RARA-AVIS: male fantasy worlds?

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 22 Aug 2001

Jim Doherty wrote:
> >Moreover, the fantasy is, it seems to me, a
> >specifically male one.

>I really thought it was pretty self-evident, but I'll
>try to give you a basis.

<reasons snipped>

Ah, see, I read your original posts about the "mythical" PI as a male fantasy figure to say that only men *have* this fantasy. I agree that it's self-evident that men are traditionally *featured* in this fantasy, but there's certainly plenty in this fantasy to appeal to women : the traditional PI is something of an outsider in the law enforcement community, which women can certainly relate to; violence is certainly a fact of many women's lives, even if they spend more time trying to avoid it than to inflict it; and the PI traditionally has a degree of independence that many women, particularly of the Baby Boom generation and beyond, have very consciously been struggling for (singleness being viewed as the default condition for adult men and something of a tragedy for adult women).

I see all your points - though the "violence" aspect seems like something that figures more in the "hard-boiled" tradition than the broader "PI" one. We're back to the definition thing here, but most of the women PI books I've read are "soft-boiled" at the most.

Finally, simply because something has been the traditional province of men, there's no reason for women who enter the arena to be seen as "acting male".
  Do some female crime writers consciously tweak the cliches of traditional crime fiction and stand them on their heads? Yes, but lots of crime writers do that in different ways and frankly I think the boys club attitude needs a little shaking up.

Incidentally, I'm not a particularly big fan of any of the "female PI" writers (aside from Lehane, since Angie's as important to his books as Patrick is) but I just don't think it makes sense to judge a series based on the protagonist possessing a "nontraditional gender."


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