I suppose it would be a good idea to quote some statistics here, but I don't have any handy.) But if she is assaulted, she is generally less able to defend herself. Women are less likely to carry weapons, more likely to wear restrictive clothing that impedes movement, less likely to have participated in sports, less likely to have been involved in physical fights in their youth. United States culture discourages women from being physically aggressive or even self-confident. However, if this conditioning against physicality is overcome or ignored by women they can become fully capable of defending themselves. And walking the street in numbers is a tried and true tactic that is often used by men as well as women.
 
To bring this back to SF, I love it when authors take it for granted that women are NOT inherently weak or less physical. A good example would be Melissa Scott's Trouble and Her Friends. There is a scene early in the book when Cerise is walking in New Century Square and some "dollie-girls" start following her, preparing to do her unknown physical harm. She decides "offense is the best defense" and with a little violence the confrontation is quickly over. Suzy McKee Charnas' The Furies also details some nasty violence of women against men. It is not portrayed in a favorable light, exactly, but the women easily win the victory. I'll be very interested to see how they deal with their victory in the next book.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Transister's eponymous debut; R.E.M.'s Murmur
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] McCaffrey and female characters
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 18:48:44 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 09:48 AM 2/16/98 -0700, Michelle Bernard wrote:
>BUT, this does get confused, because there is NOT only a single queen
>in a weyr, just a single dominant queen (often the mother of the others)
>and hence there are other queen-riders (not weyrwomen) who produce other
>clutches (sort of a security measure to keep producing dragons).
 
You're right, of course. I typed hastily & didn't remember carefully enough.
 
However, I've now remembered some other aspects of the books which also trouble me. McCaffrey explains that the male dragons lead the charge against Thread because the queens cannot chew firestone (it would make them infertile) and are too valuable to risk on the front lines. Yet there is a "queens wing" which flies below all the others and mops up any Thread that might have gotten through all the upper ranks. This always seemed like a consolation prize to me. And why does firestone make queens infertile when it doesn't make male dragons infertile? Hmph.
 
I think it's definitely the case that McCaffrey wrote some of these things originally without thinking about them too much and later tried to revise with limited success. I imagine it must be difficult for any author with a large following to try to introduce changes into their original world without making the fans upset.
 
Some books were better than others. The Harper Hall trilogy took on the subject of sexism in the crafts. As an adolescent I identified with Menolly, but was a little disappointed to see her role shrink with time. Dragondrums focused mostly on Piemur. Can someone who has kept up with the books tell me what has happened with her character?
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Transister's eponymous debut; R.E.M.'s Murmur
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Male heroes was Re: [*FSFFU*] Ammonite
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 09:56:23 -0500
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@listserv.uic.edu
 
Julieanne wrote:
> Anyway, to bring this back to topic - I would like to ask the list
> for feedback on their favourite male characters in feminist sci-fi
> - and why they considered them attractive, or interesting or
> whatever?
 
I like Eykar Bek in Walk to the End of the World and The Furies by Suzy McKee Charnas. Despite the society around him, he is openminded and smart enough to see that the fems are not simply a lower form of life fit only for drudgery. The dialogue between him and Alldera in WttEotW fascinated me because there was such a gap in power & status between the two of them, history told both of them that communication was impossible, yet real communication did occur, haltingly. Bek is not portrayed as a well-adjusted guy, which I also like -- being so outside the norm for the men of the time, he is somewhat crazed and often miserable. A great characterization, IMO.
 
I also like Eleanor Arnason's male characters in Ring of Swords (let's see if I can remember names), Gwarha & Nicholas. Ditto for Zhang in Maureen McHugh's China Mountain Zhang. These characters seem like full people to me; they're not boxed into stereotypical male behaviors. Hmmm... and they're all homosexual. I have a feeling that's not a coincidence.
 
--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: XTC - English Settlement; Bran Van 3000 - Glee
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin
 


Subject: [*FSFFU*] BDG: Dreamsnake & STDs
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 10:02:41 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
Just a thought: perhaps Snake and her contemporaries are less fixed on sexual intercourse than we are. Much of the talk about cervical cancer and STDs in this discussion has assumed that anyone engaging in "sex" is having intercourse, but I don't recall that this was assumed in the book (though it has been several months since I read it & I am hazy on the descriptive details). It seems logical, given how common bisexuality is in this future world, that people would have a greater repertoire of sexual behaviors to choose from & it definitely seems that they are better educated about sexuality. When you consider how many diseases can be avoided by minimizing direct contact between genitalia, perhaps these folks would rely more on other, equally as pleasant, activities.
 
--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: XTC - English Settlement
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG: Dreamsnake & STDs
Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 11:33:26 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
Janice E. Dawley wrote:
>...perhaps Snake and her contemporaries are less fixed on
>sexual intercourse than we are.
 
And Joel VanLaven wrote:
>I don't think so. Control of fertility is so important that it is
>obvious to me that intercourse is the definition of what was going on.
 
Oh, H-E-double-hockey-sticks... you're right. I must've been projecting what I WISH McIntyre had said onto the text; I really should have skimmed it over again before posting. Sorry.
 
--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: XTC - English Settlement
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG Halfway Human
Date: Mon, 25 May 1998 22:32:51 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
I finished Halfway Human about a week ago and have been thinking about it since then. I found it to be an enjoyable, intriguing story. Following are my comments.
 
The book called other works to mind for me. The Left Hand of Darkness & "The Matter of Seggri" by Le Guin, Susan Matthews' An Exchange of Hostages (if you thought Tedla's mistreatment was bad, compare it to some of the torture in aEoH), M.J. Engh's Arslan, Octavia Butler's Kindred and Suzy McKee Charnas' Holdfast series. A common theme in these works (except LHoD) is the oppression of one group by another and whether or not it's possible for people from the two groups to form relationships free from this oppression. The depth of the subject is immense and I always enjoy thoughtful approaches to it. Tedla's relationship to Tellegen is very interesting in this way -- Tellegen is wracked with guilt because he is violating his own morals and Tedla is confused yet very grateful to be treated kindly. It's clear that Tellegen still has the upper hand and does not hesitate to exert his power when he thinks he knows what is best for Tedla, but it's hard for me to call his sexual relations with Tedla rape. Tedla could have said no and it fully understood that option, but it chose not to. It said that it enjoyed physical intimacy with Tellegen even though it had no sexual feelings. Obviously it wanted to continue to please Tellegen for fear of being posted elsewhere, but I don't think this means that their relationship can be boiled down to simple one-way exploitation. Many real life relationships could be vastly oversimplified in the same way.
 
Some have said that they don't understand Tedla's insistence on being a bland & not human, even though it is no longer on Gammadis. Perhaps there would be more complete healing for Tedla if it had entered a free bland community (as Alldera in Charnas' Motherlines becomes a part of the Riding Women). But instead Tedla is among sexed humans, beings who are still profoundly different from it, beings whose sexual appetites are in large part identical to its Gammadian oppressors'. How could it not still feel like an outsider? Maybe it doesn't WANT to be human?
 
Re: Joslyn Grassby's irritation with Tedla's low self-esteem: isn't it amazing how so many women in our society, though very intelligent, are convinced that their bodies just aren't good enough, despite the assurances of their friends and full awareness of the existence of eating disorders? Why do so many women starve themselves in pursuit of an impossible ideal? It simply has nothing to do with objective reality. If the conditioning to think that you are fat, dumb, ugly, etc. is strong enough no amount of opposite conditioning will ever erase its effects. I think Tedla did quite well to stand up to Nasatir at all.
 
Jessie Stickgold-Sarah wrote:
>in fact the gendered characters that
>I remember as most moving the story along were the squire, Galele, the abusive
>man whose name I can't even remember at Brice's, maybe the administrator at
>the creche who tells Tedla to reflect on its actions towards Joby. The women
>(Elector Hornaby (??), Ovide, Annika) seemed to do much less in terms of
>really moving the action forward. This is an awfully subjective assessment --
>did other people have this reaction, or an opposite one, or think it was
>balanced?
 
It didn't seem that way to me. I thought Ovide did perform an important function, choosing Tedla for Tellegen and introducing Galele to both of them. And the woman at Brice's is the one who asks Tedla what it really thinks of her and has it punished when she doesn't like the answer.
 
Anita Easton wrote:
>Did anyone find any merit in the ending at all? It seemed like a total
>cop out, but I'm hoping I missed something.
 
It did seem like it came out of the blue, but when you think about it, Gossup didn't have all that much to lose by diverting Tedla to C4D. No one on Capella Two would hear about it from Gammadis for 50 years (or however long it was exactly -- a long time) & as long as Tedla and Val keep quiet on C4D there's no menace from that quarter. There's some risk to him, perhaps it isn't completely convincing, but I didn't mind it too much since it made no difference at all to the main story line.
 
Joyce Jones wrote:
>I really wanted to think that Tedla's lack of metamorphosis was a mistake.
>The idea presented by Patricia Mathews that it was made a bland
>specifically so it could be used as a sex slave was just nauseating. Well,
>there is no end to the depravity of human kind, but wow, this was not a
>thought I had while reading the book.
 
Though it isn't explained, I think it plausible that there might be a quota system at work here. "We need x number of blands this year and they need such and such talents or attributes." It seems that as the population of blands increases, the humans find more and more use for them (vis. Tedla's comment that it came to understand how a staff of many blands can be kept busy caring for a few humans). And perhaps other considerations, like "we can't have any ugly humans" or "no humans who can't play well with others or are below such and such IQ" (like Bigger, who seemed to be developing sex by itself without the hormone treatments and was surgically altered to be a bland).
 
Stacey Holbrooke wrote:
>The whole idea that "there are blands in every society" seemed to
>be tacked on at the end.
 
I don't think so. I thought it was clear from the beginning that the society of Capella Two is heartless in a way very similar to Gammadis -- people looking for excuses to devalue others and shut others out.
 
Timmi Duchamp wrote:
>In other words, Gilman shows us that sexuality & sexed-ness is as
>constructed as gender is.
 
Yes. Tedla even says at one point that it learned a whole other language of interaction once it started spending more time with humans -- the "flirting" and sexual innuendo that is injected when appropriate. Tedla even goes so far as to say that most sexuality is expressed here rather than in bed. (p. 345)
 
Tedla's perceived gender: at first I thought of Tedla as an effeminate male, but as I read on I began to identify with it more and more, so eventually I was able to think of it simply as "the outsider", as that is often how I feel when I observe highly gendered behaviors in our society. What do I mean by highly gendered? I guess behaviors that I think of as "macho" or "feminine" like being physically aggressive or very willing to accept physical constraint (high heels, clothes that need to be adjusted all the time -- don't let anyone see up that skirt!). Tedla's expected role didn't seem to fit either of these extremes.
 
At 11:12 AM 5/19/98 +1200, Jenny Rankine wrote:
>I find the great wadges of description of past events almost undigestible.
>There are all these long pieces of Tedla's story, and then Val suddenly
>starts responding, and you realise it was all in the past. It lurches
>really badly from static past narrative to present action.
 
I found the past narrative far from static. What exactly do you mean? The only difference of narrative style that I can tell is that Tedla's is in the 1st person and the present time narrative is in the 3rd person.
 
>Hopefully, I'll finish it, but I have to agree with one of the other posts
>which described it as turgid. I'm a non-fiction editor and don't usually
>feel an urge to edit fiction, but this book has a solid kernel of good
>story and ideas in a bad structure, which cries out for a severe rewrite
>and edit.
 
I can easily imagine that the book could have been structured differently and better; however I don't understand the criticism that the book is turgid. Turgid, to me, means that there is a lot of extraneous material that could have been left out, unnecessary verbiage, cliche phrases... but I didn't think there was anything extraneous. Tedla's narrative is all there because it is describing its life, what it means to be a bland and how its own views of blands and humans have been changed by its unusual experiences. Everything seemed to fit. (Now, The Mists of Avalon is a turgid book, but that's a whole other book discussion!)
 
Well, I think this is enough for one message. My compliments to Carolyn Ives Gilman for her thought-provoking novel!

-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: XTC's English Settlement; Bran Van 3000's Glee
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Dragon's Winter, by Elizabeth Lynn
Date: Tue, 26 May 1998 20:09:02 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 06:31 PM 5/26/98 -0400, Donna Simone wrote:
>I must say I was troubled and disappointed by this. Okay, I admit I am
>disappointed from the perspective of my own expectations. But still I am
>a religious consumer of E. Lynn's books BECAUSE she always made an
>effort to examine gender roles and power relationships. This book is
>almost reactionary in the absence of questioning of gender roles and
>power/authority issues.
 
Sadly, this confirms my hasty assessment of the book in Barnes & Noble a couple of months ago. I saw it on the shelf and thought, "Oh, goody! A new Elizabeth A. Lynn book!" But after reading the first 15 or so pages and skimming ahead a bit I came to the conclusion that the plot was a tired retread of evil guy vs. good guy and their epic struggle, destiny, supernatural powers, etc. etc. Maybe that's overstating it a bit, but I had come to expect a certain adventuresomeness in gender roles and narrative style from Lynn and felt very disappointed. I put it back on the shelf. Perhaps I'll read it eventually, but right now I'm not well disposed.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: XTC's English Settlement; Bran Van 3000's Glee
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] Reading Suggestions for a Young Male / McCaffrey
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 1998 19:57:14 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
 
At 09:57 AM 7/9/98 EDT, Jim Hollomon wrote:
>My son is now 12, and is an inveterate reader.
 
<snip>
 
>Before he grows so old he's totally set in his ways, I'd like to introduce him
>to some stories that will stimulate him to think about feminist issues, about
>unreasonable expectations in our society, and the like. If anyone has some
>good suggestions--stories that are both thought provoking and engaging enough
>to hold a preteen's interest--please pass them on.
 
I highly recommend the books of H.M. Hoover. Just a few weeks ago I took a couple of them (The Bell Tree and The Winds of Mars) out of the library and was pleasantly surprised that I liked them as well as or better than I did as a teenager. All of her books that I have read are far future science fiction and all feature central, strong female characters as well as an array of sympathetic male characters. I find her work stylistically pleasing (it's spare and focused) and I love the fact that she pays attention to psychological detail and is not falsely cheery as some young adult and children's writers are.
 
Re: Julieanne's recommendation of McCaffrey's work: it may seem hypocritical for me to say this, as I read McCaffrey's Dragon books as a teenager and credit them at least partially for making me a science fiction fan... but I would not wholeheartedly advance these books as works that will stimulate your son to think about feminist issues. I posted a message about McCaffrey's Dragonrider series (as distinct from the Harper Hall series) a few months ago with only some vague details about my discomfort with their sexism. Since then I have retrieved my well worn copies from my parents' house and have been able to track down some passages.
 
Dragonflight, p. 152 (F'lar and Lessa meet in a corridor):
     He caught her arm and felt her body tense. He set
     his teeth, wishing, as he had a hundred times since
     Ramoth rose in her first mating flight, that Lessa
     had not been virgin too. He had not thought to 
     control his dragon-incited emotions and Lessa's 
     first sexual experience had been violent. [...] He
     had been a considerate and gentle bedmate ever since,
     but, unless Ramoth and Mnementh were involved, he 
     might as well call it rape.
        Yet he knew someday, somehow, he would coax her 
     into responding wholeheartedly to his lovemaking. 
     He had a certain pride in his skill, and he was in 
     a position to persevere.
Dragonquest, p. 167 (F'nor and Brekke):
     Her body was soft and pliable, her arms went around 
     him, pressing him to her with a total surrender to 
     his virility that he had never before experienced. 
     No matter how eager others had seemed, how gratified,
     there had never been such a total commitment to him. 
     Such an innocence of...
        Abruptly F'nor raised his head, looking deep into 
     her eyes.
        "You've never slept with T'bor." He stated it as a 
     fact. "You've never slept with any man."
<...> p. 169 (F'nor decides Brekke needs some sex to feel better):
     He wanted to be gentle but, unaccountably, Brekke 
     fought him. She pleaded with him, crying out wildly 
     that they'd rouse the sleeping Wirenth. He wasn't 
     gentle, but he was thorough, and, in the end, Brekke 
     astounded him with a surrender as passionate as if 
     her dragon had been involved.
The White Dragon, p. 212 (Jaxom arrives at Corana's Hold):
     Ruth achieved a landing on the narrow margin between 
     grain and wall. Corana, recovering from surprise at 
     his unexpected arrival, waved a welcome. Instead of 
     rushing toward him as she usually did, she smoothed 
     back her hair and blotted the perspiration beading 
     her face.
        "Jaxom," she began, as he strode toward her, the 
     urgency in his loins increasing at the sight of her.
     "I wish you wouldn't --"
        He silenced her half-teasing scold with a kiss, 
     felt something hard clout him along his side. Pinning 
     her against him with his right arm, he found the 
     offending hoe with his left hand. Wrenching it from 
     her grasp, he spun it away from them. Corana wriggled 
     to get free, as unprepared for this mood in him as he 
     was. He held her closer, trying to temper the pressures 
     rising within him until she could respond.
In all of these passages male sexuality is portrayed as dominating and remorseless. The men have the power to force sex and they don't hesitate to use that power. In the end, it is implied, this is what the women really want after all. I want to point out, for those who have not read these books, that F'lar, F'nor and Jaxom are three of the most important characters in the Dragonrider series. They are protagonists -- not perfect, but very positively viewed by the author. Clearly McCaffrey doesn't have any problem with this rapist mentality, at least in fiction.
 
Where sex is not involved, McCaffrey does better. In Dragonflight, Lessa successfully challenges the convention that queen dragons don't fly and saves all of Pern by flying back in time and convincing the Oldtimers to help fight Thread. The main character of the Harper Hall Trilogy, Menolly, fights against the tradition that "women can't be harpers" and wins. (This trilogy was also written for younger readers and omits sex almost entirely.) But the treatment of sexuality in most of McCaffrey's work (The Rowan included -- I haven't read Sassinak) is so problematic that I would not recommend it for adolescent readers unless you're prepared to discuss it.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: XTC's English Settlement; Bran Van 3000's Glee
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] attractiveness and gender stereotypes
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 1998 20:23:00 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
 
At 04:27 PM 7/10/98 -0500, Robin Reid wrote:
>... I was just thinking about one of my favorite writers Barbara Hambly
<snip>
>A common thread throughout her works is that conventionally unattractive men
>and women fall in love under some pretty stressful circumstances.
>... though I cannot remember names, I still resonate to the
>descriptions of gawky, smart women and homely smart men who are comrades
>first and rescue each other and are looked upon as weird by their
>contemporaries (the women coming from our contemporary culture and the men
>from the alternate universe in the two trilogies I've mentioned) in both
>worlds and then, wow, love.
 
Relating to Marina's earlier point about age disparities in couples... isn't it weird that Hambly's women consistently fall for men who are QUITE a bit older than they are? I've read a number of her books (Darwath, Windrose and Sun Wolf/Starhawk series as well as Stranger at the Wedding and Dragonsbane) and after a while I could just tell, "Well, the protagonist has met this guy, he's eccentric and he's not conventionally attractive and he's 15 years older than she is... they're going to be an item pretty soon." It seemed downright strange. Of course it's been a while since I read any of them and there may have been some books that broke the mold. I do remember being frustrated in the Windrose series when I wanted Joanna and Caris to get together, but he was too young and good looking. Nope, she was carrying a torch for crazy, bespectacled Antryg who was more like twice her age.
 
There is much to recommend Hambly's work, don't get me wrong. I LOVED The Ladies of Mandrigyn (mercenary is kidnapped by a group of noble ladies to teach them the art of war -- very stimulating -- at times hilarious, at times creepy) and more recently enjoyed Stranger at the Wedding (except for the ending which was somewhat of a letdown). I like her "grittiness" as well.
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: XTC's English Settlement; Bran Van 3000's Glee
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG MOA, sexuality
Date: Tue, 14 Jul 1998 19:41:52 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
At 02:40 PM 7/14/98 -0700, Joyce Jones wrote:
 
>Morgause's sexual promiscuity was frowned upon because it involved no bond
>with the land or even with the men she chose, no bond at all. It was a
>plaything, and the religion did not see sex as a plaything. I don't find
>that attitude oppressive, I find it liberating to know we each possess this
>power. The freedom to treat great spiritual truths lightly doesn't seem to
>me to be much of a freedom. Rather it robs the person of the potential for
>growth, and what else is life for?
 
This all assumes that sex IS about bonding, power and spiritual truth. A lot of people simply don't view it that way, and why should they have to? Sexual activity, as many areas of life, doesn't have much of an inherent meaning -- the meaning is in what the participants bring to it. If an individual's viewpoint is that sex is about transient physical pleasure and no more, why not leave that person be as long as they inflict no harm upon others? The Avalon take on sexuality seems hardly better than the Christian to me -- the decisionmaking is still up to "the authorities" instead of the individual and pleasure is deferred in favor of duty. There are more than these two ways to live, thank Peep.
 
* Peep, the yellow genderless marshmallow god
 
-----
Janice E. Dawley.....Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to Faith and the Muse: Elyria
"...the public and the private worlds are inseparably connected;
the tyrannies and servilities of the one are the tyrannies and
servilities of the other." Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas
 


Subject: Re: [*FSFFU*] BDG MOA, sexuality
Date: Wed, 15 Jul 1998 13:52:10 -0400
From: "Janice E. Dawley"
To: FEMINISTSF@LISTSERV.UIC.EDU
 
I wrote:
> This all assumes that sex IS about bonding, power and spiritual
> truth. A lot of people simply don't view it that way, and why should
> they have to? Sexual activity, as many areas of life, doesn't have
> much of an inherent meaning -- the meaning is in what the
> participants bring to it. If an individual's viewpoint is that sex
> is about transient physical pleasure and no more, why not leave that
> person be as long as they inflict no harm upon others? The Avalon
> take on sexuality seems hardly better than the Christian to me --
> the decisionmaking is still up to "the authorities" instead of the
> individual and pleasure is deferred in favor of duty. There are more
> than these two ways to live, thank Peep.
>
> * Peep, the yellow genderless marshmallow god
 
Pat Mathews wrote:
> But it's Marion's universe and once in, you play by Marion's rules.
 
As a reader I have the freedom to continually question whatever I am reading. As a reader, I take issue with MZB's rules.
 
> Sex as a sacred bonding is a huge advance over the attitudes of
> the period she and I grew up in. Sex for casual pleasure is
> post-Pill and still to us elders carries overtones of paradise for
> men, a jungle full of traps & pitfalls for women.
 
I see what you mean. I've heard tales of women in The Movement of the 1960s-70s being used by guys who told them they weren't liberated enough if they didn't believe in "free love." This type of pressure and exploitation qualifies as "inflicting harm" in my book. What I was trying to say is that the idea of sex as sacred bonding plays into the fetishistic tendencies already present in our society. I prefer a philosophy which views sexuality as just another part of everyday life that does not need to be fraught with ritual and emotional issues. This does not mean, as Joyce Jones remarked, that I find "spiritual progression" unimportant. It means that I think an obsession with sexuality and the abstractions of Nature & Culture helps no one in the long run. Instead of flipping the coin over and over (goddess or god, goddess or god?) I would prefer to abandon the currency.
 
This partly explains why I didn't think highly of MoA or Elizabeth Hand's Waking the Moon and why I do enjoy some of Samuel Delany's work, Elizabeth A. Lynn's Tornor trilogy and Candas Jane Dorsey's Black Wine. In these books, sex CAN be exploitative and CAN be a transcendent spiritual experience, but it can also be just a pleasant way to pass the time in the context of lives that find spiritual meaning elsewhere. And if someone doesn't feel like having sex at all it's not a big deal. I like that.
 
-------------------------
 
In a somewhat unrelated matter, Maryelizabeth Hart wrote:
> Didn't know Peep was a god. Please tell me worship involves graven
> images, not ::shudder:: communion. :)
 
*Laugh* If anyone ever actually tasted a Peep the religion would crumble!
 
--
Janice E. Dawley ............. Burlington, VT
http://homepages.together.net/~jdawley/jedhome.htm
Listening to: Faith and the Muse -- Elyria
"Reality is nothing but a collective hunch." - Lily Tomlin


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