I’m positive that someone has addressed this before, yet it still pops up daily. For example, the other day I started work on the novel that I’ve been planning, tweaking, and reworking since I was fourteen. But almost immediately, I created a problem for myself.
Personally, I’m not the strongest feminist in the world. That doesn’t mean I don’t want equal pay or equal rights for the fairer sex (I do), I just don’t have the drive to commit to it like my sister or my mother does. My stance is more moderate from sheer laziness, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want fairness across the board. Call me sexist. I don’t care. I know I’m not. Never would I want to see my wife, my sister, or any other person discriminated against due to their sex.
But this leads into the question I have: Do we, as authors, have a responsibility to portray worlds (especially in the fantasy genre) as being equal and unbiased? Or would it just be considered an unwise design move? Does it matter at all?
At first, I’m inclined to say no. These are our worlds, our ideas, and we can populate them however we wish. If the story calls for a woman to overcome social norms to rule the world, then so be it. That’s the story. What if it isn’t the story? Does it have to be addressed then?
I’ve seen the different ways that authors have handled this. Many (Steven Brust, Anne McCaffery, and Terry Brooks come to mind) don’t even make it a factor. Anything one sex can do, the other can as well. Kings and queens rule, direct armies, and slay enemies of their countries. Others (like Robert Jordan) seem to take the stance that men and women are not equal, but rather that their power bases are separate and untouchable by the other group. Men control armies while women dominate politics (If you doubt me, then what else are the Aes Sedai than a political group?). The more you delve into these worlds, the more you realize that what appears unfair, is actually quite balanced or, if not balanced, then favoring women.
I love a strong, confident woman. There’s a reason that on my list of favorite characters, several are female. Ask my wife about it. But are we required in any way, shape, or form to write like this? Or does it just make good sense? The novel that I’m working on now is loosely based on the early 19th century, and I’m fighting stereotypes in my head.
There will be a balance in my tale. I believe in balance innately, so why would I write it in some other way? The question is what the balance will be. Does sex really matter? I don’t know. I haven’t gotten there yet.
What do you think? Am I overthinking this? Should I be more concerned or less so?