RARA-AVIS: Gender and Hard-Boiled Mysteries

From: Teri Stock ( tstock@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 28 Aug 2001

My apologies this is a bit late for the discussion, but it took me a while to sort out how to send it successfully from my new email address. So belatedly, here are my thoughts on the gender disagreement:

I'm creeping out of lurkdom to say I think the crux of the disagreement about females and hard-boiled mysteries lies in assumptions not about gender, but rather about that perennial thread: what is the definition of
"hard-boiled." Jim seemed to be taking for granted that the typical Golden Age hard-boiled protagonist, almost invariably a tough guy prone to physical violence and sexual prowess, defines the genre.

I, on the other hand, find that I really dislike most of the work from that era, probably for the very reasons of sexism (and to me, shallowness of character) given. I do, however, like most of the hard-boiled fiction authored in the last two or three decades. To me the definition of hard-boiled has to do with a tough, realistic and often cynical attitude, with a recognition that evil and violence exist in the world. Using violence themselves is only one, and not the most important, method hard-boiled protagonists use to survive on the mean streets. I not only find it believable that a woman would have a hard-boiled approach to life, I know many who do, only a few of whom are authors or protagonists of hard-boiled mysteries.

Yes, the traditional hard-boiled private detective may reflect a male fantasy, but that character is only one of many facets of hard-boiled literature as it exists today.

Just a thought...


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