I had to write this. And I realize people aren’t supposed to — gasp! — have opinions on the internet. I realize fans of Constantine will hate this. But I don’t care. This is my opinion — my harmless opinion about a book — which I’m allowed to have.
Wraeththu is pretty anti-woman. When I heard of this book about intersexuals, I thought the concept of humanity’s genders merging was cool. No more binary, no more sexism, right? Wrong. Turns out only one gender survives the apocalypse and it’s — you guessed it — male.
The gay men in this book are not good depictions of gay men. They are depicted as pedophiles and rapists and misogynists who hate women as much as straight men. As a result of this misogyny, they shame and belittle any man among them who is remotely feminine, because being feminine is considered a purely female trait (newsflash — it’s NOT) and being remotely female is “bad and wrong.” Because females are weak inferiors, right?
If I was a gay man, I’d been fucking offended by this depiction, but the book is applauded . . . why?
Don’t get me wrong. Having gay men be nuanced individuals — assholes and saints, fuckups and champions — is a good thing. But applauding them for being assholes? Presenting harmful stereotypes as if they’re something to aspire to? WRONG. And it pains me that I have to write that.
I woke up this morning still thinking about Wraeththu and how it depressed me that women were handwaved once again in a story — and this time by a woman. And not just any woman, but a woman I read in high school and grew up loving and admiring. I read Constantine’s Sea Dragon books when I was a kid and wanted to write just like her. Now I . . . . can’t stand hearing her name.
I can’t even begin to explain why I’m upset or why Wraeththu offends me. I’m bad at explaining things, so here’s a rather good article about misogyny and how it’s a choice — whether conscious or subconscious — to include or exclude women in a story.
I think sometimes we forget that women — conditioned as we are by media and society to hate all things girly — can be the biggest misogynists right along men. In fact, my book Qorth addresses this (though I won’t go too much into it because just mentioning Qorth depresses me right now).
Zoni, the female antagonist in Qorth is the biggest misogynist in the book, and it all stems from self-loathing, from being taught that you are inferior and that being a tomboy or being boy-like is the only way as a woman to be valued.
Thankfully, I was not one of the little girls who believed this utter tripe. I always did exactly what I wanted to do and fuck what society had to say. I was not going to take instructions from society on what I was allowed to wear, say, and do. I played in the mud and caught frogs, but I also wore dresses and held tea parties. I wasn’t confined by gender norms. I was a person, doing what I liked to to do because I liked to fucking do it and not because some hateful people had told me what I was allowed to do.
As someone once said, no one can make you feel inferior unless you give them permission to. And me? I’ve always done what I will do, just like Rum Tum Tugger . . . My mother once said it’s what she’s always loved about me: I am not a sheep.
Back to Wraeththu. I noticed the misogynistic elements immediately, but because I love Storm Constantine, I ignored the voice in the back of my head going, “Damn, another female author writing about men as if they’re superior to us? Why do women constantly write about men? Why couldn’t A Wizard of Earthsea have been A Sorceress of Earthsea? Why wasn’t Harry Potter Harriet Potter?”
I noticed immediately how Mima was going to be a side character who was irrelevant, but I thought, “Meh, maybe there are other women later.”
I noticed the immediate anti-woman tone when Cal demanded to know if Pell liked women. It was the way he asked. Instead of asking if Pell liked boys, he demanded to know if he liked those filthy inferior women. He shouted at him, demanding to know what he thought of them, as if liking women was the worst thing ever. I mean, shit, what if Pell was bisexual? I bet Cal wouldn’t have taken him along for the ride then.
I kept reading anyway, thinking women would be mentioned or valued in some way at some point in the narrative.
The same way people of color seem to not fucking exist at all in most post-apocalyptic fiction, women were acutely absent and even sneered upon as irrelevant through the use of sexist language.
Humankind is referred to as Mankind constantly. Humans are referred to as Men. Women don’t exist in this world, except to bitch and complain about how much it sucks to be women.
Coming from Storm Constantine, someone I loved and admired as a kid, this is . . . soul crushing. This is as soul crushing as discovering that Anne Rice is actually a petty, vindictive lunatic. As soul crushing as discovering that just about all the authors I loved are actually horrible, fucked-up people, either loathing of themselves or loathing of everyone else.
Last night I cried myself to sleep because I’m tired of it. I’m tired of woman-hate, subtle and unsubtle, being every fucking where I turn. I can’t even open a book by my favorite authors without seeing it. FUCK.
I saw that some male author was writing an all-female version of Wraeththu called Raythu. He’s likely doing it as an affectionate nod to Constantine.
I actually thought of doing the same thing, but if I did it, the Wraeththu would be male and female both (because I’m not a sexist shit), and it would be more to lampoon Constantine’s internalized sexism than in honor of her blatant self-loathing.
If I do an anti-Wraeththu book, it’ll be a while from now, after I’ve progressed sufficiently through A Time of Darkness and The Prince of Qorlec. It’s definitely something I’ve considered, anyway. The fact that these books have been celebrated instead of blasted for the hate-screed they are is appalling.
If gay men are so desperate for gay heroes, read my books. I write about gay men as people in all their wonderful variations — bratty, sweet, kind, rude, funny, serious, loud, quiet — and I do not write them because I have a fetish or some fucking internalized hatred for my own gender. For an example of my gay male writing, see The Wishing Well in Tales of Talithia.
I may not have Constatine’s gift with words, but at least I have my fucking integrity.