Shrub.com Article for October

October’s article, Fantasy Women, discusses the “chicks in chainmail” stereotype found in many fantasy based media.

While in the midst of writing my Girls and Game Ads series, I found myself going off on a tangent on the depiction of women in the fantasy genre and how it helped lead to the rise of the “girl power” paradigm we find deeply enmeshed in current Western pop-culture. While the whole “chicks in chainmail” deal was already being challenged by fresh authors and ideas by the time I got into fantasy, it remains an important part of the genre’s history. It is this idea that I will be addressing in this article.

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2 Responses to Shrub.com Article for October

  1. James says:

    Wow. I never read fantasy novels; I wouldn’t know much about the genre at all if not for fellow undergrads dragging me to the Lord of the Rings movies. (Man I hated that; you’d think a Black man’s friends wouldn’t drag him to a movie where hordes of muscular dark-skinned villains are dismembered and cleaved to provide visual climax.) But I must say, I never understand how women can enjoy fantasy works. Women are either meek babymakers in the fantasy genre who provide physical nourishment and sexual satisfaction to long-haired alpha males or weird warrior-princesses whose martial skill is itself male-dependent or explained. Usually a kind male teacher instructs the heroine in violent arts, or the heroine is paired with other Conan steroid abusers in order to support male-dominance.

    So I never had much use for the stuff; like Image Comics during the Nineties, fantasy novels always appear to me to be yet another pop culture vehicle to allow socially inept or ostracized young male teenagers to feel stalwart and strong and sexist, even in the confines of their own minds.

  2. tekanji says:

    Most women don’t enjoy the kind of stereotypical drivel you’re talking about. Back in the day, fantasy was mostly by men, for men. One of the most famous fantasy authors of our time, Andre Norton (RIP), had to publish under her male pen name because of the opposition to female authors. The genre has come a long way since then, however. While the overtly sexist books still exist (and continue to be published, goodness knows why), there are more and more novels being published that challenge, play with, or flat out ignore the stereotypes.

    That’s mostly what I grew up on, and probably why I continue to gravitate towards female authors. On the whole, I think most of them are more aware of gender issues because of the “boys’ club” environment that fantasy used to be, and therefore their reading is informed by their experiences. Which is not to say that a woman writer cannot write sexist drivel, but rather that on the whole it seems that they are more aware of the damaging nature of not questioning the gender roles that make up the staples of fantasy societies. Also not to say that a man cannot be sensitive to gender equality; there are many books by male authors which are just as subversive to the stereotypes.

    I mean, come on, the entire genre can’t be that bad or I wouldn’t read it. There’s only so much headdesking I can do in one day, and I prefer it to stay out of my chosen entertainment. ;)

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