Friday, October 23, 2015

Fisking Tor's Strong Female Character

Oh,, how I have missed your endless douche-baggery. You have once against decided to talk about Strong Female Characters.  Considering how you nimrods totally botched women in military sci-fi, I suspect this will not end well.
Every now and then, I come across a blog post or an article about Strong Female Characters. (Sometimes several come along at once.) 
Of course you do. You're Don't you guys write half of them?
Often with the capital letters, usually decrying a simplistic reading of strength. True strength, these articles argue, goes beyond mere skill at arms and a sharp tongue. True strength encompasses so much more than shallow kickassery and badass posturing.
Um ... you know that those at least help, right? Emma Peel pulled that off with style.

And "shallow kickassery" ... so, what? Because Krav Maga is simple and straight-forward, it's shallow? How about something overly complicated and flowery like Tae Kwon Do.  Are you being anti-Semitic, since Krav is an Israeli self defense system. Are you against Israel now?

I joke, of course ... we all know that thinks that all kickass bits of business is shallow, because true strength comes from understanding the rapist and the ax-murderer, right, fellas?
Well, you know, I’m not likely to argue with that case. 
Of course you're not. After all, you schmucks went after Joss Whedon, trying to call him a sexist.  We know that Tor is shallow.
Strength, and courage, and virtue—notwithstanding its very manly Latin etymology—encompass more than surface-level traits. 
Um, one, you had to have a disclaimer on virtue? Really? Why not issue a disclaimer on the Cardinal Virtues too, while you're at it.

And how nice, you think that virtues exist.  Wait, you mean they're not subjective, cultural, completely anthropological?  Or are we just going to go into Lefty virtues?  Any bets? Place your bets, folks, place your bets.
But I do find it interesting how this argument is almost always applied to female characters. How many posts and articles decry the shallow sorts of strength of the thriller hero—seldom sketched in more than two dimensions—a strength that can generally only be demonstrated by his competence with violence, his willingness to defy authority, and his occasional ability to make entertaining banter? 
Funny, I'm reasonably certain that the Tor article that slandered Baen authors pretty much did exactly that. Also, that stupid article on SFCs from a few years back -- for example, dismissing James Bond as a pure psychopath (which I'm not arguing, I like Bond less and less as time goes on). Come to think of it, half of the NY Times articles are highly, highly dismissive of thrillers, thriller authors and thriller characters.

How many posts and articles? How many hours have you got?
More often you find them praised, or taken as the model for a whole subgenre, at least in terms of style. (Here I make sweeping generalisations, but no more sweeping than have been made in the other direction.)
Here, you make sweeping generalizations -- with a Z -- without any knowledge of your subject matter.  The amount of times I've seen Mitch Rapp or Scot Harvath dismissed as jinoistic, shallow, cardboard .... I've lost track.

So, how about you pretend, just for a moment, to have done five minutes of research. A quick google search would have you piece this together.  I haven't seen this level of ignorance since defamation of Baen last time, noted above, and ... and ...


A quick search of the internet has led me to realize that this is the EXACT SAME AUTHOR.  The light dawns. It's been three years, and she has apparently yet to pick up a single novel not published by Tor.

The short version is that this is the very same creature who bitched that David Weber's most famous creation, Honor Harrington, didn't have a sex life in the first few books, glossing over the fact that Honor was the near-victim OF AN ATTEMPTED RAPE.
But show me a female character whose major characteristics are competence with violence, willingness to defy authority, and the occasional ability to make entertaining banter, and I’ll show you a character who—I am willing to guarantee you—has been dismissed as entirely lacking depth, or as a “man with breasts,” or criticised for being insufficiently well-rounded, or not really “strong.” 
You mean like the article you wrote where you did the same thing?

You mean like how Honor Harrington has been dismissed as that, and her characteristics have nothing to do with a lot of banter or defying authority (she's an Admiral, she is authority).

Maybe like the New Statesman did a few years ago, in an article that read surprisingly like yours did ... and does.
(Look at the critiques sometimes leveled at, for example, Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels.
Or any number of other urban fantasy female protagonists—it’s often urban fantasy that bears the brunt of this critique, since it’s the genre with the greatest preponderance of ass-kicking female characters.)
Maybe PTSD-Superheroine will
be too "strong."
Yes, because Xena never had this problem.  Buffy never had this problem. Marvel heroes never had this problem.  Oh wait, yet again, the New Statemen article bitched about this with Xena, AND Buffy, AND Marvel heroes. Your article on Baen's books in scifi bitched about this. Do you not even remember what you yourself have written?

And it's only urban fantasy? Honor Harrington gets this critique all the time, according to Those Who Know these things (John Ringo noted the critique, and David Weber has heard it often enough). Hell, the last time I heard someone level this SFC charge was Kim Harrison against Blindspot.

1) I don't know what Harrison was smoking, but 2) I note that Harrison WRITES urban fantasy told from the POV of -- wait for it -- her female lead!

Funny about that, an urban fantasy female author leveling an SFC charge.
It puts me in mind of that old adage, that a woman needs to be twice as good to go half as far as her male counterparts.
If that were the case, you'd have to actually read more than Tor novels.  You seem to get nowhere fast by being totally ignorant of the topic of which you speak. Nimrod.

Oh, and wait, Xena lasted six seasons -- the exactly same length as the male counterpart, Hercules. I'm shocked, shocked I say.
I’m not arguing in favour of greater shallowness, 
Don't lie, you work for Tor. And I don't see you advocating for the Wright family.
lest anyone be tempted to misunderstand me. 
We understand you just fine. Though I'm waiting for you to turn this into another ad for Tor books while maligning everyone else.
But the double standard of content, the double standard of criticism applied, bothers me really quite fundamentally. 
Then maybe you shouldn't indulge in it yourself.
We fall into the error of really rather relentlessly applying criticism to female characters. 
You jumped the shark there already when Tor went after Whedon because of Black Widow.
They’re too domestic! They aren’t domestic enough! They have too little agency! Or too much, having unbelievably few constraints on their choices! They’re too violent, too shallow, too brittle. They’re too gentle, too generous, too forgiving, too soft. They’re insufficiently maternal, or too much so. They’re too independent! They’re not independent enough!
How about "They're not having enough sex for my taste!" Again, see Honor Harrington.  No, I'm not letting that go.
They are, in short, very seldom considered good enough to escape this kind of scrutiny.
Tor should know, since, again, Whedon and Widow. It's obvious that the other authors at are guilty of this, so how about you go hold their feet to the fire.
(Which is unsurprising: If you haven’t noticed, nonfictional women are equally subject to a more intense scrutiny than men.
Really? Let me know when Leftists stop deifying Margaret Sanger.
And it’s not just men who subject them to it: It’s something many of us have internalised and reproduce. It’s the air we breathe and the society we swim in.)
Also see commentary of Black Widow.... by Tor... an author who's a woman.

Also see your own article on Honor Harrington.

Are you born being this hypocritical, or do you have to take lessons?
This continuous critique of female roles in narrative, though—not just their lack, but every aspect of their presence, both in specific and in aggregate—points to a rather more basic issue. Women just aren’t seen as normal the way men are. 
Okay, pardon me while my brain processes this. Women aren't normal the way men are ...

As a guy who went to an all-male high school, I think we have very different definitions of what constitutes "normal."

No, seriously, how are men considered "normal"? Because the people that come to mind are a guy with multiple personalities and another who self-identifies as a weapon of war, and another guy who refights every battle of World War I in his spare time when he's bored. So, tell me, what do you think of as normal.
And female protagonists, female heroes, are even more a thing to be remarked upon. Male characters escape this sustained critique, because male characters are still the default, the standard. 
What? WHAT?

Okay, done. You're obviously too stupid to even write articles on the internet. Have you never heard of Boudica? Maeve (The Tain)? Emma Peel? Red Sonja? Modesty Blaise? Linda Carter as Wonder Woman in the 70s? Buffy? Xena? Ever read a Terry Goodkind novel (Cara and Kahlan, you don't GET much stronger than them)? Ever read the life of a single female saint? Joan of Arc? Hell, right now, I'll go to cartoons. Ever hear of Cheetara of the Thundercats? How about Elisa Maza (the cop from Gargoyles)?

Right now, you want urban fantasy? Go look up Holly and Julie in Larry Correia's Monster Hunter books

I've grown up with female heroes since my earliest recollections. Where the hell have you been? WHAT COCOON HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING IN?

I'm now seriously considering giving up on this entire article. Female heroes aren't normal. Bull. My earliest recollections involve female heroes all over my cartoons, all over my comic books, all over my media.

Oh, wait, are these not the "right kind of women"?
Male heroes are ubiquitous. And they offer no potential transgression of our existing social hierarchies.
Uh huh ... Because a man who dressed up like a giant bat and fights crime is in no way a transgression of anything in society, especially in Greenwich Village during Halloween.  Because James Bond isn't a cold-blooded psycho with all the personality of a brick? Because being super-patriot Captain America is perfectly 100% A-okay among the good leftists of the world. Because fighting for Truth Justice and the American way is so common that it's been completely excised from the last two movies on Superman.

Because being a hero, in itself, in no way requires transgressing society's norms.

Offering no potential transgression of social hierarchies?  You have a very, very narrow view of what the social hierarchy looks like, don't you? Where did you get your anthropology degree in, a crackerjack box?
So how should we address this double standard?
How about you actually frame the problem in a way that's not so easily refuted by some random schlub on the internet because he grew up with all the evidence that prove you've done no research? Maybe you should actually have done some research without making so many random blanket statements that are refuted with children's cartoons and 70s reruns.
There are a couple of ways which have been pointed out to me, and which I think are worth considering. 
It would be too much to hope for that these people suggested doing actual research? Or that you yourself don't indulge in it?
It’s vital that in our discussions of Strong Female Characters, we remember the double standard exists. 
Of course it is! Who suggested these ways? Terry Hayden?

Also, have you proven that there is a double standard? Nope, you've working on a premise that you clearly haven't proven, clearly hadn't researched, and what discussion? Have we actually had a discussion yet?  It feels like so much of this time has been spent on -- "look, look, there are shallow male characters that no one has ever made fun of." Seriously, you want a discussion on that, go watch a Reb Brown movie (Note to my readers: don't ever watch a Reb Brown film unless you have brain cells to spare).
It’s not fair to hold female characters to such a high level of scrutiny. 
Wait, hold on.  First, it's not fair that male characters aren't held to the same level of scrutiny. THEN it's not fair that women are held to this level of scrutiny....

Uh huh. You know what? Riddle me this, batty -- why is it that the same people who bitch about Strong Female Characters and many men in thrillers are the SAME FREAKING PEOPLE?
(Part of this, of course, is a scarcity problem: When there are only one or two significant female characters in a narrative, or when they are less than completely ubiquitous in a genre, their representations carry more weight and attract more criticism, because they have to stand for every woman.) 
Ooooh, so we can't critique women like this because they're a scarce resource, but men are fair game because they multiply like rabbits.  Supply and demand, nothing more, nothing less.

Last time I heard an argument like this, it was an argument for why telepaths on Babylon 5 saw "mundane," non-telepathic people as disposable non-persons.
We need not only to discuss female characters in light of the double standard of content, but also in light of the double standard of criticism.
How about we critique individual characters and stories one at a time and stop trying to apply arbitrary political ideologies to them that have nothing to do with the story? How about we try that for a few minutes, you reject from remedial reading?
We could also spend some more critical energy on interrogating Strong (and Weak) Male Characters.
Interrogating? I'm sorry, is Jack Bauer writing this article now?
Subject them to higher levels of scrutiny. 
Funny, I can't even read a New York Times book review anymore for all the crap they give any character who has actual muscle tone. We won't even go into how much they hate everything Marvel.
Ask ourselves what we really mean by “well-rounded” and “believable.”
I still find it hard to believe that Baen hasn't sued Tor, and this author, into next Tuesday from last time they did this.
But mostly, I think, we need to destroy the idea that there is a default sort of human and a default sort of protagonist. 
How about this -- my protagonists are human beings who are not morally, ethically and in all ways repugnant? You know, in no way like Game of Thrones?
That we should judge strength differently based on who has it. 
So your solution to the double standard is to institute a different double standard, is that right? Or do you mean that maybe we should take things on a case-by-case basis of quality?

... Nah. I already suggested it, so of course you'll hate it.
(Maybe even that some things are peculiarly male or female at all.)
Oh. really? What an idea. Are you going to allow girls to pick pink while boys choose blue? Let me know when you come even that close.
Look, don’t get me wrong. 
I wish I could.
By all means, let’s debate the meaning of strength. 
By all means ... you start.
Let’s argue against shallowness, and in favour of depth. 
Thanks, I have been. Didn't you read the above fisking?
But let’s try not to uphold the double standard while we’re doing it?
Which one? The old one that you made out of straw, or the new one you just established?
I know it’s hard. But it’s got to be worth a try, right?
Right. 100% agree. Pity you couldn't try.


  1. "I still find it hard to believe that Baen hasn't sued Tor, and this author, into next Tuesday from last time they did this."

    a) Baen makes money without much caring for that angle.
    b) If they succeeded, Tor might fold. Can you imagine the cries? "Cis-editors kill Tor!" I mean, it's not like Tor is swimming in profits.

    "How about this -- my protagonists are human beings who are not morally, ethically and in all ways repugnant? You know, in no way like Game of Thrones?"

    Now, I'll be the first to admit I haven't read but a couple of novellas in that series. I got singed twice too many with translated multilogies. That said, my understanding is that some of the characters in the series (the surviving ones) are as decent as they can afford.

    Dunno if I'll follow the series, anyhow. I expected better from Martin around the Hugos.

    Take care

    1. True. Baen does make money hand over fist. As for the cries of SJWs whining over the corpse of Tor ... they'll probably blame Baen anyway when Tor dies a natural death anyway.

      As I understand (and what little I've observed), the good are killed early, the rapists and murderer last forever.

    2. Tor... I don't if it'll die or how it will work. It's part of something larger, after all. Personally, it's been a while since I visited their page. After one of those cisbegotten articles of them that was basically, "think my way or you're a XYZ". 2 years ago? Three? Dunno. No longer care. I'll not read a publisher who insults its customers. Pity, they have nice writers. But I'm not going to fund my attackers.

      Well... the good _are_ killed early. Unless they are the feudal equivalent of a 2nd am. advocate or _very_ resourceful.

      Take care.

  2. 1) If you haven't read Kate Daniels, you're doing yourself a disservice. Almost as much of one as not reading the Dresden Files.

    2) I don't think of the Monster Hunter series as Urban Fantasy, it lacks several crucial elements of the genre, most particularly the focus on URBAN conflict. It's a great read. But every time I head someone call it Urban Fantasy, they're missing the point of the genre. The city is not just a cardboard setting, it forms the world those characters live in, and becomes as much part of the cast as any of them. Dresden could not be set anywhere but Chicago. Rachel Morgan anywhere but Cincinnati. Monster Hunter is...well, the middle of nowhere, as often as not.

    I'll say again, I love the series. But it's not Urban Fantasy.

    And given Marvel's increasing kowtowing to the Left: See FemmeThor, Hispanic/Gay Spidey, and now Captain America and the so-called not Tea Party jab, I don't really see the point of defending Marvel. They're simply being reminded they have to bow to the SJWs more frequently. And they will on command. It was too much effort to make new characters to placate the shrieking banshees of the Left, so they bastardized their old ones.

    1. I'm backlogged on my reading. I haven't even read some of the Sad Puppy authors -- I only discovered Larry Correia last year. I have read Butcher though.

      Oh, I'm not defending Marvel's present, I'm more defending specific instances -- the whole "let's lynch Joss Whedon" thing was just bizarre, and downright deranged.

    2. Joss whedon has a certain Jayne Cobb at hs command. I wouldn't threaten him, or piss him too much.

      Take care

  3. I just did a quick inventory of my reading material within sight. About 25 books.

    Um....All but two have a strong female protagonist that kicks butt. The two that are male are Reacher and Harvath.....Rapp not within sight, at the moment.

    Dante Valentine.
    Jill Kisment
    Honor Harrington
    Anita Blake
    Molly in Neuromancer
    Rachael Morgan
    Alexia Tarabotti in Gail Carriger's Soulless series
    Rose Gordhammond, Lady Harminster in Ed Green's steampunk
    Karrin Murphy

    These are all the ones just within reach right now. In fact, point out the SF that actually is pushing interesting MALE characters in a series. As a society, it seems we like kick ass women heroes because we see them as physical underdogs. It's more interesting to watch the Black Widow take down a crowd than Thor.....its expected of Thor.

  4. If I write a female character that kicks butt and takes names, I'm writing a man with breasts.
    If I write a female character that is reserved and thoughtful, I'm writing a weak woman who can't stand up to the men.
    If a female character gets hurt or killed, I hate women and probably have issues.
    If a female character stays out of the action, I hate women and probably have issues.
    If I write a story of nothing but female characters, I'm "appropriating".
    If I write a story with no female characters, I'm evil.

    I can't win.

    I don't care.

  5. Holy Cheese Balls!

    I discovered this thanks to Chicks on the Right. I think this may be my new favorite website!

    In response to the feminazi "author" of the original article, I would LOVE to know what she considers a strong female character. Feminazis complain about "patriarchy this" and "male-dominated that" but never stop to look long enough at individual characters to assess anything accurately. And they certainly can't make up their minds on what constitutes "strength".

    Hell, look at the Bible. Obviously a lot of us here recognize that it is a true historical account. But even if you don't, even if you count it as a work of fiction, the majority of women in the Bible are anything but weak.

    Esther saved an entire ethnic peoples.
    Ruth went from outcast, widow, and foreigner to great grandmother of the greatest king Isreal ever had.
    Jael lulled an enemy king to sleep AND NAILED HIS FRICKING HEAD TO THE GROUND WITH A TENT PEG.

    I'd love to hear how would describe these women.

    Probably complain about their lack of sex life...

    1. No question.

      And I'm sure Tor would dismiss them as being too religious

  6. Only tangentially relevant, but I once opined that watching Reb Brown thesp was like watching a monkey doing algebra. I'm just glad that someone else out there has suffered through enough of his soi disant "acting" to use him as a point of reference.

    Frankly this sort of ill-argued, non-fact-based maundering is typical of the garbage that comes out of the SJW author sites on a daily basis and is no longer worth giving any attention to except as a source of satire. Then again, you may not want to listen to me as I'm a chick and, by the author's lights, not seen as normal anyway (thank goodness for that, who wants to be normal). Worse I'm a chick Soldier with 20 years of military experience and leadership time under my belt, which apparently means I'm either a man with breasts (which will come as a bit of a shock to my poor, long-suffering husband), or worse (and more likely) a totally co-opted baby-killing tool of the Patriarchy.

    1. 1) Thank you for your service.

      2) "A monkey doing algebra," nice.

      First time I saw Reb Brown, it was during a Miami Vice playthrough on DVD. I was waiting for him to say Hulk Smash. Every further experience of his "acting" hasn't changed my impression much.

      3) As for satire, yup, you've got it in one. The only reason I'm still on Tor's "newsletter" is for material to fisk when I'm bored. :)

  7. I remember growing up on Meg Murray, Peewee, Wyoming Knott, Delilah (of Delilah and the Space Rigger), and so many others.

    Strong female heroes being some kind of new thing? Feh.


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