I remember the first time I heard the Egwene/Nynaeve/Elayne trio called the "Wondergirls." I'm pretty sure I was in Korea at the time.
I've often gotten questions from people asking if Egwene was ta'veren. Obviously not, as Siuan would have seen the glow of it.
People seem to wonder why all three boys, and not a single one of the girls, are ta'veren. I've assumed this was to confuse the Shadow.
To make it difficult to track down Rand and kill him before he grew powerful, the Pattern made three ta'veren to keep everyone guessing.
Of course, it can be argued that the Pattern doesn't do such things—it simply IS. Still, I've liked that as part of the explanation.
Why the hell would the Wheel want to confuse the Shadow? :S The Wheel is good nor bad, so it won't choose a side.
Think of it this way—yes, the Pattern simply IS. But evolution simply IS as well. And some times, species evolve to...
...have many offspring in order to increase the chances of survival. Likewise, we have three ta'veren. A survival mechanism.
Weak analogy? If evolution==Pattern, you'd need "Evolution IS, and evolution itself has DMs." Pattern doesn't have species.
Ha ha. I didn't say Evolution==the Pattern. I was showing an amoral, natural function could create something similar to three ta'veren.
Man, people sure are quick to accuse RJ of sexism on my Twitter feed & Facebook. I think any who do this are blatantly wrong.
It's okay to not like the books, or to think RJ did a bad job with characterizations. I disagree, but everyone's tastes are different.
But he took great pains to create many strong female protagonists with a variety of strengths, and gave them their own stories.
I've picked up some funny male bias in the books (lots of "breasts", no male equivalent, etc.) but wouldn't say RJ's sexist.
Yes, I've noticed a few of those too.
Yes, there are (More than a few) sexist people in the WoT. And the culture has been influenced by the male/female interactions of the Power.
However, if you look at the time devoted to female viewpoints—and the plots of those characters—the "RJ is sexist" theory erodes.
Warning: Long update on this topic. As a nod to those who truly know feminist literary theory, I'll make a less "Twitter friendly" argument. Robert Jordan, by creating a world where the women and men are very aware of gender roles, spent a lot of time delving into these topics. I'm convinced he was aware of male privilege, and though biased—as all of us are—sought very hard to overcome his own biases by creating evocative female characters with plot lines that do not center around the obtaining of favor or romantic interest from male characters. He also sought to create a world where women were not defined by how they were viewed by men, but were instead defined by their intelligence, determination, and accomplishments. In this way, though he exposes some small masculine biases in various areas, he was extremely progressive as a dominant male writer of his era, and should be regarded as anything other than "sexist" for his efforts. /Scholarly Brandon
Agreed. Hey, how much more "Scholarly Brandon" is online? Seen your postmodernism in fantasy essay, besides that?
Not a ton. I've had to walk a fine line, as I'm not enough of a scholar to trust myself digging too deeply.
I've got a Master's, so I can talk the talk—but when others spent their time in research, I spent it practicing writing.
I think I have an essay or two on my website. Search for "Sanderson's First Law" and my religion essay regarding Elantris.
I didn't read all of the conversations you had about it on Twitter and Facebook, and I didn't really have gender roles in mind so much as other things. I understand what you're saying about how his world requires certain gender imbalances—I addressed that sort of offhandedly in my post by saying that the 'in practice' roles in WoT are often not what you would theoretically expect considering the circumstances. And while RJ often made comparisons to various time periods in the real world in reference to technology in particular, I'm not talking about that—I'm talking about the theoretical result of the history of the WoT world. Many of the gender imbalances are logical, but many are not, which is why they don't feel realistic at all to many readers.
The main problem I had with your comments is that you said that anyone who accused RJ of sexism for whatever reason was 'blatantly wrong'. You sort of trivialize those things that we are 'left with' after cutting away the complex and subjective debate over gender roles, but those things we are left with are so pervasive in the novels that they give an overall impression of an old-fashioned and often casually sexist man behind the curtain. This is a big turn-off for some people, and while I feel that those who cannot overlook it are missing out on one of the greatest stories of all time, I understand that it is a legitimate complaint.
As for the female nudity...just no. :p I mean, I know you read all the interviews at one point. 'No Male Nudity' (NMN) was not quite as popular as RAFO, but it was definitely one of his favorite stock answers (especially in reference to movie questions—it was his 'one rule') for a good few years. He was pretty blatant about his preferences there, and while I'm sure he had several cultural influences in mind, in the end it's pretty clear that he just enjoyed writing about naked women more than he enjoyed writing about naked men.
I agree that it's wrong to judge RJ as a person anachronistically, but at the same time, I think it's wrong to make such a blanket statement about the veracity of our claims of sexism in WoT. It's there, and it's real. I agree that some people take the criticism too far without considering certain things—I've had these debates (on non-WoT forums especially) many times over the years—but it seems to me more constructive to criticize the exaggerations, or to criticize each argument on its own merits, than to denounce any and all claims of sexism in WoT in one fell swoop.
The "Blatantly Wrong" comment was for those who don't really know feminist theory or gender studies, and who were commenting that sexist characters and culture implied a sexist Robert Jordan. I thought better of it later, however, for the people who actually know what they're talking about. Hence the more scholarly comment directed toward people like yourself. I do not deny that there are things to talk about here. Remember, just like with the word "Racism," there are two meanings of the word "Sexist." There is the knee-jerk usage by people who intend it as an insult. And then there is the more thoughtful, careful usage by people who make a study of such things. In their hands, 'sexist' means showing one's biases and a lack of awareness of certain aspects of male privilege or gender sensitivity—using this word to describe someone is not an insult, but a description of bias. (The types of biases that we all have, and can't totally expunge—though we be aware of and try to compensate for them.) My first comment was directed at the first crowd; my second comment at the second crowd.
For the record, I'm hardly well-read in feminist theory. I've read far more in queer theory (and most of it since then, for unrelated reasons), and queer theory is often tied up with feminist theory, but even there I'm far from an expert, and so my familiarity with feminist theory is along the lines of a vague acquaintance. I understand the distinction Brandon is making, and it's a good one, but I don't think of it as having much to do with feminist theory.
And, looks like I have Twitter on my flight again this time. So much for getting anything useful done...
Re: NMN. I'll give you this point in regards to Rhuidean. No good reason for Aviendha to be nude when Rand/Mat don't have to be.
As for the Aes Sedai ceremonies, they still feel very similar to sacred feminine ceremonies I've read before.
Sure, but most of the female nudity comes in the sweat tents and baths, etc. Though the baths in Fal Dara were egalitarian.
The descriptions of how Aviendha squats in the sweat tent, for instance, are really quite vulgar if you think about it.
But you don't see anything like that in the bath scene at Baerlon, for example. And even ritual nudity can get vulgar...
...like Amys at the sister-bonding ceremony in Winter's Heart. I mean, come on.
There's certainly lots o female iffy WoT nudity, but also quite a lot of male nudity—especially Rand being ogled.
Yeah, Rand does get ogled once at least. But it's a matter of balance in my opinion.
Greatest Cadsuane line ever: 'I’ve already seen more of your hairless bottomcheeks than I wish to...'
'....but if you want to flaunt them in front of all six of us, perhaps someone will enjoy the show.' :)
I'm not saying that the nudity issue is balanced—clearly, it's not. But at least some effort was being made.
Yeah, @BrandSanderson and I have gone round a bit on this already. We all recognize that some effort was made. Just saying...
...that these things were the product of RJ's heterosexual male preferences, and therefore inherently sexist.
Based largely upon the male characters being prudes. Doesn't that cut the other way for M/F sexual experience?
Not really, since the root cause is still RJ's brain. And Mat. Is far from a prude.
But we're at the same time not trying to make RJ out to be particularly sexist. He wasn't, especially for his Age.
*nods* I'm more saddened by the almost complete lack of gay WoT characters—but that's just my personal bias.
No, it's not just your personal bias. It was RJ's. If there hadn't been lesbians you probably wouldn't care, eh?
I actually found the whole issue of some women being "pillow friends", but then growing out of it and mooning over men, quite off.
Right, and the fact that the ones who don't grow out of it are for the most part evil bitches.
There are SOME implications of being gay being equally as normal, as outlined here http://ow.ly/4imXS
Oh, we know. But it's a half-hearted implication. Not even close to half really...
Well, at least there wasn't the "Gay=pedophile" implication that some fantasy of the era made...
Of course, being Mormon, perhaps I'm not the best qualified to speak of someone's treatment of LGBT issues.
Are you sure the nudity doesn't play a practical role in the ter'angreal? I note that in both the...
...Accepted rings and the final test the woman must be nude. Strange, two separate rituals taking the same form.
And Moiraine, too. I think it's probably the rings. The other testing ter'angreal all require nakedness.
Aviendha doesn't have to be naked when she goes through the columns. Although I thought they could have told...
...them to take off their clothes once they're in Rhuidean; don't see needing to taking them off before.
It's not a requirement of the ter'angreal according to them, but a sign of station (humbling).
Also, with Aviendha, there was the practical aspect of giving up her cadin'sor.
It's the same with the raisings at the Tower—they never wear those clothes again if I remember correctly.
I suspected I was half wrong when I posted this, and I was—the Accepted get their new dresses right after the test, but in New Spring, Moiraine and Siuan wore their Accepted dresses to swear the Oaths.
I think Terez's argument is that women end up in these situations suspiciously more often than men.
Essentially yes. And that the description is more gratuitous. RJ could have chosen to write male nudity rituals.
Mmm. True, but as I've argued in the past re: lack of gay men—we've been more exposed to all female...
...organisations and rituals. the one exception, I suppose, is the sweat tents, but again that occurred...
...organically. The Wise Ones were planning, and the sweat tents provided a social medium.
By the way, my original point was simply that Moiraine and Aviendha's nudity may have served a practical purpose...
...when going through the ter'angreal—Mat and Rand didn't go through that ter'angreal after all.
It's strange that the Aes Sedai and Wise Ones separately built nudity rituals around similar ter'angreal. Necessary?
Organically? You say that as if the scene wrote itself. RJ chose to use female sweat tent scenes, female nudity.
Even if the nudity does have a practical purpose that doesn't change the fact that he chose to write it that way.
He chose to develop the female organizations, and he chose to show lesbians outside those organizations rather than men.
He chose to write the scene with Rand naked and being eyed by a dozen women too. So what?
Again, it's about balance. The 'suspiciously more often' bit. I feel you are being overly defensive about it.
Are we to presume he did it lasciviously? To titillate? This is what I meant by it happening organically.
I'm not being defensive—rather I don't see the problem. The female nudity was never vulgar... it just was.
As I said, it's clear enough he just enjoyed writing about naked women and lesbians more than he enjoyed...
....writing about naked men and gay men. It's fanservice, but I don't think he thought of it like that.
I've got to side with Terez on this one. It IS there. RJ did a LOT of things with great equality, but...
...when it came to nudity, he liked showing naked women more than men. I don't think it was vulgar, though.
Depends on your definition of vulgar. RJ was very good at avoiding vulgarity on the surface, but hinting at it.
I had this scene from The Fires of Heaven in mind, and it sums up many tweets I made on the subject which were omitted:
Moiraine, seeming slight and small beside the others, also looked unruffled, although sweat rolled down her pale nudity and slicked her dark hair to her scalp, with a regal refusal to acknowledge that she had no clothes on. The Wise Ones were using slim, curved pieces of bronze, called staera, to scrape off sweat and the day's dirt.
Aviendha was squatting sweatily beside the big black kettle of hot, sooty rocks in the middle of the tent, carefully using a pair of tongs to move a last stone from a smaller kettle to the larger. That done, she sprinkled water onto the rocks from a gourd, adding to the steam. If she let the steam fall too far, she would be spoken to sharply at the very least. The next time the Wise Ones met in the sweat tent, it would be Egwene's turn to tend the rocks.
Egwene cautiously sat down cross-legged next to Bair—instead of layered rugs, there was only rocky ground, unpleasantly hot, lumpy and damp—and realized with a shock that Aviendha had been switched, and recently. When the Aiel woman gingerly took her own place, beside Egwene, she did so with a face as stony as the ground, but a face that could not hide her flinch.
To call these descriptions 'gratuitous' is, of course, only in comparison to RJ's (incredibly rare) treatments of male nudity (and not in comparison to, say, GRRM).
@BrandSanderson I still think that implies a little too much premeditation in the depiction, but I'm happy with your description.
I'm not denying its presence, I'm denying the implications that the depiction is wrong. It flowed naturally...
...from the plot, and wasn't lascivious. I certainly don't think RJ worked to include it.
Besides... if you wanna have a gay male character in A Memory of Light I'd not complain. :)
Okay then. Do you think that RJ's insistence that there be no male nudity in the films was 'organic'?
I was wrong about the film distinction, though I do believe there is an older report somewhere mentioning this that I am missing. However, there is a 'no male nudity' tag for all the times RJ mentioned it at signings; it was a running joke for him.
That is where this little debate started, because it is essentially the proof of the point.
Ha. Well (though I'm on your side) it could be argued that's a marketing decision.
LOL. Many things could be argued. Some arguments are more logical than others, though. :)
I didn't know about this insistence. That's a little... weird, honestly. No, ok, a lot weird.
See, if you had actually read my debate with @BrandSanderson we wouldn't have to catch you up. ;)
It's cultural, unfortunately. You can have female nudity and get a PG-13. But not male. Of course, that...
...leads us to the whole topfreedom debate, which ISN'T something I really want to get into.
It doesn't necessarily lead there. Again, I bring it up mostly for cultural awareness reasons.
That's really stupid—but does make some sense. Also, I don't know if you remember Terez but for a while there were...
...some fairly rampant pockets of homophobia amongst the fandom—I had this discussion with @zemaille at WorldCon.
I had the same discussion with Linda before Luckers did, at the previous JordanCon. I think she was a little shocked by the number of people at tor.com who refuse to even recognize that pillow friends are lesbians.
There still are. It's mostly visible at tor.com—some staunch conservatives there.
Which is unfortunate considering Leigh's views. There is a ruckus every time she brings it up.
*nods* And as sad as it is to think that RJ was wary of this—it's reasonable to avoid alienating your fans.
Well, if he was trying to avoid alienating THOSE fans he wouldn't have included lesbians either.
Mmm. Lesbians have always been the safer homosexual depiction—which says a lot about our society.
In the end, you're indicting modern Western society, not RJ himself. He knew what you can't do and sell.
The first bit, yes. The second bit...I don't think that marketing was his only motive.
There're people who are not morally opposed to homosexuality, are fine with reading FF, but not MM for what it's worth.
And that is exactly the problem that is being addressed. Not judging RJ so much as ourselves.
I hesitate to ask—but what's topfreedom? My mind went to an icky place. :S
LOL. I imagine it has to do with the fact that men can go shirtless but women can't.
OH! That's... much nicer than what I was thinking. Hehe.
I will say this, though—the complete lack of any sort of hetero-normative assumption in WoT gets RJ my vote.
I wish this plane would let me use Tweetlonger to jump into this with more teeth.
Feel free to jump in with teeth later. We're not going anywhere. :)
Yes. More teeth would be awesome! But we aren't going anywhere.
This whole issue—homosexuality, conservatism, and the WoT—deserves a serious, thoughtful post.
I just can't do that in 100 character bursts.
Cool. I am looking forward to it.
I respect that Brandon. Still, post what you want—we understand it's not your full argument.
I will say that there IS a gay male in Towers of Midnight, placed there on my part as I felt similar to you on this issue.
I was going to tell you who it was, but figuring this out is the sort of thing you guys love, isn't it?
YAY! But of course, then you have to be careful not to make him too throw-away....
I considered Androl earlier, when I considered you might do this. lol. But I will think on it some more.
Oh. Hey! Awesome. Ok, now we have to figure it out.
Hopefully not Denezel or Hatch—their wives would be furious. :D
Jason Denzel and Matt Hatch, webmasters of Dragonmount and Theoryland respectively—they were recognized as innkeepers in Towers of Midnight.
I'll note that references to his sexuality were cut merely because I moved the chapter with mention to A Memory of Light.
I won't say if it's a new character or one I made a decision on, since there weren't notes either way.
And he seems to have ruled out Moridin, alas. But that would be sort of Dumbledore-y anyway.
(And yes, I have read @BrandSanderson's thoughts on Dumbledore
. Just saying. And we're not talking kids' books here.)
I'm beginning to think it somewhat strange that I'm the one defending RJ the heaviest given your points...
... and the fact that I'm gay. Does that mean my loyalty to RJ defies reason, or that I'm so used to accepting...
...the dribbles that are depictions of homosexuality in fantasy? A disturbing thought.
Nah, not weird at all. You're pretty anti-activist in a lot of ways. Overcompensation, of course. ;)
I believe you are sensitive to the right-wing idea of the Gay Agenda.
So you seem to have a reluctance to champion your own causes too loudly, internally as well as externally.
In some ways it's a healthy reluctance. In some ways, it's sad that it is necessary.
Well the gays are plotting world domination—we discussed this in our last High Council. But that's another conversation.
You have good reason to defend him, Luckers. There ARE good examples. Arrela is one.
Seonid isn't bad either. Right? :D I think they might have been responses to the criticism.
*nods* Arrela's love was beautiful. And your scene in The Gathering Storm was heartbreaking.
Yes, gay men are few and far between. But it could be much worse. See: Eddings, or worse, Goodkind and Newcomb.
I'm with you on that. I got bored reading Goodkind because of how annoyingly ANTI-PC it was.
In the end, I want my stories to refrain from editorializing. Tell the story, and tell it to your audience.
Goodkind is...well, let's not go there. It's good, sometimes, to be anti-PC, as the world isn't PC.
But if you're going to delve in and editorialize, I believe it important to look at the other side too.
I haven't read Newcomb, but yes, Goodkind's inclusion was of the worst sort.
Again, few people think RJ is all bad on this. But the fact that we are so appreciative of his rather biased...
...and gratuitous inclusion shows how far behind we are as a society.
Ha. Terez, you NEED to read Newcomb. If only because I want to see your head explode when you do.
LOL. Well, I will bring it along to JordanCon then, so you can observe. ;)
It is an incredible experience. Goodkind times 1000 in the anti-feminist department. And it seems unconscious.
Goodkind disturbs me on more levels than that, but I do take your point—it was what I meant by accepting dribbles.
The thing is, [RJ] tried. And in the end, that's the most important thing can ask. The second is that they listen.
And I do think RJ listened. I think he grew more sensitive on this subject as time passed.
RJ was in many ways very responsive to fan criticism, but he seemed to play the Eelfinn in that he liked to make jokes out of granting our wishes. A good example: Fans complained that characters never had to use a privy while in POV. RJ added a couple of references (including an 'if you must know' from Tuon), and he even threw in urine-tasting in Crossroads of Twilight
. Clearly that was RJ getting a laugh on us. He made passing mention of male homosexuality in a couple of the later books (including New Spring
), and while it wasn't quite a balance for his lesbians, it was an improvement. He also made public statements that homosexuality was all around not a big deal in Randland, for either gender. He made it clear that, in general, writing about male sexuality was just a squick
for him, but he tended to be rather open and modern about his sexuality (even in the family-friendly context of WoT) and so the gender bias sticks out to many modern readers.
Agreed, as I noted before re: the response to criticism. Again, it's more about us than about him.
Interesting thought—about listening and changing. Kind of beautiful as well—that fans can give back to authors.
That RJ touched on it at all was good—especially when we remember when he was writing these books.
It does well to remember just how much the degree to which homosexuality is depicted has changed recently.
This is true. I just feel that now is the time to blow it out of the water, for that very reason.
I'm curious if either of you read Rose of the Prophet, and what you thought of it. (Because of the gay male character.)
hmm, nope, haven't heard of it. I was told Deathgate was the only thing by [Weis and Hickman] worth reading.
To explain, I rarely find myself overly desirous of reading new books since WoT occupies so much of my time these days, so I tend to go by friend recommendations and not worry much about whether or not I would actually agree.
Do you guys realise how much Rand's early arc resonates with a gay teenager?
A young man who—through no choice of his own—finds himself to be something hated and feared.
Something judged to be morally wrong though no moral choice has been made on his part.
The whole arc—the 'men's pride, men's sin' resonated very heavily with me.
That's FASCINATING, honestly. I'd never thought of that.
I bet RJ never thought of it either. :D But yes, it's a good comparison in many ways.
All of this is why I never liked Mat in my first readings (when i was like 13). His reaction to Rand was...
...a little to close to home. And no I haven't read [Rose of the Prophet]—I will now though. (sorry for going on this tangent).
It doesn't really matter to me if RJ meant the comparison—that he depicted something similar with such...
...visceral realism is the value of a great writer, because then the fans can take what they need from it.
And in truth Rand's arc in dealing with it taught me how to. In fact its one of the reasons I love Cadsuane...
Because Cadsuane was Rand's faghag? No wait, that was Min! No, she was his beard...
She doesn't feel sorry for Rand, or try to coddle him—she treats him like she would any other person...
Her refusal to let Rand allow circumstance to victimize him was a powerful and subtle theme.
Indeed, that's why I like her. And why most people hate her. Because she should respect his authoritay!
And I think it is the greatest service anyone in the books has done him. Even if Rand couldn't appreciate it.
Re: Parallels between Rand's early arc and being gay...[from The Great Hunt]
"No, I can't. I mean . . . I didn't do it on purpose. It just happened. I don't want to—to channel the Power. I won't ever do it again. I swear it."
"You don't want to," the Amyrlin Seat said. "Well, that's wise of you. And foolish, too. Some can be taught to channel; most cannot. A few, though, have the seed in them at birth. Sooner or later, they wield the One Power whether they want to or not, as surely as roe makes fish. You will continue to channel, boy. You can't help it. And you had better learn to channel, learn to control it, or you will not live long enough to go mad. The One Power kills those who cannot control its flow."
"How am I supposed to learn?" he demanded. Moiraine and Verin just sat there, unruffled, watching him. Like spiders. "How? Moiraine claims she can't teach me anything, and I don't know how to learn, or what. I don't want to, anyway. I want to stop. Can't you understand that? To stop!"—Chapter 8, 'The Dragon Reborn'
That desperation is something I remember. Then this...
He paused, frowning, thinking things through. Finally, he said quietly, "Rand, can you channel?" Mat gave a strangled gasp. Rand let the banner drop; he hesitated only a moment before nodding wearily. "I did not ask for it. I don't want it. But. . . . But I do not think I know how to stop it."
Mat hesitated, looking sideways at Rand. "Look, I know you came along to help me, and I am grateful. I really am. But you just are not the same anymore. You understand that, don't you?" He waited as if he expected an answer. None came. Finally he vanished into the trees, back toward the camp.—Chapter 11, 'Glimmers of the Pattern'
Potent scenes. Especially Mat's last lines. *shrug*
Yeah, I knew exactly what you were talking about as soon as you mentioned it. Perrin isn't much better.
Perrin is just not as thoughtlessly hurtful as Mat is. He's more the silent disapproval type.
Though Perrin does realise the hypocrisy, and feel bad, so I didn't mind so much. :)
Yes, I appreciated Perrin's sympathy and tact—like when he said Rand is now a dreaded figure.
For instance he suggested that while running was understandable, it might not be possible.
Of course, Perrin is coming to terms with being a werewolf, so understandable he knows how Rand feels.
And with Perrin the parallel stops—Rand is a genuine threat, whereas homosexuality isn't.
Both Perrin and Rand loathe themselves because they feel they are a threat to society.
Just got a rather abrupt tweet from someone who I think thought I was implying Rand was gay.
Which clearly is accurate. The Harem are the red herring to end all red herrings.
LOL. Yeah, well...ignorance and prejudice go hand in hand (or so they say). ;)
You know you're gay when you need THREE beards to maintain your cover.
And...half of my in-flight WoT reread time was sucked up by a great Twitter conversation about gender and LGBT issues in the WoT.
Ohhhh, blame it on us will you! :p You knew as soon as you saw you had Twitter you weren't getting any work done. ;)
Haha. Yeah—I've written a hundred and fifty words in three hours. Today was gonna be my productive day too. *sigh*/
I have a new goal: to get Terez and Leigh Butler to do a feminist review of Newcomb's Fifth Sorceress for Tor.com. How can I make this happen?
LOL. If you can talk Leigh into it, I'm so down with that.
Lol. A gay, a feminist and a Mormon walk into a bar—whereupon they have a deep and meaningful conversation about sexuality in WoT. #NoJokes
LMAO. It's funny, though...I don't really think of myself as a feminist. Just an equalist.
I was just being funny with the no jokes thing—the reality of us three having that conversation struck me.
Not to mention, you were raised Catholic, and I was raised Southern Baptist. Now we need a Muslim...