Though it isn’t by any means a recent trend, the cult of the Raging Feminist has come to my attention a lot lately, mostly due to the recent love of A Song of Ice and Fire in my apartment right now. As a series with a good deal of sex, rape, whoring, abuse, etc, etc, etc (and, thank you, HBO, for the unrelenting nudity to help things along), it’s a field day for the Raging Feminist. Though my roommate and I are the self-proclaimed “worst feminists ever” (because we believe in true equality, that being girly or sexual is okay sometimes, and lovingly call each other demeaning names instead of more traditional greetings), I can see where these critics are coming from in pointing out that rape, abuse, and the demeaning of the role and the power of a woman is wrong. However, it baffles me how one can claim that books that have these sorts of things in them are necessarily promoting or glorifying them. To me, the whole point of all these terrible things (which also happen to men…no one is safe in a world like this) is that the world of Westros (or any other world in a series like that) is in a state of chaos, self-destruction, and decay, partly because of all these horrible things, this lack of respect and civil behavior, of these games being played and people becoming mere pawns on the greater scale of things. This is not a world we are meant to emulate; even the “good guys,” like Eddard Stark, have fatal flaws that lead to terrible things. In a way, it’s a cautionary tale, not a reflection on what we should strive for in society, unless what we’re striving for is a clusterfuck of political gains and personal vendettas and just being all-around terrible to each other.
But that’s just my opinion. I realize that much of George R.R. Martin’s world reflects our own, as well, even more reason to pay attention to the fact that these things are not good for the characters in this fantasy world, so they’re not good for reality, either. Good fantasy…and science fiction…and any genre, for that matter, reflects something in society that we can relate to. It holds a mirror to reality, and sometimes, we don’t like what we see, but that has more to do with the world around us or ourselves than it does the author or his creation itself.
Super-girly and still kick-ass. Image swiped from this forum.
I’ll be the first to admit that my Feminism radar might be a little off…but I’ll forever insist that it’s off in a good way. I was raised by my father, with two brothers; though my aunts, my mom, and later my stepmom were always around to help out, I never really had a female figure that I really latched on to. I was tomboyish in one way, running around the farm with my brothers, playing with all their Star Wars, He-Man, G.I. Joe trappings….but I also had a lot of the trappings of a girly childhood, too. I took great pride in my Barbie collection, the largest of all the girls I knew. Polly Pocket hung out with Mighty Max. When given the choice of working on the farm or upkeeping the house, I chose the household (because, I’m sorry, when given the choice between cooking or a barnful of calves with scours…I don’t think anyone could blame me). It’s true, there were more male characters in my life than female ones, but I never felt a lack of female aspirations, either. I had Princess Rosella, Princess Eilonway, Princess Leia and Gadget. I had Jasmine and Laurana and Tenel Ka. And The Babysitters Club, ha! I didn’t need a plethora of kick-ass females to look up to. I just needed ones who were exceptionally kick-ass, and those who didn’t fit the bill just fell under my radar as unworthy. And I could create my own, too. Sure, I was a ballerina, but I also listened to heavy metal. I was a cheerleader, but I was also the first female on our wrestling team and the first female tuba player at my small school. Just because I enjoyed these “trappings” of femininity did not reduce my ability to be a strong, powerful woman. It diversified me, and I suppose that’s my biggest gripe about the Raging Feminist who believes that just because pink is a pretty color that looks good on me, I must be a poor feminist. Just because I like men to be kind and gentlemanly and do little nice things for me and because I have a fondness for princesses does not make me weak and under the influence of the patriarchal rulings of our society.
This rant has a point, I promise. This delving into the Raging Feminist as of late naturally has me curious as to how that group will take to my own works and my own creations. It’s a little arrogant to believe it would make that much of a difference, perhaps, but it’s also a little upsetting to think about how I might be perceived. Because the Raging Feminist only confirms the theory that got me through college: if you look for something hard enough, you can find it, on the sheer power of your ability to bullshit and construct a convincing argument out of a few pieces. Artists and writers can easily construct anything they’d like out of just a few unsubstantial scraps. Will I, for example, be criticized for my choice to abbreviate my name and use that to write under? How often will it be assumed that I write by “L.S.” because it’s gender ambiguous, or, at the very least, it’s not obviously female and so it’s considered that it will sell better? I chose to write as L.S. Engler rather than Laura Engler or any other variation of name not because it hides my gender, but because it calls up the same cadence and feel of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis. T.S. Eliot. Oh, but those are both men….there’s another one for the Raging Feminists, though it is honestly a purely aesthetic, rhythmic, poetic choice… I hate to think that, should Serpent in a Cage ever gain the popularity I wish for it, that the plight of Auferrix Ferrore and everything she does to rise through her throne is diminished merely because the person who rescued her from her bonds was a man. That I’m promoting misogyny because I have characters who rape and abuse or (God forbid) find women to be sexy. That I don’t support the strength of a woman because I have a character who is perfectly content in being a wife or a mother or falling in love with a man. That all the representations of a strong female will be overshadowed by the attempts to not just make a caricature out of my characters, but in the effort to reflect a real, solid world where things are not black and white, where there is feminine strength to be found in many characters, as well as feminine weakness. Where being girly can be just as noble as being kick-ass. Where there are bad things that happen and good things, and it’s much deeper than one interpretation.
Yes, Auferrix might need someone to help her escape. It could have easily have been another woman, but it just so happened to be a man. And then she stands up on her own two feet and take the throne that was rightfully hers. Does the fact that she had a man (several men, for that matter) to help her diminish her success? I certainly don’t think so, but it makes me a little sad to think that there are some people who would suggest that it does.