(urth) Wolfe: Misogynist or Realist?

timothy fletcher ss4vegita_2000 at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 20 19:09:28 PDT 2006

I can agree with Wolfe being loved by both atheists and devout Christians, having been both and loved Wolfe as both. 

That is something I think really makes it difficult to say Wolfe is in some way against women (I'm trying to think of a way to state that and encompass everything that's been discussed, but everthing seems inadequate), that there are so many other authors that are worse. Not that other authors should be used to judge Wolfe, but I've not really heard many people call these other authors misogynists (Delany, I don't know about; I've heard people say that all homosexuals are ultimately misogynists, but I don't really buy that, per se)

Jack Redelfs <jackredelfs at gmail.com> wrote: I have been interested the discussion of evolution, but I'm not
 sure if a convincing case has been made for "chivalry is biology."
Evolution "says" that society can't allow men to kill fertile women
 wantonly. But evolution has no problem with men beating and
 humiliating their wives, or raping and enslaving strangers. 
 These actions don't interfere with reproduction so evolution
 wouldn't seem to "have an opinon" on them.
 That's an interesting side-discussion, but more closely 
 regarding Wolfe and his attitudes:
 Jeff Wilson said:
 > Moral context is truly important, but if you constantly write about 
 > rape and mistreatment of women over and over again, then there would s
 > seem to be some kind of over-infatuation going on. 
 > I think that's pretty much what the argument is, and I've seen little 
 > regarding moral context, since only a couple of people have pointed to a
 > actual examples.
 Perhaps few have addressed the argument because it seems so
 absurd on the face of it. It's so very easy to say that there are countless
 authors, in literary and pulp fiction, that describe horrid behavior toward
 women in obsessive detail - what about Samuel Delany's _Dhalgren_,
 for one example? Wolfe doesn't even come close. Someone 
 already mentioned Stephen King and Clive Barker, "but they write 
 horror, so it's okay.." Unlike a million counter-examples, 
 most of the rapes and tortures in Wolfe are alluded to, 
 not described in detail.
 I have always thought of Wolfe as one of the most humane SF
 authors. He seems like the last SF author I would have thought
 guilty of misogyny. Although maybe he put himself at risk by
 failing to write thinly veiled political tracts about womens' and
 gay rights (ala John Varley).
 It appears that you, Jeff, are not immediately going to
 condemn Wolfe, and I'm glad. So you ask:
 > It's not quanity of violence against women, it's the moral 
 > context. Is it presented as a crime? spoils of war? just 
 > desserts? pretext to arranged marriage? harmless fun? 
 I'm glad you are asking these questions. We could go over
 this thing on a case by case basis, and I'd try to be openminded
 about the possiblity that I'm wrong about Wolfe, although I'm
 not sure I'd succeed. It's probably difficult to be objective about
 your favorite author.
 In one respect Wolfe's
 work IS similar to horror authors like Lawrence Block and
 Clive Barker. The Bad Guys quite often "win."
 I won't deny that sometimes this causes me to 
 feel sick or disgusted when I'm reading Wolfe. Perhaps if 
 I had a different intellectual background, I'd think 
 that Wolfe was jaded and perverse (or misogynistic?) to
 write like this. 
 Or maybe he's trying to make a point: true victories are 
 not made from killing Bad Guys or saving damsels in distress. 
 Sure, we should try to do what we can to right the world, but if 
 we fall short, are we to despair? If we only
 recognize temporal succes, are we not setting ourselves up
 for failure? True victories are victories of the heart.
 Or, to paraprase _Lictor_, 
 "They say you are a great warrior who has
 killed many," said the chief of the Island people to 
 Severian. "I am warrior, but not great," said Severian.
 "For a man is made great not by killing others, but by
 killing parts of himself."
 Of course, this is just my own personal interpretation
 of what Wolfe is trying to say. Others have a completely
 different take on it, and who's to say they're not more correct?
 That's the beauty of Gene Wolfe. He doesn't hit you over the head
 with a moral message, like many authors do (Heinlein, anone?)
 There's no Wise Old Man to explain what lessons you "should" 
 be learning from this scene or that.
 Perhaps that's why _The Book Of The New Sun_ is beloved by
 devout christians and confirmed atheists alike.
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