Dys-trope-ian?

I ended up hate-reading the book I blogged about yesterday and managed to get halfway through. I think I’ve punished myself enough. This is a DNF.

In happier news, I’ve been reading a series I like a lot better. Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance series. It’s very well written and though it is fully male-focused, the portrayal of women is at least not completely depressing.

So, look, I recommend the series. I’ve enjoyed reading it. But I have major issues with it — of the “heavy sigh” sort.

Mostly what I notice is that all the character archetypes that are traditionally male in real life are, in this series, also occupied by men. What I feel is that Sakey does a better than average job with his female characters — as far as he takes them. When he thinks about women, he at least gives them some complexity.

What’s distressing to me is that this is heads and shoulders above most books where the reader is assumed male. It is really great that one of the major movers of the story is a woman–even though she’s also a love-interest.

But, you know, there are actually no female characters of agency in the story that are placed there without an explicit, non-imagined sexual/procreative relationship to men. Meaning, they are wives, girlfriends, daughters or sexual partners of other male characters.

What I mean is that, there are major male characters in the story who are only men. While we might imagine they have wives, girlfriends, or daughters, those characters do not exist on the page. For every such woman, the male-partner (as it were) is present in the pages.

It’s as if Sakey could not create a female character who has a significant impact on the fictive world without also placing her in the male sphere– we see the husband or sexual partner in the pages of the book. And this is not true of the male secondary characters.

There is no portrayal of those characters as husbands, fathers, or sons to any other characters — other than a reference or two to the fact that one or two possess wives, daughters or are sexually serviced by a woman.

All the significant female characters orbit at least one man in a relationship capacity. All of them.

Not one of the major secondary impactors in the 2 books so far is a woman. And I kept thinking, huh. How hard would it have been to make one of these characters female? In a world of a new genetic “brilliance” not one of those major secondaries is a woman. Not the data guru, not the scientist, not the Revolutionary, not the two characters who have carved out political and defensive space.

Apparently, women can be brilliant– we are told that, but they have no actual presence in the series without also being positioned relative to their availability as sexual partners (wife, girlfriend, or prostitute) or the result of a man’s procreative efforts.

I am looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the series. I know it will be a great book. But I also know the world of the book will have a male gaze.

There is a problem with this. Because the not really subtle message is women don’t matter unless they’re connected to a man.

But you know what? I’d rather read this that someone who ripped off Sherrilyn Kenyon and plopped in every distasteful, horrific trope about how a man completely controls the woman he loves — and that’s OK because LOVE INTEREST. Sakey does NOT do that.

I say go read his series. And sigh over what it might have been.

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