Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Gender Wars

At the risk of sounding like a raging feminist seeing as I've posted on this subject before, I have to admit that the subject of 'alpha femaleness' has been on my mind today. While waiting for my morning latte (short and skinny) at the local coffeehouse this morning, I came across this article in today's paper. I was drawn to it for two reasons: the first that I'd written about alpha heroines before, and the second that it echoed my recently ended relationship of six years. Not that I consider myself an alpha female (I'm far too laid back) , and the break-up was very civilized - but then the BF wasn't a true gamma either.

The truth is I can't really tell who or what an alpha female or a gamma male is. The newspapers seem to be frantically trying to create labels for the latest sociological phenomenon - if it exists at all. I think we're all much more complex than that. We're not all alpha, just as we're not all gamma. I believe there are aspects of both in everyone, although in some people one aspect obviously predominates.

By all accounts, society is in a state of flux as gender roles are being re-assigned. We haven't gone as far as scrapping gender roles altogether and I can't see it happening in my lifetime. And to think that it all started with the invention of the birth control pill.

My ideal will always remain the society of Anarres in Ursula K Le Guin's The Dispossessed, a novel which in large part is a commentary on male/female roles within differently structured societies. When the protagonist Shevek is questioned whether the women in his society are treated exactly like men, he replies that a person chooses work according to interest, talent and strength, and what has sex to do with it? And he ponders the obsession of superiority and inferiority in Urrasti social life.

Of course Le Guin is making a feminist statement about society in the early 70s, but it's still valid today even though the word 'feminist' has fallen into disrepute. Apparently we can't be feminists now because that's a word now reserved for lesbians and the rest of the female population have all moved on. I beg to differ. Women are still fighting every day for equal pay for the same job the men are doing. Romance is looked upon with scorn because women write it. Until this kind of thing is resolved, I'll consider myself a feminist.

The fact that we can now write about alpha females without being accused of "feminism" - and the fact that romance readers are avid to read about them - is one large step in the right direction.


MK Mancos/Kathleen Scott said...

Let me share a story with you. A few years ago I attended a women's conference and retreat held by the local Unitarian Church. It was a nice day, until the keynote speaker - a very outspoken feminist - got on stage and started male bashing. Now, excuse me, but I've been married for a while and happen to love my husband...and in general I love men. All right, I'll admit sometimes I don't understand them, but I don't hate them. And to me when male bashing starts, it does not serve any purpose other than to bring the entire group down and undermine any strides we make as a group/gender/power. - In my writing, I tend to make my heroines very feminine, but extremely capable. They like men, they need men, but they are not wilting violets. Like me.

I think a woman can be strong and stand on her own without having to appear to hate, distrust, or envy men. I would rather have my conflict come from other sources than the endless and overused 'Battle of the Sexes.'

Am I thankful for those pioneers like Gloria Steinem and Betty Fridan, who paved the way towards a more equal society for women? You bet I am. They have allowed me the opportunity to write what I want, make a decent wage at my job, and have a voice in my government.


Cassandra Kane said...

To me feminism is simply "the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes."

As to conflict, some people like their conflict to come from the battle of the sexes, others like it to come from sports, others from politics, others from reality TV, etc. Whatever turns them on. I personally don't like all feminists being dismissed because a couple of hurt and angry women became vocal about the chip on their shoulders under the guise of feminism.

Thankfully, well-known authors like Jenny Crusie and Angela Knight are not afraid to declare themselves feminists in the true meaning of the word, which is to strive for true equality and not to indulge in man-bashing. That word needs some serious reclaiming.

Skylar Masey said...

I deal with this is TAKE ME IN YOUR HEART. The heroine is a high ranking security officer/Voyager pilot on her world, but on the hero's she's "put in her place" because she's female. In their matriarchial culture the woman are too important to risk during battle. But of course my heroine won't take no for an answer and does all the can to be an example, to set an example for the other women.

I think we see more Alpha females because woman are finally secure enough to say I don't want to read about a wilting flower. I want someone whose like me, who says what she means and isn't afraid to stick up for it. And for the less vocal, or unsure, it's a way for them to live outside the little box they've put (or let someone put) themselves in.