Tag: feminism in fiction

My Frustration with Fringe and Under-explored Female Archetypes

meat and buildings sf

Work on the second book is going slowly and not that well.  I’m on chapter three.  So far I can tell that the biggest problem is way too much dialog.  Like I’m making my characters say EVERYTHING they could possibly say all RIGHT NOW.  Which is funny considering how Cricket and Grey aren’t exactly chatterboxes.  I know the general direction I’m taking book two but I haven’t mapped it out chapter by chapter.  I’m still struggling to find the main – the large – story arc that goes from book one to book two.  I have all these things I know the characters are going to go through and I know that ultimately the largest story arc is the transformation of Cricket from living her life passively as a member in a safe family unit to living it on her own terms.  Growing up and finding a new sense of family and belonging.  But the vehicle that will drive that transformation – I know it’s there already but it’s shadowy like I’m under water and seeing it move across the cloudy rippling surface of a lake.

Meanwhile – you can now purchase my book from Amazon in both trade paper and hardback editions.  I think if you want to buy it as a gift for someone else it won’t get to you in time.  They say 2-4 weeks to ship to you.  That’s because it’s print on demand.  So if you were thinking of buying any trade paper copies for friends or family as Christmas gifts you’ll be able to buy them from me – probably by the end of the week.  I’ve ordered 20 copies to sell from this site and from my Etsy shop.  I will announce when they get here.  But if you want to buy copies for yourself you can do that now!  Click on the image below and it will take you to the trade paperback listing:

It’s been pretty cold here and I’ve been loving it.  21 degrees last night.  We don’t get snow here but at least we’re getting some wintery temps.  More than I can say for last winter.

Max just turned 13 years old and suddenly is losing all his baby teeth.  I didn’t realize how many of them he had left.  I think most kids lose them all before becoming teens.  He’s lost 4 teeth in less than two weeks.  It kind of freaks me out.  Partly because he has been aggressive about yanking them out of his own mouth (or making his dad do it) the minute they’re loose.  I’m scared he’ll start pulling out his adult teeth.

I’m watching Fringe right now.  I’ve been binge watching it for a week and have just started season 3.  I notice something about myself that is very inconvenient much of the time.  I can’t take too much suspense once I’m super invested in television characters.  Usually when there are partners with sexual tension I get extremely annoyed with it after one or two seasons.  I find it tedious to see couples constantly ALMOST get together and then fuck it all up with stupid decisions.  It seems that, in spite of being very unromantic in real life, in fiction I always want couples to get together and stay together.

*Spoiler alert for anyone just starting to watch Fringe*

So by the end of season 1 of Fringe I really wanted Olivia and Peter to end up together.  The hints that they liked each other were plenty but I had to know if they would ever get together so I looked up spoilers.  I discovered that at the end of season 2 they kiss.  So that was reassuring enough to get me to the end of season 2.  Which I stayed up until 2:30 am watching last night.  Only to discover that just minutes after Olivia and Peter kiss the first time she is replaced by Fauxlivia.  SO FUCKING STRESSFUL.  I can’t stand it.  So I woke up late this morning and what do I have to do?  Watch the first couple of episodes of season 3 but I’m totally stressed out now because Fauxlivia is hanging out with Peter and he can’t tell the difference because apparently he’s dumb as a hammer all of a sudden.  Meanwhile, Olivia is having very bad adventures in the alternate universe.

I couldn’t stand the suspense so I read spoilers for the entire series up to the very last episode and now I don’t think I can continue to watch this show because the writers constantly put Olivia and Peter in turmoil with each other as well as in every other conceivable way.  What bothers me the most is that Peter has sex with Fauxlivia and later it turns out she gets pregnant with his baby.

Of course she does.

And then she tries to lure him back to the alternate universe where she is and where he really is from too and I’m so irritated with this twist I am still bumming right now as I write this.  Why?  Because once a fictional couple gets together and you’ve already bought the subtext that they really are supposed to be together, I can’t stand to see them constantly betraying each other.  Yeah, even if I’m supposed to understand that they don’t know they’re betraying the other person themselves.  Or even if there are REASONS.

*Yeah, I’m a fictional WIMP*

So here’s a little spoiler for the tiny group of Cricket and Grey fans: Cricket will never have sex with anyone but Grey.  Grey will never have sex with anyone but Cricket.  Furthermore, they will not betray each other in any shockingly big way.  Maybe they’ll fight.  Maybe they’ll be unwillingly separated.  But most of the conflict in my series is outside of them.  They’re partners.  They face adversity together.  That’s the model I like.

But I realize, in having many discussions about shows with friends, that while I love it when partners finally become real partners and have a relationship, many of my friends get bored once a couple has become a couple.  I think most people just want the sexual tension to keep going and going with no real reward.  Or they want to see the couple get torn apart and tortured so that they are never actually happy with each other or done not-really-being-together.  I hate that.  I hate it.  I almost gave up on Bones because it got so fucking tedious – the obvious attraction between them.  The obviousness that they were great as a couple.  And then the constant pushing each other away.  I only came back to it when they got over themselves and finally got together and I’ve been loving the show again ever since.  There’s some strife, they have their difficulties, but they are going through it TOGETHER.  The exact same thing with Castle.  I just about gave up on the whole push-me-pull-me sexual tension never being resolved bullshit.  Since they’ve become a real couple I’ve enjoyed the show again.  And since that happened many of my friends are finding it boring.  Just as many of them are bored of Bones now.

The model of story I love best is when people find their friendships or their romantic partnerships (my favorite) and once they do they have adventures and go through fire and brimstone TOGETHER.  I like the model that people accomplish more and better things when they’re paired up against adversity.  The world is a very lonely and hostile place for people without close friendships and who don’t experience partnership as a couple – the kind where you feel safe enough to explore and do great things or maybe fail a lot before you do anything great and to know someone is there who will hold you up.  And to be a person who will hold a partner up when they need it.  The world needs more of that.

I realize that I put my main characters through hell in book one.  Really, I let a lot of horrible things happen to them.  The one blessing is the friendship that comes from it.  And then what comes out of the friendship.  It’s largely about how Cricket doesn’t think she needs anyone and discovers she really does and – has to figure out how to navigate her life in different partnerships.

So.  Will I finish watching Fringe?  I don’t know.  I know it all resolves in the end.  Peter and Olivia manage to work things out, it seems.  But in order to see them actually come together for real and in real partnership I have to wade through three seasons of them constantly being torn apart and unable to trust each other and betraying each other in one way or another?  I don’t think I can enjoy seeing all that.  The other characters are totally interesting and the concept of parallel universes being played out is interesting but I think I will just be too fucking annoyed with the crap going on between Fauxlivia, Olivia, and Peter to enjoy the journey.  I think the whole show pretty much ended for me the moment Peter and Olivia finally kissed – but before Fauxlivia returns to the prime universe to fuck everything up.

I’m having the same problem with Warehouse 13 now.  I have come to a point where I actually think that Myka and Pete (ha!  another Peter!) should become a couple.  I guess I should see if the show has been cancelled and read all the spoilers for that one too.

At least I still have Castle and Bones.  Though since most people like to see couples get torn apart and dislike couples to ever have any peace or happiness, my guess is that those shows are destined to be cancelled soon.

Stories and character types I will never write about either because it’s already been told five billion times or because it annoys me or because it’s not a story or character I’m capable of or interested in writing about:

  • Stories about women who want children
  • Stories about women who want children and can’t have them
  • Stories about women who have children
  • Stories that string you along with suspense and devastation that never pay off in a happy (or at least hopeful) ending
  • Stories about women characters who wear strappy stilettos while chasing villains down
  • Stories with women who are martyrs
  • Stories about men who only like women with long hair and big boobs
  • Stories about men who want children
  • Stories where the main characters don’t evolve
  • Stories about femme fatales (I find that female archetype much more annoying than the martyr)
  • Main characters who cheat on partners or spouses

It will be interesting to see if I end up proving myself wrong with any of these.  One thing I know down in my bones is the first three will never change.  The women/children story and all it’s variations have been told five billion times and I find it boring.  I am only interested in exploring female main characters who have no interest in having children because I relate to it so much and I feel that it is a ridiculously underexplored female archetype.  In fact, the archetype doesn’t really exist at all yet.  You really only encounter childless women in stories where they are shown as having chosen a career over children because they are driven in a seemingly man-like fashion which suggests that real women will always at least long for children even if they choose not to have them.  You rarely see women in literature who never desire having children in the first place, women who have defined themselves not on what their reproductive organs are capable of but on what they’re capable of as a whole person, which for them doesn’t include children.   Women characters who are womanly in every way except for not wanting to procreate.  It’s time we make new archetypal women characters to include those of us alienated by all the old ones.


Women in Fiction: Telling all the Stories

I have never been dedicated to the feminist cause in a militant way.  I believe in equal rights for all sexes.  I believe in equal pay for all sexes and I’d be willing to march for it, to sign petitions for it, and maybe I’d be willing to fight for it on a grander stage than that.  But I am not, and never have been, a lighthouse looking for breaches against the seawall of womanhood.  I refuse to see the world in terms of Her versus Him.  I refuse to see any sex as the enemy.  I like to think we’re all equal in value but different in expression, in parts, in personality.

There are a lot of familiar stereotypes of womanhood based on what exists as the truth for the majority of women divided into nice clean identifiable groups.  There’s the fecund version of women who want to have lots of babies, as many as they can muster, or maybe even just one, but it’s vitally important to give birth.  There’s the career woman who doesn’t want children if it gets in the way of her career, she has so much more to offer than children and is (according to many of the fecund version of women) rather selfish in her preference for self aggrandizement over children.  Then there are the women who always wanted children and cherished the desire in their breasts for the great holy union between man and woman but who never cracked the code to creating that life or finding the man.  This woman pines for lost opportunity to have babies.  Next there are the women who want everything and arrogantly (according to some) think they can distinguish themselves in the professional world and turn around and pop out well adjusted babies.  Everyone who isn’t this woman hates this woman.

There’s another archetype of woman.  There’s another story to tell.  There aren’t many people telling it.

There are the women who are nurturing and caring and love children but who don’t feel it’s important that they give birth to have this experience.  There are women who aren’t particularly career driven, who aren’t bitter spinsters, and who like children and have the nurturing spirit but who feel no drive to express this with their own wombs.  There are women who just don’t have any urge to have children but who are absolutely womanly in every other conceivable way.

I realized recently that I can never tell the story of women longing to have babies.  I can never tell the stories of women devastated because they aren’t able to have them.  I am not the person to tell the stories of women who see themselves as high powered executives too busy and important for children.  I don’t relate to any of these people.  I can’t tell the story of women who mourn their reproductive services shutting down during menopause because everyone is already telling that moving story.  There’s another story.

It is tedious to me to read yet another story about yet another woman LONGING to have babies.  I don’t think it’s ignoble or stupid or bad to have babies.  Obviously I succumbed to the hormones that incite a woman’s body to produce offspring.  I can never be sorry for having had my son.  I never dreamed of babies.  I did plan on taking over the world at some point but other than that I wasn’t even career driven.  It wasn’t a question of babies getting in the way of my ambition.

The thought of  being pregnant was horrifying and terrifying to me.  The reality of being pregnant was also horrifying and terrifying to me and wholly unpleasant.  It took seven years for my baby hormones to dominate all my intellectual objections to having a child, giving birth, bringing more people into the world, the selfishness, the fucked up family I’d be bringing a being into, and the enormous lifelong responsibility I would have to that being.  My hormones won out and though I’m glad they did, they have never since been stirred to recreate the event.  I have come to understand that I only had a child because Max needed me for a mother.  Otherwise, I was not meant for motherhood.  I don’t have that desire, the pangs, the thrumming uterus that so many women seem to have.  All these years after having a baby I still relate much more to women who chose and are choosing not to than anyone else.

A woman’s inherent womanliness is not dependent on her having or wanting to have children.  There is so much misty emotional driftwood about women  being women because of their need to mother, their need to constantly nurture, to pop the goddamn babies out and when her children are grown she becomes a shell of herself because she’s been in service to children and husbands for decades and it’s all she ever wanted so when her children leave she focuses her hopes and dreams on grandchildren.

Either that or, so it is suggested constantly in popular culture, she rejects all that to be hard as a man who has no nurturing spirit, who fucks and makes money and watches football and is filled with the bile of ambition.  What’s amazing is that women with incredibly sharp brains and the desire to rise can do so and be fierce and stand up for all women to say that what we’re capable is limitless.  Yet, these women are often depicted as nothing more than men with vaginas.  Other women see them as unnatural.  I know this view has been slowly changing over the last two decades but I notice we’re a long way from understanding that these women leading their industries aren’t flukes and they aren’t unnatural, that they’re women who’ve spent their time following the lines of passion and hunger that do us all credit.  Some of them have children, some of them don’t.  They’re all women to be proud of.

I don’t, as I’m sure it often seems I do, look down on women whose true and most close desire in life is to have babies.  I think this is a legitimate and honest and wonderful choice to make if it’s an actual choice.  There’s no denying that I have a difficult time empathizing with this life choice.  I don’t relate.  I don’t empathize much, even though I keep trying.  I don’t give up.  I do, however, resent the belief that motherhood is the most sacred calling for any woman.  That’s such total rubbish.

The life choice so few women acknowledge, write about, talk about, or revere is the woman who has no desire to give birth to her own children.  As modern as this country of mine likes to think it is, there is still a very strong prejudice against women who don’t want to have children.  Women who don’t feel the ache in their uterus at the sight of babies.  Why is this such an untold version of womanhood?

I realized recently that the two heroines I’ve written so far are women who have no desire to procreate but who are unambitious for power.  In other words, they are women who simply don’t want babies, not that they’ve traded in babies to have a career or to do something else.

It feels like new language.  I can’t tell any other story because every fiber of my being screams that babies are not necessary for fulfillment in women’s lives.  I don’t see anyone telling this story and it pisses me off.  It alienates me.

What’s great about being a writer is that  I have the power to write what I know, what I think is important.  I can give voice to the unheard or underrepresented.  There are a lot more stories to tell from a woman’s perspective, many more than I know of and I fell sure that over time other writers will present stories I have not thought of or been much aware of and the more that happens, the more we veer away from the major archetypes the more truth will be revealed.

If all I ever do in my life is show a different side of being a woman, showing that our stories are diverse and multidimensional, I will feel I have done something worthy.

I’m pretty sure Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman will not be fans of my fiction.

I’m completely at peace with that.