Rageblogging: The Rod Rees Edition

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Critical Hit
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Sometimes, I read a thing, and despite whatever mixture of rage, incredulity, consternation and general agogness it provokes in me, I nonetheless manage to sit down, muster my thoughts in an orderly fashion, and write out a calm and cogent rebuttal.

Other times, I read a thing, and my entire brain explodes in a symphony of What The Actual Fuck in D Minor. When that happens, I still try to do the whole cogent rebuttal thing, but I don’t always succeed, and the end result usually involves swearing.

This would be one of those others times.

Behold this blog post by author Rod Rees, expressing his thoughts as to whether or not male authors can successfully write female characters. This is an important question, one that can and frequently does lead to interesting discussions about privilege, the male gaze, stereotypes and default narrative settings; that being said, my short answer is always going to be an unequivocal yes. Above and beyond the fact that many of my favourite fictional ladies are male creations, I strongly distrust gender essentialism in all its forms, and the idea that women are inherently different, unknowable creatures, such that we exist beyond the true comprehension of men, falls firmly into that category. So, from the outset, let me be clear: male authors are totally, 100% capable of writing a wide variety of awesome female characters, and many of them frequently do just that.

But Rod Rees, I suspect, is not among them.

The utter gobsmacking cluelessness of his approach to the matter can best be summed up in the following quote:

This brought to mind other criticisms. One woman commented on the scene where Odette (a character I introduced in The Demi-Monde: Spring) was admiring her breasts in a mirror by opining that ‘Women don’t do that!’ I was tempted to reply, ‘Oh, yes they do!’

OK. Look. As I’ve recently had occasion to say elsewhere, women are not a hivemind. No one woman speaks for all women. And obviously, men can have genuine insight into women as individuals that some women might not have. But part of that insight must necessarily come from listening to women, and especially on the topic of women themselves. So when Rees’s response to criticism on the topic of women, by a woman, is a straight-up desire to gainsay her – as though her lived experience of actually being a woman is automatically inferior to his observations of same? That, I’m prepared to say, is the TOTAL FUCKING OPPOSITE of a healthy, helpful attitude.

As for admiring our breasts in the mirror, some women certainly do that. Hell, I’d even go so far as to say it’s something I’ve done myself. But if I’m agreeing with Rees, then what’s the issue? The answer is twofold: first, his reaction to the criticism as outlined above; and second, the text of the actual passage in question, which it just so happens I’ve read. Because there’s a big, honking difference between showing someone doing something normally, and showing someone doing something normal in an exaggerated, problematic fashion – such as, to pick just one example, the difference between the way women actually eat salad, and the way we’re depicted eating salad in a disturbingly large number of advertisements. Which, once again, isn’t to say that no woman in the entire history of human civilisation has ever sat at home, alone, laughing manically while delicately lofting a piece of cos in the direction of her epiglottis – it’s just that, by and large, this isn’t what happens.

This is how Rees describes Odette at the start of The Demi-Monde: Spring:

Examining herself carefully in her looking glass, Odette Aroca decided that she made quite a striking Liberte. That she stood tall and proud… and that the breast she had exposed was full and plump, all meant that she was the living embodiment of the figure shown in Delacroix’s famous painting…

Moreover, the instructions had continued, the robe had to be cut so that the right breast – and it had to be the right breast, the UnScrewed Committee members were devils for detail – was unsheathed. ‘Tempting but Untouchable’ was to be the UnScreweds’ catchphrase, and for a woman like Odette this was good news. She regarded her breasts as her second- and third-best features, having, as was often remarked upon by her admirers – many of her regrettably few admirers – big breasts. But then Odette was a very big woman, so it was natural that she should have breasts to match her great height and her equally great girth. Still, never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Odette gave a wiggle and was pleased to see that her untethered breast jiggled in quite a charming fashion. 

Which is to say, he spends near as dammit two whole paragraphs describing her boobs in that telltale way invariably used by people without boobs of their own who are nonetheless possessed of a great interest in the boobs of others, viz: by using the language and phraseology of a sexually interested outsider, as opposed to the language and phraseology of someone who, regardless of their levels of self and sexual confidence, is talking about their own body. Because – and I’m speaking from experience, here – the idea of a woman who thinks that “her untethered breast jiggled in quite a charming fashion” is about seven different shades of ludicrous, never mind the “full and plump” part. More to the point, though: these are descriptions that Rees has actively chosen to incorporate into his narrative. We don’t need to hear a lengthy paean to Odette’s breasts in order to picture her physically, and we certainly don’t need one in order for the story to make sense, but we have them, because Rees likes boobs and thinks that his readers might like them, too. And that’s fine! It is totally cool that Rod Rees likes boobs, and wants to share his boob-love with the world. But that doesn’t mean that Odette’s thoughts about her breasts are any way realistic, and it certainly doesn’t mean that his decision to start the first paragraph of the first chapter with lots of gratuitous boobietalk isn’t going to look like a cheap, sensationalist ploy to grab the attention of male readers.

Returning, then, to Rees’s blog post, I find his apparent belief that male characters are typically the victims of more negative, pervasive stereotyping than female ones to be not only bizarre, but wildly inaccurate. He writes:

Female characters are, in my humble opinion… free of the limitations and pre-conceptions imposed by the curse of stereotype-itis that afflicts male characters. A male lead is beset by doubts and indecision and the appellation ‘weak’ heads his way: a female lead is beset by doubts and indecision and she is seen as ‘sensitive’. A male character panics in the face of adversity and he’s one step away from being labelled ‘a coward’; a female character does the same thing and she thought of as a pragmatist. A male character charges unthinkingly into a perilous situation and he’s ‘high on testosterone’; a female character . . . well, I doubt if she would, females being the smarter half of the h.sapiens double act.

Ignoring the gender essentialism of that last sentence – because benevolent sexism is still sexism, Mr Rees, however much you’d like to believe it’s a complimentary attitude – my reaction to this paragraph can best be summarised as follows: are you fucking KIDDING me? In what universe aren’t female characters subject to rampant stereotyping? In what universe are they stereotyped less than guys? I mean, where do I even begin debunking this bullshit? With the omnipresent damsel in distress trope? With the ubiquity of women in refrigerators? With an in-depth conversation about just how many stories don’t pass the Bechdel test, and why film schools actively teach screenwriters to fail it? I mean, Christ on a fucking BICYCLE – this is 101 stuff, and it is EVERYWHERE. And if Rees honestly thinks that male stereotyping in narrative is a bigger goddamn problem than the stereotyping of women – by which I mean, if he honestly thinks that male stereotyping in narrative is more common, more pernicious, and more deeply intertwined with fucked-up, sexist cultural notions about traditional gender roles than female stereotyping*? Then we have more and bigger problems than the boobie issue.

Such as, for instance, the fact that Rees thinks that learning exclusively about radical feminism is the same thing as being “pretty clued up” about the entirety of feminism:

What I discovered is that like all quasi-religions, Feminism has its zealots: so much so that I found it damned difficult to make HerEticalism more extreme than the world envisaged by the out-there radical-feminists. The upshot of all this reading and pondering was that I thought I was pretty clued up on feminism.

Maybe I was wrong.

Firstly, if you’re going to describe feminism as a “quasi-religion” – as opposed to, you know, the crazy belief that women are people who deserve equal rights, and coincidentally, where the fuck is my MRA bingo card when I need it, oh wait, it’s right here, and lookie! “Feminism is a religion” IS ACTUALLY ON IT, please wait while I headdesk unto infinity – then you have officially forfeited the right to talk about feminism as though you understand it. Period. Secondly, if you are incapable of distinguishing between radical ANYTHING and the non-radical version, then CONGRATULATIONS, YOU FAIL BASIC COMPREHENSION FOREVER. I mean, is it really THAT FUCKING DIFFICULT? He’s got the word radical IN there, and yet is evidently unaware of its role as a descriptive qualifier. Thirdly, why do I feel like the radical feminism Rees is referring to belongs to the same, outdated, Andrea Dworkin school of fringe theories that Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg are so fond of conflating with the movement as a whole? What, did all these old, embittered white guys go to the same seminar on Why Feminism Is Insane back in 1973 and just take it as gospel forever and ever, amen? Do I even want to know the answer to that question?

And then, it gets even worse.

What I found most unsettling about these criticisms was their nugatory nature. My characters were being criticised not for doing what strong, independent women should be doing, but for doing what a section of the readership believes they shouldn’t be doing. Rather than look at the broader attributes/attitudes of a character, it is the minutiae that was being picked over… I am drawn to the Biblical parable about motes and beams and could take this religious analogy further: feminist criticism has many of the features of the theological debates in mediaeval times where being pilloried for heresy turned on the most trivial of deviations from the accepted canon.

Bear in mind, this comment is made in response to a female reader objecting to the fact that one of his female characters described herself  as “a lush thrush with a tight tush”.

Seriously.

Savour that phrase for a moment. It might well be worse than the bit about the jiggling, untethered breasts, but either way, it’s sort of like comparing guano to horseshit, if animal faeces were composed entirely of gross, sexually objectifying language. But, I digress, because Rees has once again missed the point by a margin so epic, it’s like watching a man trying to drive to Dover and ending up in Calais. The issue isn’t with what your female characters are doing – it’s how and why you portray them doing it, and whether or not you’ve stereotyped them horribly in the process. Which, given the fact that Rees is evidently oblivious to the issue of female stereotyping – he even goes on to lament his “troubling suspicion” that feminist critique is trying to “confine female characters in much the same way as male characters have been” – sends up a red flag the size of Neptune about his total inability to recognise and avoid it. (As do his unthinking use of the Big Breast Pride and Omniscient Breasts tropes. For instance.)

Then I reached the penultimate paragraph.

But I have a suspicion that these proscriptions affect female writers as much as they affect male ones. It seems to be a fixture at the SF conventions I’ve attended to have a panel discussion debating why there are so few women writing in the adult SF and fantasy genres. Could it be that the success of female writers in YA fantasy fiction is in part attributable to their young female characters being better able to adhere to this template of the ideal female? Once female writers venture into the more visceral world of adult fiction they find this stereotype doesn’t work and hence struggle. Just a thought.

Let me get this straight: according to Rees, female authors only succeed in writing YA fantasy novels because it’s easy, and that once they try to venture into the “more visceral world of adult fiction”, they “struggle” to move beyond the “stereotype” of non-passive, actively feminist characters – and this is “why there are so few women writing in the adult SF and fantasy genres”?

WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. FUCK.

Here’s an alternate theory: adult SF and fantasy are chock-full of spectacular women writers despite the fact that troglodytic, sexist asshats like Rod Rees think that most of us are incapable of writing grown-up characters due to our Hindering Ladyfeelings. Plus and also? The idea that you graduate to writing adult novels after starting out in YA – or rather, that WOMEN can graduate to writing adult novels after starting out in YA, presumably because men who write about jiggling tits are sculpting literary masterpieces whatever the age of their intended audience – is fucking INSULTING.

And I just. I CANNOT with this fuckery, this I’m-so-enlightened-because-I-have-a-wife-and-daughters, therefore it’s COMPLETELY OK that I sexually objectify my female characters using the grossest language possible, ignore all female criticism of same because I know more about being a woman than women do, write off feminism as a radical religion while claiming to know all about it, and plead total and comprehensive ignorance of even the most basic forms of stereotyping that affect women in narrative, all while positing that the dearth of female writers in my field is due to female incompetence. YES. YOU ARE TRULY A PRINCE AMONG FEMINISTS.

AUGH.

I don't want to live on this planet any more

Angry dome

*Which isn’t to say that male stereotyping isn’t a problem: it is, and it’s rife with problematic gender essentialism, too, particularly around the perpetuation of culturally constructed, restrictive and ultimately toxic notions of masculinity. Sexism in stereotyping cuts both ways, because that’s what sexism does: it hurts everyone, even the people it’s ostensibly meant to benefit. But there’s also a deep imbalance in terms of the scope and ubiquity of the representation afforded to men as opposed to women, and a much greater variety of male portrayals as opposed to female, which is why (for instance) you have Seth Rogan acknowledging the fact that Pineapple Express would never have been made if it were about two girls, and that he wouldn’t have a career if he were female.

30 June 2013, ETA: As of today, Jo Fletcher Books has taken down both Rees’s original post and a post published subsequently wherein Jo Fletcher explained why she’d allowed it to appear in the first place. (In a nutshell: Because Free Speech, I don’t censor my authors even though it’s not something I’d have written myself, which is fine, except that this isn’t what people were objecting to – or at least, not insofar as the decision to publish went – and therefore came across as missing the point. As was explained by several people in comments on that second post, the issue on that count was more to do with the fact that, if you publish something on your company blog, regardless of whether or not You, The Person agree with it, then people are, not unreasonably, going to assume that You, The Organisation does – or at the very least, that your company doesn’t *disagree* enough with the content not to have refrained from publishing it in the first place. Thus: if you publish a sexist piece on the company blog, then while Because Free Speech will certainly explain your personal decision to do so, this explanation is neither synonymous with nor a substitute for an explanation about why you chose to associate your company with sexism – or, more pertinently in this case, with why you’d then be surprised that people were disappointed in you for having done so.)

Anyway. The original blog might be gone, but this being the internet, it lives on in cache and screencap, in which form it can still be found here.

3 July 2013, ETA: With no explanation, both posts are now back up at the Jo Fletcher Books Blog. So, there’s that.

Comments
  1. Natalie L. says:

    This is a glorious rant–my brain shorted out halfway through reading Rees’s piece earlier; it just makes no sense. Also, you have a way with the f-word that is truly admirable. I aspire to reach such heights someday.

  2. Scott Zachary says:

    Frankly, the opening paragraphs of his book read like a man imagining himself looking in the mirror at the penis he wished he had, full and plump, untethered, and jiggling in quite a charming fashion.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Snrk!

    • Damn. You beat me to it. That’s totally the image I got, too. It would have been complete if he’d actually named them–Betty and Bertha, perhaps?

      What Mr. Rees (and other authors who write like this) also doesn’t seem to get is that his Jiggly Sue also comes off as a completely self-absorbed, dim, unlikeable twat. And a lot of readers, many of them women, don’t like to read about women like that–books like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey (which are really about the guys in them, anyway) aside.

      • fozmeadows says:

        I think it’s less a question of sexually confident heroines coming off as airheaded and unlikeable than it is readers reacting, however subconsciously, to portrayals of sexually confident heroines wherein the sexual confidence is always/mostly phrased in terms an observer would use, rather than in terms an individual would use to describe themselves, and conflating that dissonance with superficiality. For instance: it’s pretty unlikely that any woman is going to think of herself, while in front of the mirror, as ‘a vivacious, big-breasted blonde,’ but that’s exactly the sort of externally-sexualised description such clueless authors are likely to give their female characters; and because we, the audience, recognise how inherently implausible (though not 100% impossible) it is for anyone to describe themselves in those terms, our first response is to see it as a flaw in the character, as opposed to a flaw in the characteriastion.

        • But you don’t have to get into sociobabble to explain why that’s bad writing, either. Sure, there is a place for sociobabble, but there is a perfectly simple reason why male writers of any talent at least try to hide any obsession with their tackle in metaphors like phallic-shaped rocketships or guns–being too literal about it makes your Hero look like a wanker.

          Unfortunately, a lot of the same writers never seem to clue in that exactly the same thing occurs when you have a woman do it. It makes the character look vain and shallow rather than awesome. It draws attention to the awesomeness, which makes it rather less awesome.

          There are, unfortunately, women writers who do this, too. Many a bad romance novel and fanfic has had a heroine admiring herself in the mirror in just as graphic detail, enough to make it a red flag. The difference is that there are fewer major female characters out there, period, so there are also fewer good female characters. And there used to be fewer female writers, too, but that’s changing. It’s one reason why we tend to notice these things more. With more examples, it’s easier to evaluate what we want. It’s a sort of progress.

          I’m not pointing this out because I disagree with the OP. Actually, I think she’s got a bunch of good points. But as an editor of a horror market that regularly publishes work by and about women, I frequently hear male authors and writers complain that we’re somehow constraining their creativity by doing that. I also hear the excuse that they put out specfic anthologies with almost all men (even in areas where there are plenty of great women writers) because they’re just picking the best stories–instead of doing the usual of asking their friends and the writers they happen to admire (who also happen to be men) for subs.

          These guys look at arguments based on sexism, misogyny, racism, homophobia, what-have-you-exclusionism and insist that “catering” to these concerns lowers the general quality of what is published. So, you’re not going to convince them that way.

          The thing is that all these isms don’t exist in a vacuum and they do affect the quality of the product. Why? Because they’re cliches. The Hot Chick Who Admires Herself In The Mirror The Way A Guy Would is just one (I first encountered it in Robin Cook’s “Coma” and hated it on sight). Rees may have responded to his critics like a jerk, but he didn’t bother to think about and explore the viewpoint of his female character enough *not* to make her a cliche, in the first place. And furthermore, it looks as though he didn’t care.

          So, naturally, when called on it, he got defensive. It’s a convenient smokescreen to claim that the critics are being uptight or too PC, rather than that they’re pointing out a big, old flaw in his writing. I think that’s the real reason we tend to blame the character not the writing. We fall for the smoke and mirrors of the Great and Mighty Author, and pay no attention to the writer behind the curtain.

  3. Andrea Harris says:

    I kinda got stuck where he claimed male characters that showed indecision and feelings are called “weak” and looked down on. Hamlet anyone? Also the lead male protagonists of just about anything, because if they knew what to do and just did it every book would be one paragraph long and every play, movie, and tv show would be shorter than a commercial for it. As I read on, I decided that Rees hasn’t ever read a book that didn’t have either a naked woman or a sword on the cover, or both.

  4. Mieneke says:

    I was reading the Rees piece this morning over breakfast and reading out some choice quotes to my husband in indignation. His response: “This man clearly doesn’t get it.”

    When I got to the paragraph Andrea is referring to, I just had to laugh in incredulous astonishment at: “A male character panics in the face of adversity and he’s one step away from being labelled ‘a coward’; a female character does the same thing and she thought of as a pragmatist.” Really? If a woman did that generally she wouldn’t be called a pragmatist, she’d be called hysterical! Raarg O.o

    Great rant, Foz, and I completely agree.

  5. RankkaApina says:

    I love your rant! Your thoughts are very well organized while ranting🙂 I’ve never read anything by this author and I don’t think I ever will… This is what annoys me most when men are writing women: the fact that they don’t really get inside the head, but rather makes them describes them as objects. I mean who does that? I don’t think anyone does, even if they’re fine with men objectifying them. I think what this writer needs is to read authors who get it right. One of my favorites is a man whose protagonist is a middle aged woman: Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series. So, there are men who actually know how to write women. Oh right, they write people.

  6. […] Author and critic Foz Meadows responds to Rees’ “utter gobsmacking cluelessness.” […]

  7. I love this post. We need more people to speak up and hold those who are spouting out sexist comments and ideas accountable.

  8. kar isperring says:

    Loud applause.

  9. Ebonstorm says:

    And the crowd goes wild! This is the full-throated three-point score from the foul line on the other side of the court which wins the game for the downtrodden underdogs made by the special-needs child who was put in at the last second to “let him play” kind of roar! ( I have seen a video where this happens and the sound is tumultuous!)

    I am so sick of the misogynistic BS I have been seeing on the speculative fiction circuit lately. This essay hits an asshat right between the eyes. Well done!

  10. Angela Perry says:

    At first I thought he was joking. But…*whispers*…I think he’s serious.

    I’ll just leave a couple names here on the chance he stumbles over them: Jim Butcher (I’m rather a fan of both Amara and Isana in the Codex Alera series, despite the lack of jiggling boobage) and CJ Cherryh (who somehow managed a stellar career in scifi and fantasy–including three Hugos–without ever venturing into YA).

    • S.L. Knapp says:

      I dunno, Butcher’s loving descriptions of underage Molly’s sexuality (she’s sooooo hot! And sexual! And hot! Harry just stands there ogling his 16-year-old ward while she orgasms wildly on the morgue floor!) creeped me out and are part of why I couldn’t read the Harry Dresden books anymore. The other reason is because after so many books, Harry still goes on being a sexist douchetruck and calling it “old fashioned/charming/chivalry.” I don’t know how Karen hasn’t put a bullet in his smarmy face yet.

      It was hard to get past the slave collars (used against women, the natural habitat of magical make-the-slave-do-whatever-I-tell-them slave collars) in the first Codex book, despite thinking the two characters they were used against were by far the best characters. It’s just… exhausting. Of course the women were enslaved with the looming specter of rape hanging over their heads. Of course! /sigh

      Nothing wrong with liking the books, I know a lot of people do! But they’re not really a good example of men doing it right, unfortunately.

      • Lee says:

        Glad someone else noticed the rampant sexism and terrible writing of women (seriously I cannot even) in Jim Butcher’s books. My boyfriend is a HUGE fan and I cannot even mention “male gaze” and “what’s up with him verbosely drooling all over that sixteen year old girl” without him flipping out and getting really pissed. And he’s normally so good at noticing these things! He keeps trying to get me to read them and I’m like “dude, if you want to avoid the part where I continue to recognize Jim Butcher as a dude 100% incapable of How To Wominz, you will stop trying to make me read the freaking books.”

  11. Depressing: still no reaction from Jo Fletcher Books. Also, it’s become clear that comments made on the original post (e.g. by Beth Bernobich) are still languishing in moderation.

  12. sftheory1 says:

    Awesome rant! Unfortunately, Rees isn’t alone when it comes to this sort of thing.

  13. It looks like Fletcher Books are planning a part 2 of this “wisdom-filled” series. The tsunami of knuckledragging and cluelessness about basic stuff never abates & takes up excessive bandwidth.

  14. I think Rod Rees needs to read, and understand, what a writer like Ursula Le Guin has achieved. If it isn’t too startling to find that an author has shifted between what is labelled YA/Adult Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements for, ohh, say the last fifty odd years.

    (This is not to say that all her novels are unproblematic at all times. The point is more that Ursula Le Guin has covered a lot of crossover ground in her career whilst being labelled “for kids” in the original Earthsea Quarter)

    Also; “a lush thrush with a tight tush” for some reason brings to mind an assonance heavy description of Candida albicans. Which is not sexy or pleasant for anyone, to my mind.

  15. I think you covered the man-woman issue!

    Elsewhere, I’d add that writers need to know that “YA” is a marketing category and has nothing to do with whether a book is of merit or not. Moreover, every really wonderful “YA” book will be reviewed as a “crossover” book. Because these rather recent categories don’t really exist as anything essential. They’re the work of marketing departments. The big divide is between good books and the others.

    (As for the “graduating to adult books” idea, I wrote two “YA” books only after novels and a poetry collection. And now after 11 books, I’d still like to write another novel directed toward young people some day.)

  16. […] breasts in a mirror. Foz Meadows pretty much says everything I can think of to say on the matter, right over here. Tricia Sullivan speaks up over here. And James Nicoll and his regular readers have all sorts of […]

  17. […] the SF&F community still can’t have nice things (*cough* harassment*cough*); just how incredibly far up his ass Rod Rees’s head is; how amazing it is to watch Tammy Duckworth take down a contractor trying to game the system; or […]

  18. Excellent. That Rees was pissing himself in the face was clear from his own text, but you really point out how the wind is blowing, and where the urine strikes. Here’s hoping this excellent and entertaining rant contributes to halving his readership… (And I don’t mean losing his female readership, if he had any in the first place, but every single reader, male, female or otherwise, who appreciates believable and well-rounded–pun intended–characters.)

  19. I know *I* rank my best features numerically and rank my boobs separately. As we gals like to do.

  20. […] …[M]y entire brain explode[d] in a symphony of What The Actual Fuck in D Minor. -Foz Meadows, June 26, 2013 […]

  21. ERose says:

    It really should seem so basic – the men who are best at writing fictional women are the kind who talk to and *listen* to real women and go to that experience when trying to envision their character. And it definitely happens, because there are male-authored female characters that ring true out there and I’ve read several of them.
    Frankly, not being able to write solid female characters is worrying as much because it indicates an author doesn’t spend enough time with women *as people* to be able to just write what he knows as because it means we all have another harmful stereotype to add to the pantheon.

  22. gaie says:

    So if I write a male protagonist looking in the mirror and admiringly describing his own bollocks, and how big and jiggly they are, or calling himself, say, a slick Mick with a big dick, I prove I know all about how to write guys. Right? Guys?

  23. […] Foz Meadows rebuts Rod Rees point by point in this great post and also includes a snippet of the “woman admiring her breasts in the mirror” passage: […]

  24. I love this post. I occasionally teach creative writing, and I hope you don’t mind if I use your excellent breakdown of the mirror scene phenomenon.

  25. […] here to articulate my own feelings about that article. Foz Meadows, I think, put it best: “my entire brain explode[d] in a symphony of What The Actual Fuck in D Minor.” It is remarkably – remarkably! – alienating and off-putting to read that how to […]

  26. […] have drawn the ire of several notable authors including (a somewhat irate) Tricia Sullivan and (an equally angry) Foz Meadows, as reported by reviewer Liz Bourke. The original piece and the rebuttals are well worth reading […]

  27. Morgan says:

    Dear Foz: Reading this blog post is my first encounter with your writing, and I just wanted to thank you for putting exactly what’s so awful about Rees’s blog post into words so eloquently. I especially love the part where you point out the difference between, well, pretty much any concept and its radicalized version. Holy crap does it infuriate me how often people conflate those… Anyway, suffice to say you’ve gained a new reader today for both your blog and your fiction, and I’ll be recommending you to my friends too (self-declared feminists and otherwise alike). Thanks for being an awesome human being.

  28. “A symphony of What The Actual Fuck in D Minor” will live in my brain until the blood stops flowing to it. Well played, and the rest of your essay lives up to the intro.

    “A lush thrush with a tight tush” sounds like something the nightclub columnist for the New York Post would have banged out on his Underwood 50 years ago, and then discarded before passing it to the copy editor because “tush” doesn’t rhyme with “lush” and “thrush.” I would be shocked to learn that any woman singer of those times ever described herself as a “thrush.” I was in my teens 50 years ago, not at all enlightened about sexism, but even then I thought the term was belittling and disrespectful. Hell, did the word “sexism” even exist back then?

    • Lee says:

      Yeah, I’m not that familiar with the term (being born in 1991), but I’m pretty sure it would be like me (an Italian) referring to myself as a “guido.” It’s not exactly a flattering term. I think it could also be compared to a woman referring to herself as a “strumpet” or a “jezebel.” It’s not nice, it’s derogatory. But I guess some men are so confused that they ACTUALLY think things they scream at women walking down the street are actually compliments, and totally how women think of themselves, completely. Cause women just think of themselves in whatever terms MEN think of them, right? Ugh. Talk about clueless!

    • freemage says:

      Yeah, “a lush thrush with a tight tush,” pretty much shut down my brain, because it’s so obvious that this was an author who never, ever reads what he’s having his characters say out loud. Even setting aside the absurdity of the phrasing, if I’m going to make up a pithy description about myself, it’s going to freakin’ rhyme. It’s going to be something I can rattle off verbally.

      Anyone that tone-deaf to his own writing is just not going to come up with good, realistic dialogue, even if he’s not a sexist douchecanoe.

  29. […] of color trying to figure out how the hell they’re supposed to feel in the wake of both. Some guy I never heard of mansplaining on how to (badly, in his case) write women. Julia Gillard getting booted as Australia’s Prime […]

  30. Thanks very much for writing this. That section in which he minimized/denied the existence of stereotypes about girls and women just made me go “What?”. And then I read the rest of it, and there wasn’t even a little bit in there that would make me think that he knew what he was talking about.

    This would be one of those others times.

    The stuff you write during “one of those other times” is still great!🙂

  31. Reblogged this on Parnassus Writes and commented:
    I came across via an author I adore and think it’s spot on. For your reading pleasure…

  32. A “lush thrush”?? He doesn’t know Thrush is also a yeast infection then? Maybe we should make him look it up (in a book, I mean – not literally!)

    How ‘comforting’ it is to have guys like him, who can so confidently tell us women exactly where we’re going wrong when we try to be women. I’ve already spotted what my main problem is; I clearly don’t devote enough time to admiring my suprisingly big boobs jiggling. And my female main character in my sci-fi novel-in-progress hasn’t done that once yet (seems to have more important things to deal with – tsk, these silly, multi-tasking girls, eh?)

    Bravo for your post, which blows out of the water the idea that women are too busy being all Radical Feminist to skewer ridiculous, stereotyped ideas in a witty and intelligent manner. Reading your words means I don’t have to read his actual blog – I’m kind of scared to do that now, since I get the feeling I may end up screaming obscenities and throwing things at my monitor. Maybe I could calm myself down by getting a nice snappy description for myself that both advertises my sexiness AND rhymes. ‘Cause ALL women have one of them… (???)

  33. Barbara says:

    Soooooo…. the ‘argot of 2030’ is identical to the argot of 1930? Rees fails at worldbuilding too.

  34. Sybylla says:

    Is this the orignial post? http://www.jofletcherbooks.com/2013/06/can-male-writers-successfully-write-female-characters-by-rod-rees/

    It’s all there, unfortunately. =S

    Such a sexist crap written by this Rod, this is unbelievable.

    Your post is great. Thank you so much for translate my indignation.

  35. […] Rageblogging: The Rod Rees Edition, 26 June […]

  36. […] Foz Meadows had a great rant about women writers and characters (as written by men) in SF/F fiction. […]

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