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?


5 thoughts on “Gender Equality in Fantasy

  1. Such a fine line in society at the moment. Personally, I’m neither sexist not feminist. And really, sometimes I wonder if feminism is just another word for sexism when taken to extremes. I agree about equality between the sexes for pay and rights, but I value the very distinct and separate roles men and women play in the real world. When the natural state of men and women is portrayed/forced to be something it is not then it tends to lose its sincerity. Write it how the characters and the world beg to be written. Just be authentically you and don’t overthink it. There will always be naysayers, but there will also always be supporters. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to agree to a certain extent. Extremism is off-putting, most definately. My sister is one of those and it drives me insane. There have been many a conversation with her trying to explain how some of these things hurt her cause more than helps it. She doesn’t quite get it.

      And yeah, I came to the same conclusion of just letting the culture flow and not worrying about roles and the like a day after I wrote this. I have a habit of borrowing trouble (as you well know). This is, I feel, a serious question, but something as well that I’m overthinking in my own life.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have been having this exact issue in my Fantasy, Dirt.

    I think you are right in that it depends on two things:

    1. Is the society where you are setting your story equal or not
    2. Do you or your characters have something to say about it.

    It has always puzzled, or perhaps amused me that in western, democratic society, we are so enamoured by stories where the heroes, the good guys, are often kings or queens. Even in the Narnia tales, when the goodies win, they don’t bring about democracy, they are autocratic rulers – tyrants, if you will.

    So, with Dirt, my heroes are fighting for freedom and for the people to have their own say in their society. As part of that, men and women have equal roles. In the second series, three of my primary characters are female (one a dragon), though I have been very careful to make them ordinary, recogniseable people and not cartoon pin-up versions of women.

    But this is a society where feudalism rules, or other autocratic governments, and where many see women as having very specific roles or even as second class citizens. So, from time to time, it comes up in the books, and the women characters have to decide whether to put up with it or fight it, depending on the situation. It has led to some poignant moments, but also some funny ones.

    It is not the central theme in the books, by any means, but where it comes out, I have given it due weight because I personally think it is an important issue.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve noticed that about our fascination with feudal states. Quite ironic in my opinion.
      But then again, I’ve that in societies with a large nobility, they don’t have the fascination with celebrities we do, but rather that’s replaced with the nobles and all their titles. I don’t know for sure, but that’s there. Kinda interesting how human psychology works.

      I don’t know how I’ll be addressing women in the society, but I do have a few inklings. The preface is done (I’m not sure if I’ll keep it or not), but it’s given me more than a few glimpses. We will see.


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