Monday, December 22, 2014

Did I Write Feminist Literature?

I've always heard that you should write what you know. I'm not entirely certain how that translated to writing a fantasy novel, but it was something that I kept in mind when writing character's reactions in certain scenes. One big thing that I noticed about half-way through NaNoWriMo was that my story was populated with lots of women. Lots of them...especially when you contrast with other books within the fantasy genre that tend to be very male dominated.

I have female protagonists and antagonists. There are female warriors, healers, mages, rulers, name it, my universe has it. And they're not fighting for their rights as women, either. I didn't purposely go about creating a world where men and women respected each other in this way, it just happened. I suppose I created an idealistic world.

Including all of these females characters was a way of playing to my strengths. I am a woman. I know women. It only makes sense that I populate my story with them. I have men in the story. Rough estimate is about half of my characters are men. Isn't that more realistic? Half the people in the world are women, after all, and I don't think that's a recent occurrence.

It makes me wonder if I accidentally wrote feminist literature. If that means there's an audience for my writing, that's fine. I didn't set about to write for any particular audience. (As a side note, I might should warn you that the next story is a bit more "classic" in that it involves a male antagonist and protagonist.) I write what I know, and what pops into my head.

One challenge with my NaNoWriMo novel was the fact that I had a female warrior and a male healer. I wanted to avoid the cliche of the male character becoming a damsel in distress. I preferred to have them working together, and occasionally saving each other. Isn't that closer to real life, anyways? I've seen enough couples where the woman can be strong without emasculating the man, and the man doesn't have to put the woman "in her place" to be manly.

Did I write feminist literature? I'm not sure. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic!

Want to read more about my 2014 NaNoWriMo project?
NaNoWriMo Editing Plans
What I Did To Silence My Inner Editor
NaNo Is Over. Now What?

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  1. The word "feminist" is a label, and I don't think people agree on exactly what it means, both within or outside of feminism. One of my favorite authors, Ursula LeGuin, I've heard hailed as writing "feminist" literature, but I've also heard her critiqued as not being feminist, at least in some of her writings, when she creates a fantasy world that seems to depict and sometimes reinforce certain traditional gender stereotypes.

    I do think it's really valuable though to write with strong, accurately-depicted female characters, and to have a balance of gender in characters that more accurately depicts the way things are in the real world, rather than making them oversimplified or charicatured.

    But I don't think "feminist" is an either-or thing. There are different types of feminism, and even if you pick a single definition, if you look at any work of literature, or any author, you'll probably find some of aspects of the work that fits within the definition and other aspects of it that don't.

    How would you define feminism? Or how do you tend to view feminism?

    1. I have trouble these days defining feminism, which is probably why I've questioned what I wrote fitting into the category. In the past I haven't liked "feminism" as I've viewed it as working for the rights of women by putting men down, which is not a good way of going about it. I've either been only exposed to extremists in the past, or the movement is changing, as I'm liking what I'm reading about it more these days.

      I do believe that as a general rule, there are things that men and women tend to excel at because of their gender. Why else would we be so different? But since I am a woman that excels at some things that are considered traditionally "male" things, I know that there are always exceptions to generalities.

      In a perfect world, people could fill the roles they were designed to fulfill without being shamed for not conforming to people's expectations.