Of Men and Women

Posted: February 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Weapon Snitch and the Crown of Blood is finished. By finished, I mean that the rough draft is finished, meaning that it is currently being edited, after which comes all sorts of blood and tears and fights as those edits are hammered out, followed by sitting around on my hands hoping that some lovely agent is able to net me a nice and happy book deal. What this also means is that work on The Weapon Snitch and the Red Knight is already underway.

When I first sat down and conceptualized the Weapon Snitch series, it was supposed to be more of a parody than it turned out to be. In that vein, the Red Knight book was meant to be a takedown of how the fantasy genre as a whole treats the female gender. As the book is plotted now, it still very much does that, but not in a way that is quite as silly or absurd.

In Crown of Blood (as I hope all of you will be able to read sooner than later), I challenge the reader to a certain extent regarding what women are capable of and how they compare to their male counterparts in an action/fantasy setting. In Red Knight I hope to take this challenge several steps further as we consider the complexity of gender inequalities imposed by social norms generation after generation. It is one thing to write a strong female character (which is something I do in Crown of Blood) and another thing to write a strong female character in a setting where strong female characters are not the norm.

But let’s make this clear up front (or not exactly up front as I’m already on the fourth paragraph, so let’s say maybe we’ll say make this clear in the front of the middle of the piece… or something), if anything I recognize that gender issues and equality are complex. They are more complex than I think most people, even those passionate about the topic, care to accept. The gender wars as they exist today are fed by eons of established social norms, preconceived psychological differences and stereotypes, modest physiological differences, and when you take all of that away, there is still the very salient presence of reproductive biology.

It is all well and good to say that people are equal regardless of gender and should be treated as such, but it is a much more challenging thing when we recognize that as biological organisms  most of us are preprogrammed to want to reproduce, kind of all the time. This is a truth in life–men like women, women like men (exempting alternative sexualities of course). But I also feel this should not be used as an excuse either. If being human means anything at all, it means acting contrary to primal impulses–having mental capacities that aren’t always rooted firmly in the id’s zip code.

Once we have gotten through that, the difference between men and women is… biological. As far as I am aware, there is no part of the human genome that mandates that girls are biologically required to like the color pink, or that boys must, after thousands of years of evolution, like monster trucks. Having one type of genitalia has no impact on one’s ability to do complex math, or analyze 18th century literature or even grasp football strategy beyond trying to have more points than the other team by the end of the game. Much of these socially imposed stereotypes appear to be holdovers from some mystical hunter gatherer period in human history which, frankly, I happen to think is a load of crap. There is also a point in the vast human history that we once believed taking baths opened the body up to invasion from demons and that hasn’t lasted, so why the silly hunter-gatherer norms?

This manifests itself just about everywhere, from the workplace to gender roles in the home. In the USA, men empirically make more money than women for doing the same work. And even now in 2013, a year where I expected us all to be driving around in flying cars, it is still expected that the woman does all the cooking and cleaning while the man is in charge of other things. This model has changed a little over the past fifty years or so; women are now expected to provide income, and maybe it’s not so outlandish for dad to wash a dish here or there. But when you turn on the tv and the commercials come on you still never see the cleaning products being sold to men, and ready made meals are still giving mom a break instead of dad. And remember, none of this is necessary–a female’s biological make up makes her no better equipped to cook a roast than a male’s, just like there’s nothing in our DNA that makes it infinitely more difficult for a woman to turn a wrench than a man.

On top of all the inequalities and unfairness that ensue, there is also this pressure to be a “real man” or a “real woman.” I have no time for this, and I am not going to let anyone, not an ad agency, not a coworker, not anyone, tell me what being a real man is. There is exactly one thing that makes me a real man and I’m reminded of that almost every time I step foot in a bathroom (apologies to my transgendered friends out there… you kind of fall in between the cracks on this one here, but you know… I’m with you in spirit!). Everything outside of that single point of evidence, the term “real man” is defined as I choose to define it. I choose to define real man as someone who enjoys watching Glee, who occasionally will sleep with a teddy bear, who doesn’t mind watching Wizard’s of Waverly Place with his daughters, who likes to watch dancing and likes sappy love songs. This real man will always take his car to a mechanic because everything on the other side of the dashboard is a giant mysterious box filled with magical smoke that makes the car go. This real man loves to watch football, but couldn’t name half the players on the field and oh my god don’t even try asking me where any of them went to college because who cares really?

Honestly, I think life would be a lot more interesting if we just looked at people as individuals and stopped worrying about what’s going on underneath each other’s clothes so much, unless, you know, it’s mating season, then I guess it’s a matter of necessity.

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