extraordinary people

the essential kit

So I was reading something–probably Kate Elliott ()’s fabulous The Omniscient Breasts–and some guy was commenting (to paraphrase), “Why would anybody want to read epic fantasy about women, who basically got married at fourteen and stayed pregnant their whole lives and never went five miles from where they were born?”

I find the blindered attitude behind that to be staggering. I mean, unless this guy is working under the delusion that actually every male in history has left home, become a knight, discovered he’s the lost orphaned king of the land, and taken back his country…then who does he think he’s reading about when he reads epic fantasy starring male characters?

Stories are about extraordinary people, regardless of their gender. Sometimes they’re ordinary and have been thrust into circumstances that makes their simple *survival* an extraordinary event; sometimes they’re the lost prince; sometimes they are nominally ordinary but have a gift or talent to see them through or elevate them. Or whatever. They are very rarely about the day to day life of Arthur Dent, needing to buy a new toothbrush and unable to find his left slipper. And thank goodness for that: we all have plenty of needing to buy a new toothbrush and being unable to find our slippers.

I feel like this post ought to really be an impassioned tirade full of marching and singing and raising banners and the like, but when you get right down to it, 1. I hope like hell I’m preaching to the choir here anyway, and 2. it just seems so self-evident that doing anything other than boggling at the idea that somebody is that small-minded is kind of wasted effort.

Although the extraordinary people aspect may tie into the problem a lot of women readers seem to have, which is that they found female role models in the books they read as children to be lacking. I never had that problem; it never occurred to me, and if it had, well, I didn’t (despite plenty of checking) have a door to Narnia in my wardrobe either, or a sword to pull from a stone, or six signs to seek, or mysteries to solve every few weeks, or a black stallion to care for, or what-have-you: of course these people weren’t like me, and to that end, the gender of the protagonists never struck me as an issue.

It’s also possible that, as with Title IX, I am just on the cusp of a generation that benefited from women who had felt that exclusion growing up and were writing books to address the problem, and am therefore not quite able to comprehend what I intellectually know to be factual. I could list you dozens, possibly hundreds, of books I read with female protagonists, all before age twelve. And frankly, I couldn’t list nearly that many with (solely) male protagonists, which might mean the girls made more impression on me, or it might mean I just lucked out and read huge numbers of books with female protagonists.

I got a little off topic there, didn’t I. :)