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Is Heinlein Sexist?
http://www.heinleinsociety.org/thsnexus/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=1025
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Author:  JamesGifford [ Tue May 10, 2011 12:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

If you make it "no heroines over 40" the contention holds. Thirty-somethings are the far edge if you count Wyoh and a few other not-certains. (Girdie in Podkayne comes to mind.)

Clearly, Heinlein women were meant to age into mothers and/or Mrs. Keithleys. No future for them as ruggedly mature universe-changers.

Author:  sakeneko [ Tue May 10, 2011 4:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

<nod> I can think of quite a few older women in Heinlein's books, but they're usually Howard Family or rejuvs or somesuch -- not obviously older to those around them. So I think the comments are on target. One of my best friends thinks that Heinlein was horrendously sexist: she can't read his stuff at all. I never did; he struck me as having 1920s/30s era ideas, a mishmash of "women can do anything" and "but I sure like them when they do what they do best", which *always* involved sex and or kids. <wry grin> I'm a woman of 50 who never had kids, and I have no interest in becoming another Mrs. Keithley nor skill in that. The world is just a bit bigger in some ways than Heinlein ever managed to grasp.

Since that's true of most people, though, I don't think badly of him for it. I suspect I'd have liked him if I'd ever met him, in spite of his Lazarus Long attitudes about some things. ;)

Author:  BillPatterson [ Tue May 10, 2011 5:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

JamesGifford wrote:
If you make it "no heroines over 40" the contention holds. Thirty-somethings are the far edge if you count Wyoh and a few other not-certains. (Girdie in Podkayne comes to mind.)

Clearly, Heinlein women were meant to age into mothers and/or Mrs. Keithleys. No future for them as ruggedly mature universe-changers.

I guess Grandma Hazel Stone is out, then? Amanda Jenkins, I can't remember the name of the older woman in "Project Nightmare" Maureen Johnson for most of To Sail Beyond the Sunset -- And for that matter, with the possible exception of Ishtar, I defy you to name a single inhabitant of Boondock who is under 40.

It's not merely that there are exceptions -- there are so many exceptions that the observation falls apart.

Author:  JackKelly [ Tue May 10, 2011 5:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

I was gonna mention Hazel Stone, but Bill beat me to it. Am I remembering incorrectly - isn't there a reverse continuum between Hazel and someone in Moon (and maybe Cat)? Memory is fuzzy on the details and I'm too lazy to look it up.

Author:  sakeneko [ Tue May 10, 2011 7:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

There is. In MIAHM, Hazel Stone is a preadolescent girl who gets mixed up in a violent protest, acquits herself extremely well, and ends up being adopted by the hero's family. In TCWWTW, Hazel Stone under another name marries the hero and recruits him into the Long family.

Author:  JamesGifford [ Tue May 10, 2011 7:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

BillPatterson wrote:
It's not merely that there are exceptions -- there are so many exceptions that the observation falls apart.

I don't agree. You have to discount the Howards - women who are perpetually or repeatedly 30 are irrelevant to the argument either way. Heinlein is bending the notion of age until it's meaningless.

The original incarnation of Hazel Stone is about the only real exception I can think of. The old woman in Nightmare is spunky, but does very little. (She knits.) Amanda Jennings is a tiny old lady who tats... except when she reverts to a raven-haired amazon in the half-world. Mrs. Keithley is the archetype of the evil old witch, followed by whassername in Podkayne.

Did you have other exceptions in mind?

Author:  ChuckA [ Tue May 10, 2011 8:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

JamesGifford wrote:
If you make it "no heroines over 40" the contention holds. Thirty-somethings are the far edge if you count Wyoh and a few other not-certains. (Girdie in Podkayne comes to mind.)

Clearly, Heinlein women were meant to age into mothers and/or Mrs. Keithleys. No future for them as ruggedly mature universe-changers.

Most of the women in Time Enough For Love have been rejouvenated at least once so are far past 40 and Dora's entire life is detailed from birth until her death. Friday is probably at least40 by the end. Same for Penny in Double Star.

Author:  BillPatterson [ Wed May 11, 2011 5:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

JamesGifford wrote:
BillPatterson wrote:
It's not merely that there are exceptions -- there are so many exceptions that the observation falls apart.

I don't agree. You have to discount the Howards - women who are perpetually or repeatedly 30 are irrelevant to the argument either way. Heinlein is bending the notion of age until it's meaningless.

The original incarnation of Hazel Stone is about the only real exception I can think of. The old woman in Nightmare is spunky, but does very little. (She knits.) Amanda Jennings is a tiny old lady who tats... except when she reverts to a raven-haired amazon in the half-world. Mrs. Keithley is the archetype of the evil old witch, followed by whassername in Podkayne.

Did you have other exceptions in mind?

Mrs. Grew? And let's not forget Belle Darkin.

It seems to me you are minimizing the story figures far beyond anything that is reasonable, possibly to make your thesis seem more reasonable than it is -- in Magic, Inc., Amanda Jennings is the pivotal figure in the action: she is the big gun called in when nothing the men have been able to do works, and she settles the story problem definitively. Similarly, in Project Nightmare, the ironic point is Grandma Wilkins is only knitting on the surface, while she is "handling" an increasing number of cities being protected from nuclear bombs. At the end, she starts the next phase of the war.

I would counterpropose that Heinlein uses a lot of different kinds of story figures, that the Madonna-bitch archetype is among the kinds he uses, but that the Madonna-Bitch archetype has no special significance for him; he uses it as a story device when it's appropiate for his story -- just like a lot of other story figures.

Author:  JackKelly [ Wed May 11, 2011 5:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

sakeneko wrote:
There is. In MIAHM, Hazel Stone is a preadolescent girl who gets mixed up in a violent protest, acquits herself extremely well, and ends up being adopted by the hero's family. In TCWWTW, Hazel Stone under another name marries the hero and recruits him into the Long family.


That's right. I thought it was a really neat trick on Heinlein's part - the way he reconstructed Hazel Stone's whole backstory in Moon from her brief reminiscences in Rolling Stones. He never let a good character go to waste, although he overused a few, IMHO.

Author:  JamesGifford [ Wed May 11, 2011 7:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is Heinlein Sexist?

BillPatterson wrote:
It seems to me you are minimizing the story figures far beyond anything that is reasonable...

Not at all. Let's review the bidding. The contention (at least the contention I've jumped in to support) is that Heinlein does not write older women as competent figures. His female characters are all young (15-35) and past that, they become home-bound mothers, featherbrained matrons or evil old witches.

I generally concur.

Straightforward exceptions: Hazel Stone in Rolling Stones. She's an unabashedly old woman of vast competence who can stand up to any man in the universe, including (eventually) Hisself. She clearly had her mothering time raising Roger, but got past it. You could make a case that all the stop-to-mother females had a similar future available, but we never heard about it, not even for Deety and Sharpie. The other is possibly Mimi Mum, but again we hear what a hellion she WAS, with a few hints that she would be dangerous if the O'Kelly warrens were invaded, but we don't see anything or get any real confirmation.

All others that have been listed (Howard women, Amanda Jennings) are problematic in that while they are older women by stated chronology, they are "magically" vibrant 30-somethings again when they strap on guns and go a-roving. I don't think that's an exception that disproves the contention, I think it's a literary cheat that proves it... one granny with a gun seems to have been Heinlein's limit, and the rest had to be Playboy Bunnies with weapons training. Even with Hazel, Heinlein had to retcon-cheat with her in later books, turning her into a youngster again to play further.

Note that I don't necessarily concur with the conclusions in this thread, that Heinlein was sexist or that this peculiarity indicates he is (or isn't). I don't quite know what to make of it except that pretty, sexy young women are more fun even just to write about. But unless you're going to bend the interpretation into right angles, Heinlein's mothers, witches and featherbrains vastly outnumber his portrayals of competent older women, arguably SUM(*)-1.

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