purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
Author Scott Lynch responds to a critic of the character Zamira Drakasha, a black woman pirate in his fantasy book Red Seas Under Red Skies, the second novel of the Gentleman Bastard series.

I'm always little uncomfortable with responses to critiques of women in fantasy which run

critique: Female warriors/whatever in a pseudo-medieval setting are unrealistic
response: So the dragons are fine, but you are worried about the female warrior?

Because even though at one level it makes sense, at another the existence of dragons in fantasy clearly requires a different kind of suspension of disbelief to the existence of emancipated women. It's a really complicated discussion which impinges on an equally complicated discussion about when one is, and isn't able to suspend disbelief which doesn't just apply to gender roles but also to abuses of science and (on one notable occasion) the precise presentation of the minarets in Jerusalem.

So it's really feel refreshing to see a response to this kind of critique which isn't "hey! look! dragons!" but is instead yes of course she's fantasy wish fulfilment. AND WHY NOT?.

I've only read the first of the Gentleman Bastards series which I thought was a truly excellent novel. I haven't read the rest because I heard somewhere that they dropped in quality and I didn't really want to spoil how much I had enjoyed the first. But the above response makes me think I should re-evaluate that decision.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)

Now, I can see that as one of the world's top scientific journals it's nice to occasionally mix things up with a well-written, original and witty spoof piece. However the above seems to me to be neither well-written nor particularly witty and not remotely original but merely a retread of tired old stereotypes about women and men and their natural place in the scheme of things. In fact it barely rises above mother-in-law jokes which have been around since the dawn of time and are usually not particularly funny either. My mind boggles a bit that Nature's editors thought it was worth publishing and the fact that they obviously considered it well-written, original and witty merely depresses me.
purplecat: Programming the Eniac Computer (computing)
How would the UK IT industry run if there were suddenly no men?
Mammoth Screen are an independent television drama production company and they are currently developing a new idea for an ITV television drama series for which they need to undertake some detailed research before the screenwriter can get started.
The project is going to explore the question of how the UK would function if society underwent a sudden demographic change whereby there were no men: only women. Whilst this is obviously a hypothetical scenario, they are hoping to take current research and expertise on demographic breakdown to create an informed and realistic picture of how Britain might work in such conditions.
One area they are investigating is how employment in key areas of infrastructure is divided between the sexes e.g. given that the majority of long haul lorry drivers are male, would petrol forecourts dry up and would supermarket shelves go empty if men were taken out of society?
Similarly, would the national grid fail because the majority of its operating engineers are male, or does it work on a fairly automated basis?
Another area they are looking into is the sociological, emotional and psychological side of how people would cope in the aftermath of such a traumatic and shocking change to their lives. They're hoping to take studies and research from other recent scenarios where society has been faced with trauma or sudden loss of men to create a picture of how the characters in our drama might respond.
With regards to the IT industry, what they would love to know is how you think women would cope with the increased amount of pressure at work as there are so few women in technological services. Do you think some areas of technology would collapse altogether due to lack of staff?
They are also interested to know if there's anything else that leaps out at you after reading the premise of the show.
They are looking for your input asap as the writer would like to start work on the screenplay within the next month or so.

I can't help thinking this idea could work but is more likely to be the most horrendous sexist drivel.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
Over the winter I went to a Family History Fair with my mother and picked up a couple of Society of Genealogist publications, namely My Ancestor was Coal Miner and My Ancestors were Methodists. The latter is pretty much just a list of potential source material and its locations. All very well in its way but not really what I was looking for (especially since it says all the Methodist Baptism, Marriage and Burial records are on the Mormon website and I can't find any of my Methodist ancestors (and I have quite a lot them) there). My Ancestor was a Coal Miner was much closer to the sort of thing I was looking for - combining an overview of the main features of coal mining life with the kind of listing of source material in the Methodist book. In fact its lists of sources are rather better including a good range with sufficient description that I could immediately tell that some might be worth checking for my ancestors. Its discussion of coal mining history is slightly in the style so lampooned by 1066 and all that - lots of little facts designed to tell the neat story of the rise and fall of the industry without much scope for discussion, but then if I'd wanted a definitive history of coal mining in the UK I'd have purchased something different. I was, however, particularly struck by the horror expressed over female mine workers. I can understand why the Victorians got themselves into a bit of a tizzy on discovering women worked undergroud but find it hard to see why someone writing at the start of the 21st century should do so. "Incredibly" muses David Tonks, the author, "it was not until 1 July 1972 that the final two women surface workers were made redundant". What seems more shocking to me, as a 21st century woman, is that the Victorian (and later) reaction was to bar such women from what was, presumably, an important source of family income rather than to ensure that they enjoyed equal protection and equal pay to their male compatriots*.

* NB. I've no reason to suppose they didn't get equal protection (i.e., not much) nor equal pay since Tonks didn't deem it relevant to mention whether or not they worked on a more or less equal footing.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
By what I gather is the customary LJ mechanism, I've had my attention drawn to How fan fiction makes us poor. In short this relates the feminist question of "Why women don't write" to fan fiction and it clearly resonated with a lot of people.

But not with me, which I find suprising, and made me wonder why. I guess I'm not exactly the most prolific fanfic writer by a country mile and I've occupied the world of classic Doctor Who fan fiction - a predominantly male environment. As such it had never occurred to me that fan fiction was a primarily female passtime nor that fan fiction writers might be considered a "community of women". But it also had never occurred to me that "Women don't write". Quite the opposite in fact - I've spent much time in recent years worrying over why women don't do science (which has a vague corollary that they are writing instead). I only did english up to O' level (and doesn't that age me). But we covered Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Carson McCullers (and I'm impressed I found her name by simply typing "Frankie, Frances, Meningitis" into Google) alongside Shakespeare, Dickens and J. Meade Faulkner without any suggestion that they should be considered particularly unusual. Of course, I was in an all-girls school and was being taught by teachers not unaware of feminist theory so its possible that they were opting for a deliberate policy against "Pollution of Agency" and "Double Standard of Categorization". In fact, come to think of it, they were also recomending "Lord of the Rings", "Day of the Triffids" and "The Time Machine" so possibly I was fortunate in teachers with a liberal definition of "Literature". I've been dragging up in my memory the books I was made to read at school, and there are indeed more male authors on that list than female, but this is the first time I've ever considered that you might infer from that the conclusion "Women don't write" as opposed to, say, "Hasn't society changed".


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