Monday, February 10, 2014

Gender equality, you say?

This picture was posted on my Facebook timeline:
(Click to enlarge)
I think that's pretty important, especially after my last post. Sort of like the next logical step. And I have to admit that, as with the last post, it has a sort of "oh, duh" quality to it.

And I have to admit, also, to being somewhat hesitant about it. And here's why: I don't feel that violence against women is ever justified. I've never hit a woman, I often feel that men who do are to be loathed. The flipside of that is that the characters in my novel are predominantly in the military, so violence is going to happen to them.

So as I'm going through it and changing the gender of a character here or there, the problem becomes that many of them are injured or killed in violent sequences. And I feel bad about that.

Should I? As I said, these are characters who are in the military, and it is absolutely an action/adventure novel, so violence is part of the quotient here. I feel an awkward guilt over it, and I'm not even sure that's justified.

In the end, I think I'll be okay - it's not like I'm going out of my way to be extra cruel towards these female characters. I'm putting them there because I want to be inclusive, even though that awkwardly means that they're included in violence.

What say you?

UPDATE: I'm going to post a few responses that I've received.

Jessica: Important questions to ponder. I think if the violence they suffer (and dole out) is equal then it's ok. Still tough though because of how prevalent violence against women is. I would encourage an author's note perhaps that offers a trigger warning?
Nichole: see, in the context that you write the stories in, i don't see it as an issue, because it's not like you deliberately write about women getting assaulted without defending themselves. these women are enlisted in the military or something very similar and get into situations where they are likely to be involved in some sort of violent combat. your female characters are usually rather badass and are more than capable of defending themselves.
Masha: I always understood the phrase "violence against women" to not just mean what the words say, but to refer to a specific set of behaviors where women are targeted because of the uniquely vulnerable position women occupy. For example in domestic abuse, or in cases of rape.

I don't think there is anything inherently more wrong in a man attacking a woman, than a man attacking a man. But when he does so in a context when his violence is not judged, when his violence is seen as acceptable, because of attitudes people have about men and women- "she asked for it" or "she belongs to him" or "he cant help himself, he is a man and men cannot control themselves after all" it becomes something different. It's not just the violent act itself that is wrong, it's the context in which men feel justified in taking out their rage on women, free from blame.
Martin: I think as long as your violence isn't consistently driven by gender then the violence itself in the narrative shouldn't be a problem no matter who it's against.
Karen: Seems to me that violence is part and parcel of being in the military, in a combat situation. Women in combat? They're going to get wounded, maimed, killed. It goes with the job.

Sound off in the comments if you agree or disagree.