Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters – Part 2

In this space we have been examining and excoriating the attempt of many reviewers and activists in science fiction to increase the number of ‘strong’ female characters in science fiction yarns. I put the word strong in scare quotes because it is my contention, argued in the previous essay, conflates two distinct ideas. Good authors can make strong females characters who are strong with the virtues particular to women, feminine strength. Lazy authors make strong female characters by making them masculine.

Now there are several arguments which can be raised against this position: first is that virtue the same in men and women, so that what I am calling feminine strength in reality is the same as masculine strength, and ergo the distinction on which the argument is based fails. This argument has the strong point that temperance, justice, fortitude and prudence are the same in both sexes. The counterargument, which I think is sufficient as far as this point goes, is that the particular character of male and female virtues comes not from the virtues, but from the difference in priority, emphasis, approach, and skill sets involved.

The argument is experiential rather than logical: if you have not noticed that men, and for good reason, tend to be proud of their physical prowess, tend to be direct and adversarial, and tend to look at the world in terms of winners and losers, then I can do no more than to bring it to your attention. I call upon experience as my witness.

If you have no experience of real life, aside from what you see on the modern television or read in modern books, I might remind you that these jolly pasttimes are not meant to reflect reality, but is instead meant to reflect a vision of the world, a narrative, with which I am taking issue. Your witnesses, modern television and modern books, are corrupt.

Second, it can be argued that while indeed men do act in a more masculine fashion than women, they do not have a good reason for this: that the typically masculine and feminine roles are the product of historical accident or perhaps cruelty and social injustice. By this argument, the fact that they have always existed hence is an argument for their overthrow, because injustice has always existed, so any alternative is worth trying. The counterargument is that femininity is based on female biology, and that psychology, despite the fact that it can be trained to defy biology, ought not to be, as this leads to inefficiencies, injustices, and a general lack of joy.

Here again I point to experience as my witness: compare the divorce rate, the suicide rate, the crime rate, the rate of drug abuse, or any other honest indicator of social happiness between a modern urban setting, where the modern and Politically Correct ideals have had full sway for more than half a century, with a postwar rural setting where the traditional ideals have full sway. Neither one is utopia, but the number of bastard children belonging to drug running gangs beaten to death by his mother’s live-in lover is far smaller in rural Pennsylvania of 1953 than urban Detroit of 2013.

Third, it can be argued that while there are natural efficiencies involved with women being feminine and men being masculine, it does not produce the greater joy of which I speak. Females do not want to be feminine, but to be free, and the restrictions of femininity are both artificial and limiting; men do not want to be masculine, or to be leaders, or to be strong, they would rather whine like girls without being criticized for whining like girls. They certainly do not want to be policemen or soldiers or firemen, or to do any task requiring physical courage and clarity of thought and boldness of action.

This argument cannot be answered, because it is two arbitrary assertions: first, the femininity implies inferiority, because it tends toward a support and nurturing role rather than a showy leadership role; second, the pleasure in life after weighing the pros and cons is seen as a matter of experience to favor liberated women who talk and act like men. The liberated woman can smoke cigars and grab waiters on the buttocks and sleep around and get drunk and join a pirate crew and raise the Jolly Roger and start slitting throats, or stand for public office, which is much the same thing.

The counter argument here is that if feminism consists of this doctrine, then it consists of eliminating the particular qualities that emphasize the feminine nature of women. Feminism abolishes femininity.

Now, logically, since there is no such thing as an asexual human being, even from a fertilized egg in the womb, eliminating the feminine can only be done by getting men to act more feminine and getting women to act more masculine. It does not liberate women from an artificial set of expectations and leave them at liberty to live as asexual beings with no social roles. All it does is ask them to live partly in the masculine role, and partly to improvise, and then not to know what to expect from anyone else in the system.

The implication then is that, if these roles are based on natural tendencies built into our psychology because they are built into our biology, then men will naturally be more masculine than women and women more feminine than men, even if social artifices hide or distract or make the manifestation of these traits different than the manifested in the past.

If women act like men, they will be, by and large (with some few exceptions, like Anne Bonny) not as good at male-behavior patterns than males (like Blackbeard and Calico Jack Rackham and Sir Francis Drake).

Now, a rebuttal to this counter argument is that the categories of masculine and feminine are completely artificial, a social product of a sinister conspiracy of the patriarchy. (I assume this refers to the Patriarch of the alien catlike species inhabited a world circling 61 Ursae Majoris, and that this is meant as a serious argument, not merely tomfoolery and nonsense like the conspiracy theory behind Marxism, which proposes that investment bankers, not patriarch, are the conspirators.)

Here again, I can only point to experience. I am a newspaperman and an attorney. I have seen real life in a way that few other people, perhaps policemen and certainly priests who hear confessions, have seen it, unfiltered by an entertainment industry or media complex devoted to an agenda.

But don’t take my word for it. It is possible that my personal experience is atypical. Let us look nationwide: fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, and ninety percent of divorces are initiated by women.

My conclusion is that you dear ladies are unhappy about something.

Many ladies. Very unhappy.

Ready for another statistic? Couples who practice the Catholic method of Natural Family Planning have a divorce rate of about 5%, markedly lower than the 50% divorce rate of couples who utilize contraception. Correlation is not causation, so you may draw your own conclusion about what this statistic means, if anything.

The conclusion I draw is that old fashioned religious Moms who listen to St Paul’s oft misunderstood injunction that they submit to their husbands, and Dads who heed St Paul’s oft misunderstood injunction that Dad be the head of the family the way Christ is the head of the Church, that is, by total self sacrifice, are happier with each other than two liberal-minded and free and equal and rather selfish partners who made an alliance to service their mutual friendship and pleasure and call it a marriage. A marriage between a submissive woman and a self sacrificing man may be many things — it sounds a bit kinky to me — but it certainly cannot be selfish. But this conclusion I offer here only as a personal aside, an opinion, not part of the argument.

Let us look closer to home. Look at science fiction stories and movies. What has the attempt to produce strong female characters produced?

On the one hand, I would be the first to say that the Miyasaki characters Nausicaa and Kushinada, the heroine and the villainess respectively of VALLEY OF THE WIND are the exemplars of perfectly strong and perfectly feminine women. Being in leadership roles does not strike me as unfeminine, not when we are dealing with princesses and war leaders. Nonetheless, the particular masculine characteristic of touchy pride, the desire to slit throats, machismo, vulgarity, roguishness, and the other one-dimensional stereotype writers who don’t know any real men use when trying to make their females more masculine are utterly absent from Miyazaki’s characters.
kushana
Again, throughout the film (and manga) Nausicaa shows more concern for the suffering of enemies, including horrid insect monsters and radioactive biotech god-soldiers, than a man would. Her attitude toward war is hardly the same as that of a Lancelot or Achilles.

nausicaa_and_the_valley_of_wind_desktop_1920x1200_wallpaper-24016

One example: when the princess Nausicaa commands her men to don their gas masks and they do not obey, she does not shoot one of them in the leg. Instead she takes off her own gas mask, provoking their concern for her, hence loyalty, hence they then listen to her. This is feminine in approach.

nausicaa

By that I do not mean illogical or cunning or whatever negative implications feminists and other people who simply hate women apply to the word feminine when they hear that word.

I am a romantic: to me, who loves women in their every aspect, the word is complimentary and highly so. I am also a Catholic. I say fifty prayers a day to the Our Lady and only five a day to Our Lord, so do not tell me there is something illogical or cunning or negative about feminine leadership. The Queen of the Angels disagrees.

I am calling such behavior feminine because I hold that femininity is more concerned with the doer than with the deed. Masculine approach is to be businesslike and curt, and not concerned with your emotions, only with our performance. This approach is useful both on the battlefield and in the marketplace. It is results-oriented. It is concerned with duty, outward actions, not with inner motives.

Typical masculine thinking: I do not care why you salute just as long as you do salute. You are not saluting the man, you are saluting the uniform. It is impersonal.

The feminine approach, since females are biologically more suited to bearing and nursing children than males, and since females are given the infinitely important task of domesticating the male barbarian of her husband as well as taming and training the children, must be more concerned with the doer than the deed, because the women must train the children to volunteer to do the right thing, so that as adults, when she is gone, they do the right thing. It is character-oriented. This is the more useful approach in peacetime and in cooperative rather than competitive situations. It is not concerned with duty, but with inner motives.

Does anyone serious, honestly think that a goals-oriented approach is always superior to the personality-oriented approach? Does anyone seriously think that we can treat squadmates like children or children like squadmates?

By the way, gentlemen, this is why women talk more than men and talk about more trivial things. The act of talking is attempting to form a bond and open a channel of communication which the woman can use to deduce information vital to her approach about your personality and moods and your character. She is trying to see behind the mask all to many of us wear as a matter of convenience. She is trying to cure us of our hidden pain.

By the way, ladies, this is why we guy don’t talk about important things and never open up and share our feelings. We don’t have any, not what you call feelings. We have tactics and goals. Anything outside the goal is distraction. We do not care about how we ‘feel.’ Feelings pass. Pain is endured, not cured.

And, by the way men, the old canard about men being logical and women being emotion is and always was meant as a joke. If a woman points out a matter the is outside the immediate goal on which the one-track male mind is focused, he will call it irrelevant. That is because women are generally better at thinking in multiple parallel tasks at once, and are less goal-oriented and more personality-oriented. However, during the high-stress type of tasks to which men, especially young men, tend to gravitate having a one-track mind is a benefit: it is a mind stripped down for action.

However, the way to deal with this canard is not to pretend it does not exist, or to tell men that women are logical after all. They are, but they are not logical in the same way. Women tend to think strategically and men to think tactically. A strategic thinker also thinks of arranging the peace terms after the battle is won or lost.

So much for an example of a strong female character done well: strong female characters done badly are almost numberless. Consider Xena Warrior Princess, or more to the point, Red Sonja, the she-barbarian who invented the chainmail bikini.

red_sonja

Hmm. I can clearly see why boys like Red Sonja, especially lonely boys. I do not see that any honest feminist would think that this is an example of a strong female character as opposed to a buxom female character.

red_sonja_antony_ward

Agreed, Red Sonja does not need rescuing, and she is not going to scream like Fay Wray. But she is a Playboy Bunny, just one who wears a sneer and carries a honking big sword.

RedSonjaSheDevilWithASword25AP

Consider Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in the AVENGERS movie.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow  (1)

I trust the pictures make my point. Ladies, you have been rooked, cheated, bilked, and tricked. These are not more realistic and stronger images of women being set out before the public eye than the 1950′s images. These are eyecandy, if not fetish fuel.

To make my point, let me forgo my normal habit of inserting a gratuitous picture of Batgirl, and instead add a picture of Alice from RESIDENT EVIL. She is a strong female character, ain’t she?

Alice-resident-evil-retribution-34313028-1024-768

Let us compare this with the allegedly weak female characters from the old days of science fiction.

Note Really, Really hawt Redhead in skintight Battlesuit

Hmm. The Black Amazon of Mars seems to be built along the same lines as Red Sonja, and wearing the same outfit as Alice and Black Widow. Are you sure women in the old days were simply shrieking damsels in distress with nothing to do?

This is very different from Princess Leia, who is never in distress.

428794-J_Scott_Campbell-Princess_Leia_Organa-Return_of_the_Jedi-star_wars

Oh, wait. I was confusing her with Princess Amidala, who is clearly a strong female character. Her role includes falling in love with an evil man, whimpering, and dying in childbirth, and she is never dressed as mere eye candy.

padmeLet us contrast this with the bad old days when every female was portrayed as helpless eye candy.

Prince-Barin-and-Princess-AuraOops. It looks like the eye candy factor was about the same, the number of distressed damsels may have gone down a little, and the number of warrior babes is about the same. Red Sonja is based on Conan’s Red Sonya of Rogatino, which dates from 1934.

Let us compare all of the above this with my personal favorite picture of a strong female character. Now, I am cheating, of course, because this is a real heroine, not a make believe one. Meet Spc. Jennie Baez.

Spc. Jennie Baez provides security for fellow Soldiers during an operation in the Al Anbar province of Iraq on Sept. 27, 2006.  Baez is assigned to the 47th Forward Support Battalion.  DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Clifton D. Sams, U.S. Marine Corps.  (Released)

Spc. Jennie Baez provides security for fellow Soldiers during an operation in the Al Anbar province of Iraq on Sept. 27, 2006. Baez is assigned to the 47th Forward Support Battalion. DoD photo by Lance Cpl. Clifton D. Sams, U.S. Marine Corps. (Released)

My conclusion is that there is not an iota of real difference between the way women in the past were treated in SF stories and women now.

The fake difference is that some women are masculinized in order to satisfy a fundamentally illogical doctrine of Politic Correctness.

In Part 3 I will attempt to explain why Science Fiction needs to be saved from this scourge of absurdity.

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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23 Responses to Saving Science Fiction from Strong Female Characters – Part 2

  1. Stephen J. says:

    Enjoying this immensely. I think there are two points I would make, not in disagreement but in further elaboration:

    1) “Females do not want to be feminine, but to be free… men do not want to be masculine, or to be leaders, or to be strong….”

    I think the biggest immediate objection that would be raised to this is that it seems to assume a false dichotomy. Why cannot both men and women be free, and leaders, and strong? Why cannot both sexes, or (to be more specific) as many members of either sex as wish and can, perform tasks requiring boldness of action and clarity of thought and physical courage? Even if we stipulate that the sexes have a different statistical distribution of aptitudes for approaches, at what point should a general difference in emphasis be taken as justification for absolute prohibition in function, or (to get back to the subject of science fiction) for absolute disbelief of particular depictions?

    I myself believe that there are differences and that they are better accounted for than wished away, but at the same time I can entirely understand why every woman I know is enraged by Samuel Johnson’s famous quote: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog walking on its hind legs. It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all.” That may be a straw-man reductio of the position being developed here, but it is a response many will likely have.

    2) “My conclusion is that there is not an iota of real difference between the way women in the past were treated in SF stories and women now.”

    Here, actually, I think you have done yourself a disservice: what you have shown is that there is no iota of real difference in the way women are visually depicted in stories for the sake of selling those stories. Pretty girls grab attention, from both male and female audiences: it’s a brute biological fact. (It can be overcome if you’re willing to put in the work, but advertisers are like every other person alive: harder work for less likely profit requires a lot of character to embrace.)

    Films and TV labour under a disadvantage in this area, in that the material used to get people to first buy into the story is also the medium of the storytelling itself. In the written medium, what female characters do and say is ultimately far more important than how they look in getting a reader to emotionally invest in them. You may pick up a John Carter novel for the picture of Dejah Thoris on the cover, but you will read the novel and the subsequent ones for her character, and for the relationship between her and Carter.

    So this then poses the interesting question: Can the critics of SF as an “anti-woman” genre actually find specific examples, let alone a majority of examples, where female characters were depicted by their actions and statements as wholly incompetent, helpless, spineless or boring and yet the readers/viewers were expected (insofar as we can infer that intent) to find them likeable and appealing? The most I can think of are a few of Conan’s more temporary lemans: it certainly does not apply to Red Sonja, or Belit, or Valeria, or Dark Agnes.

  2. montlepuy says:

    Reading these two posts has given me a couple of thoughts which I will attempt to organize in as coherent a tangent as I can manage. I’m sorry If I accidently end up repeating anything that’s already been said, or if anything that follows is irrelevent to the discussion, but please indulge me so I can get these thoughts out of my mind so they don’t get kicked around anymore and start driving me mad.

    1) As much as I don’t like “Mary Sue” female characters who pop in and save the day by being the most important girl in the universe (as seems to be a recurring plot device on the new Doctor Who), it is true that in history there have been exceptional women who have through extraordinary circumstances and personal merits have demonstrated great courage and leadership. St. Joan of Arc is the most striking example. She strikes us of course because it has never been common for peasant girls to demonstrate advanced strategic prowess, or to confound the complex, underhanded inquiries of highly educated interrogators with rustic wit and bluntness. Yet even though she commanded men and wore the armorof one, she never stopped being a teenage girl or gave up her femininity (as the testimony of her comrades tells us).

    I also think of Queen Isabel of Spain, the Last Crusader, and devoted wife and mother. Both are case studies to how femininity (and correspondingly, masculinity) are far grander and more mysterious parts of human being than simple social constructs or biological impulses. The feminine nature of these two women informed their natural genius which was further amplified by the circumstances and cooperation with the will of God.

    Yet the modern mind which denies any substantial difference between men and women aside from biological configuration (an even that isn’t all that important, as some are beginning to insist) is willfully blind to all this mystery, and thus to a deeper aspect of humanity itself. Now a character is exceptional not because of their amplified abilities and virtues, but because they are the main character.

    To use an anlogy: They see nothing special about Joan of Arc because they think anybody can be Joan of Arc under the right circumstances. They posess a dull, mechanical view of humanity where the highest goal is not the transcendent truth of the God in who’s image we are made, but wish fulsillment.

    That’s my problem with “Strong Female Characters”. They have not a fraction of the humanity that good character should have. They are too mundane and not astounding enough to be believable. By aping superficial masculine traits, they’ve lost touch with their femininity and thus their common humanity than both men and women can admire and relate to.

    But I’m far from pessimistic, because…

    2) There are female characters still written, they’re just being written in Japanese. Japan has never had an equivalent to western feminism emerge, and female characters are still free to be women.

    Maetel from Galaxy Express 999 is the picture of maternal grace, yet who’s melancholy longing made her so much more than a stereotypical “mom” character. She’s a complex person who’s femininity is a burden and a blessing, like an actual human being.

    Another example, who sadly is not as popular as she should be, is Birdy Cephon Altera from one of the many series to bear the name “Birdy the Mighty”. An intergalactic space detective with two-toned hair and a pastel suit of armour that looks like a circus acrobat’s in the same way that Superman’s jersey was meant to recollect a sideshow strong man’s. She’s presented as atypical from the beginning, being a test tube baby from a conquered humanoid race who works as an investigator for the “Federation”, an amalgamated political body of diverse alien species without the idealism of it’s Star Trek counterpart. Being one of the few subjects (let alone female subjects) to survive the gestation, Birdy possesses superhuman strength and speed (though at the expense of never having a real family, and the closest thing she had to a mother dying to save her during a childhood incident). As a result of this, Birdy has always been had great attachment to those few people close too her, but always been separate from society as a whole. After a mission on Earth, she becomes fused with a socially awkward boy named Tsutomu Senkawa and has to host his mind in her body, with the ability to shape-shift between the two forms. Now, a lesser anime would have resorted to cheap sexualiztion and had them end up as a romantic couple, but it goes to a different place and becomes a very moving story about two lonely people learning to depend on each other and form something of a sibling relationship with Birdy becoming a nurturing older sister figure to Tsutomu and Tsutomu becoming someone to stick up for her. It’s a great, subtle way of exploring masculine and feminine contrasts in a way you wouldn’t expect. Birdy is an action character, of course, but never feels like she’s trying to be a man.

    There’s so much more to the series, and I recommend starting with the 1996 OVA series before watching the 2008 Remake series titled “Birdy the Mighty Decode” to get a sense of the characters.

    Sorry to babble, but I just needed to get these thoughts out somewhere.

    • I kind of like Mary Sue characters, if I am understanding what the term means. What is wrong with being the most important girl in the universe?

      It is the next best thing to being a Princess, which is, after all, what Heaven made every woman on the inside. Spiritually speaking, all girls are princesses and all mothers are Queens and Goddesses.

      They just don’t remember. It is the mission of poets to remind them.

      • A Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for male characters) is a thinly veiled attempt on the part of an author to write himself into his own story, usually as a form of wish-fulfillment. The trope originated in a Star Trek fan fiction starring a character of the same name.

        A Mary Sue could conceivably serve a valid story purpose (perhaps some have, but I can’t recall any). The term has a negative connotation because Mary Sues tend to be written as invincible, flawless, unconflicted and generally uninteresting characters.

      • Mary says:

        What’s wrong with it is that having the universe having an inexplicable love for and tendency to coddle your character is often very boring. It’s hard to balance such a character so the readers find it a wish-fulfillment character.

    • Mary says:

      There’s no trope that can’t be pulled off if you play it right. Lewis Carroll can have Alice wake up and find it’s all a dream. Jane Austen can produce a deus ex machina to marry off Harry and Catherine at the end of Northanger Abbey.

      Some trope are just more tricky to play right than others.

      Also, “it happens in real life” is no excuse in a work of fiction.

      • “There’s no trope that can’t be pulled off if you play it right.”

        Agreed. Though I’m having difficulty thinking of a well executed Mary Sue. The best I can come up with is Stephen King’s appearance in The Dark Tower (which he handled delightfully), but it doesn’t qualify since there’s no attempt at subterfuge.

  3. Dear Mr. Wright,

    I would be interested to hear your opinion of the Vorkosigan series by Lois McMasters Bujold. Have you read any of it? The mother of the main character is the protagonist of the first two novels of the series, appears repeatedly through the rest, and appears to me to fit your criteria for a properly strong female character to a tee.

    • I have not read it, albeit friends whose opinions I trust give it high praise. I have never asked my friend specifically about the strength of the female characters because I regard worrying about the strength of female character to be an insult to women, and I am a romantic, and will never insult a woman.

      For the same reason I have never asked a friend his opinion about whether or not a male character is loving and thoughtful and in touch with his inner feelings. Instead, I want to see John Carter stabbing the Green Martian who smote Dejah Thoris on the face murder him in a fair fight by running up, leaping with his earthly muscles, grabbing hold of one of the tusks of the looming monster, and plunging his longsword an Flemish ell deep into his monster breast, splitting his heart instantly with steel. I am just not concerned with John Carter’s feeling and how well he gets in touch with them. However, when reading about Natasha Rostov in WAR AND PEACE, I admit I shed tears at her turmoil over Anatol and Dolokhov. I don’t want her to solve her problems by stabbing a Green Person. Is that wrong of me?

      • Then you clearly already have incentive to try Bujold should you get the chance. I only mention her because Cordelia Naismith seems like such a good example. Also, in a genre that hardly ever touches on religion except as superstition or a mask for something else, Bujold drops broad hints that Cordelia is some sort of Christian.

  4. oddy says:

    I agree that Japan has more feminine women characters. Most people call them useless and annoying though. There’s even a meme about having to deal with annoying female characters if you watch a lot of anime. Still, there’s probably better female characters coming out of Japan than out of America. I don’t watch a lot of American TV shows these days…well none….so I can’t be sure. I still watch some American movies but I can’t think of any female characters I have liked lately.

    • Pierce O. says:

      Have you by any chance seen ATTACK ON TITAN, and if so, what do you make of the female warriors in it? It seems like they should trip some of the red flags that have been mentioned, but something in the presentation of the show leaves my suspension of disbelief unrustled. Perhaps it is the emphasis on skill over strength in combatting Titans? The presence of women in combat at all is at least explained by the proximity and direness of the situation in the story.

      • DGDDavidson says:

        Somehow, Attack on Titan does manage to sell all its crazy premises, though I’m at a loss to explain how it pulls that off. Maybe the female warriors are believable because all the Spider-Man wire-fu is so ridiculous in the first place that it’s no harder to swallow with female characters than it is with male ones.

        They also manage to make the Malthusian premise halfway believable: even though the human race is dying off, I can buy that they send women into combat instead of protecting them because the decadent central government is worried about running out of space and resources in the ever-shrinking area behind the walls, rather than worried about keeping the species alive.

      • oddy says:

        Oh yeah. I love Mikasa. She is one of the strongest but Levi is still stronger than her. It didn’t bother me that Mikasa was strong since a lot of it is about agility with the wires and instinct about how to fight like that, more than strength. Plus, they kind of had a bit of explanation as to why she is so strong. She is a feminine person too since her whole reason for fighting is to be with/protect Eren who wants to fight no matter what. I think they have female fighters because the population is so small to begin with and those who would volunteer to be in that division of the army is tiny.

  5. Crude says:

    John,

    I’ve been reading your writings for ages now. You’ve always been thoughtful, always of considerable intellectual and rhetorical skill, and I tend to agree with most of what you post. Even now I do – and you actually answered a very common trope about women in a way that I’ve never seen done, and skillfully too.

    But I finally registered to comment on something you wrote here.

    “Hmm. I can clearly see why boys like Red Sonja, especially lonely boys. ”

    If that’s what you think, hey, that’s fine. But I quote this because I notice something that comes up often nowadays when characters like that are discussed – anyone who likes them, or (God forbid) finds them attractive, are derided. Liking the appearance of such women is a sign of loneliness, or dweebiness, of being socially retarded or – my favorite one – ‘being like a 13 year old boy’. People who would normally take up arms over any slight at tastes some women have – especially 13 year old girls – will flip off a comment like that without hesitation.

    I don’t think it’s right. It presents finding sexily drawn women attractive as some kind of deficiency in men or boys, who if they were really mature, I suppose, would be more attracted to Barbara Boxer. I doubt you meant any deep social commentary by your comment, but I see this habit spread so far and wide that I lately feel like I should mention it, if only so people notice the same pattern in play.

    I could say something about mocking actual lonely men too – the socially awkward, the terminally shy, the people who are quite literally not good with people, perhaps especially women. But really, I’m already being enough of a wet blanket about a great and grand post, so I won’t mention that at length. Perhaps I’ve been oversensitive here anyway.

    Regardless of what you meant or think about such things, though – thank you for continuing to post all these years. There’s always something fantastic to read when it comes to yourself, and I’ve been following since your Livejournal days.

    • What I said was not in derision. The loneliness I felt as a bachelor was crushing and poisonous and cold, like living in the atmosphere of Neptune. Cheesecake pictures of buxom women were to me then like seeing an image of water in the distance was to a man dying of thirst in the desert. If you have read my previous articles, you surely noticed that I continue to admire and to post such pictures frequently, perhaps more frequently than is proper for a Christian gentleman.

      The female form is a proper object for admiration, as it is the Creator’s final and culminating creation, and its beauty is never to be demeaned.

      I do indeed understand why young men would be attracted to Red Sonja. It is a fetishistic taste for immense cleavage, acres of bare flesh, the cool tight metal harness of her ridiculous bathing suit mail, the prospect of a woman who is both desirable and wild and barbaric and dangerous.

      But a too fulsome admiration of cartoon doxies is not an admirable character trait. It requires no strength of mind nor elevation of character to develop such a taste. It is a childlike thing and a lonely thing.

      I said nothing in admiration of the trait, but I doubt my comments count as derision. I am merely telling it, as they say, like it is.

      • Crude says:

        If you have read my previous articles, you surely noticed that I continue to admire and to post such pictures frequently, perhaps more frequently than is proper for a Christian gentleman.

        I do, and I did! The space princesses, etc. There was just something about that wording, which I’ve seen elsewhere, and I wanted to say something about it.

        You say it’s a childlike and lonely thing, at least if it’s too fulsome. Fair enough – I just wanted to be sure where you were coming from on this, and how to take your words.

        I look forward to part 3.

  6. Pierce O. says:

    On the one hand, I would be the first to say that the Miyasaki characters Nausicaa and Kushinada, the heroine and the villainess respectively of VALLEY OF THE WIND are the exemplar of perfectly strong and perfectly feminine women.

    One of my favorite scenes from the manga is when Princess Kushana calms her terrified men, surrounded by their fallen comrades and giant insects, by humming a lullaby.

  7. MissJean says:

    Of course, there’s also the child-like girl with superhuman strength and power. I like to call it the Whedon Killerbabe because it’s both the villain Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and River in Serenity. That’s seems to be the best of both worlds for a helpless character (needing a man to direct her) and kicking butt as needed. It’s also annoying.

    I particularly liked your insight on woman-strategist/man-tactician. Hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you’re right. When I was a teenager, I came across “best of” collections of old pulp writers and became hooked on C.L Moore’s short stories. It was very much because even her strong women paired reason and feeling; e.g. Jirel in “Black God’s Kiss” and the woman-turned-AI in “No Woman Born.”

  8. Gian says:

    “females are given the infinitely important task of domesticating the male barbarian of her husband”

    if it takes the wife to civilize a man, then it implies that (1) The parents have failed to rear a civilized man.
    (2) The society itself has failed to rear a citizen.

    It is not the job of a woman or a wife to civilize husbands, but the parent’s or school’s or the society at large.

  9. Gian says:

    Yes, but I was never the barbarian type.

    Yet my point stands. Your statement itself contradicts your arguments that a woman should search out character of her suitor. Thus, the suitor has a character (non-barbarian) to begin with.

    In Hindu culture, civilization is male responsibility.

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