(urth) Wolfe: Misogynist or Realist?

Mo Holkar / UKG lists at ukg.co.uk
Wed Oct 18 03:28:13 PDT 2006

At 23:15 17/10/2006, Dan'l wrote:
>I AM saying that I have come to find the sheer quantity of violence 
>against women in his narratives disturbing, and I think it needs 
>further thinking-about by people who understand this sort of thing 
>better than I do.

I am not such a person, unfortunately... but I think it's interesting 
to compare Wolfe in this respect with another of my favourite SF 
writers, Philip Dick. In much of Dick's mature work there's this 
recurrent figure of the beautiful woman with long, dark hair who 
maliciously betrays the love of the protagonist. You don't have to be 
a psychoanalyst to suspect that Dick had some particular neurosis he 
was exercising there, particularly when you note that he formed 
unhappy marriages with a number of women also fitting that 
description. Positive images of women to put alongside these negative 
ones are very rare -- so I think it's fair to describe this writing 
as having a misogynistic trait, albeit a fairly tightly-focused one.

The handling of women in Wolfe's writing seems to me to be more 
broadly negative. He is quite capable of creating positive women 
characters, but he seems rarely to choose to do so. Instead his women 
characters often seem to be defined by their status as one kind or 
another of sexual object. While I think it's dangerous to impute 
opinions and beliefs to a writer on the basis of what they write, you 
do have to wonder what's going through his mind as he's composing 
some of the passages.

I know very few women who enjoy reading Wolfe, which is a pity but 
not really a surprise.


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