RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V3 #843

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 24 Aug 2001

Hey all -

I had no intention of starting a flame war. However, I also don't think that avoidance of flames requires me not to question any statements that another poster makes, even if they are simply honest statements of taste/preconception/what have you.

My former post was intended to be somewhat facetious/ taking a devil's advocate position/ etc. I honestly did not intend to accuse Jim or anyone else of being a bigot, either in "real life" or in regards to fiction. Unfortunately, looking back on it, I realize that if you took it completely seriously it would come off as a flame, which is not what I meant.

Making my argument in a more direct manner: I continue not to understand why some consider it appropriate to make comments and harbor preconceptions regarding female characters that would clearly not be appropriate about blacks, gays, etc. My only intention in my previous post was to draw attention to that parallel, precisely because I do not have the impression that anyone on the list is a bigot and upon reading Jim's entire post I certainly do not think Jim's comments were meant in that way (although Jim did use the word 'prejudice' and I don't think it was ridiculous of me to interpret that word in the way that it is commonly understood). I was attempting to play devil's advocate, which I consider to be a legitimate rhetorical device but if this is "intellectually dishonest"
(in that I do not actually think that Jim objects to female doctors or lawyers) then I plead guilty.

As for what is or isn't a female fantasy world, I would just ask you to consider that hard boiled fiction started in the 1930s or thereabouts and that various social changes (world war II, the 60s, the women's movement) have likely made a change in the things that women fantasize about. Yes, Marcia Muller and Sue Grafton very consciously started out to make an entry into a masculine world (sort of like posting to this list, apparently), but they've both been at it for 20 years or thereabouts. Today, I would guess there are at least as many female readers of hardboiled fiction as there are male readers, and an increasing number of practitioners and protagonists as well. This suggests to me that the PI mythos is at least as appealing to women as men, and it's simply frustrating for female readers (and I assume writers) twenty years later to be regarded as essentially interlopers in male territory (this is the implication to me of the statement that a reader has to make some type of "adjustment" to see a female protagonist in a PI novel).

I simply don't think the romance novel parallel is a valid one, because today romance novels continue to be an almost exclusively female territory while this is just in no way true of women writers/ readers and crime fiction.

Possibly this is a generational thing? I don't mean to make any assumptions about anyone's age, but when someone says that it is
"self-evident" that the PI is a male fantasy figure, well that's *not* self-evident to me. It's honestly something I had never thought of until Jim mentioned it, and in that sense I have learned something from this exchange. I was born in 1975 and I was brought up to play with trucks instead of Barbies if that's what I felt like, or to read Hardy Boys or the Three Investigators instead of Nancy Drew (which I usually did).

For the record, I recently almost got yelled off a 20th Century Female Authors group for saying that I don't pick books based on the author's gender, and that disagreeing that women writers are better at portraying emotions, relationships, etc etc., so maybe I really am just a contrarian at heart.



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