In case you didn’t know, I am a feminist. The shortest possible explanation I can give of what that means is that I believe in equality for women. It doesn’t mean I don’t like men, it doesn’t mean I want to take their rights away. Feminism is so misunderstood, it is kind of sad.
Most feminists will know about the women-in-refrigerators trope. In case you aren’t familiar with it, I will give you a quick rundown. This trope indicates that a woman’s place in a narrative (literature, TV, movies) is for the sole purpose of having horrible things done to her. The other side of this is that a woman is more likely to have horrible things happen to her in a narrative simply because she is a woman. We see this with serial killer stories where the serial killer targets women. We see this with a male main character who falls in love only to have his love brutally raped and murdered, thus giving him the motive he needs to exact revenge, etc.
As I am reading the latest NetGalley selection I requested, I realized something. I am noticing a disturbing trend, especially when it comes to fantasy. If I were to name the trope, I would call it the constructed-patriarchy trope.
When you write, and especially when you write fantasy, you have the right to create whatever world you want. This is part of why I love writing, and a bigger part of why I write fantasy. I love not being constrained by the world as it is now. If you want to dispute that a patriarchy exists in the world today, I suggest you take a look around. Because it is there.
But, when you are writing, and especially when you are writing fantasy, you have the freedom to make your own rules.
So why, then, are writers pitting their female characters against a patriarchy of their own making? What is even more distressing to me, is that since I have registered that this is happening, I have noticed it is a lot of female authors that do it. Now, I am not just going to sit here and point fingers. I recognize there might be a few reasons for this… so I am willing to explore those a little more.
Reason 1: Art imitates life.
This is the simplest reason I can think of. Women are oppressed, and it comes out in their writing. They want to break free of the patriarchy, and writing is the easiest way to do that.
Reason 2: The authors want to inspire feminism.
This kind of ties into reason one. But perhaps authors are looking to inspire readers to fight their own patriarchal oppression through their characters’ actions.
Reason 3: The authors are trying to write strong female characters.
Unfortunately, with what our world looks like today, a strong female must fight against a patriarchy. This isn’t actually true, though. I have read many books where the female main character is awesome, and there is no detectable patriarchy in sight.
Reason 4: The author wants the book to be relate-able.
The author may fully recognize they are creating a patriarchy, and they may be doing it for the sake of relate-ability. There is a patriarchal problem in the world today, therefore having it reflected in literature makes the literature that much more believable.
Those are the four reasons I came up with. And honestly, while they are forgivable, none of them really justifies (in my mind, anyways) the creation of a patriarchy.
So. Is this a trend that you have noticed? Am I late to the party? What do you think about the creation of a patriarchy in fiction?