SFC Part 7: Funny, I don’t remember joining a cult

(Saving the world from Strong Female Characters so you don’t have to, Part 7 of 9. I… I don’t know if I can make it after all… let me just lie here… and die… )

When we left off, our essayist was explaining the conspiracy to take over the country for the forces of political correctness, starting with science fiction, starting with an insistence on strong female characters, because… uh, I’ll let him explain it:

The cult wants to put leftwing messages into stories to influence the minds of the reading public and make their leftwing worldview seem like the norm, the default view, so that everything natural and decent and traditional and rational seems unbearably wicked and disgusting.

Oh, I see. “Strong female characters” are a leftist plot to influence the minds of the reading public against ALL THAT IS GOOD AND DECENT. And all feminists are members of a cult. Well, that is certainly a reasonable and nuanced position that in no way makes you sound like a hysterical paranoid crank.

Google anti-suffragist cartoons, it's pretty enlightening

Notice how making men do “women’s work,” while women get to laze about like men do, is the most horrible injustice the anti-suffragist can think of

The fact that male babies need and want and love female mothers to raise them and the fact that male fathers need female wives to make more male babies never enters into this enrapturing vision of the eternal war between the sexes.

Dude, it’s very rare for a feminist to actually recommend complete sexual apartheid, and when they do, the other feminists think they’re weird. Lois McMaster Bujold had an interesting thought experiment in Ethan of Athos, which postulated a society that was, in the words of one critic, a feminist utopia inhabited entirely by men. But I don’t personally know any feminists who are so frustrated with childish menfolk that they want to get rid of them entirely. Usually we think that men are human beings just like us. We just wish they’d act better. Less childish.

In fact, I commonly see that kind of eliminationist rhetoric only among “men’s rights activists,” and it goes the other way. They fantasize about a world without women in a way that sometimes gets disturbingly reminiscent of “The Screwfly Solution.” (And if real men never talked like that, I doubt Tiptree’s story would have been written.)

By any measure, feminism has won an absolute triumph and swept the field of all opposition.

This essay seems to prove otherwise.

A woman's mind is about hats, babies, puppies, men, chocolate, and letters. Well, obviously.

This essay, pretty much.

The women have more freedom, if by that we mean the lack of legal or cultural restriction or restraint, than ever did any of their mothers for all of time.

Note use of “the women” rather than “women.” Does that strike anyone else as weirdly otherizing, similar to using “females” where “women” would sound more natural”?

But, consider — women might be, in some societies (America), more free than any women in the history of ever — but if we are still not as free as the men in our society, then feminism has not yet triumphed.

It’s true that we (Americans) don’t have bans on women driving cars or having credit in their own name or serving on juries or voting or being out in public without an escort. Things that both men and women do, largely, women are no longer arbitrarily prevented from doing.

There are still many areas of both legality and custom that disproportionately affect women, because they pertain to reproduction, reproductive biology, and child-rearing. (The law, as they say, in its majestic equality, prevents men and women alike from breast feeding in public.) Planned Parenthood clinics getting shut down by aggressive conservative legislatures does affect men, but affects women much more severely and directly. The Supreme Court ruling in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby doesn’t specify women when it protects an employer’s right to opt out of having its health coverage pay for contraception, but, uh, if they developed a male birth control pill recently, I must have missed it. Single parents of either sex are equally burdened by a lack of affordable child care, but it should be obvious that women are far more likely to end up as single parents. College students of either sex are equally cautioned against getting drunk with strangers or walking home alone at night, but…

Wait, I’m sorry. That last one is completely false.

You can see why feminists think we’ve still got a ways to go.

 Now, I have taken all this time to describe at length—tedious length, so I know that no one has read this far except for my one fan (Hi, Nate!)

Hey, a little bit of true self-knowledge! Half a point! And also… well, there’s me. I’m reading. it. GOOD LORD WHY AM I READING IT?

(Sits there, has an existential crisis. What hath my morbid curiosity wrought?)

Okay, I’m done. At this point I’m probably a victim of the sunk cost fallacy. I’ve come so far! I’m plowing through to the end!

Wait… hold on… if Nate and I are literally the only people who have read this thing, who nominated it for a Hugo? Could it be that people nominated it without reading it? Why, that cannot be! That would be — an abomination! A veritable blasphemy!

I wrote a book where the expedition to the nearby dwarf star V886 Centauri had an all-male crew. I did this because I wanted to have one character born aboard the ship without a clear explanation as to how exactly she was born; it was part of the mystery.

One of the cultists pretended to review the book. Pretended, because checking a book for cult-loyalty is not a review. [..] The cultist was shocked into gibbering Nyarlathotepian insanity by the fact that I was capable of imagining a ship with no female crew aboard. [..] condemned me as a misogynistic sexist”

Minus one point for a badly constructed Lovecraft reference. Should have been more like, “shocked into gibbering insanity as if by a single thin whine from the tuneless pipes that serenade the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep.” This construction suggests that Nyarlathotep is the one who is insane, not the one who drives others insane.

Also, let me guess the general content of the review (based on my experiences with his fiction so far). “Badly written, poorly conceived, dully plotted, and without interesting characters. In addition, the device of having an all-male crew comes across as artificial and deeply sexist.”

Which would, of course, clearly mean that it was being checked for “cult loyalty.”

Anyway, if you want to review everything for whether you think the female characters are “feminine” enough, why can’t others do the same? Are you trying to claim that your preferences are merely the reasonable desires of an honorable man, while the preferences of women, or feminists, are obviously the result of loyalty to a mysterious and sinister cult?

Why, yes. I suppose that is what you’re claiming, isn’t it?