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Friday News: Tansyrr takes on the notion that sexism is historically...

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It’s winter and it’s Friday. I figured we could all use a laugh.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

24 Comments

  1. Christine M.
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 06:37:36

    Love that Midas ad! It’s been on the telly for 3 or 4 years and I still get a chuckle when I see it.

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  2. Nadia Lee
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 06:43:58

    I’m not sure why a literary agency would go exclusive with Amazon because a) it rejects about 1/3 of the ebook market and b) gives more power to Amazon, but that’s exactly what UK literary agency Curtis Brown is doing.

    Easy. It’s because of this:

    Amazon gives the agents extra help in converting and uploading book files to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) store; it will also convert print books to digital files for free. In some cases, Amazon also promotes the books through email blasts and page placements, in exchange for an exclusive of six to twelve months.

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  3. AH
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 07:35:52

    Thank you for my morning laugh. Looking forward to a good snow day to curl up with a good book.

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  4. Carolyne
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 08:22:20

    Hurrah for Random House. It’s been so long since I’ve worked for a company that gives bonuses, I’m always startled when I hear about a place that remembers to share success with everyone who keeps the company up and running.

    And it’s mark in the positive column for 50SOG’s popularity :)

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  5. Emily
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 09:27:47

    You know what’s great about that Random House news- They gave EVERYONE a bonus AFTER a SUCCESSFUL year. Other CEOs, companies, and industries should take note.

    Second that date rape drug is cool, but I heard a recent article about how date rape drugs are becomingly less popular/common since there is high penalty for getting caught using the drug. Instead rapists are simply getting their victims drunk, waiting for them to pass out and then making their moves. When the girl goes to press charges the stigma may be on her for getting drunk. (Not that I am condoning rape; I am explaining something I heard.) I guess my point is the cup may not be as affective as it seems.

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  6. Ridley
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 10:32:46

    Funny you mention that charity thing, Jane. I thought you gave the side-eye to “when I get X comments, I’ll donate $X” fundraisers.

    I know I do.

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  7. Jane
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 10:35:41

    I’m not a fan of these but Limecello has been doing this for tree years now and I believe her intentions are sincere about charitable giving over promotion.

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  8. MaryK
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 14:11:33

    @Ridley: It probably does raise awareness of particular causes.

    fantasy isn’t history

    I lol’d when I read that. It’s an obvious statement and yet I bet there are some fantasy fans who’d disagree.

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  9. Carrie G
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 14:32:21

    I was confused by Tansyrr’s article because she seems to want to say misogyny, etc aren’t historically accurate, but then she says, well, yes it is but you don’t have to write that way. Or was she only talking to fantasy/science fiction writers?

    In my mind she failed to make a case for the lack of accuracy of the discrimination and oppression of women. She also failed to give readers or writers anything concrete about how to write historical romances that are both accurate and not misogynistic, other than “throw a thinking woman in there and see what happens. ” That’s a good idea, but it will only go so far. When writing fantasy and SF, I see no reason to stay in any “historically accurate” mode, even with new subgenres such as steampunk which could be construed as partially historical. But when actually writing books set in a historical era, I personally would like the characters to be accurately portrayed for the time. That doesn’t mean downtrodden women in Regency romance! Women often had the power behind the scenes.

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  10. Jane
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 14:36:21

    @Carrie G: I read it as saying that even if you set aside stories of empowered women, that the history that we rely upon today was one written largely by men.

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  11. Carrie G
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 16:07:06

    @Jane: Yes, I get that, but that isn’t news. We all know that. I don’t get what writers are suppose to do to change that. Is she saying writers should imagine what might have been going on with women and write about that? I guess I’m just not seeing her point. Is she saying women had more power and influence than history suggests? And if so, how are we to know for sure how that power manifested itself?

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  12. Jane
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 16:12:52

    @Carrie G – I read it as, if you are going to write a “historically accurate” paternalistic world, why not challenge the patriarchy, particularly if you are writing a fantasy which is, of course, fantasy.

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  13. Carrie G
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 16:33:28

    @Jane: Yes, what she says makes sense for fantasy/science fiction. A lot of sense. But she tried to bring the thought over to historical fiction and I’m trying to figure out how she would have an author approach that. She basically said Why do we think this is accurate? Well, it is accurate, but then men wrote it, so do we know it’s accurate because they denigrated women? But her very example seems to prove the point that women were second class citizens for much of history. Women weren’t even powerful enough for much of history to be able to record their own accomplishments or worth.

    I’m not against writers imagining how a woman of strength and character might have worked the system. But few women had the power to *buck* the system. It’s fun to read about those few, but I also want to read about the women working within their boundaries to accomplish things (and even push those boundaries). If this is what she’s saying, then great. But if she’s saying we need to bring our 21st Century mind and action into historical fiction/romance, then I disagree. At least for me, simply placing modern-minded people back in time doesn’t work.

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  14. Jane
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 17:04:37

    @Carrie G – so the solution is to continue writing historical fantasy stories with paternalism and degradation toward women?

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  15. Carrie G
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 17:26:06

    @Jane: Whoa! Did I not say I agreed that fantasy stories don’t need “historical” accuracy? Are you using “fantasy” as a synonym for “fiction?”

    If we’re talking about historical fiction, then isn’t there some middle ground between “degradation” and “modernization?” I don’t want to read story of men raping women, especially not in my romances. But I also don’t want to read anachronistic characters in my historicals. Why should that be mutually exclusive? I don’t see the point in reading historical books with modern characters. I might as well read contemporary fiction.

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  16. Jane
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 17:33:14

    @Carrie G- The post that I linked to was about fantasy books, right? I guess I’m confused as to your argument. The original poster’s argument (as I understood it) was that if an author is writing historical fantasy books and wanting to write a paternalistic culture, why isn’t the paternalistic culture being challenged. I think at the end of the post she says something like “throw something at the existing structure” instead of just repeating the time period’s stated norms.

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  17. Carrie G
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 17:44:25

    @Jane: I guess we’re both confused. I went back and reread the article just now. she starts talking about fantasy, but then changes to a rant about actual history before changing back to writing about fantasy fiction again. I felt she was addressing both genres in her advice on how to write heroines, otherwise I don’t see why she spent so much of the article talking about how biased the recording of actual history was.

    But never mind. I don’t disagree with her about fantasy/ science fiction characters. I love the way Bujold juxtaposed all those different cultures in her Vokosigan series. It made for wonderful characters.

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  18. Wahoo Suze
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 17:53:34

    @Carrie G:

    My sense is that she was addressing this:

    In my opinion this applies to all historical fantasy, including that which turns the “history” dial up a lot higher than Game of Thrones does. Look at Assassin’s Creed III, which takes place during the American Revolution. Making the protagonist—who, it should be noted, is a surreptitious, ninja-like killer—a woman was reportedly considered, but according to the game’s creative director Alex Hutchinson,

    “I think lots of people want it, [but] in this period it’s been a bit of a pain. The history of the American Revolution is the history of men. … There are a few people, like John Adams’ wife, [Abigail]—they tried very hard in the TV series to not make it look like a bunch of dudes, but it really is a bunch of dudes.”
    You don’t say. So we should just sit tight until you work in a historical period that isn’t the history of men then?

    from the MarySue post she was inspired by.

    Her points seem to be:

    1. If you’re writing fiction, especially fantasy, you don’t have to be historically accurate.
    2. If you think women were invisible, ineffective, and didn’t do anything for most of history, you are wrong.

    And I think, where you said this, above

    But her very example seems to prove the point that women were second class citizens for much of history. Women weren’t even powerful enough for much of history to be able to record their own accomplishments or worth.

    you’re missing her point. Women weren’t necessarily second-class citizens, they were just written or excluded that way by the historical sources we generally have access to. History as an area of study has a long history of assumptions that even historians haven’t examined, but fiction writers using history as a source of inspiration really have no reason not to examine their assumptions.

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  19. Carrie G
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 18:27:29

    @Wahoo Suze:

    Tansyrr wrote:
    “It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.”

    I think there are two different issues here. 1- Women were oppressed by men for much of history. 2- Even thought they were oppressed, they still led interesting lives and did great things, those things just didn’t get much attention then or now.

    The interesting lives are worth writing and reading about. I totally agree with this sentiment. I agree less with the sentiment that when writing historical fiction one shouldn’t be historically accurate. But my wish for historical accuracy doens’t mean I wish to read books about oppression. I think there is some middle ground. In fact I know there is because I’ve read books that hit that middle ground quite well.

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  20. hapax
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 21:07:00

    I agree less with the sentiment that when writing historical fiction one shouldn’t be historically accurate.

    The point is, “historically accurate” according to whom?

    “Zippers weren’t used in Napoleonic era military uniforms” is an objective historical assertion we can *check.* Since zippers weren’t invented until 1851, and weren’t widely used until four decades later, we can feel fairly confident that a historical novel involving zippers during the Peninsular campaign isn’t very historically accurate.

    “Women didn’t serve in Napoleonic military.” Another objective historical assertion we can check. Despite widespread belief to the contrary, it seems to have been not uncommon for women to serve dressed as men; indeed, extensive studies have shown that for cultures which impose strict gender conformity in dress, it is almost impossible for members of that culture to detect what we would consider “obvious” clues to physical gender, and thus it may have been even more common than we know.
    Ergo, a novel about the experiences of a female soldier during the Peninsular campaign might very well be historically accurate.

    “Women did not have an important role in military affairs during the Napoleonic era.” This is a *subjective* historical assertion, that is essentially untestable. It depends entirely upon what one considers “important.” A preponderance of male historians have determined that “important roles in military affairs” basically equal “men’s roles in military affairs.” As a result, the possible role of women soldiers, the role of women in diplomacy, espionage, logistics and support, civilian collaboration and opposition, heckopete even the extremely undervalued contributions of “camp followers” are largely ignored, and thus not addressed in “historically accurate novels.”

    Could a novel in which a female British gunner and her same-sex lover, a Spanish refugee rescued from the sacking of Ciudad Rodrigo, played a crucial role in the siege of Badajoz, be “historically accurate”, therefore, even though we have no hard evidence of any such thing occurring? Sure — but not if either of them were wearing zippers!

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  21. Carolyne
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 21:25:26

    @hapax: Thank you for saying exactly what I wanted to after reading the articles and the comments. Only you gave much more eloquent examples than I would have managed. Perfectly expressed.

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  22. Andrea
    Dec 07, 2012 @ 23:39:11

    @ Carrie G – so far as I can parse the article, TansyRR never suggests that you should write historical fiction accurately. Her points are always about writing fantasy, and cover:

    1. In your fantasy, what is your motive for blindly repeating Earth’s sexist past?
    2. Earth’s sexist past is far more complicated than ‘his’tory makes it out to be, and women had a far greater range of roles than mothers, prostitutes and victims, so even if you are aiming for ‘accuracy’ (in your fantasy novel), depicting women only as those narrow roles is not actually accurate at all.

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  23. SAO
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 03:00:07

    There are many women in history famous or infamous for their influence on men in power. Abigail Adams and Madame de Pompadour spring to mind. Others, like Catherine the Great of Russian and Hapshepsut of Ancient Egypt took power formally.

    When the prevailing theory was that women are the weaker or less intelligent sex, for a man to acknowledge he was influenced by woman’s ideas was to be weak. For a woman to claim that influence was to be boastful and unwomanly and insulting to the man. Hence, neither the men nor the woman have emphasized her roles. The only surviving hints are letters and diaries, which are only there if 1) they were written and 2) they were preserved. Women’s oral arguments are erased from the record.

    An interesting book on the subject is Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History by Michel-Rolph Trouillot. It’s an interesting perspective on how historical and contemporary blinders influence what we know and think about the past.

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  24. Ann Somerville
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 18:16:19

    Foz Meadows has just posted a wonderful, eye-opening blog expanding on Tansy Roberts’ article:

    http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/psa-your-default-narrative-settings-are-not-apolitical/

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