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Author Topic: What's Wrong with U.S.?  (Read 17785 times)
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« Reply #60: June 05, 2011, 10:14:37 am »

Yeah, it's really a case of expecting better of him.  I mean, he was so ahead of the curve racially, it was disappointing to see him fail in other realms.
As Uday noted, he didn't always do well on race, either.  Granted, he had the inherently-racially-icky plot of Sixth Column (Uday got the title a bit wrong, but I knew what he meant), aka The Day After Tomorrow more or less forced on him, and there was only so much he could do to reduce the ickiness.  But Farnham's Freehold was... well, I'm pretty sure his intention was to illustrate the wrongness of racial hierarchy no matter what race has privilege, but it's much too easily read as "see how much nastier it'd be if Those People were in charge".  Intent is not magic - and the result is Ally Fail.

In other books, he does somewhat better, but tends to fall into the "post-racial" trap, and to write his characters of color as being largely uninfluenced by social constructs related to color and culture, or influenced to conform to kyriarchic norms.  Johnny Rico of Starship Troopers is, for the most part, much more a product of upper-class culture than he is of Filipino culture; Richard Ames/Colin Campbell of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is only revealed as a PoC when he uses racist tropes against another black character, claiming that because he himself is black, it can't be racist.

Taking Heinlein's body of work as a whole, I'd say that he didn't have personal bigotry against either PoC or women - but he did, even (or perhaps especially, which is in a way worse) when trying not to, have unexamined assumptions that reflected culturally-endemic racism and sexism.

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« Reply #61: June 05, 2011, 10:31:04 am »

Chauvinist and sexist.  That was in the early 80's, and I haven't fond one yet.
Really?  I'd have to say, then, that either you're carefully selecting your reading material to avoid sexist works, or that - as someone who doesn't directly experience sexism - you don't always recognize it when it appears.  We can start with any book in which there are few or no female characters (except where their absence makes sense in context - I don't expect to find women in WWI trenches), in which the female characters exist mainly or solely in context of their relationship to a male protagonist, especially when they're used primarily as vehicles for his character development, and/or any book that fails the Bechdel test.

It occurred to me after I'd posted yesterday that, just possibly, your feminist friend was upset because she didn't appreciate a man trying to educate her about what she should find offensive.

Sunflower
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« Reply #62: June 05, 2011, 04:45:17 pm »


As Uday noted, he didn't always do well on race, either.  Granted, he had the inherently-racially-icky plot of Sixth Column (Uday got the title a bit wrong, but I knew what he meant), aka The Day After Tomorrow more or less forced on him, and there was only so much he could do to reduce the ickiness.  But Farnham's Freehold was... well, I'm pretty sure his intention was to illustrate the wrongness of racial hierarchy no matter what race has privilege, but it's much too easily read as "see how much nastier it'd be if Those People were in charge".  Intent is not magic - and the result is Ally Fail.

In other books, he does somewhat better, but tends to fall into the "post-racial" trap, and to write his characters of color as being largely uninfluenced by social constructs related to color and culture, or influenced to conform to kyriarchic norms.  Johnny Rico of Starship Troopers is, for the most part, much more a product of upper-class culture than he is of Filipino culture; Richard Ames/Colin Campbell of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is only revealed as a PoC when he uses racist tropes against another black character, claiming that because he himself is black, it can't be racist.

Taking Heinlein's body of work as a whole, I'd say that he didn't have personal bigotry against either PoC or women - but he did, even (or perhaps especially, which is in a way worse) when trying not to, have unexamined assumptions that reflected culturally-endemic racism and sexism.

Well, I'm generally willing to take an author's era into account, and for a man of his era, he was pretty racially enlightened, I think.  I mean, look at Asimov's women; IIRC, they acted like men, and at the time, that was a compliment, to say that they even could.  For Heinlein to say that PoC could act like white people really was a liberal attitude at the time.

I don't think very many people back then really understood how intertwined race and class issues are.  They saw white working class as entirely different from non-white working class, inasmuch as they considered class issues at all.

It always seemed to me that Heinlein (and Asimov, for that matter) took the view that the things that were wrong with women and PoC were a direct result of our cultural expectations, rather than the result of constitutional deficiencies.  And while it's pretty messed up that Heinlein thought there was something wrong with women and non-whites, thinking it wasn't some unfixable built-in defect seems pretty open-minded to me, considering the surrounding culture.
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« Reply #63: June 05, 2011, 08:14:59 pm »

Well, I'm generally willing to take an author's era into account, and for a man of his era, he was pretty racially enlightened, I think.  I mean, look at Asimov's women; IIRC, they acted like men, and at the time, that was a compliment, to say that they even could.  For Heinlein to say that PoC could act like white people really was a liberal attitude at the time.
That applies much more strongly to Starship Troopers ('59) than to The Cat Who Walks Through Walls ('85).  But, as I mentioned before, it caught up with him.

I could differ at length about Asimov's women, but that seems even further OT for a political discussion thread - short version, Susan Calvin fits your description fairly well, but I can't think of others that do, and I can think of several that really don't.

Quote
I don't think very many people back then really understood how intertwined race and class issues are.  They saw white working class as entirely different from non-white working class, inasmuch as they considered class issues at all.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose Undecided.

Though, yeah, "not very many people" is a larger group, I'd say even expressed as a percentage, now, than half a century ago.

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« Reply #64: June 05, 2011, 08:34:48 pm »


Love it. Love that it comes from a comic even more.
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« Reply #65: June 06, 2011, 12:41:35 am »

Really?  I'd have to say, then, that either you're carefully selecting your reading material to avoid sexist works, or that - as someone who doesn't directly experience sexism - you don't always recognize it when it appears.  We can start with any book in which there are few or no female characters (except where their absence makes sense in context - I don't expect to find women in WWI trenches), in which the female characters exist mainly or solely in context of their relationship to a male protagonist, especially when they're used primarily as vehicles for his character development, and/or any book that fails the Bechdel test.


The story as I remember it (I last read it @ 25 years ago). Friday was portrayed as a very capable person.  
That was the cover story.  

In the book she loses her male protector (her father), with his lost, she did not inherit, loses her livelihood.

Gets thrown out of the group she was paying to accept her (have no male protector) and find out she is considered a second class citizen.  

Finds a woman to help her fix the lottery, so she can win.  When she does get a job, is kidnapped, toured, and mutilated (latter falls in love and marries the man that mutilated her).  

Gets a job that requires her to be pregnant, while pregnant jumps ship, and ends up in the kitchen (pregnant) happily writing her memoirs.  

Moral of the story intend for young males to understand.  Women need a male proctor, they are second class citizens, they will get together and cheat.  

Hit her over the head, brutalize, and mutilate her, she will fall in love with you. Get her pregnant, she will give up her career, and be happy in the kitchen.  I think that includes barefoot.

I have not found, nor have I been looking for another book that sneaks, the real story under the radar like Friday did.
It is more than sexist.

Quote

It occurred to me after I'd posted yesterday that, just possibly, your feminist friend was upset because she didn't appreciate a man trying to educate her about what she should find offensive.

Sunflower

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« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 12:43:46 am by mlr52, Reason: added it is more than sexist. » Logged

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« Reply #66: June 06, 2011, 06:48:45 am »

The story as I remember it (I last read it @ 25 years ago). Friday was portrayed as a very capable person.  
That was the cover story.  

In the book she loses her male protector (her father), with his lost, she did not inherit, loses her livelihood.

It's been about that long for me also. I'd parse that as losing her entire community, not just her father figure; and of course her livelihood. She was part of a secret agency and had no other real community other than the group family in New Zealand (?). 

Quote
Gets thrown out of the group she was paying to accept her (have no male protector) and find out she is considered a second class citizen.  

Again cut off from extended family / community resources, and I think limited legal options once she's known as a test tube (?) person.

Quote

Finds a woman to help her fix the lottery, so she can win.  When she does get a job, is kidnapped, toured, and mutilated (latter falls in love and marries the man that mutilated her).  

Gets a job that requires her to be pregnant, while pregnant jumps ship, and ends up in the kitchen (pregnant) happily writing her memoirs.  

She is impregnated against her will, and she is not aware of it until later.  I don't recall the lottery part. I do remember her, and her co-workers were being attacked, along with lots of other people.

Quote
Moral of the story intend for young males to understand.  Women need a male proctor, they are second class citizens, they will get together and cheat.  

Hit her over the head, brutalize, and mutilate her, she will fall in love with you. Get her pregnant, she will give up her career, and be happy in the kitchen.  I think that includes barefoot.

I have not found, nor have I been looking for another book that sneaks, the real story under the radar like Friday did.
It is more than sexist.

Possible

The happy raising a family part, yeah that could be seen as sexist. Although I guess a man settling down to a family and steady safe job after a war would be about the same.
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« Reply #67: June 06, 2011, 04:51:32 pm »

I have not found, nor have I been looking for another book that sneaks, the real story under the radar like Friday did.
It is more than sexist.
I'm not going to take that point-by-point.  Suffice it to say that many of your inaccuracies of detail are readily explained by how long it has been since you read it, but there are nevertheless many inaccuracies.

What's more relevant is that you don't even come close to recounting the storyline - you've handpicked a few plot points, while omitting a very large number of other plot points of equal or greater importance.  Peter noted one of the most major omissions:  that Friday's second-class status in her society (which she was well aware of all along, because it's a status under the law) is not because she is a woman, but because she is an Artificial Person.

That's a bit beside the point, though, since I'm not in any way disageeing that the book is sexist; what I took issue with was your original statement that your feminist friend "would be very hard pressed to find a more chauvinistic, sexist book."  I maintain that, no, there are a great many books that are even more sexist, and it's not at all difficult to find them.

As to your claim that the real story sneaks under the radar, the "real story" as you recount it is heavily dependent on your inaccuracies.  Is there an underlying - and sexist - narrative going on?  Yes, but it's not the one you describe (you mention only two things - her falling in love with one of her rapists [but not the one who mutilated her], and her happy domesticity at the end [which in context is not as simple a contributor as you describe] - that relate to the underlying sexist narrative I see), nor is it any more subtle, nor any more sexist, than can be found in hundreds of thousands of other books.

While I've read it far more recently than either you or Peter, it's still been many years as my copy went missing; I'm disinclined to attempt an explication of the narrative I see without refreshing my memory.

Sunflower
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« Reply #68: June 06, 2011, 07:53:00 pm »


That woman is amazing! Sorry, I just got to see her live a few months ago and she's really awesome. She's also an alum of my college which is kinda cool.
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« Reply #69: June 06, 2011, 08:01:06 pm »


While I've read it far more recently than either you or Peter, it's still been many years as my copy went missing; I'm disinclined to attempt an explication of the narrative I see without refreshing my memory.

Sunflower

Oh well, I looked and I can't buy an electronic copy and send you a free one. They don't offer Friday yet.
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« Reply #70: June 06, 2011, 08:31:37 pm »

I'm not going to take that point-by-point.  Suffice it to say that many of your inaccuracies of detail are readily explained by how long it has been since you read it, but there are nevertheless many inaccuracies.

What's more relevant is that you don't even come close to recounting the storyline - you've handpicked a few plot points, while omitting a very large number of other plot points of equal or greater importance.  Peter noted one of the most major omissions:  that Friday's second-class status in her society (which she was well aware of all along, because it's a status under the law) is not because she is a woman, but because she is an Artificial Person.

That's a bit beside the point, though, since I'm not in any way disageeing that the book is sexist; what I took issue with was your original statement that your feminist friend "would be very hard pressed to find a more chauvinistic, sexist book."  I maintain that, no, there are a great many books that are even more sexist, and it's not at all difficult to find them.

As to your claim that the real story sneaks under the radar, the "real story" as you recount it is heavily dependent on your inaccuracies.  Is there an underlying - and sexist - narrative going on?  Yes, but it's not the one you describe (you mention only two things - her falling in love with one of her rapists [but not the one who mutilated her], and her happy domesticity at the end [which in context is not as simple a contributor as you describe] - that relate to the underlying sexist narrative I see), nor is it any more subtle, nor any more sexist, than can be found in hundreds of thousands of other books.

While I've read it far more recently than either you or Peter, it's still been many years as my copy went missing; I'm disinclined to attempt an explication of the narrative I see without refreshing my memory.

Sunflower

Since the 1980's I have not come across one, (I have not looked either), so I maintain my statement.   As for the so called inaccuracies, it is what I recall about the book.  I have no plans of rereading it at this time, if need be I will.
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« Reply #71: June 06, 2011, 11:54:58 pm »

Since the 1980's I have not come across one, (I have not looked either), so I maintain my statement.
OFFS.  You're perfectly free to state that it's the most sexist book you've ever read.  But you cannot say that someone else would be "hard pressed" to find one more sexist - that's just universalizing your own experience.

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« Reply #72: June 07, 2011, 06:49:46 am »

OFFS.  You're perfectly free to state that it's the most sexist book you've ever read.  But you cannot say that someone else would be "hard pressed" to find one more sexist - that's just universalizing your own experience.

Sunflower

I'd think that John Norman's Gor series, also written in the 1980s onward is more sexist. Of course I maybe missing part of the discussion as to what books qualify.
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« Reply #73: June 07, 2011, 07:18:50 am »

OFFS.  You're perfectly free to state that it's the most sexist book you've ever read.  But you cannot say that someone else would be "hard pressed" to find one more sexist - that's just universalizing your own experience.

Sunflower

My statement was made in the 1980's.   
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« Reply #74: June 07, 2011, 09:07:16 pm »

I'd think that John Norman's Gor series, also written in the 1980s onward is more sexist. Of course I maybe missing part of the discussion as to what books qualify.
There's been no discussion about restricting it, though speculative fiction would be more directly pertinent - since setting a quality bar would work at cross-purposes, Gor certainly qualifies.  And I sure as heck would feel no inclination to argue anyone who wanted to say, "hard-pressed to find anything more sexist" than Gor.

Possibly the sexism isn't sufficiently buried in the subtext in them, though.

Sunflower
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