Geek Girls Rule! #131 – When the Misogyny Gets Me

Hopefully there won’t be too many typos, tonight is my first experiment in blogging (here anyway) while drinking.  I decided my first several days of actually accomplishing things at work deserved a reward, and for that reward I chose a bottle of my new (and only) favorite wine, Cetamura Chianti.  I’m not a wine drinker normally, but this stuff is niiiiccccccce…

Anyway, the reason I decided to post about this, not the wine but when I can’t ignore the misogyny, is because I love classic SF.  I really do.  I like Asimov, Heinlein, Wellman, Lovecraft and many others.  The one thing all of these authors have in common is kind of a lot of misogyny, Asimov far less than the others, but still women tend not to factor much in his stories.  The theorizing about Lovecraft’s tentacular, vaginal nightmare creations is legendary, and Heinlein may as well have his own chapter in the Big Book o’Freud.  Wellman, well, he’s pretty straightforward, too, his character  John Thunstone is downright dismissive of the abilities of women in general, and thwarts several female villains who get in over their heads, “just like a woman.”  So, I’m no stranger to over-looking misogyny-o-rama while reading for pleasure, but I have to tell you: Murray  Leinster is sorely trying my patience.

I honestly don’t know if I can finish this book.

I picked up the e-book anthology of his called A Logic Named Joe* which is a short story I had read in several different anthologies.  Eric Flint put this anthology together for Baen, so I went in prepared to L-O-V-E it.  I really enjoyed A Plague of Demons*, the anthology of Keith Laumer’s stuff Flint also edited.  But god damn it, if two stories in to the Leinster anthology I didn’t start to doubt my commitment to Sparkle-Motion.

You know, it would be ok if he just didn’t HAVE women in the stories, like many of his contemporaries.  I could cope with that.  I mean, Wellman rarely inserts them in the Thunstone or John the Balladeer stories, and when he does it is problematic, but survivable.  But there is something about the way Leinster describes women in general, and his named female characters in specific, that just chaps my hide.  Maybe it’s the constant references to gold-digging (“marriage is a girl’s career”), or the fact that all of his ideal heroines are, if not outright stupid, barely literate and often so naive it’s unbelievable.  In one story, the hero has to go to a nigh-feudal abondoned colony to find a girl who isn’t, ahem, economically motivated, and who (rightfully) worships the hero’s burning intellect and sense of derring do.

I’m sorry, I can’t even type that with a straight face, and I’m sure the wine’s not helping.

I’m used to unfavorable depictions of women in SF/F media.  Half the time, believe it or not, I don’t even notice them.  I happily read Wellman, Lovecraft, and countless others who avoid, discount, or actively despise women.  But something about Leinster just pisses me off.  And I’m not sure exactly what it is.  Maybe it’s the insistence that women are “gold-diggers.”  Maybe it’s the fact that many of his heroes seem to get led/put in the path of trouble by a woman, or at the very least, a woman is somehow the root cause.

“Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame
But I know it’s my own damn fault.”

Thank you, Mr. Jimmy Buffet (from Wasted Away in Margaritaville)

If a middle-aged stoner songwriter can figure this out, why the hell can’t middle-aged male SF/F writers?  Or rather couldn’t.  And yes, I know, man of his times and all that, but it just seems so much worse in his stuff than in the others.  And I’m not entirely sure why?  Maybe because the ideas of “Logics” in A Logic Named Joe (1946) is so like the idea of home computers and the internet, that it’s hard for me to place him where he really belongs in the spectrum of SF/F.  But I don’t think so.

I’ll keep thinking on it, and maybe in a couple of days I’ll be able to keep reading his incredibly ham-handed takedown of Communism, and read how he either saves feudalism or brings them into the womb-like embrace of capitalism.

*it’s available in the Baen Free Library

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6 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #131 – When the Misogyny Gets Me

  1. Yeah, sometimes it would have been best if women just didn’t exist in their worlds. I really don’t need to know their thoughts about them. At least everyone knew John Norman was writing pr0n.

  2. While I haven’t read any of the stuff that you’ve mentioned, I’ve had an instance where I just threw a book clear across a room out of sheer disgust and anger over the mysogyny that was abundent in it. It’s Starcraft Ghost: Nova, and it pissed me off to no end. I could not finish reading it, and when I finally did skip ahead to the end, I was relieved to see that at the very least I did not waste anymore time on it.

    Makes me wish that sometimes these writers wouldn’t have ANY women in their stories, because their writing of women is just so bad in the first place.

  3. I definitely see where you are coming from with Leinster and female characters. I’m a male and I get irritated myself. But I don’t think he really was capable of creating any other “developed” character than the “oh-so-clever-idiot” surrounded by bumbling people and cultures. I actually found myself trying to figure out just what it was he was trying to say about women. But his characters were pretty much off-the-shelf so what are you gonna do?

    I find the stuff entertaining and somewhat humorous. I don’t really think A Logic Named Joe resembled the internet that much. Lots of things in classic science fiction tends to resemble things of modern times but it’s not like someone ever read Leinster and thought, hmm..that makes sense. The science is not really there. I wouldn’t read him just to be fair about his place in SF. It’s a matter of opinion and perspective. I think you have him pegged!

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