Harry Dresden–no, just no

I’m only in chapter two of Storm Front and Harry Dresden has used the word “cheerleader” to describe two different women. Because cheerleaders, evil witch bitches, and women who need doors opened and their chairs pulled out for them are obviously the only two or three types of women Dresden believes exists.

I read Jim Butcher’s 2014 National Novel Writing Month pep talk about two years ago when I participated as I have been for the past couple of years. At the time, I thought Butcher was witty and decided to take the time to read some of his work. I thought the same thing about the character of Harry Dresden…at first.

Unfortunately Storm Front is my first exposure to Butcher’s novels and I can say plainly that, two chapters in, I am not impressed.

Grown men who constantly point out that their sexist attitudes are a product of their upbringing while knowing full well that their views/thought processes and behaviors are wrong and unfair to women (the women who don’t think men are God’s special gift to women) only do it because they have no intention of changing. They enjoy letting everybody know that they think of women a certain way and are secretly confident there’s no reason for them to change and that it makes them “more of a man” instead of a rotten human being. (Mostly because…penis.) Dresden’s attitude is, “I know I’m a bigot. I can’t help it and I’m going to constantly remind you that I simply cannot contain myself”. With a shrug, too. He’s probably the kind of guy who secretly thinks this b.s. is charming and all women love it somewhere deep inside.

I had intended to read the whole book despite Harry Dresden’s (and maybe even Jim Butcher’s) abrasive attitude towards women. But I’m not going to be a “good woman” and stick it out with this schmuck. I deleted Storm Front off my tablet the moment I read–

Classic lady in distress. For one of those liberated, professional women, she knew exactly how to jerk my old-fashioned chains around.

–Jim Butcher, Storm Front

Deal breaker. Last straw. With every annoying little dig that proceeded it, that is the end of the entire story for me. I could vomit.

My tablet is reading the page number I’m on as 307 out of 3712. I. Will. Fucking. Not. Do. This. To. Myself. I can only predict from experience with first person narratives and, you know, observing men for most of my life that this crud isn’t going to change, no matter how much of the Dresden files I try to read.

“Because you can’t do something like this without a whole lot of hate,” I said. “Women are better at hating than men. They can focus it better, let it go better. Hell, witches are just plain meaner than wizards. This looks like feminine vengeance of some kind to me.”

–Jim Butcher, Storm Front

I can almost ignore that Dresden/Butcher has the same prejudice against fat characters/people that J.K. Rowling has or that he described “Monica” as having a “hoarse cheerleader” voice over the phone. But Dresden’s ingrained idiocy against women is not acceptable.

Why would I want to spend time and energy reading a book about a fictional guy who’s admittedly sexist? There are plenty of real ones to deal with.

Some books, even if they potentially have redeeming qualities…somewhere in there…a lady’s just gotta put it down and walk away.

Race-naming in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’

I was talking with my friend over the phone about how weird it is that in Tolkien’s world that it is totally legit to address people by their race. Weird because, in reality, outside those pages, people don’t commonly do that–

And with good reason.

A lot of people fail to understand why its not okay to address a people (and by this I mean primarily POC,who don’t even really exist in the LOTR universe–a telling sign) by a racial identifier (whether its a slur or what appears to be a simple “race name”), particularly one that they themselves or individually have not given you permission to address them by.

In The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, its completely commonplace to address somebody as “my dear hobbit” or “Master Dwarf”. Usually, race-naming is used in only one of a few different ways:

  1. to refer to the great accomplishments, blessings/abilities, and skills  known of that race (es. Elves are “fair”, immortal, and wise or Dwarves are great craftspeople and miners).
  2. to point out a characteristic that seems to be shared among many members of a race (ex. Dwarves are stubborn or hearty or Hobbits appear as children to the eyes of Men because of their size),
  3. and, most of all,  it seems that race and race-naming is specifically built into the entire cosmology of Tolkien’s universe, the way things turn out.

I am not a Tolkien scholar, I have not read all of his work, but I find race-naming in his writing and its effects on generations of fiction/fantasy writers to be bad news. That’s almost a different post though.

I just don’t live in that world, or society rather, where race-naming between races is usually positive. I don’t want a Japanese person calling me “nigga”,  someone Spanish-speaking to call me “the [insert adjective] negro“, or white people to address me as anything other than what I give them permission to call me (they can even manage to turn that into a disaster). With the amount of ignorance and hate hanging around, its detrimental that race should be treated as a practiced way of labeling peoples, whether its because they are known for their negative characteristics, deepest failures, or their greatest accomplishments. Homogenizing races and cultures is…a touchy business. In my society, I don’t think its possible to address somebody by their race and have it be a simple thing because social interactions and history are so much more complicated than in this fictional world.

When have the Elves ever enslaved the Dwarves? When do ents go around sneaking into the Shire and murdering Hobbits because they’re shorter? My point is that race and racism does not manifest itself  in Tolkien’s world in such a way that it does any real justice to how racism and oppression operates in reality, much like Rowling’s Harry Potter. And that is why race-naming and racial homogeneity is presented as commonplace and usually presented as harmless or unoffensive.

Its the same problem I have with Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: there is no one “Enemy” to unite against as there is these stories. In my understanding and lived experience, the problems between races lies in their shared violent and oppressive history, not at the root of some common enemy. We are not the Free People” of Middle Earth, we are the constantly divided peoples of Earth.

Its Official

As an avid reader of paranormal/fantasy/romantica/etc., I can now say without a doubt that J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood is a series that I will not be purchasing again. I got it for my birthday, but her last book nearly cost 40 bucks and to top it off it wasn’t that great, for reasons I will soon comment on.

The last book I actually bought was Lover Enshrined and I’ve regretted it ever since. I’ll buy with skepticism and return soon after from now on.

The Queen