The Castration of Men's Fiction

The Castration of Men's Fiction

Is the market demanding a glut of female badasses in men’s fiction, or is the market being controlled?

It’s something to behold. Scroll through the “crime thriller” category on Amazon or Goodreads and what you find is title after title written by women, about women, or both. At first glance, I’d say that lady FBI agents, lady homicide detectives, and lady sleuths are the stars in about 50 percent of these books. But the feminization of what was once men’s fiction is as much qualitative as quantitative. Because, you can bet that even the books featuring male heroes depict a feminized universe—a universe where female badasses, or at any rate, females in traditionally male roles, are cast as supporting or secondary characters, and the male heroes totally respect these ladies’ competency in investigative techniques, hand-to-hand combat, and firearms usage, and you had better do the same if you’re not some ignorant, knuckle-dragging throwback.

The question is, where do all the female gun-slingers and ass-kickers who are infesting “action-and-violence” fiction come from? If we’re assuming that “capitalism” created them, are we to assume that book publishers are facing a relentless clamor, from the male customers who primarily read the genres in question, for more and more women doing guy stuff, and more and more male-feminist heroes?

If we’re assuming capitalism is behind this, then that would be the answer. But does that really make sense?

Action-and-Violence Fiction in the Past

Before we proceed, let’s be clear on what we’re discussing. There are forms of fiction in which the protagonists must be physically strong, mentally tough, and highly aggressive. These can be private-detective yarns, westerns, adventure tales, or police procedurals. I am collectively classifying these sorts of genres as “action-and-violence” fiction. Until recently, these fiction forms were produced, and consumed, almost exclusively by men. Other fiction forms, that emphasize other aspects of human nature, are not strictly men’s fiction.

Throughout the twentieth century, when the popular action-and-violence genres were developed and refined, authors in these genres centered their stories on characters with Y chromosomes in about 99.999 percent of cases.

And if we broaden our definition of men’s fiction, and look back to authors such as James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, and H. Rider Haggard, women have been nothing but bit players, if even that, in action-and-violence fiction since it has existed. In fact, if we go back to Beowulf, or further, to Homer, or further yet, to The Epic of Gilgamesh, this has been the state of affairs for at least 4,000 years.

Was this state of affairs sexist? Only to the extent that nature is sexist. The fact is, it never (or almost never) occurred to authors to place women at the center of stories that depicted competitions of physical strength, mental toughness, or raw aggression. The reason for this is obvious. Even if one could dream up a rough-and-ready female protagonist, there was no way a female protagonist could be the ultimate rough-and-ready character. Everybody knew, without having to think long about it, that the most impressive female character was logically going to be smaller, weaker, and less likely to take direct action than the males against whom she would have to compete.

In short, since book publishing has been big business, and for basically the entire time we humans have been writing fiction, there has simply been no reason—either from a business perspective or from a creative perspective—to tell stories of female badasses.

So what happened?

A Top-Down Agenda

What happened is what Lenin described when he said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” That statement, to be clear, refers to a social engineering technique: impose an idea on the mass consciousness, over and over, regardless of reality, and the mass consciousness will eventually begin to reflect that idea back. We are social animals, and we instinctively assume that if everyone else believes a thing, there must be truth to that thing. So the job of social engineers, which they know very well, is to get the thing they want believed repeated, in every way possible, throughout the culture.

What is taking place in the publishing world is an aspect of what is taking place throughout our society: methodical destruction of the sex roles that nature has created. There’s no reason to assume that, after thousands of years, action-and-violence fiction suddenly, fundamentally, transformed itself. There is ample reason to assume, however, that “the corporations” decided to fundamentally transform genres that were once undisputed male domains.

There is some irony to this situation. Male authors are essential to propping up, and propagating, all these remarkable nonexistent women. What is probably the first great female protagonist in action-and-violence fiction, Mattie Ross in True Grit, was created by Charles Portis. The Silence of the Lambs, which took female FBI agents mainstream, was written by Thomas Harris. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which took female badassery mainstream, was written by Stieg Larsson. Even giants of men’s fiction, such as James Patterson and Robert B. Parker, have shelved their male heroes in favor of series featuring female badasses.

It should be said here, though, that nothing is necessarily wrong with an amount of feministic experimentation in male fiction realms. Writers in these realms have been periodically presenting the public with female protagonists for a long time. The first fictional lady detective, for example, appeared all the way back in 1864, and in a novel such as True Grit, a female protagonist was obviously an inspired choice.

But there’s a point where feministic elements cross over from experimentation and novelty into an Orwellian political project, and the feministic elements in (what used to be) men’s fiction have certainly reached that point.

Luckily, for all of its troubling aspects, the current tech environment does offer us unique opportunities to network and build outside of corporate agendas. If you’re involved in the writing world, or just a reader, this starts with shunning the controlled mass media and seeking out people and companies that remain creatively, and philosophically, independent.

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