(urth) Wolfe: Misogynist or Realist?

b sharp bsharporflat at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 18 05:35:00 PDT 2006

I'll chime in by suggesting that there is a continuum here, as for most 
human characteristics.  I suggest the poles of the continuum are not 
misogyny and reality but rather misogyny and chivalry.  On one end there are 
men who fear and/or loathe women, on the other end are men who feel women 
deserve a higher degree of respect, protection and caring than men (yes, 
sorry, Dan'l I'm accusing you of being a gentleman).  I'm not sure it is 
accurate to call the middle "realism".  And I'm not sure each person has a 
lot of choice on where they fall on the scale.

I notice the discussion has focused solely on Wolfe's treatment of women 
rather than an objective comparison of whether he treats his female 
characters worse than his male characters.  It would seem there are other 
chivalrous gentlemen in the room.  Are there any thoughts on whether Wolfe 
treats his male characters better than women? (and no fair using 
quantitative measures, Wolfe makes it clear he identifies strongly with his 
protagonists so naturally they will mostly be men).

As for most human continuums (continua) of values, it can be uncomfortable 
when one person is placed in close contact with someone else who resides a 
great distance away on the continuum.  I think we can all agree Wolfe is 
writing from his heart and his deeper feelings about women are expressed.  
Dan'ls expressed view was also heartfelt and I take his use of the term 
"misogynist" to be a recognition of the distance between himself and Wolfe 
on this issue, not a flat condemnation.

Daniel D. Jones raises an important question:  Is Wolfe's "misogyny" 
presented in a way which is meant to inspire outrage in a reader, or a 
recognition of how things "really" are?  I think people are disagreeing on 

Mo's observation that few women seem to become Wolfe fanatics is germaine.  
There was an Alice who appeared on this list in its early days and I think I 
remember a complaint or two about Wolfe's presentation of women from her.  
This suggests to me that Wolfe is not so successful if he is trying to 
inspire outrage or empathy in regard to women's issues.  I don't think he is 
trying to.

Jack's observation of connection between identification with the Old 
Testament and mysogyny was interesting.  While the Middle East is generally 
known for being "misogynist" on the scale (regardless of faith) the early 
days of Christianity and Roman Catholicism show an even stronger vein, in my 
estimation.  In researching some of Wolfe's saint names I was really struck 
by how many of the early female saints were canonized for virtues of 
virginity, chastity, fighting off sexual advances, dressing as a man to 
avoid sex, etc.

Lastly, I'll note again that it seems to me that Wolfe is writing from his 
heart and I suspect few of his devoted readers would sign a petition 
requesting he change his attitude.


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