Row of women archers, University of Wisconsin Digital Collections CC BY 2.0

Quick Hit: Dogs and Smurfs; Why women writers and stories about women are taken less seriously

This has been a great year for male writers, with women shunted aside for major prizes and all-new hand-wringing about why it is so. Because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but male writers get taken more seriously. Also, stories about men, even if written by women, are considered mainstream, while stories about women are “women’s fiction.” This despite the fact that women read more than men, and write more, and are over-represented generally throughout publishing.

As the father of two girls, one aged five and one ten months, I know why. It’s because of dogs and Smurfs. I can’t understand why no-one else realizes this. I see these knotted-brow articles and the writers seem truly perplexed. Dogs and Smurfs: that’s the answer.

Read the rest here. I don’t think it’ll be news to any of you, but it’s a nicely put together article worth sharing.

7 thoughts on “Quick Hit: Dogs and Smurfs; Why women writers and stories about women are taken less seriously

  1. regis

    and, because it’s written by a dad and not a mom, some people will be more likely to listen to it.

    1. Terri

      That may well be true, but I think it’s a lot more useful to focus on the usefulness and clarity of the argument than to be mildly irked by the author’s privilege here.

  2. Meg Thornton

    *vague huff of laughter* Good grief. Looks like my parents were doing the right things by exposing me to “Anne of Green Gables”, “Trixie Belden”, and even “The Famous Five” (not to mention the rest of Enid Blyton’s boarding-school stories). The three story series I name off the top of my head there are all ones where there are at least two female protagonists, each of whom has a different personality (okay, so a lot of the time the personalities and archetypes represented are “The Good Girl” and “The Tomboy”, but it’s a start, darn it). Then there were things like the “Peanuts” cartoons, where there were a number of different little girls, each with their own personality and temperament. Then there were things like Asterix cartoons, where even though the female characters were largely in the background, they were still very much individuals (with their own punning names attached).

    In the majority of the animated product I watched at the time, there were multiple female characters (for example, the good old “Scooby Doo” gang, with both Daphne and Velma). Okay, none of them were the ideal feminist texts (does the ideal feminist text exist?) but they were things which existed within popular culture which provided alternative models for different types of femininity, or different ways of being female. Of course, I grew up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the stuff on constant re-run here in Australia was sourced from the late 1960s onwards. I can remember the first anime-sourced stuff I watched where the classic “Five Man Band” (the leader, the lancer, the big guy, the quirky kid, and the girl) beloved ever since started to show up (“Battle of the Planets” – anyone else remember that?) and I can remember seeing it seep over into western stuff (“Captain Planet” is the first western example I can bring to mind, although I’m sure there were more). But alongside this there were things like Dr Who (with companions like Jo Grant, Sarah Jane Smith, Leela, Romana 1 & 2, Nyssa, and Tegan – lots of different models of feminine behaviour there), Blakes 7 (where the most consistently aggressive characters were the female ones – Servalan, Jenna, Cally, Dayna and Soolin), and Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (where Trillian has one degree in maths and another in astrophysics, and is the smartest bio-person on the ship).

    There’s a wide range of models out there for what it means (and what it can mean) to be female. It’s just that these days, most of them are regarded as “outdated” or “quaint”. But it was “Anne of Green Gables” that gave me the hope that I’d find a friend of my own who’d be friends despite gaps in interests or academic achievement; it was “The Famous Five” which showed the proto-feminist George working alongside the boys rather than shrinking back (and being accepted for who she was about it); it was Sarah-Jane Smith trying to keep up with the Doctor and Harry (and getting back up again when she failed, rather than just giving up and waiting to be rescued) who inspired a lot of my own attitudes. They might not have been the ideal feminist texts, but they were the right ones for me.

  3. Old Judy

    Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello and plucky-but-maternal April. Did the “he” thing in something I was writing just yesterday. Felt guilty but didn’t take the time to write my way around it. World needs an acceptable non-gender pronoun that works for humans or critters.

    I was a big Thornton Burgess animal story fan as a youngster. In dozens of characters I only remember one female. Several Burgess collections were named Mother West Wind stories. Interesting that we had Little Boy Blue blowing his horn, which to a 4 year old sounds much more fun than Miss Muffet sitting on a tuffet. Mother Goose and the old woman with a shoe were strong characters but there’s that mother thing again. Wonder how much of the he he he in kids literature of times past resulted from “she” being associated with the sacred status awarded motherhood, thus reserving it for good/positive characters, not to be frittered away on a grumpy muskrat.

      1. mercury

        Ah, good find! It didn’t even occur to me that the original might not be the first one to tumble it. Thanks again for sharing–it was a great read. :)

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