(urth) 'King Rat' and the abuse of women in Gene Wolfe's stories

Lane Haygood lhaygood at gmail.com
Wed Mar 9 07:27:29 PST 2011

I tend to write (almost exclusively) male protagonists and narrators.
Because I am male.  I don't have any direct, subjective experience of being
female.  I do not think I could write a female narrator from a first-person
perspective.  Third-person limited is probably the only voice I could use
for female protagonists.

I think it would be more misogynistic (and presumptuous) of male writers to
attempt to relate female experiences that they clearly do not have, as if
saying, "Oh, we really get what it's like to be women, too.  We're so smart
and better than everyone else."

But that's me.


On Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 9:01 AM, Ryan Dunn <ryan at liftingfaces.com> wrote:

> And yet, when interviewed about An Evil Guest, Gene became strongly
> emotional and choked up when expressing how Cassie stole the book out from
> under Chase and proclaimed,"This is MY story!"
> He said the hardest part about finishing that book was not being able to
> write her character anymore.
> Hardly a misogynistic emotion, I would say. More likely Wolfe is simply
> more prone to story concepts built around men, no? Not to the express
> exclusion of writing a female protag, but these gender selections do trend
> toward matching the gender of the author.
> As an aside, whenever a story pops into my head, the hero is usually a
> troubled young man or boy. I have to force him to be anyone else more often
> than not.
> Any writers on this list have a similar experience with their muse?
> ...ryan
> On Mar 9, 2011, at 9:41 AM, David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net>
> wrote:
> > Ah, yes---our old friend Lepton. I suggest we read him to find out what
> NOT to think.
> >
> > As a side note, it is of course exactly that "different, without one
> being intrinsically inferior" that is contested. But yes, I think the
> criticism is classic kneejerkism.
> >
> > Wolfe is more interested in moral explorations than social ones, to the
> extent that they can be separated, and he's no Octavia Butler. There Are
> Doors postulates a society that is arguably more female-dominated than our
> own in some ways, and it's clearly a dystopia. But it's hardly worse than
> our world, and if it is worse, it's only in the same ways, or
> analogous/reversed ones, that our world is bad. It's a projection based on
> misogynist male fears, but not on misogyny per se. It incorporates rules
> that are false here, but very familiar (being Faery-like).
> >
> > Neither world is fair; both worlds are run by compassionately depicted
> flawed humans who do the best they can under the rules.
> >
> > On 3/9/2011 9:01 AM, Gerry Quinn wrote:
> >> I agree he gets it about right.  Wolfe is unlikely to win any awards for
> feminist SF, but accusations of misogyny are a bit strong, unless misogyny
> is defined so widely as to be useless for descriptive purposes..
> >> Definitions of misogyny vary from the literal "hatred of women" to
> "holding a distasteful opinion about women as a group".  Clearly anybody
> holding an opinion about women as a group is at risk of falling into the
> latter category for someone, even if the opinion might be considered
> complimentary by many.
> >> I think the accusations of misogyny stem from two, perhaps three
> sources.  First, Wolfe's female characters are typically not so much in the
> forefront or as strongly delineated as the males.  This may reasonably be
> excused on the grounds that Wolfe is male; for most authors, writing one's
> own gender seems likely to be an easier task.  I would not harshly criticise
> a woman author for writing stronger female characters!
> >> Second, Wolfe clearly believes that traditional gender roles reflect
> certain realities of human nature, and his books tend to reflect that.  For
> many, this belief is so obviously true as to need no debate.  For others, to
> state or imply it is to take a reactionary stance that opposes all that is
> pure and good according to current progressive thinking.  In their view,
> making such a statement is in itself a thoughtcrime sufficient to warrant
> the accusation of misogyny, even when the gender roles are just different,
> without one being intrinsically inferior.
> >> The third source is exemplified by rantings such as those of 'Lepton',
> who asserts in effect that any mistreatment of women depicted in a book
> demonstrates the author's misogyny, even when equal or greater mistreatment
> of men is depicted just as prominently.  My guess is that Lepton is actually
> motivated at base by the second sourse above, but does not have the wit to
> express it in coherent form, so he falls back on this.  His argument might
> have some force if Wolfe were wrining porn, or torture porn, but clearly he
> is not.  Wolfe's sex scenes are not lubricious.  The most visceral torture
> scene is that in which Thea's maidservant has her leg flayed, and I find it
> hard to believe anyone would read it to enjoy the evocation.
> >> - Gerry Quinn
> >>
> >>    *From:* Daniel Petersen <mailto:danielottojackpetersen at gmail.com>
> >>
> >>    On a wholly different note, have you all read the latest Silk for
> >>    Calde blog post on Wolfe?  A really well reasoned article on this
> >>    issue of misogyny in Wolfe:
> >>
> >>
> http://silk4calde.blogspot.com/2011/03/king-rat-and-abuse-of-women-in-gene.html
> >>
> >>
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