Bakker and Feminism

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Danylmc

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« on: December 04, 2014, 12:54:33 am »
[EDIT Madness: Moved from an intro thread where a reader asked about rumours of misogyny.]

I'm starting to hear rumors about R. Scott Bakker being anti-woman.

I wouldn't say Bakker is 'anti-woman', but he clearly has issues.  The Second Apocalypse is a series set in a world in which women are - literally - spiritually inferior to men, most of the female characters are whores or sex slaves, and most of them get repeatedly raped, which is described in pornographic detail. So if you're interested in issues around gender and the fantasy genre, or just feminism in general then Bakker's work could be very challenging.

Part of this is intentional. Bakker points out that there's a paradox in most conventional fantasy in which the antagonist is utterly evil but also completely non-sexual, whereas in our world evil is heavily sexualised. Thus Bakker's black semen gushing serial rapist bad guys. But part of Bakker's treatment of female characters seems unintentional. Feminist critics complain that bad male writers compartmentalise women as either whores or crones, and pretty much all of Bakker's female characters fall into those archetypes.

I always think its weird when people say they 'don't notice' the treatment of women in Bakker's work. It's a big part of the books and a very big deal for the author who insists that he's writing a feminist text. So if you don't see it then you're missing a lot.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2014, 06:02:33 pm by Madness »

Wilshire

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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2014, 02:05:00 am »
In depth discussion on Bakker and feminism can be found around the forum.

Those interested in discussing the topic in detail should follow the links below. Feel free to make a new topic an continue there as well.

Previous post moved here (because I'm too inept to merge it into another ongoing topic sorry :( ):
http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=1495.0


Bakker, Feminism, and Slavery
http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=466.msg2381#msg2381

Esmenet, Awareness, & Agency
http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=828.msg5705#msg5705

Women are very important to this series
http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=1069.msg10716#msg10716

So, whut up with male 'privilege'?
http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=438.msg1816#msg1816

Also some brief mentions in the Almanac
http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=10.msg86#msg86
http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=20.msg278#msg278
« Last Edit: December 04, 2014, 02:06:32 am by Wilshire »
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Francis Buck

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« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2014, 03:45:16 am »
My opinion on this is that Bakker DID genuinely try to create a feminist work, but due to a combination of timing, context, online shenanigans, and -- most importantly -- faulty execution, he did not really achieve that goal...yet. It's hard to put a stamp on this whole thing until the series is complete, but I will say that I think his biggest issue was the lack of variety in the female characters. The trials and tribulations his female characters go through feel very samey to me, despite the different surrounding situations.

I certainly don't think Bakker's a hater of women, by any means. But I also don't think he tackled the issue nearly as effectively as he could have. I can talk a lot more about this, but I don't really feel like it lol. I've just discussed it so many times.

Madness

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« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2014, 04:00:16 am »
Also, Disciple spoilers but another excellent relevant thread: http://www.second-apocalypse.com/index.php?topic=1124.0
« Last Edit: December 04, 2014, 06:03:44 pm by Madness »
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geoint

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« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2014, 06:47:08 pm »
I dont find his treatment of women sexist at all.  Feminists want to paint a picture of ladies being tough and in charge but guess what, this is a medieval type setting.  Id love to see those feminists show me how equal women were in medieval Europe (or modern day Islam).  That doesn't mean women weren't intelligent or ambitious or strong.  But most men in that type of a society would have taken a women like that to be shrewish at best, and it can get a lot more ugly than that.  And guess how a woman like that gets 'cured' in that type of culture/society? 

I think Esmi is a perfect example.  Smart as hell, but what other options did she have?  You think she can just go and apply for a decent job in that type of world? 


Feminazis and their revisionist history are so ridiculous.

Danylmc

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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2015, 08:29:24 pm »
Feminazis and their revisionist history are so ridiculous.

If feminists are 'feminazis' does that make you a 'man-jew'? If so, good luck with that!

Feminists want to paint a picture of ladies being tough and in charge but guess what, this is a medieval type setting.

Yeah, thanks, I get that. Although it seems a little bit weird that the books are filled with aliens and magicians and demons and gods, but treatment of women MUST be historically accurate, or that would ruin the realism.

Putting that aside, it is possible - and many, many other writers have done this, GRRM being the most notable - to write fantasy in a medieval setting without being super-creepy about it. Like, not specifically structuring the metaphysics of your world to make females literally inferior, not making almost every female character a whore, and not raping and degrading them over and over again.

This stuff has a long history in fantasy writing - I suspect one of Bakker's main influences are the Gor books - and that's mostly for commercial reasons: lots of guys like reading books in which women are raped and beaten. But pretending that these pornographic elements are historical realism, or whatever - is pretty silly.




Wilshire

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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2015, 01:03:42 am »
Feminazis and their revisionist history are so ridiculous.

If feminists are 'feminazis' does that make you a 'man-jew'? If so, good luck with that!
Malejew makes way more sense.

Yeah, thanks, I get that. Although it seems a little bit weird that the books are filled with aliens and magicians and demons and gods, but treatment of women MUST be historically accurate, or that would ruin the realism.
There must always be a point of reference.

GRRM ... not making almost every female character a whore, and not raping and degrading them over and over again.
His HBO show. While not a book, its an approved adaption, which I think makes it a fair thing to bring up in this context. I doubt many feminists would defend that.

This stuff has a long history in fantasy writing - I suspect one of Bakker's main influences are the Gor books -
I suspect you're wrong.

and that's mostly for commercial reasons
Now I feel like you didn't read any of it. Bakker's commercial success is marginal, and is outspoken about this non-commercialism.

But pretending that these pornographic elements are historical realism, or whatever - is pretty silly.
Very fair.


I think its equally silly to suggest that a person who writes about magic and dragons "believes" in the stuff he is writing. Your same argument makes it ridiculous to construe Bakker as whatever it is you are constructing.

I look forward to next month's issue of this thread :D
« Last Edit: January 03, 2015, 01:05:17 am by Wilshire »
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Alia

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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2015, 08:19:19 pm »
A slight offtopic, if I may.
Contrary to what some think, the situation of women in middle ages (especially the second part, after the turn of the millenium) wasn't _that_ bad. First of all, there were no slaves, so no sex or pleasure slaves either. There were serfs, of course, and a lord could rape a peasant woman or a servant without any consequences - but at least he would have to confess it and repent (remember, extra-marital sex is a mortal sin in Christianity).
And women of better means - from the families of craftsmen, merchants or nobility - were often an asset to the family. Marriage was treated as a business contract, a way to strenghten ties between families or consolidate lands - and you would not dare to mistreat your wife if her daddy was your biggest business partner, would you? And then some women governed lands or businesses in the absence of their husbands, which was not perceived as strange. A good wife was a woman who supported her husband and knew how to deal with everyday issues at home and household. True, these were not marriages out of love, but this whole concept is modern.
And, although it didn't happen very often, at that time there were also some female rulers and female scholars (mostly nuns), and a daughter of a wealthy family who decided on monastic life could rise very far indeed (there are several examples of powerful abbesses).

But then again, Bakker's Earwa is not really a mediaeval setting, for me it was always more of a late Roman empire. And situation of women in Greek and Roman times was much, much worse.
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Francis Buck

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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2015, 08:51:54 pm »
A slight offtopic, if I may.
Contrary to what some think, the situation of women in middle ages (especially the second part, after the turn of the millenium) wasn't _that_ bad. First of all, there were no slaves, so no sex or pleasure slaves either. There were serfs, of course, and a lord could rape a peasant woman or a servant without any consequences - but at least he would have to confess it and repent (remember, extra-marital sex is a mortal sin in Christianity).
And women of better means - from the families of craftsmen, merchants or nobility - were often an asset to the family. Marriage was treated as a business contract, a way to strenghten ties between families or consolidate lands - and you would not dare to mistreat your wife if her daddy was your biggest business partner, would you? And then some women governed lands or businesses in the absence of their husbands, which was not perceived as strange. A good wife was a woman who supported her husband and knew how to deal with everyday issues at home and household. True, these were not marriages out of love, but this whole concept is modern.
And, although it didn't happen very often, at that time there were also some female rulers and female scholars (mostly nuns), and a daughter of a wealthy family who decided on monastic life could rise very far indeed (there are several examples of powerful abbesses).

But then again, Bakker's Earwa is not really a mediaeval setting, for me it was always more of a late Roman empire. And situation of women in Greek and Roman times was much, much worse.

Great post Alia. And yeah, the setting itself is not perfectly analogous to the Western Middle-Ages, but instead a sort of mash-up of some of those ideals/practices, along with late Roman Empire as you mention, and a healthy dollop of middle-eastern culture from various periods. At least so far as the Three Seas go.

Wilshire

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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2015, 09:18:35 pm »
Great perspective Alia :). I know little of history, but what you say seems to make a lot of sense.

I think the middle-eastern culture influences are often either forgotten, or purposefully ignored. People often get squeamish around that subject.
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Francis Buck

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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2015, 08:03:17 pm »
I think the middle-eastern culture influences are often either forgotten, or purposefully ignored. People often get squeamish around that subject.

I agree, and it's weird too because one of the first things that stood out to me about the series was its use of Middle-Eastern culture/history/etc., as opposed to boring old European middle-ages.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2015, 01:47:01 am by Francis Buck »

Wilshire

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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2015, 08:59:16 pm »
Its definitely a big part of the entire anti-genre thing that he always goes for. It kind of points to the irrelevance of what the book actually contains, because people will just assign it certain themes/ideas in their minds. After all, with so many words, you can cherry-pick anything you want out of it and find something to back it up. Thus, all the crazy crackpot theories we are left with, waiting for the rest of the books...
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Bolivar

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« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2015, 01:46:10 pm »
It does kind of seem like Bakker cherry-picked the most misogynistic elements of different time periods to make the situation as hopeless as possible. But it all goes back to him challenging the interest of fantasy readers in going on an adventure in a romanticized pre-scientific world (as he calls it). So while there may be self-serving inaccuracies, I still respect him for actually having something to say and making an argument for his readers to ponder.

Also, I don't think there are that many brutal scenes. Iirc,  he doesn't actually go into the details of the first Cnaiur-Serwe incident. The one that really disturbed me was the Warrior Prophet epilogue and I'm still debating whether or not he crossed the line in shock value with that one.

I know he's had the story in his head for 20 years or however long but sometimes I wonder if he invented Mimara in response to some of the criticism online.

The Sharmat

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« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2015, 03:45:29 pm »
I know he's had the story in his head for 20 years or however long but sometimes I wonder if he invented Mimara in response to some of the criticism online.
It didn't work. I've seen outraged posts about Mimara forgiving her attempted rapist.

Never do anything in response to online criticism. Online criticism is infinite and stupid.

Wilshire

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« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2015, 03:48:28 pm »
IS NOT ONLINE CRITICISM INFINITE?
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