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Old Dec 20 2011, 04:16 PM   #3
D. M. Domini
D. M. Domini's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland
Gender: F
Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Default Re: When has Anne McCaffrey become answerable to Feminists?


Context and nuance. Both of these need to be taken into consideration when reading AMC's works in the 2010s.

Here's where I think you're right, Heath:

People should give AMC credit where credit is due. She did take some "first steps" in portraying strong women in the literary world, and gay men in respected positions in her society.

I don't entirely agree with you about the BDSM aspects, since while she does have the "dom" aspect to F'lar/Lessa, F'nor/Brekke, and you could even stretch it to the hints of Robinton/Menolly, Afra/Damia from the Talent series, and, in the Brainship series, the Maestro/his student, but she also condemns Meron and Kylara pretty firmly, and they were shown to have kinky, violent sex. This doesn't invalidate your experiences...for you, the F'lar/Lessa, F'nor/Brekke relationships aided you in discovering your inner self and you obviously didn't pick up on the Meron/Kylara as a condemnation of you, but it's possible others of this inclination had a very different experience.

But, still...between her subtle acceptance of some aspects of homosexuality, and her portrayal of women that were more empowered then others of her ear, she definitely gets credit, and more than earned all of the rewards she got, such as her Hugos, and Grand Master of Science Fiction. The Harper Hall Trilogy and the Pern books were "gateway" books for a long time. More than two generations were gently introduced to a perhaps wider and more accepting worldview than other books and forms of media, or even their home lives, may have presented. That's a pretty big damn accomplishment. The "value" of "gateway" books is pretty priceless.

However, acknowledging the good she's done doesn't mean you can't stop to ask questions about other portions of her work. AMC's only human, and questioning portions of her work that are questionable isn't an attack. You could say that such discussions are a huge learning tool for people.

Here's where I think you are wrong:

I don't think talking about and thinking about how AMC's books have or haven't aged well is an "attack". Considering that the books are still read--if not as widely--in this decade, it is completely relevant to use her books as a starting discussion point to explore social issues we are still dealing with today.

Now, I DO know that some people involved in fandom who wander into THIS fandom run into the "tentpeg" thing and short a few circuits, and use strong language (much as you do yourself in your post). But it doesn't make sense to use that as a brush for everyone.

You bring quite a few of your own biases into the conversation, by the way. I read "feminist" as a slur in your mouth, and "misguided PC police" pretty obviously states your feelings on the matter.

But...take a moment to step into the shoes of the ones fighting from this perspective, people who consider themselves "feminists", and people who seem to be "PC enforcers"...why are people arguing from these viewpoints? There has to be something in their lives or experiences that angers them too, angers them enough that they'll brave the scorn that you and others have for them. Why have they come to these conclusions? Why are they "feminist" in an age where we supposedly have equality? Why do people still get upset at certain words, and chide others for using them even when it's clear from the tone of the one using them that it was a joke, or they weren't being overtly aggressive and hurtful? What motives and goals do people who consider themselves "feminists", or people who object to certain terms, work towards? Maybe their experiences in life are different than yours. They can't all be stupid, can they? One or two must have good reasons for their perspectives.

This stuff isn't simple to figure out. It's certainly not as simple as some people being brainless man-hating "feminists", or boneheaded PC Police.

Let's take the Jaxom example that you brought up.

* Jaxom observes at mating flight while at the Weyr
* Ruth doesn't have much of a reaction
* Jaxom gets hot and bothered
* Jaxom goes home, seeks out Corana
* Corana is busy, doing work, and resists
* He takes her anyway

There's a few things to think about there. One, since Ruth has no interest in mating, Jaxom is NOT channeling his dragon's lust. This is all him. Two, while there's nothing wrong about a sub/dom relationship, we-the-reader don't know that that is the nature of their relationship. And because we have absolutely no indication of that, but we DO know Jaxom is a Lord, a Dragonrider, and Fax's son, the situation aligns more with real-life scenarios where a relatively low-ranking woman might submit to a man, even a young man, who wields so much more power, due to fear. Not thrilling, sexy fear, but real fear for her own welfare and the welfare of those around her.

That's a little troublesome to think about, particularly when the rest of the nuances in the book paint Jaxom as an upstanding young man...student of Robinton, raised by Lytol, a man who overcame the disadvantages of his birth (his mother dead, his father a tyrant and also dead, and he only has the Hold because having a major Hold go up for grabs would be a nightmare for a Pern that was already unstable first due to Fax, and then due to Thread.) Yet, we see this same young man become horny, without the influence of his OWN dragon, and then demand sex from a woman who resists, then gives in when he continues to press her. And this incident more or less is never brought up ever again in the books...Corana is pretty much completely forgotten. Despite this, Jaxom's still the golden child.

If the subtle inclusion of gay green-riding men can be held up as one of AMC's accomplishments in the movement for acceptance of gay people...what are we to make of THIS subtle inclusion? Why count one as progressive, and ignore the other one because noticing it might seem disrespectful to the author?

I do think you're correct that AMC probably tended towards liking a little male dominance/female submission. This is a pattern that's almost universally reinforced in her male/female romances...the only one I can think of who might upset the boat is Robinton, who was by nature more gentle with an authoritative persona that is more of an act than innate dominance (as opposed to characters like F'lar who lead first and perhaps think second). And even with the Harper's possibly more subbish or switchy inclinations, there were Robinton/Menolly hints that, had that relationship been played out in canon, would still have placed him in the dominant position due to his great age advantage over Menolly, and of course rank.

So there's a pretty heavy pattern of male-over-female dominance, at least in relationships, in AMC's books. It's not as simple as, "They're all in dom/sub relationships! And that's a-ok!" Of course, nor is as simple as saying AMC has NO touches of things in her romances that, in this day and age, fall into the BDSM spectrum. Because she does. It's stated right out that Damia of the Talent series is sort of thrilled by Afra's physical strength over her.

I think most people assume that this is a product of her generation; men were expected to be rulers in their home, women were expected to look for a strong man who could support them and their children. And that's where the discussions of female equality start to come in.

And with the Kylara/Meron kinky sex relationship condemned, it doesn't seem that AMC was necessarily aware of the BDSM lifestyle, or at least not in a positive light. So as such, it seems, on the surface at least, the constant subbiness of women in romantic relationships is likely more a holdover of her generation than an avocation of BDSM. Although as I've said, one doesn't mean the other can't also exist...the patterns could come BOTH from the social expectations of a man running the household, AND a romantic inclination towards more aggressive partners.

In the end, I think both sides of this argument are a little bit right.

And I think people suck at arguments, at seeing each other's points of view, and in communicating. Fandom is harsh and full of drama.


The point isn't that AMC was ever "answerable" to feminists. Yet, AMC's books still touched the lives of many, some of whom are troubled by some of the threads in them, and wish to discuss them. That's their right. AMC's works aren't so fragile that open discussion is going to somehow ruin them. They'll endure. And if Copperheart ever does that movie, perhaps another generation will run into them, and start the discussions once again.


I fully recognize I myself have contributed some "strongly worded" arguments to this fandom. You can blame my convalescence on two factors:

A) A close friend gently but persistently whacking me upside the head on the way I argue and write for about two years now

B) Writing too much fanfic as the Harper. To channel Robinton appropriately in a story, and do credit to him, I have to start adopting a few of his tactics. Or write a shitty Robinton. I want to write a good Robinton, so I sometimes think about things as fairly as possible.

I don't intend to be a hypocrite, even if I maybe sound like one.
Read my Pern and Talent fanfic on Archive of our Own.

Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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