So the other day I was reading about Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness because I always wanted to read it. I heard that even misogynists loved it because the main character was a sexist shithead (which goes to show that they aren’t smart enough to understand what Le Guin was doing there). I haven’t read the book, but the description leaves me of the impression that Genly is not a hero but an anti-hero, so his sexism is not to be applauded — dumbasses.
Lots of people assert that Genly is not a Strawman Misogynist simply because he is written as a sympathetic, flawed person who we can feel something besides hate for. It left me wondering if Pirayo, my villain from The Thieves of Nottica, is just a strawman.
For those who don’t know, a Strawman Misogynist is a character who exists to prove that misogyny is wrong. Pirayo wasn’t invented for this reason, but I can see how he would be viewed that way. I didn’t set out to “prove” anything with Pirayo, though.
As I said in another blog post (or maybe an interview, I can’t remember), Pirayo exists as a foil for the Keymasters (in the literary sense, not the literal sense) meaning he highlights all their strengths and weaknesses in an obvious way.
Pirayo shows how ineffective the Keymasters’ “rebellion” is because, seriously, they rebel against the Hand by stealing knickknacks? That is a legitimate criticism and even Rigg questions the futility of their prank-like rebelling.
But on the other hand, at least the Keymasters try to protect their own people and keep them from getting hurt. Pirayo may see results, but he hurts a ton of innocent people in the process with the flippant excuse that war is hell. Yeah, war always kills innocents and some people would even say that no one is innocent, but Pirayo is killing people unnecessarily. The point is, he doesn’t have to do what he’s doing to get the same results. He doesn’t have to kill innocents. He just doesn’t care.
Part me of wanted to make Pirayo a sympathetic human being, but part of me did not. Pirayo didn’t exist to prove anything, after all. He existed to show the audience who the Keymasters are — who Hari is — the same way Natasha existed to show the audience who Morganith is, and Kito existed to show the audience who Rigg is. These three characters each play a role in building up the individual characters of the Keymasters.
Hari, for instance, showed Pirayo no mercy and was laughing and crying when he was dead. I think the lesson here is: don’t fuck with Hari. Once Hari was given the means to do it, nothing was going to stop her getting revenge.
The same can be said for Morganith, who handles Natasha in a merciless way. This was mostly because Arda was the one good thing Morganith had in her life, and Natasha played a role in taking that from her.
But Rigg? Rigg forgave Kito even after he betrayed her again and again. Kito showed us who Rigg was.
So in conclusion, if Pirayo was a “Strawman Misogynist” it was nothing I did consciously but very subconsciously. As I said an in interview (which will be posted here Monday), the two villains are misogynists because it makes sense for me personally: they are the sort of assholes I have to deal with every day. It only follows that I would create characters who would triumphantly silence them or screw them over in some way.