Reader, I Married Him

by Belle Waring on September 26, 2011


This conversation actually happened at our house just now. In truth, I was first lying in bed with the laptop and then addressing John from a somewhat lascivious position difficult to illustrate with stick figures. No, now you’re imagining something worse. Anyway, I think the xkcd couple should be able to afford a better desk and computer by now. Little thing that pulls out for your keyboard? What is it, 1996?
“I thought of the title! And I helped with Photoshop!”—John.

{ 307 comments }

1

Ginger Yellow 09.26.11 at 3:12 pm

Little thing that pulls out for your keyboard? What is it, 1996?

I’ve got one of those. I don’t actually use it though.

2

LizardBreath 09.26.11 at 3:30 pm

I’m typing on one right now.

3

marcel 09.26.11 at 3:36 pm

Where’s the rollover text (I don’t think “tumblr600″ counts, though that probably raises my next question: What’s tumblr?)?

4

John Holbo 09.26.11 at 3:43 pm

Like this.
except this is Belle logged in as John and too lazy to switch.

5

rea 09.26.11 at 3:44 pm

[After Googling]: “So that’s what a tumblr is!” I thought it was what one used to drink whiskey straight up.

6

Dave 09.26.11 at 3:51 pm

It’s amazing: every single sentence in this post is a digression, including the quotation from John. What is even happening?

Is there something about living in the Holbo/Waring household that makes people confusing?

7

tomslee 09.26.11 at 5:26 pm

We’re digressing? Then I guess I can leap from overrated white dudes to fantasy literature and from there to my word of the week, “mansplaining”, as explicated by Sady Doyle.

8

Henry 09.26.11 at 6:04 pm

Tom, I actually thought that that was one of the more dishonest posts I’ve read on the internets in the recent past, for reasons laid out by Alyssa Rosenberg. Doyle wrote a post which was quite explicitly an exercise in trolling for outraged responses. Then, when people argue that she’s actually _wrong_ and provide countering evidence, she doesn’t argue back but instead deletes the relevant comments and does the whole ‘la-la I can’t hear you’ thing. And then accuses Rosenberg (whom I am certain is far more widely read – the stats say that ThinkProgress is a monster of blog) of [a]ttacking high-trafficked posts by other women, [to] play into nerd martyr complex, get $$$!. When ‘you are mansplaining’ drifts into ‘anyone who disagrees with my reading of these books is either a mansplainer or a traitor to her sex who is in it for the money’ it becomes a bit of a problem.

On the actual merits, I don’t think that there is any plausible good faith reading of GRRM under which he is talking about violence to women for the creepy kicks that Doyle says he is. It’s clear that he talks about this stuff precisely to make it clear how shitty a deal mediaeval society was for women, even powerful ones (one of the threads running through these books is how much knightly chivalry is a crock).I _do_ think that there are enormous swathes of fantasy that you could make a good case against, and that there is a more plausible case against GRRM on weirdnesses in his depiction of non-’Western’ societies.

9

e julius drivingstorm 09.26.11 at 6:31 pm

Which is it – xkcd or xckd? Or does it matter?

10

bianca steele 09.26.11 at 6:56 pm

I like those little shelves. They’re good if you’re short. Also good, if you can get them, are those little square rolling equipment carts.

11

LizardBreath 09.26.11 at 7:25 pm

I don’t think that there is any plausible good faith reading of GRRM under which he is talking about violence to women for the creepy kicks that Doyle says he is.

This seems overstated to me. Conditions in the GRRM books are much rapier (if that’s a word, which I’m sure it isn’t) for aristocratic women than conditions in corresponding historical periods actually were; sure, knightly chivalry was a crock, but plausibly chaste and unraped noblewomen were a dynastic asset which it was generally understood as wasteful to devalue by raping them (outside of involuntary marriage/marital rape). The amount of sexual violence against the upper-class female characters is at least inflated a great deal for the sake of adding exciting incident to the books.

Now, there’s a fair argument that there’s a wildly inflated amount of ghastly things happening to all the characters, male and female, compared to any likely slice of life from a real-world historically analogous period, and so the extraordinary amount of sexualized violence is just the result of that across the board inflation. But still, when you have a book with an unrealistically exaggerated and vividly portrayed amount of sexualized violence against the female characters, a statement that any reading that concludes that the violence is meant to be titillating on some level can’t be in good faith doesn’t seem to me to be defensible.

12

tomslee 09.26.11 at 7:45 pm

FWIW I could not get past the first two chapters of book one, so I am both unqualified to assess the books and prejudiced against them on flimsy evidence. But I thought her original review was a hoot, and the response to “Professor Feminism” justified.

Plus, there’s a fine line between trolling for outraged responses and writing a provocative and entertaining piece: I’m sure Daniel Davies would agree. I figured it was on the P*&E side of the line. And deleting comments – well, CT resorts to it on occasion too. Reading between the lines they got a lot of crap hurled in their general direction, but obviously one of the problems with deleting it is we are left to take that on trust.

13

politicalfootball 09.26.11 at 7:57 pm

But I thought her original review was a hoot, and the response to “Professor Feminism” justified.

I don’t really care about Martin, but I’m curious: Who was “Professor Feminism” and what did he say?

Me, I’m reflexively suspicious of people who use made-up quotes to characterize other peoples’ views, especially when actual quotes are available. By using such quotes, Doyle here is basically saying “I’m going to characterize this in whatever way suits me. I don’t care about the facts.”

14

politicalfootball 09.26.11 at 7:58 pm

I’m going back-and-forth on whether it’s necessary for me to say: “See what I did there?”

15

tomslee 09.26.11 at 8:10 pm

I believe it’s E.D. Kain, with more here and even more after that.

And those keyboard thingies? Something always goes wrong. Either the computer doesn’t fit or the keyboard doesn’t fit or I have a laptop (not a good combination) or the fixtures aren’t strong enough for elbows to lean on. Terrible idea.

16

Batocchio 09.26.11 at 8:28 pm

This is the sweetest post I’ve read all day.

17

nick 09.26.11 at 8:29 pm

Fwiw, not read the books after glancing at the first and don’t want to [preferring LeGuin & PKD to epic military stuff]; but the people who thought they were playing cards to defeat Doyle were mostly people who don’t know how the game of cultural analysis works, which leads me to think things aren’t so simple.

Henry, your use of “talking about” is a dead giveaway here. Novels don’t just talk about stuff: there are many ways of representing anything–violence against women, to take one example. The binary “X is in the work because X is in the world” ignores the absolutely crucial fact that there are many, many ways something can be “in” a work.
“Teh realism!” is never in itself an adequate justification for representing particular subjects in particular ways; wishing to make it known that horrible things happen frequently to women in a particular milieu is not an adequate justification for lurid/detailed/etc representations of said things.

(Also, Doyle’s general critique of geek/fan culture needed to be made, imo…)

18

Henry 09.26.11 at 8:45 pm

Lizardbreath – maybe my memory is not functioning here, but my memory is that GRRM’s depiction of rape fits well into your argument. Where highborn women are raped or threatened with rape, it’s in the marriage bed (Dany; Sansa), and their birth serves to protect them in contexts where other women would surely be raped (Brienne of Tarth, when she is captured by the Jolly Mummers). Lollys is the only exception I can think of. There isn’t any of the kind of prurient dwelling over details that you would expect if it were intended to titillate male readers of a certain kind (who I _completely accept_ are common readers of fantasy). It may be that I’m misremembering though – can you point to the scenes/characters that exemplify this? Or are you just trying to argue that this is a possible reading, rather than the reading that you yourself had?

Tom – I had actually thought of linking dsquared’s Rule Number One for Contrarians (although since he is not an enthusiast of genre fiction, he may not care to be quoted in this context.

bq. Rules for Contrarians: 1. Don’t whine. That is all

bq. … The whole idea of contrarianism is that you’re “attacking the conventional wisdom”, you’re “telling people that their most cherished beliefs are wrong”, you’re “turning the world upside down”. In other words, you’re setting out to annoy people. Now opinions may differ on whether this is a laudable thing to do – I think it’s fantastic – but if annoying people is what you’re trying to do, then you can hardly complain when annoying people is what you actually do. If you start a fight, you can hardly be surprised that you’re in a fight. It’s the definition of passive-aggression and really quite unseemly, to set out to provoke people, and then when they react passionately and defensively, to criticise them for not holding to your standards of a calm and rational debate.

Or, in this case, criticize them for not completely agreeing with you, and hence being _ipso facto_ mansplainers or sisterhood-stabbing sellouts who want to get their hands on the big boysclub nerdbucks. One gets the sense of a writer who really has difficulty in believing that anyone can disagree with her in good faith (which also stops her, btw from being a really first rate troll – genuinely excellent trolling requires a hidden sympathy with, and understanding of your victims).

19

Henry 09.26.11 at 9:00 pm

Nick – I completely agree on the representation issue – but I thought (maybe incorrectly) that was clear in the original comment. This is explicitly an argument about representation. Most genre fantasy has typically represented medieval type societies in ways that do not reflect the actual power relations in those societies, and the implications of those power relations for women. I believe (I obviously can’t be completely sure of this, but there is at least a lot of textual evidence that would seem on first glance to support such an interpretation) that these books’ depiction of women, and of other classes of actors (peasants; footsoldiers who typically die in nameless multitudes in genre multitudes) is intended in large part as a comment on, and a corrective of this tendency. In particular, I think it is intended to argue against notions of ‘romance’ which act specifically to conceal power relations, to flatter the assumptions of the reader, and to titillate male readers with visions of available women with limited choice. Certainly, it is an authorial choice that he is making, and perhaps (I think Lizardbreath’s comment points in this direction) it is tough to strike the right balance in a work which is also intended as an entertainment (but works which are not intended as entertainments have correspondingly more limited readership). I completely agree with your general point about the fantasy genre needing this kind of critique. Nor, do I think that Martin is above criticism. His depictions of non-Western societies left me feeling pretty uncomfortable. But on this specific charge, I think that the most plausible reading of Martin, a la Rosenberg, is that he himself is engaged in an internal critique of just the kind you are looking for.

20

LizardBreath 09.26.11 at 9:05 pm

It may be that I’m misremembering though – can you point to the scenes/characters that exemplify this? Or are you just trying to argue that this is a possible reading, rather than the reading that you yourself had?

Sorry, I read the first three books when they came out, which is quite a while ago by now, and never got around to the fourth and fifth, so I’m not in good shape for discussing details — I’m working off a general impression, which was that there was an awful lot of rape and threat of rape aimed at the female characters. I had thought that, for example, Sansa was being explicitly sexually threatened quite a bit before marriage, but if you told me I was wrong about that, I couldn’t argue without rereading. Also, wasn’t Dany threatened by her brother before being handed off to Drogo?

But I have to admit that I don’t recall the plots of even the three I read in any detail — I’m remembering an impression that the female characters were constantly under sexual threat more than incidents. So, I can’t really make the argument myself — Sady’s reading just struck me as close enough to the impression I walked away from the first three books with that calling it obviously in bad faith seemed unfair.

There isn’t any of the kind of prurient dwelling over details that you would expect if it were intended to titillate male readers of a certain kind

Eh, I think there’s a titillation in the constant threat that doesn’t depend on detailed recounting of nonconsensual sex acts.

21

bianca steele 09.26.11 at 9:12 pm

I haven’t read Martin and probably won’t. I haven’t read much of what I would call fantasy. If Henry Farrell says he’s as good as Mieville I may reconsider. He seems important. I did look at the Doyle and Rosenberg threads. Rosenberg’s commenters made some dubious points: it’s obvious that Martin is “deconstructing” sexist violence which means he’s on the side of the angels and his novels aren’t titillating, Martin devotes at least as much attention to violence against men, Doyle’s concern about the representation of pedophilia is eccentric, the obvious fact that heterosexual rape is not abnormal is an important one to reiterate and there’s something wrong with women who pretend that shouldn’t be a concern of theirs. Rosenberg’s counter, which to my ears sounded much like an easy attack on a simplified straw man version of Doyle’s argument, with added arguments that E.D. Kain is correct, and that Sady Doyle is not going to get very far, unless she changes her tone, wasn’t one that agreed with me.

But I generally don’t get arguments between twenty-something feminists. Could be worse.

22

Rich Puchalsky 09.26.11 at 9:21 pm

It’s possible for a book to be, simultaneously, both an attempted authorial comment on feminism and representation of fantasy societies, *and* one of the worst constant-threat-of-rape books ever. I refer you to Iain Banks’ _Inversions_. The main or perhaps only thing I took away from this book was that constant-sexual-threat is probably even more commonly used as a crutch for dramatic tension than for titillation per se. Pointing out that an author isn’t doing it pruriently isn’t really a sufficient defense.

I remember, on Usenet, contrasting how it was handled in _Inversions_ with how it was handled when the male protagonist of what is probably Iain Banks’ best book, _Use of Weapons_, is raped. When I made the comparison, more than one person wrote something like “What, that happened in Use of Weapons? When?” That’s because it happened in half a sentence, and wasn’t dwelled on.

23

Henry 09.26.11 at 9:32 pm

No – not comparable to Mieville. Martin is looking to provide intelligent entertainment, not to reinvent the ways in which we tell stories and think about the world. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but they are writing in quite different ways. More generally, and this sort of attempts to respond to Lizardbreath’s general criticism – I think there is a genuinely tough question as to whether something that seeks primarily to _entertain_ can deal realistically with subjects such as rape and the systematic subjection of women as part and parcel of their main argument. I _hope_ that there is, if only because so much of what is out there (in the fantasy genre and elsewhere) carries the implied argument that these are not real problems in societies based on grossly inequitable power relations, and if they did exist, that they were somehow OK, and perhaps even something that guys could fantasize about. Telling the mass audience for these books that no – this stuff is not OK – requires reaching them in the first place. And I _think_ that Martin manages to do this reasonably well, and that the internal evidence surely suggests that this was his intention. I’m much more open to the argument that he tries to do this and fails, than to the argument that he was trying the opposite from the outset. _Contra_ Lizardbreath’s interpretation, while I do agree that the threat of sexual violence against women is ever-present in the books, I don’t think it is at all prurient. The lens through which Martin consistently depicts this violence is the emotional and psychological damage that it does to its victims (and, more subtly, to its perpetrators). This is not (except to what I hope is a pretty small and extremely nasty subset of consumers) likely to be salacious.

24

LizardBreath 09.26.11 at 9:37 pm

As I said above, I can’t really sustain an argument about the details of the books. But given that you agree that the threat of sexual violence against women is pervasive in them, are you certain enough of your interpretation of it as a non-prurient critique that you’re comfortable calling Sady’s interpretation as not only wrong, but dishonest and not a plausible good faith reading? It seems that you’re close enough that you might give her credit for, in your eyes, being simply mistaken.

25

soru 09.27.11 at 12:20 am

@21

Not sure that every argument that has been criticised in stupid ways by sexist idiots is completely truthified by that criticism. Otherwise every internet argument ever made by a feminist, and possibly every internet argument ever made by a woman, would be equally validated.

And I can see it’s a plausible good faith reading for someone who had never read a epic fantasy before. Kind of like you can imagine the response of someone whose first ever crime novel was Stieg Larsson: isn’t it a bit over the top to have someone _killed_ just to start off the plot?

26

Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 12:52 am

9: xckd is more like CrooKeD timer, nu? Wait, and whatever’s wrong my my comic it’s not rapey, you have to give it that.

27

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 1:04 am

And I can see it’s a plausible good faith reading for someone who had never read a epic fantasy before.

I actually read a fair amount of this kind of stuff, and Sady’s post didn’t seem way off base to me. I wouldn’t argue vehemently that her reading of the books is the most or only persuasive reading (to argue anything vehemently about them, I’d need to reread), but not way off base.

I may be wrong about that, but it’s not from unfamiliarity with the genre.

28

Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 1:08 am

22: I’ll bite, when the hell does the protagonist in Use of Weapons get raped? I haven’t read in in 6 years, though….

29

tomslee 09.27.11 at 1:44 am

Is the xdkc-look-alike-comic now a genre of its own, or was this a one-off?

30

Watson Ladd 09.27.11 at 1:45 am

Westros is in the middle of a war, with brigands behind every tree and soldiers pillaging lots of towns, and we are surprised at the amount of raping going on? Rape is routinely used as a weapon of war in the Congo. Before that it was Berlin, before that Nanking, etc. Rape and pillage is a phrase for the horrors of war with a long history. Armed men, unarmed women, and the collapse of authority create the environment for a great deal of misdeeds, including rape. We shouldn’t sugarcoat the past: look up rape in your Blackstone to see just what people could get away with and did.

31

Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 1:47 am

Finally, having not read the GRR Martin books (although John assured me just yesterday I would enjoy them), and along the same lines, are men getting raped right and left in this world? As part of torture? When they get captured by the enemy and rounded up? By sadistic older brothers or cousins? Because in real life men are often the victims of sexual violence. And if the rule of the books is (as I have been given to understand) that everything is more violent, awful, disappointing, brutal etc. than you expected, ergo in some sense “realistic,” then I shall expect a fuck-ton of dudes to be getting raped right along as well. If not…um. Awkward. Not all milky-skinned 17-year-olds, either, I want some hairy 35-year-old soldiers fallen into enemy hands to be getting it pretty regular. What’s that? No? You astonish me.

32

Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 1:50 am

28: Naw, it’s a one off. I just thought it was funny, but everyone else thought it was Games of Thrones-y.

33

Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 2:07 am

It’s when he’s captured by bandits in one of the flashback scenes. They are described as having raped him, hamstrung him, and thrown him into a deep pool to drown. It’s the scene that starts with him dragging himself feverishly in circles around the pool, making (unbeknownst to the reader until the end) some kind of Q-shaped distress symbol in the guano covering the ground that the Culture spacecraft can see so they know where to pick him up.

And yes, you’re right about the GRRM books. I read the first three, and I don’t remember any men getting sexually assaulted, even by the depraved mercenaries who are vicious torturers and perverts etc.

34

Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 2:12 am

Ooooh, yeah, good point.

35

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 2:18 am

What Henry said though obviously I’m biased.

36

FHD 09.27.11 at 2:21 am

I don’t remember any male rape victims in those books. There’s a shit ton of castration, though.

37

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 2:21 am

tomslee:

But I thought her original review was a hoot, and the response to “Professor Feminism” justified.

I’m fine with you thinking it was a hoot, but what was justified about the professor feminism thing? I was defending a book and a genre that I enjoy. I know many women who also enjoy the series.

38

Henry 09.27.11 at 2:25 am

bq. are you certain enough of your interpretation of it as a non-prurient critique that you’re comfortable calling Sady’s interpretation as not only wrong, but dishonest and not a plausible good faith reading? It seems that you’re close enough that you might give her credit for, in your eyes, being simply mistaken.

Yes, actually, I am. There are enough claims in her original piece (Victarion Greyjoy is apparently depicted as a “heroic old Ironman.” REALLY?!?) that are flat out obviously untrue that I really believe she is being dishonest, and that she knows it. Not that her claim that Alyssa Rosenberg is only attacking her (another woman!) for the money would have done much to reassure me of her good faith either.

39

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 2:53 am

Yes, it’s a dishonest reading of the books, not just a poor reading.

40

Henry 09.27.11 at 2:59 am

Book 5 has a major male character who is captured by enemies, slowly tortured over a period of months, mutilated, gelded, and sexually degraded although not actually assaulted. But Belle – and I would really like to see you post on this when/if you read the books and form your own opinion – I don’t think this is nearly dispositive, if the point GRRM is trying to make is (as I think it is), not that mediaeval life was nasty, brutish and short, but that the depiction of gender relations in modern fantasy goes heavy on the chivalry and romance stuff, and not so much on the shitty options that women would likely have in such societies. The other consistent running theme throughout the books is how the _very best options_ available to women involved marriage to someone whom you hadn’t chosen, and could only hope would treat you moderately well (or at least not completely horribly).

41

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 3:05 am

And actually, there is very little actual depiction of rape in the GRRM books. Almost all the rape in the books is recalled, described in a memory or a retelling of events. There is almost no graphic sexual violence (not none, but very little). Other modern fantasy novels are far more graphic (R Scott Bakker’s work, for instance).

The lack of sexual assault against men is also likely due to the fact that men were often killed in war, and women raped (and then killed sometimes). But as Henry mentions, this does happen in the fifth book. I would also suggest that Tywin forcing his son to participate against his will in the gang rape of his wife constitutes sexual assault of the father against the son. Forced sex is rape, even if both participants are unwilling.

42

Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 3:48 am

I was sort of OK with commenting a bit around the edges of this until E.D. Kain showed up. But, sorry, E.D. Kain, I think your reading is annoying and not at all good. “Men were often killed in war?” There are whole scenes around the long-term capture of villagers and low-status castle people by two different mercenary bands, both of whom rape and torture. And yeah, they don’t rape any men. In the Tywin scene, Tywin isn’t forced, he’s fooled into joining in to salve his pride. Henry’s reading — that the sexual violence in the book is a critique of fantasy novels, rather than an attempt to reflect medieval “reality” — is better than yours, but really this is a series with a queen whose personal power rests on dragon-taming and a young girl in the process of becoming a super killer assassin. The critique involved within the books is rather like those superhero comics that critique stereotypical roles for women, but still depict them with hourglass figures in spandex, and basically remain superhero comics.

Of course, Sady Doyle writes annoying things too. I won’t even bother with her a woman disagreed with me she must be in it for the $$$ bit; I only got as far as the first few paragraphs of the article that tomslee linked to. There she says that she deletes spam and self-promotion, and then explains that this includes times when instead of writing a comment on her blog, someone writes a response article to one of his posts somewhere else and comments with a link to it. This, she says, is spam too. Well, people have the perfect right to moderate their blogs however they want, but people who think that their own blog posts are super-special and that responses to them are spam are not people who tend to write anything interesting ever.

So I suspect I’ll find both sides of this dispute equally annoying. That’s too bad, because they’re both probably going to turn up here now.

43

tomslee 09.27.11 at 4:08 am

First – apologies to Belle Waring for diverting this comment thread. It wasn’t intentional, but it’s diverted beyond recall now.

@Henry: while dsquared’s rule seems reasonable, it doesn’t reflect what some feminist bloggers have to put up with. As Sady Doyle writes: “Actually, what happened is that a bunch of other fanboys came over, subsequent to his blog post, and started either parroting his talking points or straight-up calling me a cunt.” Amazingly enough I don’t get a lot of that at my blog, but it wouldn’t take many of those to get me pretty trigger happy with the delete key, and I think that’s fair enough.

44

Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 4:36 am

You’re mansplaining to us what some feminist bloggers have to put up with? I think if you’d been reading certain feminist blogs for a while, the whole mansplain concept wouldn’t be your word of the week that you just saw explicated. Next up: fee-fees, Nice Guys.

45

tomslee 09.27.11 at 4:54 am

Thank you for your correction. I now see the error of my ways.

46

Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 5:34 am

YA RLY. “Mainsplain” was word of the week in April 2009. We feminists keep a special desk calendar.
40: ow, I think “castrate” rather than “geld” is the word you’re reaching for there. It also seems a little odd for the defenders of Sady Doyle apparently being put into the position of denying that at any given time even in a fantasy history “the very best options available to women involved marriage to someone whom you hadn’t chosen, and could only hope would treat you moderately well (or at least not completely horribly).” I mean, I think we’re all on board there. The question is, does the intrusion of actual, horrible, pervasive sexual into the fantasy world, even if intended as a critique, collapse into titillation at some point? The plates stop spinning around and it’s just regular fantasy but with more sexual violence towards women? You have to admit this is at least a possibility.

And then why only women, when men are regularly the victims of sexual assault and rape in both war and lawless free-for-alls? We see this even in discussions of actual history: is it plausible to anyone that Soviet soldiers only raped women and female children during their pleasant trip through Germany?

For women alone to retain the status of “the class of people who get raped” is both to sexualize the violence against women and to erase the suffering of men who are raped. All the time. In real life. Like, right now. But patriarchal norms require that the male body remain inviolate, invulnerable, even. Now maybe I’ll read the books and love them, but for someone to critique a novel and then get hundreds of “you fucking cunt’s” thrown her way, along with some rape threats (lovely) does not engender in me a sense that the books have been successful in their alleged goal of advancing an understanding of the seriousness of violence against women.

47

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 7:20 am

@Rich:

I was sort of OK with commenting a bit around the edges of this until E.D. Kain showed up.

How kind of you. Sorry, but I’m mentioned in the thread. So I showed up!

But, sorry, E.D. Kain, I think your reading is annoying and not at all good. “Men were often killed in war?” There are whole scenes around the long-term capture of villagers and low-status castle people by two different mercenary bands, both of whom rape and torture. And yeah, they don’t rape any men. In the Tywin scene, Tywin isn’t forced, he’s fooled into joining in to salve his pride. Henry’s reading—that the sexual violence in the book is a critique of fantasy novels, rather than an attempt to reflect medieval “reality”—is better than yours

Just a few points in response here. Henry’s point is one I made weeks ago (read tomslee’s link above.) It is the exact argument I made, in fact, and that Alyssa Rosenberg echoed and expanded upon and that Sady Doyle called me “Professor Feminism” over.

Second, yes mostly the men in these books are simply killed. Perhaps some other fantasy author should delve into how soldiers and farmers were raped in war. Then again, Martin goes into elaborate detail about the torture and sexual assault of Theon Greyjoy. In fact, I’d say it’s probably the most dehumanizing, graphic violence in the entire series so far. No rape scene compares to it, and anyone who suggests that these books somehow present sexual assault as solely against women is not reading very closely.

I think you mean to say Tyrion is “fooled” into raping his wife, but this is also a very poor reading. He is completely under his father’s thumb and is ordered to do so by someone who has just psychologically traumatized him – as a teenager. Calling this participation in a rape, as opposed to victimization itself, is perplexing. I think there is a notion that men who have an erection when they are raped must not have actually been raped. This is an unfortunate belief.

@Belle:

The question is, does the intrusion of actual, horrible, pervasive sexual into the fantasy world, even if intended as a critique, collapse into titillation at some point? The plates stop spinning around and it’s just regular fantasy but with more sexual violence towards women? You have to admit this is at least a possibility.

And then why only women, when men are regularly the victims of sexual assault and rape in both war and lawless free-for-alls? We see this even in discussions of actual history: is it plausible to anyone that Soviet soldiers only raped women and female children during their pleasant trip through Germany?

For women alone to retain the status of “the class of people who get raped” is both to sexualize the violence against women and to erase the suffering of men who are raped.

It is certainly possible that including too much graphic depiction of sexual violence in fantasy could be seen as a backhanded attempt at erotica or at the very least a juvenile attempt to grapple with a far more complicated issue. GRRM doesn’t actually depict rapes in these books, though. By and large (and I may be forgetting something depicted that was) they are recalled in memory, etc. To your point about the rape of men, I think one issue with the GRRM books is that the characters are almost all nobility and so we don’t see the violence handed out to the rank-and-file or the peasantry in very much detail, or hear much about that at all. However, as I mention and as Henry mentions, probably the most graphic scene of violence, torture, and sexual assault do happen to a male character though it is in the fifth book.

Finally, I had no idea that Sady received hundreds of “you fucking cunt’s” or rape threats. I’m sure feminist bloggers have to deal with all sorts of that horrible shit. Of course, she moderates all comments and deleted mine and several other comments (including those of women) before they were ever read by anyone but her, so who knows?

That is hardly an indictment of the books in any case. There is plenty to dislike about the books, but the reaction of asshole commenters on the internet is hardly one of them.

I suspect that people who troll feminist blogs and threaten rape and call people cunts are not representative of the readership of the GRRM books, but rather of men with such a deep loathing for women that they find any excuse they can to harass and intimidate them.

All I know is that I wrote a post very similar in content and argument as Alyssa Rosenberg’s and yet, when all was said and done, I was called a sexist ‘mansplainer’ and she was called a traitor to women in it for the money. This does not smack of honest debate to me.

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E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 7:21 am

Uhm, so a lot of the quotation in the above comment did not get block quoted for some reason….

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Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 12:03 pm

“men with such a deep loathing for women that they find any excuse they can to harass and intimidate them.”
Ding ding ding! But why on earth should these particular men be so invested in the claim that Game of Thrones isn’t sexist, given that they are misogynists? Because they want it to be the case that their reading pleasures aren’t sexist, since that’s stipluatively bad. If the books are successful to any degree in their aim to problematize sexual violence against women in fantasy, why have they attracted such a rabid, misogynist crowd of fanboys? I’m going to shut up about it till I read the books, but I’m hearing a lot of weaksauce rationalizations in this thread.

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Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 12:04 pm

Also, my webcomic, does it merit no praise? I failed on the mouseover text, but it was my first try.

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Henry 09.27.11 at 12:23 pm

bq. ow, I think “castrate” rather than “geld” is the word you’re reaching for there.

‘Geld’ actually works in context – the character in question is specifically and deliberately treated as an animal.

bq. It also seems a little odd for the defenders of Sady Doyle apparently being put into the position of denying that at any given time even in a fantasy history “the very best options available to women involved marriage to someone whom you hadn’t chosen, and could only hope would treat you moderately well (or at least not completely horribly).” I mean, I think we’re all on board there.

The point I’m trying to make – perhaps badly – is that the shitty choices women face when they are tokens in a game played between land-owning dynasties are as much a theme of the books as are the horrible things that happen to women who don’t have the nominal protection of being useful in this sense. That GRRM talks about this is strong circumstantial evidence that he is actually trying to critique what fantasy novels have to say about women rather than drooling over the rape scenes. It’s not dispositive – if someone really wanted to, I suppose they could make a case that this was all protective coloration for GRRM’s hidden agenda. But it would be a pretty dubious case – and Doyle doesn’t even try to make it.

bq. The question is, does the intrusion of actual, horrible, pervasive sexual into the fantasy world, even if intended as a critique, collapse into titillation at some point?

This is a good question. But it is not Sady Doyle’s question. As far as I can see, Sady Doyle doesn’t actually have a question. She has an answer – that the ‘R’ in the middle of George R.R. Martin’s name stands for rape, that he is a promoter of rape-positivity, and that anyone who denies this is a sexist fanboy, a sellout to the sisterhood who is in it for the pagehits and money, or both. This, on the basis of a demonstrably shoddy reading of the books, which is not only dishonest in what it omits, but in its representation of what it includes.

Again – I really think that it’s necessary to read the books yourself to see why her reading is so bad. If someone had written a piece saying that the critique had collapsed into titillation, I’d have read it, probably disagreed with it (he not only concentrates on the aftermath for the victims, but uses a number of narrative strategies that seem to me deliberately aimed at preventing titillation), but been interested. If someone had written about how the books reproduce standard genre tropes about the difference between Western and non-Western countries that are at best problematic, based on a careful reading, I’d have almost certainly agreed. But instead, we have what we have.

And, getting back to Tom Slee’s suggestion that this is just a provocative and entertaining trolling and should be treated as such – I don’t think that this could be any more wrong. These are serious accusations – you shouldn’t accuse someone of being a cheerleader for rape-positivity unless, you know, the person actually _is_ a cheerleader for rape-positivity. If you are actually right in your suggestion that Sady Doyle is doing it for the lulz (I’m not saying that you are), then this is obviously a problem, and I’m surprised that you don’t see it as such.

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Henry 09.27.11 at 12:36 pm

bq. If the books are successful to any degree in their aim to problematize sexual violence against women in fantasy, why have they attracted such a rabid, misogynist crowd of fanboys?

From bitter experience thereof, if we took the trollqueue at Crooked Timber as a representative sample of our readership, we’d probably all want to stop blogging. Right now. FWIW, I have seen several defenses of the books by feminist-identified women (or at least: bloggers/commenters on the Internets who say that they are feminist identified women), as well as a couple of comments elsewhere from people who say that they were women and that their comments were automoderated and deleted when they tried to disagree with Doyle about her arguments. This – if true (I note again that these are pseudonymous voices on the internets) – does not fit well with her depiction of the comments that she has had to deal with, and her policy theretowards. Which is not to say that she has not had to deal with a bunch of extremely offensive comments – I have no doubt that she has – but she plausibly appears to be lumping them together with actual criticisms that she might have had to pay attention to if she hadn’t chosen this particular expedient. But in any event apologies for the thread derailment away from the XKCD comic.

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nostalgebraist 09.27.11 at 12:50 pm

But why on earth should these particular men be so invested in the claim that Game of Thrones isn’t sexist, given that they are misogynists?

Okay, I’m confused. I thought E. D. Kain’s suggestion was that they aren’t actually invested very much in that claim, and are just using the argument as an excuse to “harass and intimidate” a feminist blogger. They may in fact disagree (perhaps vaguely or casually) with her attack on Game of Thrones, but that isn’t what motivates them to comment. They’re misogynists and assholes first, and fanboys only second, if at all.

I personally have no idea if that is true — I haven’t looked at any of this stuff very closely, and anyway it’s not like we can read the original comments. But certainly it is possible. I’ve known guys who will look for arguments to get involved with solely so they can be inflammatory and offensive. They usually agree with the side of the argument they end up taking, but they don’t actually care about the issue very much; they just want to piss people off.

It seems to me that one of the biggest mistakes one can make with trolls (online or off) is to assume that they take their arguments seriously.

(This isn’t to say that we can’t infer anything about Game of Thrones [and its fans] from the behavior of Game of Thrones defenders here. I’m just making the obvious point that before making any such inference, we have to parcel out how much of the vitriol is due to intense Game of Thrones devotion, and how much of it is due to the desire to inflame. We can’t say “look at how many misogynists like GoT!” if these people are here because they’re misogynists, not because they like GoT.)

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Lynne 09.27.11 at 12:51 pm

I’m new here, and cautiously dipping a toe in the water. I read the “mansplaining” post (and though I’ve been a feminist for decades I hadn’t heard the phrase before—I just haven’t read feminism much on the internet) and because of that post I read the Martin critique, though I haven’t read the Martin books.

So I have nothing to say about the critique, but here’s what I took away from the mansplaining post and its comment trail, informed by other reading of Doyle’s posts and comment trails: When people disagree with her they can get ugly. She gets comments calling her cunt, and threatening to rape her. And she deletes these comments, and some others—she gives the parameters she uses for what comments she wants. Tiger Beatdown aims to be a safe place for feminists to post, and this is overwhelmingly reflected in the comment trail where many women are cheering her on while admitting that they themselves rarely comment on feminism on the internet because of the pile-ons that ensue. And not just men pile on, women do it too, and the effect is to silence feminists.

Yup, many women will stop posting if they get enough “you should be raped” comments. And unfortunately that does clear the field for posters who don’t write about feminism, or who write about it in a way that does not challenge the status quo.

This issue of who is silenced and who feels safe to post on the internet seems an important one to me. I mention it here because Sady Doyle is often simply brilliant, writing about sexism. Saying, as Henry seemed to say, that if she writes something provocative she shouldn’t complain about angry responses, misses what was to me the most important thing to come out of that post and its comments: that pile-ons can silence people, especially women, especially women who write about feminism.

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Belle Waring 09.27.11 at 12:52 pm

Like I say, no point in arguing about it till I’ve read the books. And, agreed it’s not fair to judge a book by its readers. But Sady Doyle often brings the righteous beatdown to people who really need it, and is generally hilarious. I think it’s unfair to say she’s doing it for teh lulz; she obviously got herself out on a limb and started sawing away, but only in response to the hating on her original critique. And she specifically mentions the problem of various barbarian black hordes following their awesome white leader, so it’s not fair to accuse her of ignoring this aspect–she critiques that too. Accusing someone of rape-positivity seems like a serious charge, but “interpreting a book you read as sexist” has long been seen as an acceptable form of discourse, which is not unfair to the (male) author in question. Talking shit about Alyssa was bullshit, but in general Sady Doyle is solid. My inclination is to cut her some slack. Maybe the same amount of slack we are cutting GRRM with respect to how only the female characters get raped? (She only discusses the first book, so I don’t know that it’s fair to bring some fucked-up torture from book V in as counter-example.) I’ll shut up now till I read the books, but if this is the lamest, least fair thing Sady Doyle has ever done then she’s still the bomb, and I’ll keep on having a girlcrush on her.

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Gareth Rees 09.27.11 at 12:54 pm

It’s not dispositive – if someone really wanted to, I suppose they could make a case that this was all protective coloration for GRRM’s hidden agenda.

I think that talking about a “hidden agenda” is unhelpful. We should be able to talk about what’s actually in the books without having to explain it in terms of the author’s intentions. The author is dead, after all.

“Protective coloration” is some kind is only to be expected. Most people, I think, recognize that pure rape fantasies (as exemplified by, say, John Norman’s Gor novels) are just trash. But there are still some readers who can be titillated by rape fantasies, so long as there’s a plausible excuse that allows them to deny what’s really going on. For example, in Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the protective coloration is that it’s a feminist novel about revenge on rapists. But it doesn’t follow from this that Larsson is insincere—he may have lucked into the formula, or his taste in plausibly deniable titillation may match the taste of his audience.

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Brian 09.27.11 at 1:03 pm

I think the scene in which Cersei forcibly takes her attendant felt pretty gratuitous; I am not normally the most sensitive on the subject, but it has continued to rankle at me as being out of place with the books, clearly inserted primarily for shock value and titillation (I also thought that was true of Theoden, although I think that was more skillfully done, less out of the blue).

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Sam Dodsworth 09.27.11 at 1:10 pm

If it helps – and it may not – I remember George R R Martin’s contributions to the “Wild Cards” shared world anthologies tended to be heavy on rape and mind-control in various combinations.

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Brian 09.27.11 at 1:16 pm

How do you identify which contributions were Martin’s? After reading one or two old ones in paperback a long while ago, I’ve jumped back in with the latest ones (the trilogy with Busted Flush, Fort Freak) , and it seems to be an uncredited shared world setting. (Did I overlook attributions somewhere?)

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Henry 09.27.11 at 1:17 pm

bq. “Protective coloration” is some kind is only to be expected. Most people, I think, recognize that pure rape fantasies (as exemplified by, say, John Norman’s Gor novels) are just trash. But there are still some readers who can be titillated by rape fantasies, so long as there’s a plausible excuse that allows them to deny what’s really going on. For example, in Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the protective coloration is that it’s a feminist novel about revenge on rapists.

I think that there’s a much stronger case to be made against the Larsson books. There’s a sort of double-sadism thing going on there (and in other books too – Neal Asher is a good example in f/sf) where the reader gets to revel in the details of horrible things happening to the characters, but then to enjoy seeing the perpetrators get punished too in gruesome detail. But GRRM – I suspect deliberately – short circuits this. It’s all about the aftermath, and the trauma and damage, not about the thing itself. Nor is there any hint of a Larsson type revenge fantasy. Theon Greyjoy is one of the nastier and more unlikable character in the books, but there are no vicarious thrills for the reader when horrible things happen to him. Quite the contrary – his suffering humanizes him.

Belle – To be clear – I wasn’t trying to say that she was doing it for the lulz – just that this was where Tom Slee’s interpretation of the post was going. And yep – she does mention the dubious other cultures stuff – but only to support her particular claim (racist b/c it says that other cultures are sexist). She does talk about a lot of stuff from the later books in her original post (I can’t remember when e.g. Victarion Greyjoy shows up, but I’m pretty sure it’s not before Book III at the earliest). I don’t know her other stuff, but since you do, I’m happy to stipulate to your statement that she’s generally a solid person, while continuing to think that this specific pair of posts is pretty godawful.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 1:19 pm

“Sorry, but I’m mentioned in the thread. So I showed up!”

Yeah, I’m not saying that you were wrong to show up when named — Google makes that very hard to resist. But from my point of view, there’s’ no good way to go from stuff about Professor Feminism and his supposed army of threatening fanboys on the one hand and Sady Doyle and her dismissive use of two-year-old neologisms and $$$-twitters on the other to any kind of real discussion about the GRRM books.

Not that they are masterpieces awaiting a critic, but honest criticism of them is difficult to entangle from the bog-standard feminist blog dispute that you’re in. My reading would be that Henry’s (and yours, you say; I haven’t really been inspired to read much more of the dispute) is basically correct as far as authorial intention goes, but fails on aesthetic grounds — it’s too reductive to say that depictions of sexual violence in a text are bad only if they seem intended to be titillating in an arousing sense; the book can just as bad if they’re used to maintain reader tension and plot interest though what amounts to horror-movie technique. Henry’s been criticizing the series here as if what matters is whether it has readers who are supposed to be eagerly looking forwards to the next rape scene, but the series fails, in a much more common way, if it has readers who think “Oh no they’re threatening poor naive Sansa again!”, or, indeed, if most acts of agency in the book by female characters revolve around reactions to sexual violence in some way. Compare, say, Margaret Atwood’s writing in _The Handmaid’s Tale_ — um, to make a long story short, rapey book is still rapey.

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Brian 09.27.11 at 1:28 pm

henry: I just searched the ebook for A Game of Thrones and ‘victarion’ only shows up at the end, in an appendix describing the great houses.

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Henry 09.27.11 at 1:38 pm

bq. This issue of who is silenced and who feels safe to post on the internet seems an important one to me. I mention it here because Sady Doyle is often simply brilliant, writing about sexism. Saying, as Henry seemed to say, that if she writes something provocative she shouldn’t complain about angry responses, misses what was to me the most important thing to come out of that post and its comments: that pile-ons can silence people, especially women, especially women who write about feminism.

Lynne – this is an issue that is real, important and very nasty. On a smaller scale, here at CT it is obvious that commenters (most of whom I suspect would think of themselves as being on the left, not anti-feminist etc) often respond to women posters in ways that they do not respond to male posters, and in ways that seem purpose designed to shut them down and shut them out. But I also think that it is a problem for someone to lump people who disagree with her (controversial) interpretation of a particular text as being _ipso facto_ sexists. And I think it is _particularly_ wrong to claim that another self-identified feminist woman who disagrees with her is betraying feminism (I think that this is the clear implication of her claim that Rosenberg is ‘attacking high trafficked posts by other women’ – perhaps there is a counter-interpretation I am not seeing) and doing so in order to make money. This is another way of shutting down argument. It obviously isn’t even slightly as vicious as rape-threats or calling women cunts. But that doesn’t mean that it’s great either.

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ajay 09.27.11 at 1:42 pm

I think that there’s a much stronger case to be made against the Larsson books.

Is it “they’re really badly written”?

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Sam Dodsworth 09.27.11 at 1:42 pm

How do you identify which contributions were Martin’s?

Characters generally “belong” to their creators, so it’s possible to track who’s writing a given storyline. But checking Wikipedia I see most of the dodgy mind-control stuff was actually Steven Leigh or Lewis Shiner, so I’ll withdraw my remarks entirely and step away from the Internet now.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 2:18 pm

All right, time to overanalyze the Belle comic, to counteract the derailment of the thread… I think that what confused me about it was the “you” in “you behave in a manner consistent with”. Is the Belle-in-the-comic supposed to be saying that white guys in general are accurately rated according to how much they care about the interior mental life of Sarah Palin? Or just that John does? I settled on the second after reading the explanatory digression underneath, but it wasn’t until then that I realized that the comic was supposed to show Belle and John in particular.

So, assuming that’s right, John appearing in an accurately rated white guy Tunblr with a message that says that he behaves in a manner consistent with his caring about the interior mental life of Sarah Palin is kind of a slam, isn’t it? I can see why the John-in-the-comic doesn’t want to be in that Tumblr. John’s public rating is not exactly one of academic superstardom, and he does tend to write the same “Why do conservative politicians think in the philosophically contradictory way that they do? I think that maybe in the next post I’ll think of a way of explaining this better” post repeatedly over the years… and the whole concept of caring about the interior mental life of Palin or Romney seems pretty risible, once you put it that way.

So this isn’t quite Lockhorns territory, but I found it a bit less amusing-slice-of-life than perhaps it was intended. Or rather, I can’t really tell how it was intended, under the multiple layers of irony. Maybe people seized on GRRM instead because no one could think of anyone to say about it that didn’t make it seem like they were clueless people who didn’t get it.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 2:20 pm

Oops. Should be “no one could think of *anything* to say about it …” above.

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MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 2:33 pm

“Is it “they’re really badly written”?”

Not to get too far of topic but did anyone else find it really weird how specific Larsson was about any material items purchased over the course of the books? Computers specs were described in great detail, furniture purchased as Ikea named and described and so on. It was almost like he was getting paid by the word. I did actually enjoy the books though.

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ajay 09.27.11 at 2:53 pm

did anyone else find it really weird how specific Larsson was about any material items purchased over the course of the books?

Yes and no. Obsessive specificity about brand names and specs is a thriller tradition going back to Ian Fleming – it’s really his big contribution to the genre, not just in terms of “Bond carries a Walther PPK, and this is why” but even as far as “Bond smokes Senior Service and gets his shoes from Lobb’s and eats Cooper’s Oxford marmalade, and this is why”.

In Fleming’s case it’s a kind of Playboy effect: Bond’s living the glamorous life that Bond’s readers couldn’t in 1950s Britain, and the high-quality brand names are corroborative detail, intended to add verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. A peek into the world of the rich and beautiful.

And in more modern thrillers, you get the genre of Ordnance Pron – people like Tom Clancy explaining exactly how an AIM-9′s seeker head works in tremendous detail, because the attraction there is to readers who desperately want to be on the inside and who see this sort of fascinating technical arcana as their way of feeling like they’ve got there. In this case it’s a peek into the world of the badged and dangerous.

Larsson isn’t doing it for any of those reasons, though, because his characters aren’t operating in a foreign world that the readers want to be part of – they’re operating in the normal boring world of IKEA furniture and MacBooks. The unmarked world, if you like. And if it was just one character doing it, I could see it as some sort of character marker – “she pays much more attention to things than people”, or “he is obsessive about detail” or something like that – but it’s universal.

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LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 3:02 pm

But GRRM – I suspect deliberately – short circuits this. It’s all about the aftermath, and the trauma and damage, not about the thing itself.

I think this is a real point of disagreement. I didn’t feel that Martin did successfully short-circuit that dynamic (and of course I don’t have any capacity to speak to his intent); the books aren’t solely about the aftermath of sexual violence (to the extent that they’re about sexual violence at all), but also create an atmosphere of pervasive threat of sexual violence.

You’re right that it would be difficult for a reader to enjoy them as violent pornography, but I think the atmosphere of sexual threat is something that can be enjoyed in a way I find problematic in itself — Sansa, for example, is largely in a position of maybe being just about to be raped, and being absolutely vulnerable and unable to protect herself (again, I’m working off a fairly vague memory of the first three books, which is stronger as atmosphere than incident. If I’m way off in terms of incident, I apologize.) A plausible reader could enjoy that as exciting, both narratively and sexually, without it rising to the level of pornography, and also enjoy it as (1) reinforcing his sense of rape as something committed by alien medieval barbarians rather than by ordinary modern men (2) reinforcing his sense of women as being naturally? innately? the objects of sexual violence; he is better and more civilized than any possible rapist, and safer and stronger than any possible rape victim.

I think reasonable people can disagree about the extent to which that sort of problematic enjoyment was intended by Martin, and the extent to which readers of the books participate in it. But I do think it’s a legitimate reading which Martin doesn’t successfully avoid.

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Walt 09.27.11 at 3:12 pm

I haven’t read the books, and it doesn’t sound like its the only thing the books are about, but I’m having trouble reading the idea that the books point out in the real Middle Ages women got raped constantly is a defense. Like the big message that Mercedes Lackey fans need to hear that while in fantasy women with swords kick ass, in the real world women in that situation get raped, and the only hope for political power is through dynastic marriage. The fact that in the real world women get raped is not a message that women, as a group, have managed to miss. (Other people have argued that the point of the books is to show that actual historical aristocrats engaged in endless brutality in an unsentimental pursuit for power, and that the rape is just part of that, which is a more reasonable defense.)

I like Sady Doyle’s writing, and I liked the original post on GMMR, but she’s clearly acting badly in the aftermath of it. I know, blah, blah, blah, you can run your blog however you want, but writing a post on how the only reason you like a fantasy series is because you want to be titillated by rape, and then deleting links to non-abusive posts that argue the point is an asshole move. Full stop.

Also, the term “mansplaining” is the worst thing to happen to the feminist blogosphere. What’s someone supposed to reply? There is no reply, because that would just be more mansplaining. I understand the impulse behind the term — I’m surprised there aren’t news reports of the form “Feminists blow up Internet after reading one millionth post explaining how women just need to understand that selling beer is a business, and therefore they have to make sexist ads” — but Christ is it annoying when a discussion devolves to the “mansplaining” phase.

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Doctor Slack 09.27.11 at 3:16 pm

Well. I daresay this totally wasn’t the comment thread I was expecting when I clicked through.

Mind if I start a fight about something totally different? Because I have this feeling like in the past three years or so, xkcd has effectively become the Family Circus of geeky webcomix. (Meaning the Family Circus in its infamous, unfunny incarnation after Bil Keane ran out of ideas a couple of decades back.) And what makes me feel this way is that John and Belle’s homemade xkcd above is funnier by half than most of the actual comics these days.

Is the time, therefore, ripe for some kind of xkcd version of this or this? It’s surely got to be a healthier response than this.

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AcademicLurker 09.27.11 at 3:25 pm

I think “mansplaining” has shared the fate of “privilege”, or even “objectify” if you want to go back that far.

A new term is coined with a specific meaning that describes something real. It soon becomes a buzzword that everyone wants to use at every opportunity in order to signal their membership in the Tribe. It’s specificity gets gradually eroded and eventually people get sick of hearing it.

I suspect this is a phenomenon that is pretty much destined to happen over and over again.

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Lynne 09.27.11 at 3:25 pm

“I like Sady Doyle’s writing, and I liked the original post on GMMR, but she’s clearly acting badly in the aftermath of it. I know, blah, blah, blah, you can run your blog however you want, but writing a post on how the only reason you like a fantasy series is because you want to be titillated by rape, and then deleting links to non-abusive posts that argue the point is an asshole move. Full stop.”

Whoa! If you think that’s what happened, you and I have been reading different posts.

If anyone here hasn’t read the mansplaining post and wants to form their own opinion, they should read it and not let other people interpret it for them. So I won’t interpret it but I will just say one word: “entitlement”.

The raging about what posts she deletes and how she conducts herself all forms part of the pile-on. Has she behaved badly? Maybe. I didn’t think so at the time I read all this stuff. But what was crystal clear is certain critics’ sense that they were entitled to her time and her explanations and her defending herself, on her blog, when she had already written a whole post about the books and didn’t want to write any more.

Many feminists have encountered this sense of entitlement among even the most decent, pro-feminist men: “See, I’m on your side. I’m a good guy. So you owe it to me to educate me, listen to me, etc.”

Maddening.

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MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 3:31 pm

ajay:
Great analysis of Ian Fleming’s writing style. I have actually been reading through his original Bond books and you are completely right. He spends a ton of time talking about the special tobacco that Bond smokes and the car that he drives. As for Larsson, perhaps he just finds these sort of object fascinating? I am sure I have bored people talking about the technical specifications of cars and electronic gadgets. I guess what really surprises me is that his editor didn’t weed more of it out..

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MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 3:35 pm

“But what was crystal clear is certain critics’ sense that they were entitled to her time and her explanations and her defending herself, on her blog, when she had already written a whole post about the books and didn’t want to write any more.”

Why even have a blog with comments if you do not want to have a conversation about what you write? Also it is a little cheeky to post something provocative and then get mad when people are provoked.

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LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 3:38 pm

Because you want to participate in some conversations but not others, so you allow the conversations you want to have to go forward on your website, while allowing the conversations you don’t want to participate in to go forward on the rest of the internet. This doesn’t seem like a hard question at all.

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MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 3:41 pm

LizardBreath may I refer you to dsquared’s previously mentioned Rule Number One for Contrarians.

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LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 3:47 pm

I don’t think it applies terribly well. She wasn’t passive-aggressively pretending to be surprised that anyone was annoyed by the post, she was aggressive-aggressively saying that the people who were annoyed weren’t worth engaging with. Rude, certainly, but not the same thing at all, as far as I can tell. And I’d hate to quote dsquared as if he were opposed to rudeness generally.

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tomslee 09.27.11 at 3:51 pm

MPAVictoria may I refer you to my comment #43 on why dsquared’s previously mentioned Rule Number One does not apply in this context.

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MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 3:57 pm

tomslee
I found Henry’s arguement more convicing than yours.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 4:04 pm

“I don’t think it applies terribly well. She wasn’t passive-aggressively pretending to be surprised that anyone was annoyed by the post, she was aggressive-aggressively saying that the people who were annoyed weren’t worth engaging with.”

Yep. Perfectly her right to do so, etc etc, but people who think that their blog posts are all special while other people’s responses to them are spam should be given their space, in the sense that if you aren’t a sycophant, why bother to read them. It is indeed an annoying move to demand explanations and responses and time and so on — in fact, to demand everything that makes the blogosphere worth participating in, rather than just going to read expertly written essays in some magazine — but if people aren’t interested in it, well, silence is golden.

83

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 4:06 pm

but people who think that their blog posts are all special while other people’s responses to them are spam should be given their space, in the sense that if you aren’t a sycophant, why bother to read them.

Same reason you read anything else — if and only if you find it entertaining or informative.

84

tomslee 09.27.11 at 4:27 pm

Henry at #51. … Tom Slee’s suggestion that this is just a provocative and entertaining trolling … that Sady Doyle is doing it for the lulz (I’m not saying that you are)

No, I don’t think SD was writing “just” for the lulz or “just” to be provocative and entertaining, but part of the appeal of her writing, like that of DD, is that it is provocative and entertaining even as there is a serious point behind it. But there’s this distinction between “engaging in debate” and “putting up with yet-more abusive sexist pile-on crap” that seems to resonate with some and not with others here, to put it mildly. I don’t have anything to add to what LizardBreath and Lynne are saying.

And I don’t want to write about the dig at Alyssa Rosenberg simply because I wasn’t aware of it, don’t have time to read up on it, and it seems a small part of this story (although not, perhaps, of Alyssa Rosenberg’s story).

85

Walt 09.27.11 at 4:58 pm

To be fair to Doyle, the Alyssa Rosenberg post made the single worst point ever to appear on ThinkProgress: that there’s an unfair double-standard where TV and movies can show lots of murders but it can’t show lots of rapes without people complaining. Unfair to the artistic-depicter-of-rapes, that is.

86

ajay 09.27.11 at 5:14 pm

ajay:
Great analysis of Ian Fleming’s writing style.

At this point I have to confess that it’s not original. I think it was someone like Kingsley Amis who first pointed this out. Philip Marlowe just carried a gun. Possibly an automatic. Richard Hannay just drank whisky and wore a jacket. Lord Peter Wimsey knows his wines, but who on earth knows where he buys his shirts? We don’t even know what make of car Mrs Merdle was.
It was Bond who got thrillers into branded goods in a big way.

As for Larsson, perhaps he just finds these sort of object fascinating?

He was fascinated by IKEA furniture? Death must have come as a welcome release.

87

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 5:26 pm

We don’t even know what make of car Mrs Merdle was.

I beg your pardon, she was a Daimler.

88

MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 5:32 pm

“He was fascinated by IKEA furniture? Death must have come as a welcome release.”

Ha! Well I was thinking more about the computers but people are fascinated by the strangest things.

89

JanieM 09.27.11 at 5:50 pm

Is it “they’re really badly written”?

I keep wondering about two things when people say this.

First, in comparison to what? (Other massively popular thrillers? War and Peace? Absalom, Absalom? … ?)

Second, in what way? Did you read the books in the original Swedish, or are you just addressing qualities that you think can’t possibly have been botched in translation? (I’m not being snarky, I’m really curious.)

90

Brian 09.27.11 at 5:52 pm

Walt@84: You have misread her, I think. Quoting Rosenberg’s own quoting of her writing partner:
“Yet outside of a few occasional grumblings, we never seem worried about what enjoy these candy colored scenes of brutal mayhem might say about us, or if it means we’re harboring some secret desire to be a serial killer. No, we seem perfectly aware that one can enjoy the fantasy of horrifically violent actions without actually being a violent person–in a way that we don’t seem to be able to accept with sexual violence in pop culture.”
There is a double standard, but her essay is taking it from the consumer’s point of view, not the producer’s.

91

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 5:59 pm

So look, the entire ‘mansplaining’ post and the fall-out and the Professor Feminism stuff was all directed at me for writing this post. Since she didn’t link to my post a lot of people have made judgments about it based on only what Sady has said, and her conflating my post with sexist spam comments posted to her original.

I may mansplain in my post – I don’t know. I defend a series of books I like based on my interpretation of the texts against what I believe was a very shallow, very biased reading. I felt like Sady was out to pick a fight, gave the books the most biased and cursory reading possible, and then basically told everyone who thought otherwise that they were idiots who couldn’t handle criticism. She then followed this up by saying that anyone who said otherwise was a mansplainer.

Look, I don’t know feminism the way Sady Doyle does. She’s an expert there. But I do know fantasy, and fantasy has traditionally glossed over inequality between sexes, and romanticized the Medieval worlds that form the foundation of much of fantasy literature.

If you read my post (and really I don’t care if you do – yes, Sady accused me of going after traffic but I could really care less about traffic), that’s mostly what I’m saying (aside from pointing out a dozen or so instances of flat-out untruths about the books that Sady includes in her original post).

I don’t think this is the same thing as telling a feminist what feminism ought to be about. It’s just an attempt to argue that Martin is doing the Medieval realism genre and that that genre in particular serves as an internal critique of fantasy and romanticism and the inherent sexism built into fantasy that arises from simply never addressing these issues and making women little more than comic book characters.

92

bianca steele 09.27.11 at 6:03 pm

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the old Internet culture survives among Sady Doyle’s readers (and among Sady Doyle’s trolls) in a way that it probably does not among Crooked Timber’s, Think Progress’s, or the Ordinary Gentlemen’s, much less Glenn Greenwald’s or Brad De Long’s comments sections. Is the suggestion really seriously that she brought that down on herself, for not conducting herself like a college professor or a journalist? Or is it that the responses she got were comparable to those a journalistic “contrarian” would get, and not really so bad?

Would it have been OK if she had said exactly what she said–not only don’t I like GRR Martin, not only don’t I like the way his fans treat me, but I think his fans are nerds with no social graces–only with a perfectly mild manner? Or is this unthinkable?

As for the comment-deleting: No one would have a problem with it if she deleted comments that abused her or the other commenters. The problem seems to be that she deleted E.D. Kain’s comment, and he’s an established blogger, and possibly a college professor; and she deleted comments from people who agreed with Kain, apparently, and saw themselves as representing him on her blog, maybe; and she should at least have recognized Kain as worth responding to. Apparently her statement that she was descended upon by people who felt authorized to do that by Kain’s post is simply unbelievable. The possibility that she has already considered his argument, disagrees, but for her own reasons doesn’t want to engage it doesn’t seem credible either, to the people who complain about the comment-deleting.

93

MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 6:16 pm

“Is it “they’re really badly written”?

I keep wondering about two things when people say this.”

I didn’t find them badly written when compared to other bestsellers such as the truly terrible Dan Brown. The prose is awkward, though that might be the translator, and the books all go on way to long. That said I enjoyed them for what they were, pulpy beach reading.

94

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 6:17 pm

Bianca – regarding her deleting my comment – honestly I was sort of a petty ass about that. I should have just let it go. I just didn’t have her email and I wanted to let her know that I’d written a response. That’s all, and I made a big stupid deal out of it that I now regret.

95

MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 6:26 pm

“The possibility that she has already considered his argument, disagrees, but for her own reasons doesn’t want to engage it”

She did of course have time to write a lengthy piece about what a sexist asshole Kain is.

96

JanieM 09.27.11 at 6:29 pm

MPAVictoria — agreed about Dan Brown. I did get through The DaVinci Code, fulminating the whole time about how godawfully bad it was, even for pulpy beach reading. (I was reading it at the recommendation/request of a family member.) Rumor has it that Twilight is about as bad, but on that one I’m holding the line and therefore don’t have a first-person opinion.

97

MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 6:34 pm

JanieM:
As a fellow sufferer of Dan Brown you might enjoy the Read it and Weep podcast. Basically it is a group of comedians who review a bad book, movie or television show once a week. It is pretty entertaining. You can find a bit more info here : http://read-weep.com/

/Just wanted to note that I am not affiliated with this podcast at all. Just trying to spread the word about something I enjoy.

98

Phil 09.27.11 at 6:35 pm

Don’t try reading Angels and Demons. I gave up when I hit a passage of “explanation”, by one of Brown’s imaginary “experts”, that was so godawful I was genuinely surprised it had been printed. Am genuinely surprised.

99

JanieM 09.27.11 at 6:41 pm

This is the kind of comment that probably can’t be done “right” and therefore shouldn’t be offered at all, but since that kind of thing is the subject of a lot of this discussion, what the heck.

Re E. D. Kain at 5:59: Saying “look” to people is … hmmm. Let me just put it this way. When I hear myself saying, or wanting to say, “look” to someone, I do sometimes also hear, in my mind’s ear, that it’s in the imperative, and therefore is perhaps carrying a certain message of insistence on my own righteousness that may not come across to my interlocutor in quite the way I would hope in a calmer moment.

In other words, on the receiving end it feels like being ordered around, and having the truth laid down for me….

;-}

100

JanieM 09.27.11 at 6:42 pm

Thanks for the link, MPAVictoria. I’ll check it out.

Phil — no worries, I wouldn’t read another book by Dan Brown unless he gave me all his royalties on it. Maybe not even then, depending on how worried about finances I was at the time.

101

Barry Freed 09.27.11 at 6:48 pm

Bond smokes Senior Service

I thought he smoked a custom blend from Morlands and when he couldn’t get that then Gauloises.

Great cartoon Belle, only I was fooled and didn’t catch you calling it xckd, I spent quite some time googling for “tumblr of humanity” and searching the xkcd site in the vain search for that missing mouseover.

102

Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 6:49 pm

“But there’s this distinction between “engaging in debate” and “putting up with yet-more abusive sexist pile-on crap” that seems to resonate with some and not with others here, to put it mildly. “

Are the details supposed to matter here, or not? If she’d said “sexist comments get deleted”, fine. Or if she’d said that she didn’t have time to look through a lot of links and see what was abusive and what wasn’t, so just deleted all of them — fine. Or if she’d just closed comments on that post, whatever. Or hey, just deleted anything she wanted to delete for any reason.

But what she said was that they were spam. She went through a little taxonomy. First paragraph, robocomments are spam. Barely connected self-promotional links are spam. Yep, everyone knows this. Second paragraph: spam comes from people who didn’t something she wrote, and have to register this by commenting with a link to their screed. And these people are very sad when their spam links are deleted too.

And much as she presents this as “This is how blog comment moderation works, get used to it”, it really isn’t, for any blog worth reading. It’s a self-aggrandizing person’s view of how blog comment moderation works, in which her stuff is content, other people’s stuff is spam. Am I surprised at her response to Rosenberg? Nope. Perfectly in character.

103

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 6:49 pm

@JanieM – maybe so, maybe so. In any case, I’m not saying my behavior or argument or any of the rest of it was perfect. Far from it. I stooped into definitely petty territory, and I may have bungled my initial argument at least in some points where I may not have had enough knowledge about where Sady is coming from, etc. I accept that all of my actions/posts/ may have been flawed. And yet, I don’t think that either her reading of the books or her characterization of my argument were honest attempts at underscoring either the flaws in the Martin books or in my own argument. That’s all.

104

JanieM 09.27.11 at 7:03 pm

E. D. Kain, thanks for accepting the observation gracefully. It’s tricky territory, commenting on the effectiveness of other people’s utterances — I’ve been on both sides of it and I know it can be painful, and can backfire in all directions (ironic, that). But then, maybe all the more reason to tiptoe into it when an opportunity comes up that doesn’t seem to be obviously destructive.

I confess to only a quick scan of Sady Doyle’s piece, and an even quicker glance at your piece and Alyssa R’s later, and feeling: I’ve been here before, and I don’t really want to be here again, at least at the moment. And I haven’t read GRRM, so I can’t comment at all from that point of view, though the meta topics are interesting in their own right.

105

bianca steele 09.27.11 at 7:08 pm

Doyle said (1) she personally found the series distressing to read, and didn’t wish to do whatever “work” she’d need to do, if she was going to get over it, and (2) it seemed like, for female characters in the books, there was only one possible narrative, involving rape. The back-and-forth has been about the accuracy of (2), and its importance. But a significant number of readers who’ve somehow felt called to defend the honor of the author against Doyle’s blatant refusal to bend her knee have (literally, apparently) claimed the ability to know what is in the novelist’s mind–and they agree that rape is omnipresent for women in the books, and that anything else is fantasy.

106

politicalfootball 09.27.11 at 7:08 pm

But what was crystal clear is certain critics’ sense that they were entitled to her time and her explanations and her defending herself, on her blog, when she had already written a whole post about the books and didn’t want to write any more.

You really think that she posted a book review without intending to engage the readers of the book in a polite, low-key conversation of the sort that Mr. Kain engaged in? Maybe so, but I can’t imagine how you can blame Kain (or Rosenberg) for the misunderstanding.

One can see that Doyle has a knack for invective, and if Belle says she’s not normally an asshole, I’m prepared to believe it, but Kain’s and Rosenberg’s offenses here are invisible to me.

107

politicalfootball 09.27.11 at 7:17 pm

But there’s this distinction between “engaging in debate” and “putting up with yet-more abusive sexist pile-on crap” that seems to resonate with some and not with others here, to put it mildly.

But it’s you that’s missing this distinction. What in Kain’s comments did you find “abusive sexist pile-on crap?”

108

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 7:25 pm

bianca:

Doyle said (1) she personally found the series distressing to read, and didn’t wish to do whatever “work” she’d need to do, if she was going to get over it, and (2) it seemed like, for female characters in the books, there was only one possible narrative, involving rape. The back-and-forth has been about the accuracy of (2), and its importance. But a significant number of readers who’ve somehow felt called to defend the honor of the author against Doyle’s blatant refusal to bend her knee have (literally, apparently) claimed the ability to know what is in the novelist’s mind—and they agree that rape is omnipresent for women in the books, and that anything else is fantasy.

Her post was about a lot more than rape – it was about how women were portrayed as emotional and incompetent (which actually describes basically every character, not just the women) and it greatly exaggerated the actual prevalence of rape in the stories.

Of course none of us know what is in Martin’s mind. It appears that many people perceive his use of sexual and other forms of violence and domination as a critique of a feudalistic society and power and so forth. We could be wrong. Unfortunately, I think if that case is going to be made it should be made with more care than Sady was willing to give it. I think there actually are a number of problematic moments in the books. Sex is handled pretty badly in many ways. The Cersei scene (mentioned somewhere above in this thread) is pretty awful. So a critique could be made along these lines and I think it would be a worthwhile critique to make.

109

politicalfootball 09.27.11 at 7:25 pm

Re E. D. Kain at 5:59: Saying “look” to people is … hmmm. Let me just put it this way. When I hear myself saying, or wanting to say, “look” to someone, I do sometimes also hear, in my mind’s ear, that it’s in the imperative, and therefore is perhaps carrying a certain message of insistence on my own righteousness that may not come across to my interlocutor in quite the way I would hope in a calmer moment.

Just curious: In Doyle’s linked post, did you detect a wee bit of a righteous tone? Were there any words there that were a bit “imperative” in their tone?

The concept of “political correctness” has been coopted, but in its origin – as a critique of the left by the left – it was important and useful.

110

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 7:28 pm

polite, low-key conversation

First, I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with impolite, intense conversations. And Sady’s initial post was itself really impolite and intense. So identifying something as impolite is not meant to say that it was unacceptable, or wrongful, or improper. But Kain’s response to Sady’s post was not, in fact, polite and low-key. To quote the conclusion of his long post:

Common courtesy aside, Sady’s analysis, or whatever you want to call it, is just deeply, deeply flawed.

You see, Sady Doyle wants fantasy to be actually sexist, to present a world in which women are magically free from all the social constraints and domestic violence that women, even in our oh-so-enlightened times, really do face.

Frankly, that’s a lot creepier to me than anything George R. R. Martin has written.

I don’t think there’s a thing wrong with writing in that tone. I also don’t think there’s anything wrong, or surprising, about looking at something written about you in that tone and deciding that engaging substantively with the writer is not going to be particularly enjoyable, and deciding to do something else, like be rude to them.

111

MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 7:31 pm

“First, I don’t think there’s a thing wrong…”

Would love to the the second part of this comment.

112

JanieM 09.27.11 at 7:46 pm

Just curious: In Doyle’s linked post, did you detect a wee bit of a righteous tone? Were there any words there that were a bit “imperative” in their tone?

If I did and if there were, so what?

In all honesty, I don’t believe the “just curious”; the rest of your comment suggests that you’re not so much curious as making a point that you’re trying to “gotcha” me into concurring with, or that you think I should have made instead of the one I made, or something.

Among other reasons why I wrote what I did and nothing more, E. D. Kain is here to converse with, Sady Doyle isn’t. I made an observation based on a specific comment in this thread, and the author of the comment and I had a little exchange about it, and that’s all. My comment wasn’t intended to suggest that no one else has ever been a bit imperative or a bit righteous, myself included. If I had wanted to make a wider point, I would have.

113

LFC 09.27.11 at 7:48 pm

I agree with RP @101 about spam. A blogger can do moderation however she or he wants, but to call a comment saying “I disagree. See my post xxx” spam is ridiculous.

114

E.D. Kain 09.27.11 at 7:57 pm

@LizardBreath – hey, I wasn’t trying to write a super polite response. Sady’s post rubbed me the wrong way and sometimes people get a bit forceful in their commentary. I am absolutely fine with someone reading my post and deciding they’d rather not respond/engage/whatever. Or calling me an asshole or anything else. I was mostly rubbed the wrong way for other reasons, like the only reason I could possibly disagree is because I’m sexist, etc.

I was bothered by Sady’s initial post and that is reflected in the tone of my post and it is what it is. I don’t think my post was anywhere near as over the top as Sady’s, but we obviously have very different rhetorical styles.

115

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 8:08 pm

E.D. Kain – Oh, I didn’t think you were trying to be polite, and I’m serious that there’s nothing wrong, in context, with being rude; Sady wrote rudely about the books and people who enjoy them, and you wrote rudely about her and her arguments in response. (I think your criticisms of her post were offbase, for the reasons I gave here above, but I don’t think there was anything out of line about the fact that you were rude.

I was mostly disagreeing with pf that the conversation she was being invited to engage in with you was polite and low key, and noting that given the tone, her failure to engage with you substantively didn’t seem all that peculiar to me.

116

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 8:09 pm

Dammit, I never remember to close parentheses. Close the paren at the end of the first paragraph, if you would.

117

politicalfootball 09.27.11 at 8:20 pm

But Kain’s response to Sady’s post was not, in fact, polite and low-key.

I guess years of Internet invective have dulled my sensitivity, but in the context of the post to which he was responding, Kain’s post seemed polite to me.

I do think Kain’s conclusion is substantively wrong, and he (apparently he’s a “he”) got a bit too cute by invoking Doyle’s use of the word “creepy,” but if we’re going to bring out the sensitivity police, we ought to have them collect all the available evidence.

I’m not saying “Doyle started it” as some kind of defense of Kain. I’m agreeing with you that there’s nothing wrong with writing in that style, and I admire Doyle’s knack for it.

I’m saying that Doyle subsequently crossed a different set of lines. Which (of course) she has every right to do. She even has the right to complain about being criticized for it. And to delete comments that are critical from her blog.

I’m only saying that I agree with the critics of her response.

118

MPAVictoria 09.27.11 at 8:21 pm

“I was mostly disagreeing with pf that the conversation she was being invited to engage in with you was polite and low key, and noting that given the tone, her failure to engage with you substantively didn’t seem all that peculiar to me.”

How is writing a post calling him a sexist asshole a “failure to engage”?

119

Lynne 09.27.11 at 8:26 pm

@politicalfootball at #105

http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/08/26/enter-ye-myne-mystic-world-of-gayng-raype-what-the-r-stands-for-in-george-r-r-martin/

She did engage in conversation with readers of Martin’s book, after the book review. I link to the comments and post above. Around # 54 of the comments she lists reasons she deletes posts, too.

The mansplaining post was more about process, and not about the books. It was a different subject, which some people didn’t like. They wanted to insist she talk about what they wanted to talk about. A lot of pushing of boundaries, and nastiness, hence the post about process, and yet some people STILL wanted to get her to talk more about the books, and impute low motives to her when she says No.

120

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 8:40 pm

I’m saying that Doyle subsequently crossed a different set of lines. Which (of course) she has every right to do.

pf: You lost me here.

How is writing a post calling him a sexist asshole a “failure to engage”?

MPAVictoria: Well, she failed to engage with the substantive arguments he was making about her post. Not that she had any obligation to, of course, which is where the rest of the brouhaha got started.

121

alph 09.27.11 at 8:44 pm

Looks to me like Rich sums it up best:

“to make a long story short, rapey book is still rapey.”

122

between4walls 09.27.11 at 8:49 pm

I think there are a lot gender dynamics in GRRM’s books that are a bit weird and open to criticism (the sexualized shaming of Cersei in book 5 rubbed me the wrong way), but personally what I took away from the portrayal of rape was
1) That marital rape is a lot more common than stranger rape
2) That rape/sexual violence is still rape even when it happens to horrible untrustworthy people (Theon, Cersei)
3) Rape as about power rather than sex (Tywin orchestrating Tysha’s gang rape mainly to show he could, Brienne being in danger of rape when captive, Theon being sexually abused in captivity, and Robert, as the king and Cersei’s husband, feeling entitled to take whatever he wanted)
4) That rape is still rape when the victim doesn’t fight back, and the victim usually has a lot of good reasons for not doing so (discussed in the third book, implicit in the others)
5) That if men had to live with the threat of sexual violence and the gender-based constraints women do, they would be different people with different opinions (discussed in the third book between Brienne and Jaime)

123

Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 8:58 pm

Eh, I was bored, so I read the Sady Doyle original post on the GRRM books that Lynne links to above. (Spam!) As a description of the books, it seems to me to be perfectly accurate. Even the “heroic old Ironman” comment that Henry picks out makes sense, in context; to his culture, Victarion is heroic and old and an Ironman, whether we think that he’s a hero or not. You can disagree with whether this means that GRRM is creepy or not, or furnish some other reason why the books are written that way, but they seem to me to really be written that way.

124

politicalfootball 09.27.11 at 9:12 pm

To Lyne:

The mansplaining post was more about process, and not about the books.

Exactly. That’s where my dispute lies. I haven’t opined on the books at all.

It was a different subject, which some people didn’t like.

I guess. But that’s got nothing to do with what I’m saying.

To LB:

pf: You lost me here.

I think her handling of Kain’s and Rosenberg’s discussion of her post was misguided for reasons that others have detailed here.

125

politicalfootball 09.27.11 at 9:13 pm

Sorry, Lynne, don’t know how I misplaced the “n”.

126

bianca steele 09.27.11 at 9:34 pm

Raise your hand if you think a novel depicting sex between an adult male and a thirteen year old female could be published in the US, or if you think a miniseries depicting same could be broadcast on US television. No ultra-subtle intellectual reinterpretation can make Doyle’s criticism of this, if she’s described it accurately, false.

It does not seem to me that the mindset that results in marrying off thirteen year olds, and requiring them to consummate the marriage at that age, is a crying social problem that needs a “critique” in the form of a novel directed at English-speaking males age 11-80 who have a fascination with the Middle Ages.

127

Asteele 09.27.11 at 9:38 pm

As someone who has read all five books I am in full agreement with 121. I also thought Sady’s post was somewhere on the largely to completely correct continuum. It always read to me like a main-stream fantasy series that makes some half-hearted attempts to send up genre tropes, with a lot of rape, and some weird sexualisation of children in the first few books. I’ve never gotten that the Game of Thrones is meant to be a critique of medievil society, because it’s not about medievil society. I suppose, I would agree that it could be read as a critique of our representations of feudal society and warfare in genre fiction. I just don’t think that not enough rape, or attention paid to the possible erotic lives of 12 year old girls, is anywhere on my list of problems with fantasy fiction’s depictions of feudalism, or that a series of seven thousand page novels is the proper format of such a critique.

128

LizardBreath 09.27.11 at 9:39 pm

Raise your hand if you think a novel depicting sex between an adult male and a thirteen year old female could be published in the US,

Wait, I don’t understand. The GRRM books are published in the US, along with plenty of other books that meet that description. (Okay, I say plenty, and I’m coming up with Lolita. But there must be loads of novels about sexual abuse of young teenagers that I’m not recalling at the moment.) There’s no argument that they’re not publishable, just about whether they appeal in some problematic or unpleasant way to their audience.

129

bianca steele 09.27.11 at 9:58 pm

Oops, Lizardbreath is right, I thought Martin was English, and assumed he’d got past a US based editor only because he’d already been published.

Comparable to Lolita (which wasn’t published either at first, and which does painstakingly depict it as abuse)? Is the marriage (which I read about in Doyle’s post) treated as abuse? If a critic couldn’t distinguish between a novel about abuse and a novel about something supposed to be a love relationship, and attacked an obvious critique as a sympathetic depiction of the feelings of an average thirteen year old, I would disagree. But I’ve noticed that none of the claims that Martin is “deconstructing” something have claimed anything along the lines of his adding things to the story that plainly show, even to the reluctant reader, that the relationship constitutes abuse.

130

Doctor Slack 09.27.11 at 9:59 pm

How is writing a post calling him a sexist asshole a “failure to engage”?

Is… that meant seriously?

131

Doctor Slack 09.27.11 at 10:01 pm

(Never mind.)

132

between4walls 09.27.11 at 10:13 pm

@124

133

between4walls 09.27.11 at 10:20 pm

@124- hit enter too soon.
I took this more as a critique of fantasy fans romanticizing periods where that was a common social problem, but do you think forced marriages of children aren’t a problem in the English-speaking world today? Even leaving aside the isolated FLDS communities in the US where this sort of thing goes on routinely, I was just talking to a Dutch diplomat who had helped several Dutch teens escape forced marriages to much-older relatives (for the purpose of getting the relatives Dutch citizenship). He got help dealing with these cases from the UK diplomats, because this is apparently a more common problem in the UK and they have better protocols for dealing with it. So yeah, forced marriages of teenagers are a current problem in the Anglophone world. Not to mention the countries where the marriages were taking place were also English-speaking, among other languages.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.27.11 at 10:29 pm

“I suppose, I would agree that it could be read as a critique of our representations of feudal society and warfare in genre fiction. I just don’t think that not enough rape, or attention paid to the possible erotic lives of 12 year old girls, is anywhere on my list of problems with fantasy fiction’s depictions of feudalism, or that a series of seven thousand page novels is the proper format of such a critique.”

Looks like I get to Godwin up the thread. The most successful internal critique of a genre that I’ve ever read is Norman Spinrad’s _The Iron Dream_. It’s a standard SF book of its time, as written by Hitler, who in the alternate universe of the book is a science fiction author. (The editor’s splash page chirpily informs us that fans really like dressing up in uniforms based on his books at SF conventions.) And the book is about a manly hero, bravely setting out to cleanse the land of evil mutants and restore the pure, uncontaminated human gene plasm, with special focus on the cowardly Dominators who control the hordes of other mutants with their mind control powers. And this hero’s career parallels the real Hitler’s, as he sets out for one genocide after another, except that the hero in the book of course wins.

And yeah, criticizing that book for “wow, this is in really bad taste” or “why is the author slamming the same thing at us over and over” or “what’s up with all of these ludicrous, violent closeted homoerotic scenes” would be a category error. It’s supposed to be like that. You could write an attempted defense of GRRM that also says that “it’s supposed to be like that — all of the rape scenes are pointing to genre tropes that fans don’t want to see”, but the problem is, if that’s so then the work is really trying to do two incompatible things at once.

Spinrad didn’t try to make his Hitler-as-SF-hero story entertaining. On the contrary, it was grimly boring as well as being horrific. GRRM is trying to critique genre conventions (if he is — well, I think that he is), while at the same time writing an entertaining story that will keep people reading for one massive book after another. And that just doesn’t work. Instead of people saying “Wow, I’ve been romanticizing medieval settings that really would have been grim for the women involved”, it just becomes “These fantasy books are all grim and realistic, so they’re better than those older fantasy books. And by the way what’s your problem with women being raped all the time in these things? It’s a critique!”

135

politicalfootball 09.27.11 at 10:37 pm

I wonder, Rich, what did you think of Starship Troopers? I found the book to be an appalling authoritarian fantasy, and regarded the movie as an entertaining authoritarian fantasy. Never read The Iron Dream.

136

Matt 09.28.11 at 12:06 am

Phillipa Gregory’s historical fiction set in Tudor England has plenty of young-girl old-man sexual exploitation, supported by the great families who are trying to manipulate aristocratic men with young girls bargained as wives or mistresses. For example, in The Other Boleyn Girl (my copy printed in the USA, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon and Schuster) the first conversation between Mary and her sister mentions how painful sex still is for 14 year old Mary, even though her husband always gives wine first. A few pages later, during Mary’s first court visit, the king tells her that a friend has sworn off all but 12-year-old virgins for his bed.

Sarah Dunant’s In the Company of the Courtesan also has the ever-lurking risk of rape for her characters, as well as circumstances that compel them to trade their bodies for money even when there aren’t invading soldiers roaming the streets. I don’t know if her The Birth of Venus is similar in that regard.

Both authors not only have these significant, coercive, and age-imbalanced sexual relations as elements of danger or hardship in their books, but at times the eroticism is very prominent. The way it’s written, an ambitious family ordering a 14 year old girl to sneak into the king’s bed and act as his sexual toy is at worst another unpleasant chore in a life full of them and at best something very sensual and exciting, both for the girl-narrator and the reader. I see that a couple of film adaptations have been made; I don’t know if they handled it by keeping sex off-camera, using older girls than in the book, or what.

So, yes, you can publish books in America with underage women raped by husbands and strangers, threatened by rape, forced into prostitution, and forced to sell their bodies in other ways without much public outrage in the news media or even the Amazon customer reviews. There’s much more outrage in the reviews about the author taking historical liberties with the settings.

137

bianca steele 09.28.11 at 12:22 am

Rich, it’s not like novels that critique genres by comparing them to Hitler are a dime a dozen.

If you’d shown me The Da Vinci Code and I didn’t know what else Dan Brown had written, I could have been convinced it was a critique of a certain kind of modern grail romance novel. I have a tendency to assume serious novels are critiquing things in them I don’t like, if there’s no very, very solid internal or external evidence to the contrary–and occasionally I’ve had to change my mind.

The Song of Ice and Fire may well be a critique, and Sady Doyle may well hate characters I like, but she can’t be wrong only because she didn’t like the books and other people think they’re good.

138

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 1:11 am

Bianca, I’m a bit puzzled about the “she can’t be wrong only because she didn’t like the books” part. Is there someone else who is supposed to have said that she’s wrong because she didn’t like the books? Because that isn’t what I wrote.

I think that she’s wrong about the books being an attempted critique for lots of reasons. First, GRRM would have to be completely clueless to not understand that there are certain issues here. Is he that clueless? Two seconds of Google says no:

Interviewer: “One of my favorite chapters, perhaps of the whole series, was Cersei’s walk of shame. I was riveted.”

GRRM: “That was an interesting chapter to write, and based on actual medieval events. Jane Shore, mistress of King Edward IV, was punished that way after Edward died. It’s going to be a controversial scene when it comes out — is it misogynistic or feminist? It wasn’t a punishment ever inflicted on men. It was a punishment directed at women to break their pride. And Cersei is defined by her pride.”

OK, so GRRM is aware of the variant readings possible of these scenes. That’s not to say that the critique is well-considered, or successful, or a good idea. But, yes, it says that GRRM is interested in depicting his fantasy more like he thinks that certain historical events happened, and therefore making the generic fantasy-medieval setting more realistic, whatever that means. He has an authorial theory about what he’s doing, stupid and/or misguided and/or exploitative though it may be; he’s not just writing lots of rape scenes and not trying to justify it.

For the “other people think they’re good” part — maybe you might like this post? Fans have a good deal of practice in liking things and yet not therefore thinking that they are unproblematic.

139

Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 1:38 am

he (apparently he’s a “he”) got a bit too cute by invoking Doyle’s use of the word “creepy,” APPARENTLY he’s a he?11!!? Come the fuck on, people.

It does not seem to me that the mindset that results in marrying off thirteen year olds, and requiring them to consummate the marriage at that age, is a crying social problem that needs a “critique” in the form of a novel directed at English-speaking males age 11-80 who have a fascination with the Middle Ages.
Yes to the infinity power.
You all are either going to convince me to a) read the first book tomorrow so I can see whether Sady’s critique was fair, see that it was, and come back to be “uncivil” on CT or b) never, never read even one of these books because the defenses proffered are so bad.

As to the comic itself, it’s wrong to see it as Lockhorn’s-y hostile, because I would never actually make a tumblr like that unless it would be as funny as the classic “10 Most Accurately Rated Bands of All Time” and if I did that I don’t think John would get in there, much as I love him. I was just mildly poking fun at him for behaving in a way consistent with caring about the interior lives of Republican politicians, when in fact he doesn’t care, i.e. writing about it on CT to a degree one degree further, perhaps, than the topic merits. Or half a degree. He thought it was funny and non-hostile, obviously.

140

Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 1:58 am

99: How much tiptoeing around does Janie M. feel she needs to do to make this banal point, even unto the smiley face, that ritualistic token of abasement such as one might append to an email politely, gingerly pointing out a mistake your boss made? 109: and what does she get right back, even after she’ssaid she’s new to commenting and is obviously anxious about it? Sexist passive-aggressive bullshit. Shouting at people about feminism on the Internet is different from shouting down said shouters, such that the identical tone employed in the former case might be wrong in the latter. Is this so extraordinarily difficult to understand?

141

Brian 09.28.11 at 1:59 am

Belle@139: There’s at least a fair amount of disagreement that these novels are aimed at males, incidentally. I’ve certainly heard the claims that fantasy is traditionally more popular with females than males (it gets complicated with all the genre distinctions, but eh).

I don’t think that the young marriages in the novel are intended to be completely traumatic. That there are issues in the one marriage of Daenarys at age 13 isn’t any particularly meaningful critique of child marriages; he has lords at 16 leading armies in the field, and every relationship faces serious trouble. (One of the apparently older men in the book, Ned Stark, is actually only in his 30s). Martin’s world is compressed, brutish, short.

142

E.D. Kain 09.28.11 at 2:02 am

I don’t think the books were written to make us all think about how bad Medieval Europe was, or what a rotten system twelfth century feudalism was. The point is that a lot of fantasy in the past has been really shallow, escapist and hasn’t treated women as complex individuals facing realistic struggles. Sexism has been present in much of fantasy as much by what it has omitted as anything. So along come a lot of modern fantasy authors who want fantasy to be more realistic, less escapist, and tackle real issues – whether those are war, inequality, sexual violence or whatever.

Is fantasy unique somehow in not being allowed to grapple with these issues? Plenty of modern literature does grapple with the issue of sexual and domestic violence. This isn’t a bad thing so far as I can tell. A lot of 11 – 80 year old boys watch action movies in which every woman looks like a super model, or read comic books where women dress in absurd spandex outfits that barely conceal … well anything really. That authors of fantasy are actually branching into some more serious themes, presenting a grim vision of these once-purely-escapist worlds seems like it might, at the very least, make people aware of what a shitty place the world can be for women.

Maybe I’m wrong. I’m wrong all the time. This is just how I interpret it. I think it’s worth the read. I know a lot of women, very progressive feminist women, who enjoy these books and don’t read them as sexist or titillating at all. Everyone, including myself, has quibbles with parts of the books, but that is hardly surprising.

Anyways, just my two cents. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s take on all of this. No bloody echo chamber at least.

143

between4walls 09.28.11 at 2:19 am

While I’ve defended these books here, does anyone else have a problem with the prose style? I usually find myself skimming because the writing is so bland.

144

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 2:57 am

APPARENTLY he’s a he?11!!? Come the fuck on, people.

Sorry. That was intended as a joke.

145

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 2:58 am

“I don’t think the books were written to make us all think about how bad Medieval Europe was, or what a rotten system twelfth century feudalism was. “

And Spinrad wasn’t saying “SF: as bad as Hitler!” The point of what I’ve been calling a critique isn’t to say “Actual Medieval Europe was bad”. It’s to say that fans have been carrying around a fantasy landscape in their heads that carries a lot of objectionable tropes with it that they really should think about.

From the left, this takes the familiar form of screeds against Tolkien. From someone like GRRM, it’s a sort of reaction against a medieval fantasy landscape in which knights are noble and princesses are princessy in the way that young girls in our culture are sold images of princesses. Every knight in GRRM has to be a power-hungry bastard; every woman has to be under sexual threat no matter how powerful she is. Asteele, who I basically agree with, writes “I just don’t think that not enough rape, or attention paid to the possible erotic lives of 12 year old girls, is anywhere on my list of problems with fantasy fiction’s depictions of feudalism.” But the book isn’t trying to be a more accurate description of feudalism. (See: dragons, magic, etc.) It’s (I think) trying to be something that dislodges part of fans’ stereotypical pseudo-medieval mental landscape. And failing.

I think that Doyle’s description of the books is fine, as a description. But reducing the reason for what’s going on to “GRRM is creepy” just doesn’t do it.

146

Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 3:10 am

These books could be 100x better than every other fantasy novel written by a dude, ever, in addressing women as serious characters and still blow goat balls, you guys know that, right? On account of the degree of prior suckage? I’ve read A LOT of fantasy, so you can really trust me on this one, OK? Two words: Piers Anthony

147

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 3:24 am

Oh great, Piers Anthony. I’m still trying to forget those books, and now you’ve set me back.

A quick search of my “dudes who wrote fantasy that had some literary quality” mental category brings up: John Crowley, James Branch Cabell, Mervyn Peake, Michael Moorcock (later work), Tolkien, William Morris, C.S. Lewis, China Mieville if you count the New Weird as fantasy. Lovecraft, depending on what “literary” means to you. Samuel Delany. Um… Zelazny? Fritz Leiber? Steven Brust? I’m trailing off here. But yes, looking at that list, I don’t think that “women as serious characters” is a big area of strength.

148

E.D. Kain 09.28.11 at 3:25 am

Rich, this:

It’s (I think) trying to be something that dislodges part of fans’ stereotypical pseudo-medieval mental landscape. And failing.

…is exactly the right sort of critique. I disagree – I think it does a decent job (though lord knows I have my problems with the series…) But this is a smart assessment of these books.

149

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 3:25 am

Is this so extraordinarily difficult to understand?

Her specific gripe was about the use of the word “look” in comment 91. I thought that was a trivial complaint – which, yes, she acknowledged that possibility when making the point itself, so it was probably uncharitable of me to emphasize it. But still.

And I disagree with this characterization:

Sexist passive-aggressive bullshit.

In what sense was I engaged in sexism? In what sense was I passive? Janie argued that I was asking a trick question, but I think it was plainly a rhetorical question. A different thing.

And in context:

109: and what does she get right back, even after she’ssaid she’s new to commenting and is obviously anxious about it? Sexist passive-aggressive bullshit. Shouting at people about feminism on the Internet is different from shouting down said shouters, such that the identical tone employed in the former case might be wrong in the latter. Is this so extraordinarily difficult to understand?

Absent some example of my having “shouted down the shouters”, or having endorsed doing so, yes, it’s difficult to understand why you’d direct this at me.

I get that there are things that I’m not competent to have an opinion on. And contra AcademicLurker in 73, I think “privilege” and “mansplaining” and even Janie’s “entitled” are perfectly good words that describe real things – and real things that I have been guilty of, and might be guilty of here.

But I’m not getting it. I don’t understand what I’ve done here that merits this description of my comments. And – to be clear – I don’t think I’m “entitled” to any such explanation from you. If you deleted my comments, then mocked them at length without linking them or accurately quoting them, you’d be entirely within your rights. All I can say is that I wouldn’t be able to understand the appropriateness of that.

150

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 3:26 am

Oh, Lord Dunsany. Although he doesn’t help in this respect either.

151

Kiwanda 09.28.11 at 3:27 am

I haven’t managed, in my busy life doing important things, to read GRRM, or Sady Doyle, or Alyssa Rosenberg, or E. D. Kain, or much of the above discussion. But I can make inferences, based on my extensive experience, of what’s probably in those books, and what those people probably wrote. So by golly, I have a very strong opinion on these matters, which I will share with you at length.

152

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 3:37 am

It’s to say that fans have been carrying around a fantasy landscape in their heads that carries a lot of objectionable tropes with it that they really should think about.

This is what I was trying to get at mentioning Starship Troopers, especially the movie. I feel pretty conflicted about liking it, but I liked it. And I have thought about it. Does that get me off the hook?

This piece by David Brin was, I thought, a nice explanation of the repugnant things that are appealing about Star Wars, and how we ought to seek fiction that transcends these easy-but-powerful tropes. But I liked Star Wars, too.

153

JanieM 09.28.11 at 3:43 am

Oddly enough, both Belle @140 and pf @148 seem to be conflating Lynne and me.

Which I take as a compliment, but still, we are not one and the same. It was Lynne @54, not I, who “cautiously dipp[ed] a toe in the water” as a new commenter, and who @74 brought up the notion of commenters at Sady Doyle’s feeling “entitled.”

Just to give credit where it’s due.

154

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 3:50 am

Oops. Sorry.

155

Brad DeLong 09.28.11 at 4:35 am

“Rich Puchalsky 09.26.11 at 9:21 pm: It’s possible for a book to be, simultaneously, both an attempted authorial comment on feminism and representation of fantasy societies, and one of the worst constant-threat-of-rape books ever. I refer you to Iain Banks’ Inversions.”

Since I read the whole book thinking that either Vossill or Perrund was Diziet Sma–and wondering who the other one really was–I did not get that vibe at all. Every page I turned, I expected to read about Skaffen-Amtiskaw dismembering somebody who had annoyed one of them…

156

Brad DeLong 09.28.11 at 4:36 am

Can we give a prize to tomslee for threadjacking?

157

Brad DeLong 09.28.11 at 4:44 am

Re: “Brian 09.27.11 at 1:03 pm: I think the scene in which Cersei forcibly takes her attendant felt pretty gratuitous; I am not normally the most sensitive on the subject, but it has continued to rankle at me as being out of place with the books, clearly inserted primarily for shock value and titillation (I also thought that was true of Theoden, although I think that was more skillfully done, less out of the blue).”

Theoden?! I don’t remember that scene from either the book or the movie of The Two Towers…

158

shah8 09.28.11 at 6:38 am

/me reads thread

/me munches popcorn

oh hey! Someone finally mention Piers Anthony!

/me waits for the Infidel, the sequel to Kameron Hurley’s God’s War, pretty much the most layered and deeply profane sci-fi novel eva. Even beastiality is cool, man… Six more days…

By and large, fantasy as a specific genre isn’t all that, and it’s populated with R. Scott Bakker-stans and George R.R. Martin-stans and Lev Grossman-stans and Daniel Abrahamistans… The vast majority of fantasy with real umph to it are clustered in odd corners of the intersection of Paranormal Romance and Horror. Caitlin Kiernan is probably the top author of this sort. Another batch are fantasy with a slight sci-fi underpinning, think C.S. Friedman ColdFire and Magister trilogies or Barbara Hambly’s Windrose Chronicles. The last big batch are historical romance (not action), such as Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, Bujold’s Chalion stuff. Of course, there is stuff like Cavalier and Clay and Jonathan Strange, but I’m not sure how I would place those in fantasy…

Fantasy as a genre is so huge, you have to spend quite a bit of time reading it before you start snuffing out the good stuff, like gold pins in hay. Discussion about fantasy tends to revolve around series with big following, because it tends to be hard to discuss a particular novel without everyone being *very* conversant in the baroque details, while at the same time, there are many many more people conversant in Rowlingese than in Strossian, Halting State dialect, even though the latter is vastly richer in themes to explore. This thread alone has 153 comments as of writing this comment. The entire Stross seminar totals 178 comments. In this thread, we have at least several people strongly encouraged to read 5 bookstops worth of somewhat-better-than-mediocre fantasy for the sake of being able to converse about the details of the plot, like whether if men are raped. In other threads, it was mostly people who’s read the books, talking about what was interesting about it, and other than ya gotta read it because it’s good and has x, y, z , there was not pressure to be conversant.

Threads like this one just makes the Aesteros books sound uninviting, had I not already read the first four (but I don’t really intend to read the last). And it makes people seem totally shallow in places. Typical of nerd arguments.

159

Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 6:53 am

My bad.

Political football this: “Just curious: In Doyle’s linked post, did you detect a wee bit of a righteous tone? Were there any words there that were a bit “imperative” in their tone?” is passive-agressive.

160

anon 09.28.11 at 8:21 am

he asked how that was sexist

161

ajay 09.28.11 at 8:30 am

128: Raise your hand if you think a novel depicting sex between an adult male and a thirteen year old female could be published in the US,

Wait, I don’t understand. The GRRM books are published in the US, along with plenty of other books that meet that description.

More than that – a story meeting that description is constantly in print, regularly filmed, taught in schools, and held up as the epitome of romantic love.

— She is not fourteen. How long is it now
To Lammas-tide?

–A fortnight and odd days.

— Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.

162

ajay 09.28.11 at 8:46 am

Second, in what way? Did you read the books in the original Swedish, or are you just addressing qualities that you think can’t possibly have been botched in translation?

I didn’t read the Stieg Larsson books in Swedish, no, but I think the problems with them would have survived translation:

large amounts of unnecessary and uninteresting verbiage (IKEA, etc)

flat characterisation – every character had one or maybe two traits that were emphasised over and over again; that’s not the same as having a personality

regularly breaking the “show, don’t tell” rule

and, connected to that, characters not matching up to their supposed attributes – if he’s the Greatest Investigative Reporter in All Sweden, he should jolly well act like the GIRAS from time to time, and he doesn’t

especially in the second book, a mismatch between theme and action – a serious novel about the evils of institutional corruption and sex trafficking probably should not climax with our silicone-enhanced bisexual heroine surviving not only the kidnapping of her exotically dommish Asian girlfriend, but also being shot in the head and digging her way out of her own grave to fight the Big Bad, who is a brutal former Soviet agent – and the heroine’s long-lost father! – and the Dragon, who has a rare genetic disorder that (seriously) makes him immune to pain. I haven’t read the third one, but I imagine that piranha tanks make an appearance.

163

ajay 09.28.11 at 8:49 am

We don’t even know what make of car Mrs Merdle was.
I beg your pardon, she was a Daimler.

My mistake. Actually I think Sayers highlights the brand-name issue twice via Harriet: she’s described as wearing, at one point, “a frock made of what male writers describe as ‘some soft, clinging material’”, and later on apologising to Lord Peter for her inability to grasp all the subtleties about what men should and shouldn’t wear, which is why she makes her own hero, Robert Templeton, a careless dresser.

164

Gray 09.28.11 at 9:05 am

“what did you think of Starship Troopers? I found the book to be an appalling authoritarian fantasy, and regarded the movie as an entertaining authoritarian fantasy. “
Makes me wonder what you think about the same author’s (Robert A. Heinlein) later “Lazarus Long” series of novels. These seem to be more relevant in this context.

165

Brian 09.28.11 at 9:51 am

Brad@157: Check the secret diaries. (Also, oops. Theon Greyjoy, of course)
Belle@159: JanieM and ED Kain worked it out between themselves, but it did seem a little odd to have ‘Look,’ called out as self-righteous and counter to discussion, when there’s ‘mansplaining’ over there in the corner. Primarily and thankfully off-thread, of course.

166

Brian 09.28.11 at 9:58 am

ajay: I thought he was a reasonably good investigative journalist (and publisher) in the novels. What struck you as false about it? That was Larssen’s background, and having a journalist spend several months seriously investigating source material seemed realistic as opposed to the ’2 scoops a week’ journalists so common in thrillers/SF.

167

garymar 09.28.11 at 10:20 am

shah8:

…Strossian, Halting State dialect…

This week I just finished reading Halting State for the third time! Beginning to love it more than any other Stross. But I digress.

I was charmed by Belle’s phrase “somewhat lascivious pose”. Made me think of my wife…when we were young just being in the same room with her, sans pose, was lascivious enough…but I digress.

When I was very young I knew what lascivious meant but never having heard the word I pronounced it as LASSIE VICIOUS.

But I digress.

168

novakant 09.28.11 at 11:12 am

ajay, MPA – If you’re interested in the listing of material items as a stylistic device check out Jay McInerney (“Bright Lights, Big City”) and Bret Easton Ellis (“American Psycho”) in which it has been taken to extremes (warning: the latter book is not for the faint of the heart).

169

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 11:42 am

“Since I read the whole book thinking that either Vossill or Perrund was Diziet Sma—and wondering who the other one really was—I did not get that vibe at all. Every page I turned, I expected to read about Skaffen-Amtiskaw dismembering somebody who had annoyed one of them…”

I have to admit that I’ve forgotten which characters Vossill and Perrund were, specifically. But I do remember that Culture knife missiles end up killing quite a few rapists in _Inversions_. It’s still a constant-threat-of-rape book even if the rapists or attempted rapists get violently killed. Actually, the two usually go together. Think of the horrible _Death Wish_ style movies, say, which are generally set up with some kind of rape at the beginning.

170

Henry 09.28.11 at 11:52 am

bq. A quick search of my “dudes who wrote fantasy that had some literary quality” mental category brings up: …

I think you can make cases for strong female characterization in Crowley, Delany, Moorcock, Mieville , Peake (a little less certain there – I haven’t read the books since my early 20s, and can’t remember enough to make a good argument about whether Fuchsia should count) in that list.

Also – if we are talking about Mieville – this old argument between him and Belle about _Perdido Street Station_

Belle

bq. That Lin should get killed, OK. That she be raped and have the legs of her scarab head torn off one by one, and then have her mind partially destroyed so that her personality and her art are lost to her? Come on, dude. That is just uncalled for. It seems gratuitous: I’m willing to make things go maximally awfully for this character just to confound your generic expectations. I am perfectly aware that it is…peculiar, to say the least, to be exercised about abuses done to imaginary people by their creator, but there it is.

China:

bq. This apparently most extreme thing you can do to a character, bumping her/him off, is easily assimilable by nebulous structures of comfort. (The question of what if anything is wrong with that is huge, of course, and fundamental to many of the issues here. For here, I’m just going to assert that all my writing tends to be sceptical of consolation and comfort.)

bq. This is precisely why I’m not surprised by Belle’s resentment at the fate of Lin in PSS. It was, yes, precisely ‘uncalled for’. ‘That Lin should get killed,’ Belle says, ‘OK.’ Well quite. Had she been killed, it would have been ok. More than that, it would have presented us with one of the most trite figures in Romantic Art: The Beautiful Dead Female Lover. I didn’t want Lin to turn into Eurydice, which is why what happened to her had to be utterly foul and uncalled for. I maintain that it was more respectful of her as a character to give her a fate that vigorously resisted aestheticisation, than to subordinate her to the logic of myth, symbol and genre. (Particularly when (Ophelia in the water, consumptive beauties a-coughing) it’s a logic deep-structured with fetishised misogynist despite. Hmmmm… raping and mind-ruining a female character as striking a blow against the structures of gender essentialism? Well yes, actually.)

bq. Of course, the problem with this strategy is that it’s a fine line to walk. Push it and you’re gratuitous. There is, it’s undoubtedly true, a cheap and spurious kudos to aesthetic sadism. This is the lie behind the tedious transgressions of much ‘brave’, ‘transgressive’ and ‘underground’ literature. Did I step over that line? I hope not. I don’t know how I could have avoided Lin being eaten by the voracious maw of Meaningful Tragedy had I not taken her through the mill as I did. And I precisely tried to avoid the sadism by having her disappear while the nastiness was going on. Maybe it didn’t work. But that was the idea.

bq. It is also possible that the searingly unpleasant and supposedly meaningless, amoral trials that befall my characters are an overcompensation, an always-already failing attempt to deal with the fact that the representation of ‘real life’ without abstraction, fetishism and moralism is impossible. The in-fiction critique of fabulism and moralism is ultimately and intrinsically limited. John H.: ‘Life doesn’t usually go in for conventional Freytag’s triangle-style structures’. This is absolutely true. The fact is that by writing a story at all one subordinates one’s characters to a narrative, which is, of course, a form of consolation, an imputation of meaning. Lin’s fate, though I stand by it, might be read as me facing this problem and protesting too much.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 11:54 am

“More than that – a story meeting that description is constantly in print, regularly filmed, taught in schools, and held up as the epitome of romantic love.”

Yeah, I was sort of wondering when someone was going to bring up Romeo and Juliet. She’s stated to be 13, but I don’t know whether he qualifies as an “adult male” by contemporary definition; the usual guess at his age seems to be 16.

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Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 11:54 am

It was sexist because the WHOLE FUCKING POINT of Sady’s post was that there’s a difference between women being “uncivil” to make serious points about feminism and a bunch of dudes shouting in an uncivil way to shut down that conversation. Something that oddly enough happens EVERY SINGLE TIME. Even if a carefully calibrated judgment of the degree of incivility is in the two pieces is IDENTICAL. Because CONTEXT FUCKING MATTERS.

Yes, Sady is unequivocally performing a female version of “mansplaining.” She knows that. It’s not some piece of dramatic irony which she hasn’t noticed, but you have cleverly noticed on account of your cleverness and your ability to make reasoned arguments in a civil way. Which is one of your most wonderful characteristics. Her point is that the incivility can serve very different ends. If it advances the cause of feminism being taken seriously, ever, on on the internet, then it’s actually different from a guy mansplaining about how she’s shrill and angry and emotional and can’t deal with reasoned arguments and refuses to address his valid points. This isn’t rocket science, people.

O NOES! Now I am saying that women get to say whatever they want and can’t be challenged by men with reasoned arguments! Teh wimminz will rule everything!!1 Uh, no. Look around. That’s not happening, at all. Instead someone is getting repeated rape threats for advancing a feminist critique, which some people don’t like, of a novel. Lots of rape threats. So many it was hard to keep the thread clean enough for rape survivors like me to read without being made somewhat miserable. And then, in the process of deleting scores of rape threats (not exaggerating here) she deleted someone’s comment, and wouldn’t link to his post because she didn’t want to talk about it anymore and knew already what his argument was, EVEN THOUGH HE’S AN IMPORTANT MAN. Then he went swanning around the internet about how he had been done a grave injustice when someone deleted his comment from her thread (cue shock, horror), and that Sady was obliged to respond to his civil, carefully reasoned argument, even though she was sick of it and didn’t want to discuss the issue anymore because…he has an important blog? Now she’s worse than Hitler!!!1

Damn, a lot of commenters for whom I used to have respect have just gotten thrown in my trash pile of “do not bother to read” today. This sucked. I wish you had made fun of my failure to include a clever mouseover text or speculated about the precarious state of my marriage. That would have been a lot more fun for everyone.

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Henry 09.28.11 at 12:01 pm

bq. a feminist critique, which some people don’t like, of a novel.

Without getting into the rest of it, the original post was not a “feminist critique.” It was a claim (on the basis of pretty shoddy evidence) that George R.R. Martin was a rape-positive creep. That’s actually sort of important to the way people reacted (not the rape-enthusiast trolls from westeros.org, but that’s a different issue ). Dunno if harping on that puts me on your “do not read further” list or not, but there you go.

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tomslee 09.28.11 at 12:19 pm

As a footnote to #172.

#107 What in Kain’s comments did you find “abusive sexist pile-on crap”?

There’s something about asking, while SD was dealing with a flood of crap, what specifically and precisely is wrong with a particular individual turd that is not reasonable. It has an “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you find the play?” quality to it.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 12:29 pm

“I think you can make strong cases for Crowley, Delany, Moorcock, Mieville , Peake (a little less certain there – I haven’t read the books since my early 20s, and can’t remember enough to make a good argument about whether Fuchsia should count) in that list.”

Jack Vance, Paul Park. The problem with starting searches of mental categories is that the searches never terminate…

Anyways, I didn’t mean that all of these writers were uniformly bad at writing women as serious characters. I might disagree with some of the “strong cases” that you mention … did Moorcock ever write a woman as a serious character? Una Persson I can’t take seriously because of her name and because she’s exactly the kind of super-competent yet vague character that’s put into a long-running series when the author realizes that there are no women in it who aren’t adjuncts to the protagonist. Amelia Underwood? But she is put into what is basically an extended Madonna/whore setup, where the books can only go on for as long as she refuses to have sex. Peake’s character Fuchsia is as real as any of his characters is, but all of his characters are rather Dickensian. And, you know, if we’re going to talk a la China Mieville about female characters being gratuitously disposed of, Fuchsia is a textbook case.

So it’s not that you can’t find one male author of fantasy who has written a serious woman character somewhere. But I think that I’ve listed the best (in literary terms) male authors in the genre, and as a set, they’re not doing very well in this regard.

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soru 09.28.11 at 12:30 pm

It’s (I think) trying to be something that dislodges part of fans’ stereotypical pseudo-medieval mental landscape. And failing.

If you are talking about a feminist critique of fantasy, then the obvious example would be le Guin’s Tehanu. They do share the headline description ‘this is a fantasy world, nevertheless women get raped’, but I don’t thing it is particularly useful to say SoIaF is a example of that category, just a bad one.

It’s also not Piers Anthony/Fritz Leiber style ‘soft porn for 14 years old boys’ that just happened to forget to include any erotic cues. Though I may be underestimating the horniness of 14 year old boys and/or the creepiness of dirty old men…

And it’s presumably not Mercedes Lackey/Catherine Asuro style romantic fantasy that just hasn’t yet got to the point where all the main characters meet up and form a psychic band.

The category in which it fits best is ‘speculative fantasy’, a sub-genre that also includes Charlie Stross’s Merchant Princes, Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains, and SM Stirling’s Dies the Fire.

All of those were written by commercial authors, of roughly the Star Trek generation, who wrote science fiction by inclination and map fantasy because their publishers employed accountants. Stross is most explicit about this, but I think Martin is on the record as saying something similar.

All start from a society that could be taken from an economic history textbook, and add small doses of magic, treated as either a specialist craft or natural force. While that certainly breaks physics, it is done in a way intended to leave social and political science as valid topics for inspiration, speculation and counter-factuals. So magic doesn’t change sex roles, economic systems, or even warfare, at least outside the actions of the main cast.

Similarly, there are no heroic destinies, divine grace or other special pleading that makes a real-world-relevant treatment of moral or cultural issues impossible. Having any but the very worst king might well be preferable to feudal warfare, but there is no True King whose rule is Just. I think all these books avoid the use of Capitalised Nouns.

In all cases, the world is presented as being a genuinely worse place to live than contemporary society. Not just on a superficial camping-trip-with-no-toilets level, not just because both _really bad things_ are quite likely to happen to you, but also because having a fulfilling life is much _less_ likely than it is in contemporary society. All the novels feature rape as an example of the first, and absence of marital choice as an example of the second.

Ian McLeod’s The Light Ages and Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Daughter are variations of this idea, where magic is sufficiently powerful to take the place of industrial technology, while still leaving the economics and politics in place as a topic worth writing about.

I’m confident enough in this theory to make a prediction from it. One day soon, some frustrated sci-fi author will take the pseduo-realistic vampires from Peter Watt’s Blindsight and insert them into the ‘vampire boyfriend’ sub-genre.

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Barry Freed 09.28.11 at 12:41 pm

This sucked. I wish you had made fun of my failure to include a clever mouseover text …

*Raises hand sheepishly* Um, I did, kinda…

Damn, a lot of commenters for whom I used to have respect have just gotten thrown in my trash pile of “do not bother to read” today. This sucked.

It’s been a weird week for CT, eh? (Maybe someone should do an astrological chart).

178

Barry Freed 09.28.11 at 12:55 pm

Not so sheepish when in bold. I hadn’t known text bounded with asterisks would do that.

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Lynne 09.28.11 at 1:02 pm

@Janie at #153,

Thanks, I take it as a compliment, too.

@ Belle at various places esp. #172

It feels weird to me that you could write that post (#172) and get people talking about the books afterwards as though you had not spoken. Maybe people don’t see posts as soon as they happen, though, and wrote theirs as you wrote yours.

I have been wondering something so I’ll throw it out and see if anyone else has the same impression. There have been two threads to the Sady Doyle discussion, one about the books, one about the post tomslee linked to which was about the reaction to SD’s piece about the books. Some commenters here have participated in both threads but I’ve wondered whether there’s a gender divide with women in the second thread (that’s certainly been my interest) and men wanting to keep the discussion about the books.

I don’t know, though—maybe I’m imagining it?

It seems not so easy to have a feminist discussion here. Partly the lack of a thread tree (because, I know, it’s a comment thread to a blog post) but partly the response to any woman saying something is sexist being “what’s sexist about it?”

I mean, I can imagine two reactions to being told something was sexist that I hadn’t thought was (esp. if it was something I said myself): 1) step right up and challenge with what’s sexist about it? as has been done here. 2) step back and think and read/listen. Of course, any of 2) that’s being done is being done off-screen—maybe there’s lots of that going on. But the challenging part tends to shut people up, which is what Sady Doyle’s post was about, as Belle said.

180

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 1:05 pm

There’s something about asking, while SD was dealing with a flood of crap, what specifically and precisely is wrong with a particular individual turd that is not reasonable. It has an “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you find the play?” quality to it.

Doyle wrote a piece addressing “the play” in considerable detail and some length. That’s what I was responding to.

181

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 1:07 pm

Some commenters here have participated in both threads but I’ve wondered whether there’s a gender divide with women in the second thread (that’s certainly been my interest) and men wanting to keep the discussion about the books.

Not me. I’m male, and I find the same part of it interesting that you do.

182

Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 1:08 pm

OK, props, Barry.

Henry, I love you man, and I hate to argue on line with actual real life friends, but please just let this one go, OK? People who do literary criticism in an amateur way often conflate their problems with the book with problems with the author, whose character, they feel, is revealed in the work itself, and the choices he made in writing it. This is likely ill-informed and possibly deeply unfair, but it is common among people who don’t do “literary theory.” Hell, I make judgments about Piers Anthony personally being a pervert creep. I may be mistaken or unfair. Sady Doyle may be mistaken or unfair. But whatever she is doing, it is not some form of uniquely awful character assassination such that one is obliged to leap to Mr. Martin’s defense on the grounds of common decency, nor is it the case that her arguments could only be proffered in bad faith. She could possibly just be wrong and unfair, rather than arguing in bad faith and determined to make serious accusations against innocent authors because she’s a bad person. Comity?

183

Lynne 09.28.11 at 1:10 pm

@Tom #174

Love it.

184

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 1:20 pm

Apologies Tom@174. I misunderstood the context of your comment, and 180 was not responsive.

185

Rich Puchalsky 09.28.11 at 1:23 pm

“It feels weird to me that you could write that post (#172) and get people talking about the books afterwards as though you had not spoken. Maybe people don’t see posts as soon as they happen, though, and wrote theirs as you wrote yours.”

Yep! All right, I’ll stop. With regard to the comic, though, I hope that what I wrote about it wasn’t taken as “speculat[ion] about the precarious state of [your] marriage.” Just that what’s seen an obvious joke by two people who know each other well can be harder to tonally decode by someone looking at stick figures, and maybe that was why there wasn’t more comment on it.

186

Henry 09.28.11 at 1:37 pm

Comity.

187

JanieM 09.28.11 at 1:42 pm

Brian: but it did seem a little odd to have ‘Look,’ called out as self-righteous and counter to discussion, when there’s ‘mansplaining’ over there in the corner.

Belle: Yes, Sady is unequivocally performing a female version of “mansplaining.” She knows that.

Thanks, Belle. Again.

I was cautious because I’m always cautious (until I lose my temper), but especially when pointing out a fault (I know that makes me odd on the internet), because mostly it backfires and people just double down, so what’s the point. I give E. D. Kain a lot of credit for not doing that.

But more: part of the point of highlighting something so “trivial” (pf) (and see Brian, above) is precisely that the very mildness so often provides cover and deniability for condescension and other polite versions of shouting down.

Another part of the point is that I agree with Belle that Sady knew exactly what she was doing. I wasn’t sure that E. D. Kain knew what he was doing.

188

Elf M. Sternberg 09.28.11 at 1:45 pm

Bianca: I’m trying to figure out what you mean by an “old Internet culture.” The comment seems close to trolling on its own. The crowd that associates on the list of blogs you provided is pretty much the high water mark of the Internet. Are you talking about the genteel clubs that ran the RFC discussion groups prior to the Great Renaming, or the vicious ones that fueled the Great Floating Homosexuality Flamewar? Pockets of get-things-done civility and pockets of anonymity-fueled nastiness have been the “Internet culture” since I jumped on in 1988.

189

Henry 09.28.11 at 2:04 pm

OK – talking about other semi-relevant stuff instead. The reason I was ambiguous about Fuchsia was exactly the Ophelia-esque manner of her death. Having Cure songs devoted to your memory is a strong signal that something has gone badly wrong in a cliched Gothy faux-romantic way. On the other hand, my vague memories are that in Titus Groan, she’s the only character who emerges as a spiky and interesting individual.

The Vance/Park pairing is interesting. Vance emphatically counts towards the negative. I’m writing a series of posts on the sociology of Jack Vance on a more-or-less private blog – I’ve been planning for a while to entitle the last one “The Feminist Jack Vance,” and to have nothing in the body except a small 8 point message at the bottom saying “This page intentionally left blank.” Park – the opposite. _Three Marys_ is particularly strong on gender (and you could make a qualified case for Katherine in _Celestis_, although whether a mostly-artificial drug-constructed personality counts is a real question).

On the more difficult topic – Daniel Abraham (whose Long Price Quartet is excellent on its own terms, and for strong and interesting female characters) has an essay here which is worth looking at.

190

MPAVictoria 09.28.11 at 2:10 pm

“O NOES! Now I am saying that women get to say whatever they want and can’t be challenged by men with reasoned arguments! Teh wimminz will rule everything!!1 Uh, no. Look around. That’s not happening, at all. Instead someone is getting repeated rape threats for advancing a feminist critique, which some people don’t like, of a novel. Lots of rape threats. So many it was hard to keep the thread clean enough for rape survivors like me to read without being made somewhat miserable. And then, in the process of deleting scores of rape threats (not exaggerating here) she deleted someone’s comment, and wouldn’t link to his post because she didn’t want to talk about it anymore and knew already what his argument was, EVEN THOUGH HE’S AN IMPORTANT MAN. Then he went swanning around the internet about how he had been done a grave injustice when someone deleted his comment from her thread (cue shock, horror), and that Sady was obliged to respond to his civil, carefully reasoned argument, even though she was sick of it and didn’t want to discuss the issue anymore because…he has an important blog? Now she’s worse than Hitler1″

I think that anyone who has experience with E.D. Kain would find your reading of his actions unkind to the extreme. I think his conduct had been completely reasonable throughout this whole sorry episode.

That all said I really liked the cartoon. Have you considered doing a Penny Arcade themed one?

191

soru 09.28.11 at 2:20 pm

Hell, I make judgments about Piers Anthony personally being a pervert creep. I may be mistaken or unfair.

google his name and ‘firefly’ if you have some brain bleach lying around that needs a good use. If I was a sheriff, and Piers Anthony was moving to my town, I’d seriously look into what were legal and appropriate surveillance measures.

But that question, or ‘which fantasy authors would you try to discourage your daughter from dating?’, is not going to be relevant to all that many people.

‘Which books are going to be enjoyable and interesting to read’ is more widely applicable. There’s a certain pattern where a book gets a reputation as feminist, with an unspoken _within it’s genre_. As a result, it then gets read by an actual feminist, who, to say the least, doesn’t like it.

It would be a measurable loss to the net welfare of humanity if that pattern resulted in a sub-optimal allocation of readers to books. So an accurate description of a book is an inherently good thing, even if that happens to giving it a lower sexism score card.

Half a million people spending four hours each reading a book they don’t like is several bad marriages, ten foreclosed mortgages, or one small business failure’s worth of dysfunction.

Which is about the same as a few hundred million people failing to get a web-comic joke.

192

ajay 09.28.11 at 2:40 pm

One day soon, some frustrated sci-fi author will take the pseudo-realistic vampires from Peter Watt’s Blindsight and insert them into the ‘vampire boyfriend’ sub-genre.

Rule 34 states that there is already explicit Jukka Sarasti fanfiction on the internet. And if there is anything more disturbing than a Peter Watts novel, it must surely be explicit Peter Watts fanfiction.

168: If you’re interested in the listing of material items as a stylistic device check out Jay McInerney (“Bright Lights, Big City”) and Bret Easton Ellis (“American Psycho”) in which it has been taken to extremes

Heh. Yes. I haven’t read the McInerney book but I’ve read American Psycho… so would that make Lisbeth the Flatpack Psycho with the Dragon Tattoo?

193

ajay 09.28.11 at 2:42 pm

On the other hand, my vague memories are that in Titus Groan, she’s the only character who emerges as a spiky and interesting individual.

If we’re talking about Peake’s female characters, surely it’s the Countess who stands out?

194

MPAVictoria 09.28.11 at 2:53 pm

“Lisbeth the Flatpack Psycho with the Dragon Tattoo”

Ding, ding, ding!
We have a winner! And your price today…. All the internets!

195

Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 3:01 pm

Fuschia’s death pissed me the hell off. Titus can survive a cold swim+crazy ivy-covered-wall-climbing knife fight, and she just slips and hits her head on the window-frame and dies? Fuck that.

JanieM: “Another part of the point is that I agree with Belle that Sady knew exactly what she was doing. I wasn’t sure that E. D. Kain knew what he was doing.” EXACTLY. I’ll go further and say he didn’t know. He has admitted above that he might have been wrong in his extravagant moping about his comment having been deleted from a thread, which proves that Sady Doyle is incapable of countering reasoned arguments. But he still doesn’t know.

Lynne: Yeah, weird, innit. Go through the thread and see what the women are posting about. Few or none of the men in this thread have any interest in that discussion, apparently. I’m seriously giving up now because this sucks and I’m bored with it, and people I generally like fine are making me unhappy. This probably proves I’m not amenable to reasoned debate and am only in it for teh lulz (which seem to be few and far between, I must say,)

196

Belle Waring 09.28.11 at 3:03 pm

Seriously, I’m not reading anything else and I will close comments when I get around to it. Fuck this.

197

politicalfootball 09.28.11 at 3:04 pm

Makes me wonder what you think about the same author’s (Robert A. Heinlein) later “Lazarus Long” series of novels. These seem to be more relevant in this context.

Yeah, true. I read quite a lot of his stuff in high school, including the Lazarus Long stuff, and while I understood the warmongering, authoritarian bits to be despicable, I was oblivious to Heinlein’s overt and genuinely awful sexism, in part because it took a different form than I was accustomed to. I’m afraid I internalized his own view of his ephebophilia and incest themes, finding them provocative and liberating rather than creepy and exploitative. I plead youth.

198

LizardBreath 09.28.11 at 3:24 pm

But Heinlein’s a nice example of how it’s possible for genuinely feminist people, sensitive to gender issues, to enjoy and think highly of work that’s creepy and exploitative on gender stuff. Jo Walton over at tor.com has a bunch of posts on Heinlein in which she recognizes the creepy but thinks he’s generally terrific.

199

Salient 09.28.11 at 3:43 pm

Fuck this.

…a short way in I had hope for a 200-comment thread about ideas for tumblrs (given the way a tumblr page layout cascades downward, a tumblr of ‘things going up’ would be a nice meta-joke, wouldn’t it?) or maybe anecdotes about those keyboard rollouts that aren’t compatible with laptops (why don’t laptops have detachable wireless keyboards?).

200

chris y 09.28.11 at 3:45 pm

Fuschia’s death pissed me the hell off. Titus can survive a cold swim+crazy ivy-covered-wall-climbing knife fight, and she just slips and hits her head on the window-frame and dies? Fuck that.

And another thing! Patrick O’Brian taking out Diana Villiers in The 100 Days for no good reason except he was apparently bored with her and wanted to give Stephen a different sex interest. His strongest woman character, off-stage in a bloody traffic accident! Shame on him!

201

Chuchundra 09.28.11 at 4:13 pm

Go through the thread and see what the women are posting about. Few or none of the men in this thread have any interest in that discussion, apparently. I’m seriously giving up now because this sucks and I’m bored with it, and people I generally like fine are making me unhappy.

So you’re saying that you feel entitled to demand that people here discuss things that you want them to? Interesting.

Seriously, I’m not reading anything else and I will close comments when I get around to it. Fuck this.

See, now this really is a feminist blog. Well done.

202

tomslee 09.28.11 at 4:15 pm

Chuchundra: just fuck off.

203

bianca steele 09.28.11 at 4:26 pm

Rich, that’s the only sense I can make out of some of the attacks Doyle got from bloggers and commenters. It seemed as if some people may have thought, “Okay, she is taking the strongest possible position against, I will come back at her just strong on the ‘for’ side.”

Maybe there is an issue about what a “critique” is.

Henry, for me saying something is “creepy” doesn’t mean there is a “creep” anywhere in it. Sady Doyle seems to make a certain kind of demands on characters in novels. Not everyone thinks those demands should be made, but they’re not illegitimate. She has a certain set of breaking points. Not everybody has the same ones, but most people have some. I don’t see “rape-positive” anywhere in Doyle’s post, and I don’t see where you’re getting that from. Yes, Doyle wants to see male characters who rape depicted in a different way, and if she does she should stay away from fantasy novels (which she is doing), but the demand isn’t illegitimate.

E.D.Kain: Honestly, it doesn’t make me more comfortable to be told that Martin has taken a genre beloved by women readers and subjected their favorite characters to rape because he thinks that’s what would really happen. You think the fact that he has the brains to write a novel means he couldn’t possibly not be writing a (certain kind of) critique. (At least, I think you’re making an argument about the novelist along these lines.) You may be right, or as you said above, you may be wrong. But it’s difficult to separate a novel from its readers, and if the readers who are showing up are (for lack of a better word) “rape-positive,” it seems like the only alternative is to argue with the novelist’s best fans about what you say is the real reading.

Everyone was talking about the HBO miniseries and it’s silly to say someone who hated the novels shouldn’t be able to post about her opinion.

(Caveat: I’m not caught up on all the comments.)

204

bianca steele 09.28.11 at 4:29 pm

Elf: I’m not sure where you think I’m coming from. My comment was about the possible expectations of bloggers who’ve basically always blogged, or maybe read well-tended listservs, and never participated in the earlier free-for-all.

205

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 09.28.11 at 4:37 pm

“Martin is looking to provide intelligent entertainment, not to reinvent the ways in which we tell stories and think about the world.”

Err, but he is making a thousands-of-pages-long critique of the fantasy genre and it’s cliches and nervous tics. Same as Glen Cook & Michael Swanwick & Stephen Brust have. Watch the prophised noble-born heir in exile….f**k up continually.

It is great to read a fantasy epic not about the Keeping the Ultimate Bad Guy Away from the WMD’s, though, ‘cos if there’s a literary genre in the shadow of the Manhattan Project, it’s High Fantasy.

On the prevalence of rape in Martin’s books, it’s worth remembering that the novels started in the 1990s when the Balkan wars where in the news and rape as part of warfare was, maybe for the first time, in the public discourse.

Similarly, it’s hard not to read Dany’s tribulations in slaver bay with the Sons of the Harpy and not think about Iraq or Afghanistan.

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Henry 09.28.11 at 4:41 pm

Chuchundra – let me explain a few home truths here. We pay – out of our own money – quite substantial hosting fees every year. We do not typically ask our readers – let alone our commenters – for financial support. We do not take advertising. We do this because we like to do it. We have comments sections because we like – most of the time – to have people comment. Much of the time, the discussion is pretty good.

You seem to be distressed that Belle feels herself ‘entitled’ to say that people should talk about some things in the comments sections to her posts, and not others. This is – to use your own word – an ‘interesting’ proposition. The actual question you should be asking yourself is why you believe yourself to be ‘entitled’ to discuss whatever you want, in whatever way you want, however offensively you care to, at a site that is provided, run and paid for by People Who Are Not You. Because, as it happens, you aren’t entitled to anything of the sort. You _are_ entitled – if you can find places to do this – to complain about us elsewhere on the internets to your heart’s content. And with that, respecting Belle’s wishes, I’m out of here.

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marcel 09.28.11 at 4:41 pm

The comment thread on D-squared’s infamous post, after apparently stopping a couple of days ago @373, is showing signs of life this morning. This one took longer to get to 200 (about 24 hours vs. about 48), but it seems possible it may still surpass that one, thanks to tomslee’s thread-jacking. Let’s give it the old college try.

208

Peter K. 09.28.11 at 4:56 pm

Others can better judge whether Martin’s Song of Ice of Fire saga is a critique of the fantasy genre, but I didn’t find the books overly “rapey.” My guess would be that they are more realistic in their portrayal of gender relations than is normally the case in fantasy.

Isn’t it understandable that some fans of the books would get defensive when told that the books are sexist and they’re sexist for enjoying the books? Having said that, of course it’s also understandable that some feminists still have a chip on their shoulder. For example, according to the new Suskind book, a liberal progressive President of the United States had to take time out from his busy fund-raising schedule to address and correct the fact that women employees at the White House were demoralized by the boys-club frat-house atmosphere.

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 5:04 pm

I was going to stay out of all this, but Jesus:

But it’s difficult to separate a novel from its readers, and if the readers who are showing up are (for lack of a better word) “rape-positive,” it seems like the only alternative is to argue with the novelist’s best fans about what you say is the real reading.

Look (he says imperatively), I’m not a GRRM fan or reader, so I mercifully don’t have a dog in this particular fight. I’m not (I like to think) prone to critiquing people’s “tone” or getting stuffy when someone says something acerbic or to concern-trolling about “broad-brushing” when someone doesn’t include enough qualifiers in a sentence. I’m even sympathetic to Sady Doyle’s assessment of geekdom in her initial post, at least as it’s applicable to the large and noxious swamps of Interior Geekdom, so heavily populated by obnoxious, spoiled, reactionary adolescents and social retardates aged 13-55. And from what I can tell I think it’s entirely possible the books are too rapey by half (a common failing of attempts to correct for unrealism by substituting “grittiness,” as Rich has already noted), and that E.D. Kain’s argument, though reasonable enough, is wrong.

But… come on. Look at that. That really is just a slightly reworded version of saying “the only true fans of these books are rape apologists.” And that’s by a charitable rendering of what “rape-positive” could signify. Even by the very, very relaxed standards of Internet Jerkdom, there are provocations that qualify as gratuitous and stupid. An important lesson of threads like this one, as Henry correctly noted early on, is: don’t do stuff like that and then complain when other people jump down your throat. It’s going to happen, and (barring actual threats) they’ll be within their rights to do so. (A corollary: don’t defend that kind of bullshit and get frustrated when nobody else is impressed.)

Of course, the real lesson is y’all should have listened to those of us who actually tried to talk about Belle’s comic. But failing that, it’s a dream I have that hopefully we can all move on from this thread and grow as human beings into better citizens of the

Okay, I guess I couldn’t finish that sentence without laughing.

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 5:07 pm

as Henry correctly noted early on

(Correction: Henry alluded to a similar point, but the d^2 Rule for Contrarians still assumes some useful form of contrarianism. In this instance I am obviously not being that generous.)

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LizardBreath 09.28.11 at 5:19 pm

That really is just a slightly reworded version of saying “the only true fans of these books are rape apologists.”

Just to keep things clear, the ‘that’ in this sentence applies only to Bianca’s comment at 4:26?

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 5:21 pm

Correct: specifically to the sentence I excerpted from that comment.

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LizardBreath 09.28.11 at 5:24 pm

That’s what I thought — I just had trouble getting it straight on my initial reading, and didn’t want the thread to get all hostile again based on people misreading what you were talking about.

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 5:24 pm

(Though in the latter half of my paragraph that you quoted, I segue into broader territory, which is maybe a bit confusing.)

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 5:26 pm

I just had trouble getting it straight on my initial reading, and didn’t want the thread to get all hostile again based on people misreading what you were talking about.

I thank you. Although IMO the comment I was responding to has essentially already crossed the threshold of hostility.

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LizardBreath 09.28.11 at 5:31 pm

I’ve got nothing against hostility generally, but unfocused hostility based on misunderstandings I find displeasing. Directed, intentional hostility only!

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Steve Williams 09.28.11 at 5:39 pm

I just wanted to add in, I appreciate this little cup of unhappiness is nothing compared to the sheer undulating misery that this thread has caused, but was it really necessary to reveal the end of Perdido Street Station without the by-now Internet-standard “***SPOILERS***” or something similar? I’m a slow reader who is about halfway through that massive draught-excluder, and now I feel like I’ve wasted hours of my life. Again, no biggie, but kind of bummer nevertheless.

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bianca steele 09.28.11 at 5:41 pm

What LizardBreath said. If you read Alyssa Rosenberg’s commenters, you get some amazingly perceptive commenters who plainly find something worthwhile–and intelligent–about the novels. But you also see people occasionally implying that they think a novel where a woman wears a short skirt is less good (and less probable) than a novel where a woman wears a short skirt and is sexually assaulted. If that’s not rape-positive (and it doesn’t seem to encompass the full meaning of the word, which personally, I myself don’t quite grasp) it’s certainly not rape-negative.

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Antonio Conselheiro 09.28.11 at 5:48 pm

On the rapiness or not of the early Middle Ages, Duby’s “The Chivalrous Society” gives some clues. 1100 and onwards the aristocracy was in flux, but the general tendency was for noble fathers to produce a lot of extra sons who could not inherit. They’d be kicked out of the castle to roam the countryside killing one another, besieging castles, etc. They could try to steal someone else’s land and castle (difficult) or their could look for an heiress, a widow or daughter. Fortunately, they killed each other a lot, so in a certain proportion of cases women would inherit. Marrying an heiress was essentially the only possibility of maintaining one’s station.

Some say that this led to the love poetry of the troubadors. Knights wanted to get themselves on the list of eligible husbands for widows . On the other hand, one tactic was to take an eligible heiress into custody when she was very young and marry her when she was of age (16 or so).

It seems to be assumed that widows with castles needed to have a husband to defend the castle, but at least the castle gave her enough leverage that she could participate in the selection. (In Yvain, fiction, a widow marries the man who killed her husband within a week,).

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AcademicLurker 09.28.11 at 5:48 pm

a common failing of attempts to correct for unrealism by substituting “grittiness,” as Rich has already noted

This is something that has come up repeatedly in past discussions (not on CT) of various genre writing.

A lot of writers seem to reflexively reach for sexual assault as their go-to plot device when they want to convince people that their books are all, like, dark ‘n gritty ‘n sh*t.

Writers in the geekier genres such as fantasy tend to be particularly prone to it. Maybe because they feel particularly called upon to prove that they’re Serious Writers writing Serious Books in which Serious Stuff happens.

Not every portrayal of sexual assault qualifies of course, but it’s a lazy trivializing habit that’s pretty common.

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E.D. Kain 09.28.11 at 6:08 pm

So I’m not sure if this is important, but I left my initial comment on Sady’s post very soon after she posted, before she had ever posted that she was getting threats or spam or anything. I then tried to post a second comment after mine was spammed explaining that I was only trying to let her know that I’d written a response and there was no need to call it spam and make mocking comments about my looking for traffic. This was also spammed. After that my pride was wounded and I “moped about” on my blog (not across the internet…?) and acted silly about the whole thing. I was surprised at being accused of going after traffic. Then came the Professor Feminism post, etc. etc. I certainly didn’t try commenting at her blog after seeing that people were threatening to rape her or anything else of the sort, nor would I have at that point.

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chris y 09.28.11 at 6:10 pm

A lot of writers seem to reflexively reach for sexual assault as their go-to plot device when they want to convince people that their books are all, like, dark ‘n gritty ‘n sh*t.

True enough, and especially inexcusable in historical or fantasy pseudo-historical writing, because it’s a first world, or at the very least a 21st century reflex. If sexual assault is your immediate thought when you’re reaching for dark n’ gritty you need to get out more. Or stay in and read a few more books. I mean, how often in a “pre-modern” romance do you find the plot turned around by the death of a child, not the first in the family to die? How often do they really explore what it meant for you to have to prosecute in court, rather than have some smart attorney do it for you?

Heaven knows I don’t want to belittle sexual assault, but is there any reason to suppose that it was more prevalent as a proportion of the general violence and nastiness of society in the past than it is now? And yet they keep coming back to it. I find it deeply suspect.

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 6:37 pm

@bianca steele’s 5:41, while I don’t quite understand how it’s “what LizardBreath said,” is certainly a vast improvement over the previous post I replied to. So thank you, and I won’t say anything more about that.

As an aside (it’s going to be kind of a long aside, I guess): I don’t grasp what “rape-positive” is meant to mean either, and I strongly suspect this is because at its root, it really doesn’t mean much beyond its function as a way of accusing someone of being deviant or unwholesome on the subject while retaining a bit of deniability about having done so. There are after all a number of different ways someone could be “pro-rape”:

1. Believing rape is bad and rapists are bad, but also tacitly treating it as on some level appropriate as a punishment for evildoers and/or “uppity” or “loose” women. (A common manifestation of the chauvinistic attitudes exhibited in prison rape humour or popular myths about how “women who dress like X are asking for it.”)

2. Believing rape is bad, but also at some level tacitly getting off on titillating fantasies about dominance and control. (A bigger market among both men and women than many people are comfortable admitting.)

3. Essentially believing there’s no such thing as rape because women or underage boys or whoever your chosen target is secretly want it, or believing that rape isn’t bad because the target’s opinion of what they want or don’t want is of no consequence to the rightness of the act. (Mentalities commonly exhibited by real rapists.)

4. Believing that rape is usually bad, but that one’s specific circumstances necessitate or justify the use of rape as a tool of control, terror and authority. (A related mentality commonly exhibited by, say, prison gangs or armies in the field.)

5. Believing that rape is bad, but simply being mistaken or insensitive about or unaware of its true consequences, causes and remedies, to such a degree that you’re the sort of person who winds up as part of the problem despite your best intentions, the unconscious constituent of a variously-defined “rape culture.”

All of those are factors which could exist — often in overlapping forms — in some proportion of any random group of a hundred people. But most of them are also factors that most people in that same random group would punch you out over if accused of manifesting them face-to-face. The potential exception is 5., the most antiseptic and in a way the least judgmental possibility, which is where the deniability part comes in. But the term “rape-positive” essentially blurs the distinction between that and previous factors, and between all of them and a further factor that usually elicits its use:

6. Believes that rape can be permissibly portrayed, alluded to or even joked about in a way I do not feel is appropriate or comfortable.

And who knows? An instance of 6. may well overlap with some of those other factors, or it may not, or it may from some points of view and not others. There are sure to be examples of both. OTOH it may be just as likely — it’s certainly just as well-attested a phenomenon — that censoriousness on the subject masks some of those same objectionable or unsavoury or at the very least embarrassing “rape-positive” beliefs and proclivities. It’s all very vague and allusive and yet despite that, or because of it, maximally insulting and provocative at the very same time.

Given that, it would seem awfully hard to find a way to make the term into more signal than noise.

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 6:48 pm

221: True enough, and especially inexcusable in historical or fantasy pseudo-historical writing, because it’s a first world, or at the very least a 21st century reflex.

I think it’s an overused device, too, but not necessarily a “deeply suspect” one. No matter how foreign the setting people write about, it tends to be incredibly hard to avoid projecting the concerns of your own society onto it in someway. (Or at least, it’s incredibly hard to avoid doing so and still have a readership, because people find it incredibly hard to be engaged with a truly and entirely foreign setting.) And modern 21st century society is obsessed with sexual assault and abuse because it’s a huge factor in the lives of many people we know, or in many of the stories we see on the news and read on the paper, or in the Freudian-derived explanations from criminal behaviour that are woven deep into popular consciousness, or in many of our culture’s subterranean entertainments or as a subtext in many of its popular ones. This familiarity in fact seems to be, from their accounts, what appeals to many readers about GRRM’s use of the trope when they talk about his having created characters they feel like they’ve met in real life. (This also is, of course, a tip-off that what’s going on is not necessarily period-appropriate realism.)

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chris y 09.28.11 at 7:26 pm

This familiarity in fact seems to be, from their accounts, what appeals to many readers about GRRM’s use of the trope when they talk about his having created characters they feel like they’ve met in real life.

Yes! Spot on! What I find deeply suspect is only partly the authors’ obsession with sexual assault. It’s also the fact that their defenders/fans are not just satisfied with putting a period costume on a contemporary pot boiler, they hail it as an achievement. Excuse me, I made the wrong career choice – how hard is that?

I’m not saying there isn’t a legitimate place for contemporary romances. I’m not saying either that they shouldn’t be gritty (Catherine Cookson) or cloaked in period/pseudo-period costume (Georgette Heyer, whom I adore because she’s so fucking funny). My objection is that these people are writing about 21st century concerns with a bit of gadzookery in the dialogue (OK) and being hailed as geniuses for doing it by people who evidently haven’t the critical wherewithal to understand that this is all they’re doing (OK), who are then taken seriously (not OK).

Now, if somebody said to me that GRRM was the Heyer of para-medieval fantasy, I’d probably buy one to read on the train. But we’re being bombarded with the idea that this is something on a higher plane, and that this ambition/recondition excuses the unpleasantness of the narrative. No.

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 7:37 pm

Well, writing good fiction and good characters isn’t easy, whether they’re period-appropriate or potboilers or otherwise. But overratedness is no reason in itself not to read someone; Tolkien is mercilessly overrated but still a fun read. If the same fate befalls Martin, well, I suspect worse things have happened in the world of literature. (For instance.)

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dbk 09.28.11 at 7:43 pm

Dear Belle,
Although you’ve signed off now, I appreciated your crooked tumblr of humanity cartoon. It was great, really – what didn’t it have? Contemporary politics (ycch), weirdness (xkcd), marriage (!), whimsy … with a touch of the underbelly of post-modernity (concern about Mitt Romney’s interior life), not to mention a cool reference to your blog itself (title).

As near as I can tell, there was a threadjacking (new vocab word) at 7, aided and abetted by comment 8, and then things got permanently derailed. However, you succeeded in generating generated tons of mansplaining (new vocab word), sthg CT excels at. I note you also attracted a couple of Very Important Male Academic Bloggers, too – so kudos, I think.

As a reader of almost every post and comment thread on this site, I’m grateful to the blog hosts because I learn so much from them, but it is a bit of a boysite (new vocab word just invented by me). The language is that of high-level male academic discourse, with comments in a similar discourse and of a comparable level. It is what it is; I accept it because I admire it, but I really hesitate before commenting.

Nonetheless, I’m going to (dare to) address a comment by Henry @60 (iirc) re: the Stieg Larsson trilogy. I don’t read fantasy or sf at all, but I read a fair amount of crime fiction. To me, the extreme violence of the Millennium series was not titillating, and it certainly didn’t feel gratuitous; it was an integral element of the series, which is in one sense an attempt to reveal a very dark and largely hidden side of northern European society. It shocked, it appalled, it enraged – all of these, certainly, but it didn’t titillate. Its heroine is highly uncharismatic, but she fascinates: alienated yet engaged in a relentless search for truth/justice; abused and willing to retaliate in kind (not a common trope for female heroines); a (female) geek among an amorphous network of (male) geeks. Yes, it does shock that a woman (a tiny, weird, marginalized woman at that) should seek revenge in kind (that she should meet sadism with sadism). Some women when pushed to the limit will retaliate with words (er, sort of like Belle did when she signed off @196); others will retaliate with actions. Wiki notes that the original Swedish title for the first volume in the series was “Men Who Hate Women”, which I hadn’t known when I read the series, but it seems to me a much more telling (if unattractive) title than “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.

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chris y 09.28.11 at 7:43 pm

Oh, comity, for heaven’s sake! I was trying to make it clear that I don’t mind stuff being overrated, I mind people becoming pompously or offensively invested in overrating it. If I failed, mea culpa.

On the other hand, if the effect of people overrating entertaining rubbish is that they downgrade the moral and political concerns of half the population in doing so, we may have a larger problem.

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Doctor Slack 09.28.11 at 7:47 pm

Oh, comity, for heaven’s sake!

Yes, yes! Comity all around, chris! My words of mild disagreement were nevertheless offered in the overall spirit of sweet Concord, which I guess didn’t come across.

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Barry Freed 09.28.11 at 8:14 pm

B-but what if the victims were bankers? How does everyone feel then?

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michael e sullivan 09.28.11 at 8:19 pm

@198: oddly, I am going through this thread and mostly reading the women commenters, ignoring pretty much everyone else except to the extent they are engaging with you.

I think you pretty much nailed what’s going on in 172.

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between4walls 09.28.11 at 8:55 pm

@227- A fair number of women enjoy this “entertaining rubbish,” so I don’t think overrating it is a sign of downgrading half the world’s concerns. I’m a woman and wouldn’t count myself a fan but I find the books interesting and entertaining, and plenty of women like the aforementioned Jo Walton and Alyssa Rosenberg are quite as passionately invested in ASOIAF as the male fans.

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CRW 09.28.11 at 9:04 pm

1. I like Crooked Timber a lot and read it a lot. I have noticed the dearth of comments by women, in general.
2. I’m living in London and went with my daughter to the British Library last week, and walking past the J. Lennon sketches etc. suddenly saw the open page, “Reader, I married him.” Faintness, swooning, and Bronte-bonding.
3. I asked my techie brother what tumblr was the other day–and, even though I’m old, I like xkcd. I also like your very gentle mocking of your husband’s latest Crooked Timber obsession.
4. As a teen and young woman I read a lot of fantasy. At some point I realized that as a female I was there on sufferance–when I reacted just like one of the boys things were cool, but if my gendered reality was different from the male norm, it was my reality that had to give.
5. This is not different from my experience in any other area, particularly academia.
6. There’s nothing like an academic/geek shoutdown of a woman’s perspective to send one quietly toward the exit.
7. This may have something to do with #1. Nevertheless,
8. Thanks to those who stick it out.

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Bloix 09.28.11 at 9:10 pm

#200- I competely agree. And so unexpected, after the moving sections of The Reverse of the Medal and The Commodore. After years of forced bad choices imposed on her by patriarchal social mores – all brilliantly observed and sensitively expressed – he had finally gotten her to a place where she could act freely, without the constraints of poverty and position defining her – and what did he do? He dumped her in a river without a good-bye glance. It was a shabby thing to do.

I don’t much like fantasy – as you see, I look elsewhere for the pleasures of genre fiction – so I don’t intend to read GRRM, but I thought Sady Doyle’s post was absolutely brilliant and should be required reading for all college-age men.

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soru 09.28.11 at 10:18 pm

Back before I quite noticed Scott Adams was a misogynist arsehole, I had a pretty successful political tactic at work based on selecting the Dilbert cartoon that best described whatever I didn’t want to happen.

The key was to, with a grin, give it to the guy making the decision before he got it wrong. Printing it out and sticking it to the coffee machine after the stupid decision had been made would just have been passive-aggressive.

In related news, here’s a link to xkcd.

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Brad DeLong 09.29.11 at 1:31 am

Just spent afternoon rereading “Inversions”. Clear to me (at least) that Vossill is never Damsel in Distress. Perrund’s position is more fraught. Don’t know about issues. Looking for guidance…

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MPAVictoria 09.29.11 at 2:27 am

“1. I like Crooked Timber a lot and read it a lot. I have noticed the dearth of comments by women, in general.”

Since a large number (a majority?) of posters here post under pseudonyms how do you know this is the case?
/Not saying you are wrong.

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Witt 09.29.11 at 2:36 am

when I reacted just like one of the boys things were cool, but if my gendered reality was different from the male norm, it was my reality that had to give.

Fair warning; I am going to steal this shamelessly and quote it often.

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mds 09.29.11 at 3:49 am

Well, I thought the cartoon was a lovely homage, even as someone who liked the latest xkcd about neutrinos. And I enjoyed the way it hinged on Professor Holbo and his provocative literary subgenre of “Yes, but would we ever come out from under our beds if we really thought Michele Bachmann means what she says?”

On the other hand, ajay @ 162 wrote:

if he’s the Greatest Investigative Reporter in All Sweden, he should jolly well act like the GIRAS from time to time, and he doesn’t

and now I keep thinking about “Buck” Blomkvist, GIRAT (Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time) and one of the main protagonists of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Who Was Left Behind. Thanks a bunch, ajay.

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Doctor Slack 09.29.11 at 3:14 pm

mds: even as someone who liked the latest xkcd about neutrinos.

Okay, so, I know it’s hard to explain why one finds a thing funny… but might you be interested in taking a shot at it? I’m genuinely curious on this.

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Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 09.29.11 at 3:42 pm

“So I’m not sure if this is important, but I left my initial comment on Sady’s post very soon after she posted, before she had ever posted that she was getting threats or spam or anything. “

Ah well, she deleted my post pointing out that one of the minor male characters gets raped (and later sacrificed to the Drowned God), and that the Unsullied, being eunuchs, have been gelded.
One of the main male characters [it is thought] also has been gelded and possibly raped, in addition to his mutilation and torture.

So it’s not like the males get off scot-free from sexual violence in GRRM’s novels. Much of it is off-screen, but it’s still there.

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Aspartame 09.29.11 at 4:18 pm

One of the things I find most fascinating about this is the focus on rape. Certainly if you were unhappy about what we in the modern day civilized world would consider violent crime, the fact that thousands of people, including major characters of both genders, are constantly tortured to death, casually murdered, poisoned, or slaughtered wholesale seems like a salient issue. Minimally, everyone in all of the books is premeditating murder essentially all the time, probably at a 1000:1 ratio to the amount of rape they’re planning to do.

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mds 09.29.11 at 6:57 pm

I’m genuinely curious on this.

Well, uh … Astoundingly, it’s probably a combination of factors. As someone who has been involved in physics, the life sciences, and information technology, I have been hit with internet-amplified anecdotes about as-yet non-peer reviewed phenomena from several different directions (Einstein was wrong**, weird new particle overturns physics, apparent cure for Fillintheblank’s Disease discovered, exploit in SHA-512 hash function renders all computer accounts insecure, etc.). This whole “faster than light neutrinos” thing has been an especially egregious example, being the first major “Relativity doomed?” outbreak I’m aware of since Twitter became so mainstream. Hence, if one were of a mercenary bent, it might be nice to make some money off of overly-credulous people, rather than repeatedly noting stuff about supernovae, the Standard Model, GPS, etc. And one would only have to pay out if there really had been some genuinely radical breakthrough, which would provide non-monetary compensation to someone of a scientific bent. It’s win-win! So it’s more a case of identifying with one of the protagonists than rolling on the floor because it contained great pun about leptons.

… There, that’s what the cartoon means to me, in a wordy and awkward style. Wherever you are, I expect hilarity has just ensued.

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Lemuel Pitkin 09.29.11 at 9:07 pm

Wow, E. D. Kain is still going on about losing his little comment. Can I quote from the second Sady Doyle post?

Unbelievably, I don’t need George R. R. Martin, or any man, to tell me what that’s like: It’s my actual no-fooling life, which I do believe I know more about than George R. R. Martin. Like most women, I currently live in a society where violence, harassment and scary shit can break out at any moment, just because I told some random asshole “no” without bothering to be nice about it. Doing that is so dangerous that most women don’t dare; after a few scary incidents, they learn to make up excuses, to smile, to be sweet and welcoming, to act as if every single random asshole on the street is a precious new friend that they would just LOVE to stand outside of the Chipotle and chat with FOR HOURS, if only cruel fate had not intervened. That’s what it’s actually like, being a woman: Playing nice with every random asshole, because this random asshole might be the one who hurts you. And then, if he hurts you anyway, they’ll tell you that you led him on…. Have you ever had a random dude come up to you and say, “hey, I wanna talk to you?” And have you ever just said “no?” Then you know what happens next. The dude keeps talking. And if he doesn’t get what he wants, he lashes out. And that is exactly what Professor Feminism is doing, right now, in the name of his enlightened, anti-sexist views.

And now I’m sure Kain will explain that no, it wasn’t like that at all, that Sady Doyle is just confused (or arguing in bad faith), and he’ll tell us how she really experienced their exchange.

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lemmy caution 09.29.11 at 10:50 pm

I am uncomfortable about how they rape up genres generally considered to be juvenile in order to make them more “adult”. People point fingers at that dr. light comic but “watchman” is really the start of that shit in comics.

There was a while in the 1960s-1970s where there was actually a lot of pro-rape stuff in popular culture. Check out “high plains drifter” some time.

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ScentOfViolets 09.29.11 at 11:46 pm

4. As a teen and young woman I read a lot of fantasy. At some point I realized that as a female I was there on sufferance—when I reacted just like one of the boys things were cool, but if my gendered reality was different from the male norm, it was my reality that had to give.
5. This is not different from my experience in any other area, particularly academia.
6. There’s nothing like an academic/geek shoutdown of a woman’s perspective to send one quietly toward the exit.

Heh. Try being one of the few male holdouts in a Feminist studies class and see who’s reality has to give. Yeah, it sucks to be in the minority – especially when the minority is right – but that’s just the way it is. There’s nothing there that really privileges one gender over another in that regard.

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ScentOfViolets 09.29.11 at 11:51 pm

Like most women, I currently live in a society where violence, harassment and scary shit can break out at any moment, just because I told some random asshole “no” without bothering to be nice about it.

Sigh. Sounds to me like someone needs to grow up. If I respond in an uncivil fashion to any random request or question, the chances are I’m going to get an uncivil reply back.

This is news?

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Doctor Slack 09.29.11 at 11:57 pm

Wow, E. D. Kain is still going on about losing his little comment.

Okay, what? I haven’t seen Kain do anything except quite civilly explain his actions at any given point, and quite civilly admit that he was wrong to “go on” about it, so I don’t understand why various people are trying to act like he’s been some evil troll. He’s not the one who’s looking ridiculous at this point (and quoting and/or defending Sady’s histrionic ranting on the subject of mansplaining isn’t much help either; I suspect that that’s why many people stopped responding to Belle after her 172).

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Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 12:01 am

There’s nothing there that really privileges one gender over another in that regard.

I disagree. I would even have said that disagreeing is sort of constitutive of being a feminist. But you took a class, so…

250

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 12:11 am

SoV, missing the point! Saying “fuck off” might provoke some swearing if you are a guy. But if you are a girl it can lead to quite a bit of harassment and possibly violence.

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ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 12:15 am

Er, no, I’ve never taken a class in Feminist studies. I’m merely pointing out there’s a difference between being a human being first and a man or woman second . . . and considering oneself to be a man or a woman first and a human being second.

And it looks to me that the majority ganging up on the minority, however you slice them – race, religion, money, gender – is very much just what humans do. Women as well as men, men as well as women. I also happen to believe that, even if you disagree with it, it’s not remotely controversial as an opinion.

But that’s just me.

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Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 12:24 am

mds: Hence, if one were of a mercenary bent, it might be nice to make some money off of overly-credulous people

Yeah, it seems to me like this idea was supposed to be what makes it a joke, rather than just a workaday observation that here they go again with the sensationalist junk science. But… I dunno, seemed like it would have been funny if he’d set up some way for it to be actually plausible for all these people to be taking bets with the geeky hero. It seems like for the joke to work, we have to assume these people are stupid about everything rather than just uneducated about the science.

Still, thanks for humoring me. As it were.

253

Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 1:22 am

Dudes… I’m surprised that comments haven’t been closed, but since they haven’t, and since men are still going on about the mansplaining part of this, we really shouldn’t. A guy going on about mansplaining, pro or con, is a kind of subset of mansplaining. Writing about a strange definition of spam, or about the books, or about the comic of course was fine in this thread, I thought, but when someone says that they’re writing out of a certain lived experience that you don’t have, there’s nothing you can really say about it.

And it’s not exactly a new, neologism thing either. I was in a Men Against Rape group more than 20 years ago which was all-male for pretty much exactly the same reason — there are times when someone says “I don’t want you in my space” and really, the best thing to do is just get out of their space. That wasn’t the only reason for the group — there were male victims of rape (by other men, of course) in it, and it was easier for them to get support without having to explain certain things every time — anyways, the Internet is very big, and 99% of it is fine with guys going on however they want, so maybe this really predictable argument should be had somewhere else.

254

Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 2:06 am

A guy going on about mansplaining, pro or con, is a kind of subset of mansplaining.

I’m not going on about “mansplaining” as such pro or con, as it happens; I’m just “going on” about people dishing out unnecessary abuse to a participant in a discussion who’s done nothing I can detect to deserve it, and using Sady’s shoddily-constructed and over-the-top remarks as an excuse to do so. I was actually resolved to leave this alone, and probably will hereafter, except it sort of seems like Crooked Timber’s particular tiny corner of the Internet might benefit from promoting some attention to when a thing someone is saying makes sense and when it doesn’t, this being part of the avowed purpose of the blog, and that’s been bugging me as I watched all this.

(As it happens I also don’t buy the contention that there’s a valid self-sealing rationale for refusing critiques of “mansplaining” as a trope; much as I get it that the existing critiques are often tiresome, this is also meant to be something of a philosophy blog if I’m not mistaken, right? I confess I was a bit blown away when the poster started lecturing a fellow-blogger upthread about how unfair it was to bring up his hifalutin’ lit-crit notions of the ways people should interact with authors. Where the hell else are such notions supposed to be relevant if not on a blog like CT?)

255

MPAVictoria 09.30.11 at 2:08 am

“men are still going on about the mansplaining part of this, we really shouldn’t. A guy going on about mansplaining, pro or con, is a kind of subset of mansplaining.”

Since when did this place turn into Shakesville? Are we going to have to start using trigger warnings and agreeing to ridiculous manifestos in order to avoid the dreaded label of “Fauxgressive”.

256

John Holbo 09.30.11 at 4:14 am

I’m sure glad I stayed out of this thread boy howdy. But, from up here on Olympus, looking down at all the little people, I can regret that Sady Doyle didn’t call her first post something like “A Performative Transvaluation of Fansplanatory Values, With Incidental Reference To George RR Martin”, so that then she could have called the second post “A Performative Transvaluation of Mansplanatory Values, With Incidental Reference To Whoever That Guy Is”. That style of framing might have made it clearer what would, and wouldn’t, count as profitable interventions in the whole Sady Doyle doing-her-thing thing.

In general, if there is such a thing as mansplaining, there must be such a thing as fansplaining, mutatis mutandis. On this the pagan philosophers and the church fathers are agreed.

257

lemmy caution 09.30.11 at 6:00 am

258

John Holbo 09.30.11 at 1:02 pm

259

Gareth Rees 09.30.11 at 2:30 pm

Fansplaining is a much-needed term. We’ve all seen it: fans who over-identify with a work, who take every critical reading of that work as a personal attack, and who think that sufficiently forceful arguments might persuade the rest of the world that their own reading is the only valid one.

It’s fans who explain that Tolkien’s essentialist treatment of races is not at all racist, that Heinlein never flirts with the boundaries between libertarianism and fascism, that medieval fantasy isn’t massively politically conservative, …

(I can’t even say I don’t do this kind of thing myself.)

260

Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 3:02 pm

Fans of Jersey Shore, of course, engage in tansplaining.

261

mds 09.30.11 at 3:40 pm

I’m going to have to unsubscribe from this blog if it degenerates into nothing but splainsplaining.

262

Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 4:12 pm

Sorry mds, I couldn’t hear you over the sound of Gordon Ramsay pansplaining.

263

LizardBreath 09.30.11 at 4:13 pm

There’s nothing worse than someone wearing the wrong tartan who defends her error by clansplaining.

264

soru 09.30.11 at 4:15 pm

I think Brown Eyed Girl is a really good song, and Astral Weeks is in no way over-rated.

265

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 4:20 pm

What about the chief whose pots are too large and this error is defended by pansplaining?

266

Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 4:20 pm

I think Brown Eyed Girl is a really good song, and Astral Weeks is in no way over-rated.

Awesome. soru wins.

267

LizardBreath 09.30.11 at 4:23 pm

I think the point could have been made better by noting that the shag carpeting was a real addition to the interior of the Mystery Machine.

268

bianca steele 09.30.11 at 4:29 pm

I can’t bring myself to read the last dozen or so comments, but I appreciate the painfree introduction to tumblr, and the humorous critique of John’s last few posts. But since he has brought up the p word, I will add that the performative value of that 6-point analysis of Woman in Society does somewhat elude me.

269

Kevin 09.30.11 at 4:41 pm

252: “…going on about the mansplaining part of this, we really shouldn’t”.

sanssplaining?

270

bianca steele 09.30.11 at 4:52 pm

I confess I was a bit blown away when the poster started lecturing a fellow-blogger upthread about how unfair it was to bring up his hifalutin’ lit-crit notions of the ways people should interact with authors.

What? We’re interacting with George R.R. Martin here? That sounds a little . . . well . . . creepy, and if he thought that’s what we’re doing, he might well be within his rights to say the whole bunch of us ought to just stop right now.

Also, was I mistaken about which of those fellow posters has a literature/humanities degree?

Curioser and curiouser.

271

mds 09.30.11 at 5:38 pm

“Curioser and curiouser.”

Stop interacting with Lewis Carroll, please.

A mansplaining. A plansplaining. A canalsplaining. Panamasplaining!

272

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 6:21 pm

252: “…going on about the mansplaining part of this, we really shouldn’t”.

sanssplaining?

More like ‘plainsplaining, actually.

273

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 6:33 pm

. . . but when someone says that they’re writing out of a certain lived experience that you don’t have, there’s nothing you can really say about it.

I remember a few Thanksgivings back when the men were telling war stories and one of them went something like “I blacked out after taking the phosphorous in the shoulder and the lead in the belly. When I came too, Charlie was out in force, bayoneting the bodies to see who was faking. I kept still, because I needed to stay alive and report back. Afterwords, the VC encamped 20 yards off, so I couldn’t crawl away, not even when the rats were out gnawing on my privates. Then the fire ants came. A day and a half later, they left and it took me another day and a half to make the rendezvous point and debrief. I lost the arm, but at least we knew which way they were moving.”

Then one of our wider-hipped women spoke up and said something to the effect of “Yeah . . . yeah. That’s pretty good. But until you’ve given birth to a child after 20 hours of labor, you just don’t know what pain is.”

The older I get the more resorting to “you don’t know what it’s like” rings hollow as a catch-all for any sort of bad behaviour.

274

MPAVictoria 09.30.11 at 6:54 pm

“I remember a few Thanksgivings back when the men were telling war stories and one of them went something like “I blacked out after taking the phosphorous in the shoulder and the lead in the belly. When I came too, Charlie was out in force, bayoneting the bodies to see who was faking. I kept still, because I needed to stay alive and report back. Afterwords, the VC encamped 20 yards off, so I couldn’t crawl away, not even when the rats were out gnawing on my privates. Then the fire ants came. A day and a half later, they left and it took me another day and a half to make the rendezvous point and debrief. I lost the arm, but at least we knew which way they were moving.”

Then one of our wider-hipped women spoke up and said something to the effect of “Yeah . . . yeah. That’s pretty good. But until you’ve given birth to a child after 20 hours of labor, you just don’t know what pain is.”

The older I get the more resorting to “you don’t know what it’s like” rings hollow as a catch-all for any sort of bad behaviour.”

Is this like one of Thomas Friedman’s cab driver stories?

275

Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 7:26 pm

What? We’re interacting with George R.R. Martin here?

If George R.R. Martin didn’t want me to interact with him, he shouldn’t leave the house dressed like that.

Also, was I mistaken about which of those fellow posters has a literature/humanities degree?

No, which is exactly what made it So Much Worse. But never mind.

276

politicalfootball 09.30.11 at 7:27 pm

“. . . a group of painters have come to the common conclusion that the most banal and even vulgar trappings of modern civilization can, when transposed to canvas, become Art” – Andy Warhol on the visual appeal of Campbell’s soup containers.

277

Soru 09.30.11 at 7:28 pm

It appears to be Namsplaining.

(die meme die)

278

rf 09.30.11 at 7:52 pm

@ SOV
Being a man Iv never given birth, and as Im also relatively young most of my female friends havent either/wouldnt go into detail about the specifics of their labour if they had.
But from what Iv picked up in my short life it seems its actually not that painful. Uncomfortable maybe but nothing to lose sleep over.
Itd lead me to think that maybe you should take stories originating from your family at thanksgiving with a pinch of salt.
For a man of such high evidentiary standards youv missed the ball on this one

In relation to the cartoon I like it alot, mainly since rich p’s explanation above (? I think, I cant remember who it was)

279

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 8:35 pm

The older I get the more resorting to “you don’t know what it’s like” rings hollow as a catch-all for any sort of bad behaviour.”

Is this like one of Thomas Friedman’s cab driver stories?

No. Yet another edition of simple answers to stupid questions.

280

MPAVictoria 09.30.11 at 8:39 pm

“No. Yet another edition of simple answers to stupid questions.”

Charming as ever SoV. Good to have you back.

281

Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 8:53 pm

rf: “But from what Iv picked up in my short life it seems its actually not that painful.”

See, now that’s some mansplaining right there. Well illustrated.

282

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 9:00 pm

Itd lead me to think that maybe you should take stories originating from your family at thanksgiving with a pinch of salt.
For a man of such high evidentiary standards youv missed the ball on this one

Hmmm? Not only does it not seem to follow from anything I said, I can’t even make out what you are trying to say.

283

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 9:09 pm

“No. Yet another edition of simple answers to stupid questions.”

Charming as ever SoV. Good to have you back.

Since this is in response to your:

Is this like one of Thomas Friedman’s cab driver stories?

which, I might add, you also conveniently snipped, it strikes me that you don’t have a leg to stand on. Or is this an example of gratuitous nastiness that’s not really gratuitous, ’cause it’s all about making a point, see? And I just don’t know what it’s like because I haven’t been there?

If I were you, I’d put down the shovel. Next time, make more of an effort to be polite. Also, don’t complain when unwarranted snarkiness receives a reply in the same tone – like I originally said. Nobody likes a whiner.

284

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 9:15 pm

rf: “But from what Iv picked up in my short life it seems its actually not that painful.”

See, now that’s some mansplaining right there. Well illustrated.

I thought the original mansplainer in this subthread was the relative in my story who said that until men have given birth to a child they don’t know what real pain is like. Not unless they had also been shot, stabbed, gnawed on by rats and fire ants, and then lost an arm.

But that’s just me, I guess.

285

Doctor Slack 09.30.11 at 9:23 pm

I thought the original mansplainer in this subthread was the relative in my story who said that until men have given birth to a child they don’t know what real pain is like.

No, that would be momsplaining. If moms were accepted targets for that form of snark.

286

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 9:35 pm

While I got several hits (besides the urban dictionary, of course) for mansplaining, nothing seems to come up for momsplaining except a redirection to mansplaining.

I’d hate to think that while it’s allowed that women also mansplain in theory, in practice that examples that are actually presented are disallowed ;-)

287

Bloix 09.30.11 at 9:39 pm

#263 – I take it that’s vansplaining?
Seriously, it’s way too late for anyone to be saying anything seriously. SoV, don’t forget to turn out the lights when you’ve finished washing up.

288

MPAVictoria 09.30.11 at 9:47 pm

“Next time, make more of an effort to be polite.”

You slay me.

I would also like to point out that I was not the only one who found your tale a touch theatrical and that my question was a sincere one. Often times people tell a story to illustrate a point and are more concerned with making that point than the veracity of every detail. One of the better illustrations of this is a scene in No Country For Old Men where the old sherif is telling the fugitive’s wife a story to try and get her to tell him where the fugitive is hiding.

“Carla Jean Moss: Sheriff, was that a true story about Charlie Walser?
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell: Who’s Charlie Walser? Oh! Well… uh… a true story? I couldn’t swear to every detail but it’s certainly true that it is a story.”

The important part of his story is not whether it is true or not but whether it makes the desired point. This is a common rhetorical device and I was curious if that was the case with your tail of fire ants and limb loss.

289

rf 09.30.11 at 10:23 pm

Indeed it was Doctor Slack, well observed.

290

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 10:26 pm

“Next time, make more of an effort to be polite.”

You slay me.

Uh-huh. That’s why you actually quoted where I was impolite as justification for your snark.

You slay me ;-)

I would also like to point out that I was not the only one who found your tale a touch theatrical and that my question was a sincere one.

Point one: if that’s your question, be polite when you ask it. You quite manifestly weren’t, and nobody forced you to be impolite, nor I was being impolite in the telling of the story. You don’t have a leg to stand on here . . . but don’t let that stop you from not admitting you behaved poorly.

Point two: While I don’t know the details of this guy lost his right arm, I do know he is in fact missing his right arm. Kind of hard to fake. I also know that other people who know him a lot better than I do seem to be under the impression that when he was drafted he had two arms and came back with one. Is he exaggerating, embellishing, coloring up what really happened for the sake of a good story? I really don’t know. But that’s the story he tells.

Now, my family is most definitely working class and we have a lot of members who have served in the military, voluntary and otherwise. It strikes me that you seem to be one of those people who can’t viscerally accept that folk like us really exist. My apologies, but really, we do. Like my Uncle Carl, who worked on a road crew all his life and smoked unfiltered Camels, dead by the age of 45. Perhaps you’d like to whip out something to document his existence, a medical certificate listing his cause of death?

Sheesh.

291

Kevin 09.30.11 at 10:28 pm

“This is a common rhetorical device and I was curious if that was the case with your tail of fire ants and limb loss.”

I’ll answer for SoV here. No — every detail of that story was literally true. I can prove it using real ‘rithmetic.

292

MPAVictoria 09.30.11 at 11:16 pm

“Point one: if that’s your question, be polite when you ask it. You quite manifestly weren’t, and nobody forced you to be impolite, nor I was being impolite in the telling of the story. “
I didn’t find my comment impolite. I explained why I asked it so I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

“Point two: While I don’t know the details of this guy lost his right arm, I do know he is in fact missing his right arm. Kind of hard to fake. I also know that other people who know him a lot better than I do seem to be under the impression that when he was drafted he had two arms and came back with one. Is he exaggerating, embellishing, coloring up what really happened for the sake of a good story? I really don’t know. But that’s the story he tells.”
I wasn’t asking the guy with a missing arm I was asking the guy anonymously posting on the internet.

“Now, my family is most definitely working class and we have a lot of members who have served in the military, voluntary and otherwise. It strikes me that you seem to be one of those people who can’t viscerally accept that folk like us really exist. “
Making assumptions is dangerous SoV. Why not ask me what my family background is?

“I’ll answer for SoV here. No—every detail of that story was literally true. I can prove it using real ‘rithmetic.”
Okay. Now that was funny.

293

Soru 09.30.11 at 11:26 pm

Mathsplainin’?

294

ScentOfViolets 10.01.11 at 12:10 am

“Point one: if that’s your question, be polite when you ask it. You quite manifestly weren’t, and nobody forced you to be impolite, nor I was being impolite in the telling of the story. ”
I didn’t find my comment impolite. I explained why I asked it so I guess we will just have to agree to disagree.

Uh-huh. Well then, since I don’t find my response any snarkier than your comment, I guess you’ll just have to agree that your dyspeptic reply afterwords to be rude and uncalled-for. It’s that little think we Mathsplainers like to call consistency ;-)

I really don’t know. But that’s the story he tells.”
I wasn’t asking the guy with a missing arm I was asking the guy anonymously posting on the internet.

Uh-huh. You were asking me if made up that story, and made the comparison to those infamous cab-drivers that Friedman always seems to find.

But you don’t think you were being snarky, rude, or impolite while doing so, and furthermore, it’s your opinion that counts. And if I don’t think I’m responding in a way that’s more snarky than yours, why, the opinion that counts is still yours.

Snicker. I think we’re done here.

Later, you mansplaining thing you ;-) Really. As Bloix said, be the last one to turn out the lights if that’s what you want.

295

MPAVictoria 10.01.11 at 12:12 am

“Later, you mansplaining thing you ;-) Really. As Bloix said, be the last one to turn out the lights if that’s what you want.”

Oh you.
:-)

296

John Holbo 10.01.11 at 1:34 am

“Later, you mansplaining thing you” -

“You gorgeous hunk of mansplanation!”

Or [in Bugs Bunny voice]:

“Here, for goodness’ sake, let me fix it up! Look how stringy and messy it is! What a SHAME! Such an IN-teresting mansplainer, too! My stars, if an IN-teresting mansplainer can’t have an IN-teresting hairdo, then I don’t know what things are coming to. In my business you meet so many IN-teresting people – Bobby pins, please – but the most IN-teresting ones are the mansplainers. Oh, dear, that will never stay. We’ll just have to have a permanemanent.”

297

Salient 10.01.11 at 4:15 am

(die meme die)

happy to help!

Network system administrators spend a lot of time LANsplaining.

Anathem characters are prone to man-planing.

It is impossible to adapt this meme to the circumstance of having a former lover condescendingly droll on to you. (Hyphenating explaining as ex-plaining doesn’t cut it.)

298

Odm 10.01.11 at 5:37 am

“We usually flood the beds with half a foot of water, then pump them up for cleaning, storing, and packaging” the farmer cransplained.

299

John Holbo 10.01.11 at 5:45 am

No no salient it works just fine. Exsplaining (with an ‘s’) is what happens when a former lover condescendingly drolls – or trolls, as the case may be.

Also, in the context of George RR Martin, bransplaining is what Bran Stark does whenever he starts going on about the three-eyed crow:

http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Three-eyed_crow

Slansplaining is when you start acting like the the protagonist of a certain novel by Van Vogt.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slan

But really this is just fansplaining on stilts.

300

Salient 10.01.11 at 5:57 pm

Having momentarily misread the Van Vogt line, I am now fond of ‘slangsplaining’

301

JP Stormcrow 10.01.11 at 7:16 pm

Rich P. on Spinrad: Spinrad didn’t try to make his Hitler-as-SF-hero story entertaining. On the contrary, it was grimly boring as well as being horrific.

I certainly agree that The Iron Dream succeeds brilliantly. I wonder what your take is on his horrific novel of a few years earlier, The Men in the Jungle? I think it is a brilliant book, but am a bit more conflicted on my reasons. I assume Spinrad was in part “critiquing” himself in the latter book.

And speaking of Spinrad and books that could not be published in the US, his Osama the Gun appears to be worth a look.

302

Doctor Slack 10.01.11 at 8:22 pm

his Osama the Gun appears to be worth a look.

I looked at the first few pages of the freebie section he put out. Hmmmm. I’m not sure it’s only the politics of the book that have made it hard for him to find a publisher.

303

ajay 10.03.11 at 10:26 am

“We’re just trying to preserve our Southern culture’n’heritage, you Yankees wouldn’t understand,” Slidell klansplained.

304

MPAVictoria 10.03.11 at 1:45 pm

“klansplained”
And here I thought no one would top LANsplaining. Bravo!

305

Barry Freed 10.03.11 at 5:08 pm

“Skin cancer be damned, I look marvelous,” George Hamilton tansplained.

306

garymar 10.03.11 at 11:52 pm

My God, these are the new Tom Swifties!

“These former British army officers committed many atrocities against Irish civilians!” he blackandtansplained.

May God have mercy on my soul.

307

JP Stormcrow 10.04.11 at 2:39 am

303, 304: Well ajay cheated by reading a 1000-page book just to get in the right mindset.

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