Okay, so it wasn’t an almost-riot but rather a…heated academic debate. During a discussion of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, many of my classmates shared my ideas but there were some who didn’t. Though I do consider myself a feminist (not a man-hater but a passionate fighter for equality), I don’t mind when others have different opinions on the subject. After all, it is our First Amendment right to speak freely. This is especially true in the case of modern combat. What bothered me about today’s discussion was that I have friends who are female soldiers, who have bravely fought in the war in order to protect the very people who did not respect them as equals. I’m a peaceful person who always tries to avoid conflict, even in civil classroom debates. When my friends who have put or are putting their lives at risk for the safety of the American people are disrespected based on old-fashioned bias, it does not sit well with me. I am a peaceful person. It takes A LOT to make me angry.

That being said, back to Woolf. I found the points she presented to be valid considering her time frame. I couldn’t help but wonder what she would think now of modern feminist authors. In a previous entry, I mentioned the works of Kristin Cashore (a fan of feminist author Tamora Pierce) and Cindy Pon. Both have a very different style and execution of writing, yet they are similar in their creation of fearless heroines and strong, supportive heroes. For some reason, Cashore gets a bad rap for being a “man-hater.” This has to be the most ridiculous assumption I have ever come across about an author. For example, Cashore’s debut novel Graceling stars a beautiful, intelligent, strong young woman with an uncanny fighting ability. This woman, Katsa, is a Graceling. For a better understanding, here is a brief summary from Amazon.com :

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

     When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.”

In the story, she is accompanied by Prince Po on her journey to a distant kingdom. Po’s character is proof enough to me that Cashore is anything but a man-hater. Katsa is a skilled fighter. So is Po. In fact, their sparring matches usually end in a draw. Katsa is a great horsewoman. Po is a great horseman (honestly, probably a bit better with horses than Katsa based on some concerns he had in the book). Both Katsa and Po are Gracelings, though their Graces are different.

Their Graces are equal.

Their fighting abilities are equal.

They are heroes in their own right.

I guess I just don’t understand how equality is considered man-hating. To me, that just seems like insecurity.

Cindy Pon, on the other hand, seems a bit more subtle than Cashore in her feminist form of writing, yet it is still unmistaken. This is especially true in her debut novel, Silver Phoenix. Here is a link to a summary of the book :

http://cindypon.com/silver-phoenix/

Ai Ling is a fearless, headstrong heroine with an incredible ability. What I like best about this book, perhaps, is the fact that the world Pon has created is strongly influenced by ancient China. Ancient Chinese culture gave women very little value, and Pon does a fantastic job of putting Ai Ling in a similar type of world but making her power unmistakable. Like Katsa, Ai Ling is accompanied by a strong, supportive hero and friend Chen Yong. Pon is a feminist, but Chen Yong is brave, strong, and highly capable of handling any obstacle that is thrown at him. They do seem well-matched in their abilities. While reading this novel, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Lu Xun’s descriptions of how oppressive Chinese society was.

This may come as a shock to some, but not all feminist books are written by women. Other works, such as Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns are very supportive of feminism. A Thousand Splendid Suns follows to Afghani women during the rule of the Taliban and the abuse and oppression they faced. Hosseini is sympathetic towards these women and very supportive of what occurs in the ending, when they are triumphant. Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha is a very popular novel as well, following  the geisha Sayuri in her quest to choose love and a life of her own.

While not necessarily a feminist, I consider science fiction author Orson Scott Card to have some sort of understanding of the equality of women. In Card’s novels, women hold powerful positions in politics, military commanders, and have an unmistakable dynamic in the story. They are brilliant, often bold, and always ready for new challenges. Something I find interesting is how well these women operate in world that is traditionally a man’s (military situations, etc.). Similarly, Suzanne Collins (the author of the global phenomenon The Hunger Games), often puts her female lead in traditionally male-dominant situations. Yet, Katniss handles these situations as well (actually a bit better than), the men who are put in the same situations.

I suppose all of this is to say I agree with Virginia Woolf, but I believe more in equality. To me, women are no less significant than men, and men are no less significant than women. Frankly, all of this debate tires me. Wouldn’t it be much easier if we just accepted each other as equals instead of one having to be superior?

 


Comments

01/25/2012 9:26pm

I knew that you were going to talk about Graceling!!! love this post!!

Reply
Taylor Bailey
01/29/2012 7:39pm

Of course I was! =D Thank you!

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