(urth) Wolfe: Misogynist Or Realist?

timothy fletcher ss4vegita_2000 at yahoo.com
Thu Oct 19 12:36:12 PDT 2006

Thought experiment:  How would your feelings as a reader change if the 
murdered person in DoDrI had been a man?  If Thecla's or Hunna's or 
Morwenna's torture had been done to a man?  I think most would feel a little 
less bothered.  Despite protestations, gender matters to almost all of us 
including Gene Wolfe.

This, to me, is probably one of the most interesting points so far (though there have been a lot of interesting ones). The very fact that we're discussing this shows that people care about positive treatment and portrayal of women in literature. That may seem obvious, but I don't think it's something that would have mattered to earlier generations (and I don't just mean American generations). 

As others have said, Wolfe, it seems, can create positive and sympathetic female characters, so the question is why doesn't he do so very often? It could be because he has some chauvanistic or misogynistic feelings, but it could also be to achieve some particular reaction from readers. I don't think it's impossible that he is something of a misogynist or chauvanist, but I'm not sure the evidence is clear enough on that point. He has some postitive women in his fiction, and I find it difficult to pinpoint an author's psychological state by looking at his work. I think the best evidence anyone has presented for anything resembling chavanism is the point from "Letters from Home" (though having little sypathy for prostitutes is something a lot of more conservative men would feel). 

You make a good point and I sort of covered myself by using quotation marks 
around my use of the term "misogynistic".  I agree with Don Dogget that a 
distinction should be made between misogyny and chauvanism, the former being 
hate of women and the latter being a form of chivalry (perverted?) in which 
women are protected so thoroughly they aren't allowed much freedom.

However I can't agree with your assessment of equality in early Christian 
society....maybe I missed them but in my research I didn't encounter any 
male saints who were canonized for chastity and virginity. Wouldn't a male 
virgin deserve even more credit than a female? ;-).

I really didn't mean complete equality, and I'm sorry if it seemed I did. I mean more elevation, perhaps some form of chivalry. In Greco-Roman society women had few rights, and, like in other cultures, female babies were a burden, sometimes leading them to be "exposed to the elements." Christians had a very different world-view, and they gave women a higher station. 

Men have never been rewarded for chastity very much by any culture. Even in modern society women are devalued for sexual activity while men are praised (this has become something of a cliche, but it's still valid, I believe). In early Christian writings, I can think of Augustine of the top of my head, men sometimes did praise and favor chastity for themselves. Earlier than Augustine, Paul in I Corinthians says it is good not to marry and that he himself chooses not to marry. Celibacy in priests is another example, though it did not develop in Christianity until the second or third century.

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