Lost in the Stacks 3: Women in Fiction

This week, Scott Adams handed the internet a firebomb and then complained when it went off. In a blog post (deleted from his blog, but kindly reprinted here), he compared women asking for equal pay to children asking for candy. It roused the ire of the ‘net’s feminist population – rightly so – but his reaction of, “You’re just not smart enough to get it” was the icing on the cake.

Yes, ma'am....

But some good did come out of it – I started thinking about female characters in fiction. What difficulties do writers have in creating female characters, and why? How can we go about making sure that more writers do a better job at writing women?

It was an interesting topic to talk about, and I’m sure I made some mistakes or omitted some important details somewhere. After all, from my testiculated point of view, I’m bound to overlook something, so give the show a listen, drop me a comment and let me know!

Some links of interest:

Comics Alliance – ‘Dilbert’ Creator Scott Adams Compares Women Asking for Equal Pay to Children Demanding Candy
Feministe – Scott Adams’ alleged response to criticism
OverthinkingIt.com – The Female Character Flowchart
OverthinkingIt.com – Why Strong Female Characters are Bad for Women
Feminist Frequency – The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies
The Bechdel Test Movie List


Filed under analysis, fantasy, fiction, gender roles, Lost in the Stacks, science fiction, Scott Adams, women, writing

2 responses to “Lost in the Stacks 3: Women in Fiction

  1. Adeptus

    Since you used a pic of one of Joss Whedon’s characters, I thought I should point you to his Equality Now speech:
    (video and transcript)

  2. Joss Whedon has produced some great female characters, hence his female fan following. The same could be said for Terry Pratchett to, his female characters are almost universally great. You mentioned Granny Weatherwax, who I adore, but there’s also Tiffany Aching, Nanny Ogg, Captain Angua, Cheery Littlebottom, Glenda, Lady Margolotta and Lady Sybil, to name but a few. His characters, like Whedons, in many ways are stereotypes (Angua is tough, hot but vulnerable, Lady Sybil is a big kindly aristocrat, Nanny Ogg is… well, Nanny Ogg), but as a troper on TVTROPES.ORG eloquently puts it:

    “A lot of Terry Pratchett’s characters can be viewed as Mary Sues. That’s what Pratchett does – that’s what Pratchett is for. He picks up on common tropes from both fiction and Real Life and applies ridiculous amounts of Rule of Funny and Rule Of Cool to them. Vetinari is the standard impossibly-ingenious Magnificent Bastard overlord, Granny Weatherwax is the impossibly-powerful magician, Carrot is the pure once-and-future king combined with the righteous by-the-book copper, Ponder is the dynamic student who outstrips his superiors etc. Each has had their sue-esque elements extended to hilarious extents (Vetinari can solve Sudoku in seconds; Carrot can make Ankh-Morpork scum smile at him; Ponder single-handedly discovered most of the principles of nuclear and quantum physics; Granny can block swords with her bare hands) but has also been deconstructed to show that these come hand-in-hand with negative elements (Vetinari’s a masochist and a ruthless jerk; Carrot’s eerily, almost inhumanely rule-abiding and logical; Ponder is constantly frustrated and pushes himself far too far; and God help us if Nanny Ogg were to give up on trying to keep Granny on the straight and narrow…) The point behind Discworld is that it contains the same elements as most stories, but done in a more ‘realistic’ way, With Hilarious Results. ”

    Angua’s a classic example, she appears cool and sarcastic, but her inner monolgue is a neurotic diatripe against the inner wolf and herself. She’s also totally devoted to Carrot, but sees this as part of her condition as a werewolf (unthinking devotion and loyalty, a ‘doglike’ quality) and so keeps her feelings in check as best she can, mainly by being incredibly mean to him.
    THAT’S how you write a good female character.

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