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Monday, June 25, 2012
I See Your Cover. I Judge the Sh*t Out of You
I read a lot of fantasy as a teenager. High fantasy, with swords and dragons and magic and stuff. And then I got annoyed with it, because there were hardly any decent female characters to be found.
Caroline Chisolm, an early advocate for women’s rights in colonial Australia, said that women were categorised as either “damned whores or God’s police”. And both were equally maligned. It seemed to me that there also existed two extremes of women in the fantasy novels I read: the Love Interest or the Evil Magic Bitch. A woman with power was usually evil (and don't get me started on the link between childless and evil), and any other women were young, beautiful, docile, and had nothing to do except sit around brushing their hair until the hero took care of whatever was plaguing the kingdom.
This is sort of understandable. After all, a lot of high fantasy is modelled along very medieval lines, and it’s not like there were too many career opportunities for women in those days. But what annoyed me even more than the stereotypes were the obvious ham-fisted attempts to redress the gender balance: women in steel bustiers and short leather skirts who wielded swords. Because they weren’t put in that book for me. They were put in that book to give fourteen-year-old boys something to fantasise about. As though fourteen-year-old boys are short of material.
For all I know, this is a good book:
But I will never know, because I can't get past the cover.
"Huntin' dragons today. No, I don't think I will wear my armour. I'm sure my bikini will offer adequate protection. And bust support."
So, please, feel free to recommend a high fantasy book to me with well-rounded characters, both men and women, who aren’t bound by stereotypes.