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LotRs & Feminism
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Malveth The Eternal
Lorien

Sep 9 2010, 3:19am

Post #1 of 104 (2980 views)
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LotRs & Feminism Can't Post

One of the great cliches of Tolkien criticism is that there are "no women" in Lord of the Rings and that what little we see of Tolkien's women brands his epic as sexist. In fact, you can hardly find anything pertaining to LotR's that doesn't shoehorn this observation in someplace.Even if the work of criticism is completely unconcerned with this "issue", the authors often feel compelled to mention it -- just to show that they are aware of it, I suppose.

I'm not talking about scholars who find imaginative and relevant ways to address the female characters in Tolkien. I am speaking of classic 60's-70's Feminism, which still rears its head often enough whenever anything is to be said or written about Tolkien.

I used to take it as a matter if course, but of late, I am really questioning the relevance of Feminism to LotR's. In the end, since there really are only a few female characters of importance and Tolkien had literally nothing to say about Feminism, why do we still bother to entertain Feminist criticism of LotR's? The book will always come out lacking if we look at it through the lens of Feminism, so what is to be gained? Tolkien was a linguist, a scholar of Germanic languages and literature, a Medievalist, a student of folklore and myth, a poet, an Englishman, a Catholic etc. All of these disciplines and viewpoints have added greatly to our knowledge and understanding of Tolkien. But I can't think of a single enduring insight that Feminism has brought to Tolkien studies, except to drag in the political agendas of Feminism and to state the blatantly obvious - that LotR's, by and large, is narratively unconcerned with women, compared to men.

What else is there to say, politically, about Tolkien's women? Not much. But that doesn't stop the same old thing from being repeated ad nauseum. If Feminists find LotR's so unsatisfying, maybe it's time for them to move on to another book.

Just wondering if anyone agrees with me...

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squire
Valinor


Sep 9 2010, 4:00am

Post #2 of 104 (2202 views)
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Femine Tolkien Studies [In reply to] Can't Post

When you define your question as addressing "60's-70's Feminism, which still rears its head" while forgiving as appropriate to Tolkien Studies those "scholars who find imaginative and relevant ways" to investigate Tolkien from a feminist angle, I have to wonder what you are asking. Can you give examples of recent feminist criticism of Tolkien that frustrate you because they are trapped in a "60's-70's" time warp? It sounds like you are upset not with all feminist lenses, but just with the blurred and out of date ones. Is it the capital 'F' that is the problem?



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


= Forum has no new posts. Forum needs no new posts.


Elizabeth
Valinor


Sep 9 2010, 4:51am

Post #3 of 104 (2284 views)
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Doctrinaire, fomulaic analysis is always unsatisfying [In reply to] Can't Post

...regardless of what doctrine or formula it's following. So, your question is sort of a tautology. There has been a lot of very interesting and provocative discussions about women in Tolkien's writing in this forum, as (I'm sure) in others.

One example.






Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Sep 9 2010, 4:59am)


CuriousG
Valinor


Sep 9 2010, 12:40pm

Post #4 of 104 (2133 views)
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Relevancy of criticism [In reply to] Can't Post

If I understand your post correctly, Malveth, you're saying that past Feminist criticism of Tolkien has lot its relevancy. I agree. Do we dismiss all literature pre-1980 because it didn't give women equal status with men? Pretty absurd. Was JRR a misogynist? No. We've cited plenty of positive portrayals of strong female characters in what is a male-dominated story. There's nothing like the Adam & Eve tale where Eve gets all the blame for the Downfall of Man. I've even heard that the exalted status of Galadriel is an insult to women because she's an "object of worship" and "not realistic," so if she were ordinary (like Rose Cotton), that's supposed to be more acceptable? And is it then an offense to men that Aragorn was too good to be true? Most men can't live up to his "unrealistic" level of perfection. I can't. Should I be alienated by Tolkien?

Modern literary criticism doesn't stop with Feminism. Were there any physically challenged characters? No. Mentally disadvantaged? No (unless you count Gollum, who was portrayed negatively.) Were his writings Anti-semitic? Hard to tease out any examples, but is the lack of Semitic characters a fault in his writings? We could go on and on about how he slighted just about everyone somehow. Why were the best people always attractive (Person X "the Fair") and tall? Isn't that insensitive to unattractive and short people? Just how multicultural was LoTR? Sure, there were these elves and dwarves, but what about humans who were Native Americans or people of color or who spoke English/Westron as their second language and felt marginalized?

My only issue would be with the Swarthy Men, who are mostly depicted as a mass group of people of evil intent. But as we've discussed, that's not a large part of the book. There are blatantly racist novels where black people are evil or inferior and play a much larger role in the story. (Conrad's "The Heart of Darkness" made Africans out to be mentally inferior savages; Chinua Achebe said it was that book that inspired him to become an author to show Africans as real people and not mindless spear-throwers.)

Given all that I've said, I still think it's interesting to discuss the role of women in Tolkien as long as it starts out with an open mind, not an attitude of "this book was written by a traditional white male author, ergo it must be anti-women." I heard a lot of that in college from my self-described feminist literature professors about any past book under discussion.

And as you've said, Tolkien deliberately modeled his story on medieval traditions. I remember squabbles in college about how unrealistic Tolkien was about romance: it was all idealized, and didn't come up very often. Those male figures in the Fellowship, after their long, isolated trip from Rivendell to Lorien--why didn't they act like sex-starved sailors do in similar isolation, and lustfully pursue the elf-maidens of Lorien to release their pent-up sexual desires? Answer: because medieval traditions idealized romance, so Tolkien did too.

As you say, if people find too many such objections in Tolkien, they should move on to something else that is more aligned with their perspective of what literature should be.


Curious
Half-elven


Sep 9 2010, 12:41pm

Post #5 of 104 (2172 views)
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For me, one of the most interesting feminist insights [In reply to] Can't Post

is that because of the dearth of female characters in LotR, many of the male characters exhibit traditionally female traits. Otherwise, the feminist analyses seem to fall into two camps, those who consider Tolkien sexist and those who don't.

Personally, I think that Tolkien comes out looking pretty good considering how women were typically portrayed during his lifetime. Compare, for example, the women in C.S. Lewis's Narnia series.

Tolkien believed that women, by nature, had a different role to play than men. A fighting woman like Eowyn was an exception, and she gladly returned to her natural role as a healer once the war was over.

But when Tolkien did write about women, they were strong and capable personalities. In the rare cases that they fought, they fought well, and when they offered other forms of support -- wisdom, gifts, magic -- their offerings proved invaluable.

Ungoliant and Shelob were rare female villains. They of course were evil, but I think it is grossly unfair to consider them representative of Tolkien's attitudes towards women. They are strong villains -- Ungoliant at one point threatens Morgoth himself, and Shelob enjoys more independence from Sauron than most of his minions. Like all of Tolkien's monsters, they are abominations -- but almost all the rest of Tolkien's monsters were male.

For some citations to feminist analyses of Tolkien, see this link:

http://books.google.com/books?id=B0loOBA3ejIC&pg=PA203&lpg=PA203&dq=tolkien+feminism&source=bl&ots=hgJD5F9e0h&sig=SsMSs-WUmlc1IPCws2KGrPRvbKI&hl=en&ei=D9CITM6FO4mmnQfDramfCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CEIQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=tolkien%20feminism&f=false


TolkienOtaku
Rivendell


Sep 9 2010, 12:49pm

Post #6 of 104 (2158 views)
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My thoughts exactly. [In reply to] Can't Post

The women of Tolkien's universe are pretty darn awesome once you think about it. Idril led an evacuation. Luthien sang Morgoth to sleep. Elwing was ready to protect a Silmaril with her life. Galadriel was full of ambition when she was younger. Gilraen must have been a tough woman, or at least that's how I imagine her. About the only woman in Tolkien's work I can think of that really didn't do much was Arwen, and even then she served as motivation for Aragorn to do the awesome stuff he did. Just because they aren't on the front lines of battle does not mean that they can't do other great things.

I have no personality whatsoever. Cower before my blandness!


Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Sep 9 2010, 1:45pm

Post #7 of 104 (2173 views)
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When I read "the Mariner's Wife" I was amazed [In reply to] Can't Post

at Tolkien's understanding of a woman's point of view. Don't know if it was feminist, but it certainly felt real. (Femine, perhaps?)

I've always considered myself a feminist in the sense of the goal of equality, and we are much closer now than we were when I was a girl (I remember being told that no, I couldn't be a pilot, but maybe I could be a stewardess. I did neither, as it turned out.) My mom was the only girl math major at her college, and I was one of the few at my school.

But, but and again but---I get exasperated with the brand of feminism you're talking about. I run into it a lot in the liberal circles I frequent, the kind that puts down men at every turn. Ugh. My best friend and soul mate, Uncle Baggins, is very much a man, thank you. And it was my feminist father who encouraged me to pursue math.

Anyway, I never saw the world through the lens of gender, much, and when I read LotR as a girl I had no problem identifying with the male characters. I don't know squat about literary criticism (just ask me about integration by trigonometric substitution), so I don't know if I'm contributing anything of worth to this thread. But I want to finish where I started: Erendis is an amazing portrayal of what feels like a very real woman.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




tumhalad
Bree


Sep 9 2010, 2:13pm

Post #8 of 104 (2157 views)
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The Mariner's Wife: a Gem [In reply to] Can't Post

I too, was utterly amazed having read "The Mariner's Wife". In my opinion it is by far the most "novelistic" thing Tolkien ever wrote, bar none, and if it is not strictly femenist, then it certainly comes close (just read the soliloquy of Erendis pg. 266 of Unfinished Tales). As you say, it most certainly reveals that Tolkien was, if nothing else, an intelligent man capable of not only writing about females but also from the point of view of females (personally I consider Erendis one of his most enduring creations; I just wish he had finished the novel). I'm sure this would come as a surprise to many, and it does clash in some ways with the Lord of the Rings, which is a very male (though by no means at all masculine) story. Similarly, other of Tolkien's recently released work, most prominently the Children of Hurin, feature women characters who are "well rounded", who hold converse with each other and not only with men, who hold positions of power (Melian, for example) and who act according to their own desires, instincts and preoccupations. If anything I think a "femenist" reevaluation of Tolkien's whole body of work is required, taking into account not only the Lord of the Rings, but also the Mariner's Wife, the Children of Hurin and his other writings. Taken together, it is my thesis that these writings demonstrate an emerging femenine awareness in Tolkien as he grew older, especially after writing the Lord of the Rings.


Malveth The Eternal
Lorien

Sep 9 2010, 2:17pm

Post #9 of 104 (2135 views)
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Response... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'd like a chance to reply to these excellent responses but am down with an 'orrible 'flu today, blech!

But Aunt Dora is correct in pointing out that an anti-male attitude has taken root in the West, and that certainly effects literary studies at Universities.

For now -- yes feminism with a capital "F" is what I'm talking about. And it certainly hasn't gone away -- most journalists write as if Feminist studies have made some enormous & important contribution to Tolkien studies (all literary studies, in fact) -- they certainly never miss a chance to mention it if they must write about Tolkien. But I think it may be time to deconstruct the deconstructors & see if they actually do have anything to say.

Um...I'd better crawl back into bed before I write something stupid.
More when I am well again...

http://www.facebook.com/pages/CarrotField/257960949766?created


Ethel Duath
Valinor


Sep 9 2010, 3:29pm

Post #10 of 104 (2129 views)
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Eowyn was my hero(ine)! It was such a relief to me [In reply to] Can't Post

as a young teen for Tolkien to not only have written about, but celebrated someone like her--as the slayer of the Nazgul, she was top of the heap; and it was set up in such a way that no one else could realistically have accomplished that feat. I'd spent my childhood inventing and acting out heroic fantasies with my best friend (a boy), but having been born in the late '50's, all that was rather frowned upon--not by my parents, but by other girls! ("Don't be such a tomboy" was the comon refrain). So who not only validated, but celebrated my inward bent? An old English gentleman with "outdated views!" Seven cheers for Tolkien (three just aren't enough . . .)!


Desicon9
Bree

Sep 9 2010, 4:37pm

Post #11 of 104 (2132 views)
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Politically Correct Revisionism? [In reply to] Can't Post

RE Malveth's: "One of the great cliches of Tolkien criticism is that there are 'no women' in Lord of the Rings and that what little we see of Tolkien's women brands his epic as sexist. In fact, you can hardly find anything pertaining to LotR's that doesn't shoehorn this observation in someplace." (my emphasis)

Hmmm, "great cliche?" Can't find "anything pertaining to LOTR's that doesn't shoehorn this observation in someplace?" I think you vastly overstate your case, Malveth. I can point you to thousands and thousands of pages concerning LOTR where the "rearing head" of "Extreme 1960s Feminism" does not obtrude in the slightest. I suggest further that your presentation commits the blunder of the "straw-man" fallacy (straw-woman, in this case?).

From Wikipedia: informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position.[1] To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the 'straw man'), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position."

This is where the "straw-man" fallacy comes into play. You seem to be assuming, Malveth, that the "1960s style liberal-activist feminism" continues unabated today, it has not. Current feminism seems to me, far more politically savvy, and highly complex, with a rich, new set of basic definitions, aspirations, and modes of action. In some ways, the "old liberal feminism" (if there ever was such a thing?) has even been co-opted by the Right, especially in the United States, where power-figures like S. Palin, and (more locally) J. Brewer would never have arisen under the Old Boy Conservatism of the Nixon era.

In keeping with "topicality,' the present-day, U.S. Neo-Con movement is desperately trying to resurrect old divisive issues in order to score easy points by re-fighting battles that were long ago concluded. I see your initial statements, Malveth, in just this light -- too bad, for the issue of "gender treatment" in Tolkien is a very important one, and it deserves serious, balanced consideration by each new generational cohort of readers. In this sense the 1960s-early 70s opinion was soon revised by the succeeding cohort of those concerned with feminism (both males and females), and by the 1990s, the issue had been largely settled along the lines of Helen Armstrong's statement:

"Despite the conventionally; even doctrinally, male-centered aspects of Tolkien's world, he also bucked that same system ... by creating active heroines." ( H. Armstrong, "Good Guys, Bad Guys, Fantasy and Reality" p. 250, in Patricia Reynolds, Proceedings of the JRR Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992, my emphasis)

That Tolkien, on gender issues, was actually ahead of his own time, more liberal in his treatment of female characters than most of his generation (and the three succeeding generations) has now become the standard interpretation.

Anna Smol sums this up well:

"Because Tolkien emphasizes the interdependence of masculinity and femininity rather than fixed boundaries between them, some critics see the feminine as highly valued in his works (Crowe, 276). Even women who remain in conventional roles are not weak or passive (Lewis and Currie 202); sometimes, their femininity is the source of their strength, as in Eowyn's ability to kill the Nazgul lord (Hopkins, 365). Some critics find that Tolkien's strong female characters challenge stereotypical gender roles. Galadriel [an accomplished athlete, "the Man-Maiden"], Eowyn, Emeldir the Man-hearted, Haleth, and Idril tend to synthesize masculine and feminine qualities (Armstrong 250)." (Anna Smol, "Gender in Tolkien's Works," pp 233-34, in M. Drout J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia, 2007, my emphasis)

Further characteristic of this consensus sentiment are such articles as Nancy Enright's Tolkien's Females and the Defining of Power: "In The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien's female characters, though few in number, are very important in the defining of power, a central thematic concern of the text." (Renascence, Winter 2007, p1, available online for free!)

This seems to be the current consensus opinion among a majority of both male and female writers who publish works of a critical/ scholarly nature on Tolkien's writings. There is no raging, 1960s blanket-condemnation of Tolkien as a rabid sexist in this consensus, though I quite understand the fury at the time. The zeitgeist of the 60s was active-confrontation with the perceived conservative establishment. On first read, much of what Tolkien wrote could be facilely interpreted as supporting that establishment, especially if Tolkien were to be judged by the standards of that near revolutionary period.

But even in the 60s/ 70s there were many (male and female) who leapt to Tolkien's defense, usually centering their counterclaims on Goldberry, Galadriel, and especially Eowyn. Unfortunately, the early arguments were looking for "strong/ mannish" characteristics in the women of LOTR, rather than seeking to establish definitions of "feminine traits" that do not require a simple "masculinization" of females in order to show them as figures of power. Women do not have to be more "manly than men" in order to be strong. Nonetheless, even if just looking at women who were allowed to act in a "manish" fashion, these 1960s critics were able to measure the "advanced thinking" of Tolkien on the gender issue. They showed that Goldberry had a nature-power that was independent of her husband's, that Galadriel was a "stronger" more capable ruler than most males (including her husband), and that Eowyn was as tough as a rugby player and quite at home slicing and dicing her way across a battlefield.

As tempers cooled in the 1980s, and as more and more of Tolkien's writings were published, (especially the Silmarillion in 1971, and Carpenters Letters, 1981) a more balanced judgment took over. The ardor of 1965-1975 has long since subsided, and the sort of "Extreme Feminism" you seem to be attacking, Malveth, has ebbed. Today, I think you'll find that Feminism has moved on to become a more complex, realistic movement.

Consequently, as pointed out by Squire, I think, Malveth, you are really trying to raise a straw-man spectre that has long since been laid to rest -- even by many (most?) of the female readers of JRRT's Middle-earth fantasies.

__________________

Nancy Enright:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/
mi_qa3777/is_200701/ai_n19197652/?tag=content;col1


(This post was edited by Desicon9 on Sep 9 2010, 4:45pm)


Aunt Dora Baggins
Half-elven


Sep 9 2010, 4:42pm

Post #12 of 104 (2107 views)
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This is rather completely off topic, but [In reply to] Can't Post

you got me to thinking about the heroic games we played as kids. On our block, in the 1960s, the boys were the "cowboys" and the girls were the "Indians", mostly because girls had long hair. We got to tie up the boys and "torture" them, which was kind of fun.

When we played "Army", the girls had to be nurses. And when we played "Batman", the girls had to be the villains, mostly because one of the boys had a go-cart that they used for the Batmobile.

Funny how we separated ourselves into camps, even when the camps themselves weren't gender specific.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




Ethel Duath
Valinor


Sep 9 2010, 4:50pm

Post #13 of 104 (2127 views)
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Yes, I think that happens when there are groups of each. [In reply to] Can't Post

In some neighborhoods, the boys wouldn't let the girls play with them at all, so it sounds like you were relatively lucky. (Ha! Getting the best of a gang of boys!SmileSmileWink I always picked being the Indian, too; but mostly because I preferred the underdog, and because I was fascinated by the culture.) In my neighborhood, not only did the boys vastly outnumber the girls, but I was the only girl there that wanted to play with the boys, so I actually got to "join" their group. (Learning not to cry when I got hurt and being willing to run around yelling as much as they did seemed to be the only membership requirements).Laugh


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 9 2010, 5:04pm

Post #14 of 104 (2154 views)
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Now who's throwing up straw men? [In reply to] Can't Post

In keeping with "topicality,' the present-day, U.S. Neo-Con movement is desperately trying to resurrect old divisive issues in order to score easy points by re-fighting battles that were long ago concluded. I see your initial statements, Malveth, in just this light

Perhaps you've set up your own straw man in looking for this divisiveness where it doesn't exist. Even I, who couldn't care less, have read casually in passing this "feminism hates Tolkien" topic. Does this make me a Neo Con? Not hardly. Neither is Malveth.

I think, on both sides, we're better served when we try to stay away from simplistic and stereotypical labels designed to minimize the opinions of those who disagree with us by painting them in a fringe or non-mainstream coating.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.

Tim: Follow. But. Follow only if ye be TORNsibs of valour, for the making of The Hobbit is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no TORNsib yet has fought with it and lived. Bones of an A List veteran director lie strewn about its lair. So, brave TORNsibs, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for Hollywood Studio Bureaucratic Ineptitude awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!

Studio Exec: And that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.
Studio CEO: This new learning amazes me, Studio Lapdog. Explain again how sheeps' bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.


Desicon9
Bree

Sep 9 2010, 6:58pm

Post #15 of 104 (2133 views)
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LOL! The Pot Accuses The Kettle! [In reply to] Can't Post

RE Tim's: "Perhaps you've set up your own straw man in looking for this divisiveness where it doesn't exist. Even I, who couldn't care less, have read casually in passing this 'feminism hates Tolkien' topic. Does this make me a Neo Con? Not hardly. Neither is Malveth." (my emphasis)

I think you are quite right to state that we should attempt to leave "simplistic stereotypical labels" out of the conversation. You and Malveth both should have applied this dictum before posting. How do we interpret your "this 'feminism hates Tolkien' topic." What do you mean here, Tim? Does "feminism" really hate Tolkien? Is this your opinion? If it is, then this is a gross simplification/ stereotyping of "feminism."

Feminism, as I tried to point out, is a vastly complex movement with a myriad of positions, outlooks, and traditions that alter considerably over time. There are even "conservative" feminists. So, when Malveth equates "feminism" with an anti-Tolkien stance he is quite mistaken in his "stereotypifications." As I pointed out, many women considering themselves feminists came immediately to Tolkien's aid, even in the 1960s; and these women have been fundamental in creating the new consensus of the 1990 - present concerning sexism in Middle-earth -- a consensus that is highly favourable to the old boy. You, Tim, seem also to be perpetuating the stereotyping of feminism started by Malveth, with your "feminism hates Tolkien." Quite the opposite, feminism (in general) applauds JRRT for being far advanced (beyond 1950s standards) in his even-handed treatment of female characters.

RE Neo-Con -- Re-read my statement. I did not say that Malveth was a Neo-Con, merely that in the current Neo-Con environment of the U.S., the tactics of oversimplification/ stereotyping -- plainly evident in Malveth's opening salvo -- use the same "straw-man" tactics the Neo-Cons utilize.

A further bone of contention is Malveth's statement: "I used to take it as a matter of course, but of late, I am really questioning the relevance of Feminism to LotR's. In the end, since there really are only a few female characters of importance and Tolkien had literally nothing to say about Feminism, why do we still bother to entertain Feminist criticism of LotR's?"

Again, to say that the female aspects of Tolkien's Middle-earth which are of interest to feminists are of questionable relevance is frankly absurd. It is the equivalent of saying that there are few aspects of organized religion and ritual in LOTR, therefore it is not relevant to discuss these topics either. Here, of course, Malveth is stereotyping "feminism" again, considering, I take it, only negative criticism as being the feminist view. As I tried to explain, many females, considering themselves "feminists" actually use LOTR and Tolkien's other writings to validate his credentials as a (by and large) supporter of females. The predominant "feminist" view today, and certainly since the 1980s, is exactly the opposite of Malveth's stereotypic statements. And, it is opposed to your own statement (though it is unclear to me what you mean here) coupling feminism with Tolkien-hating.


(This post was edited by Desicon9 on Sep 9 2010, 7:06pm)


Elizabeth
Valinor


Sep 9 2010, 7:46pm

Post #16 of 104 (2110 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you captured what I was trying to say above far more effectively (certainly with better documentation).

Indeed, the rhetoric of the 60's & early 70's tended toward sloganeering, and I can't say that none of it was directed against Tolkien, but I remember a lot more nuanced evaluation in the criticism even then, and particularly later in the papers you cite.






Elizabeth is the TORnsib formerly known as 'erather'


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 9 2010, 11:28pm

Post #17 of 104 (2069 views)
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You put words in my mouth [In reply to] Can't Post

I never tried to define feminism. I could care less. So if you want to think over my point again.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.

Tim: Follow. But. Follow only if ye be TORNsibs of valour, for the making of The Hobbit is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no TORNsib yet has fought with it and lived. Bones of an A List veteran director lie strewn about its lair. So, brave TORNsibs, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for Hollywood Studio Bureaucratic Ineptitude awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!

Studio Exec: And that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.
Studio CEO: This new learning amazes me, Studio Lapdog. Explain again how sheeps' bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 9 2010, 11:31pm

Post #18 of 104 (2079 views)
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To spell it out plainly. [In reply to] Can't Post


RE Neo-Con -- Re-read my statement. I did not say that Malveth was a Neo-Con, merely that in the current Neo-Con environment of the U.S., the tactics of oversimplification/ stereotyping -- plainly evident in Malveth's opening salvo -- use the same "straw-man" tactics the Neo-Cons utilize.

My point is that there are no Neo-Cons and you thinking that is building a straw man of your own.


King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.

Tim: Follow. But. Follow only if ye be TORNsibs of valour, for the making of The Hobbit is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no TORNsib yet has fought with it and lived. Bones of an A List veteran director lie strewn about its lair. So, brave TORNsibs, if you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for Hollywood Studio Bureaucratic Ineptitude awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!

Studio Exec: And that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana-shaped.
Studio CEO: This new learning amazes me, Studio Lapdog. Explain again how sheeps' bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.


Desicon9
Bree

Sep 9 2010, 11:45pm

Post #19 of 104 (2207 views)
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Non-divisive attempt, I swear! [In reply to] Can't Post

I like the point you make here, Elizabeth, the 1965 - 75 decade was chock full of handy-dandy slogans, "Make Love, not War;" the 50s slogan "Better Dead than Red" was cheekily altered to "Better Red than Dead;" lol. I wonder if this reflected the 1950s rise of Madison Avenue advertising techniques ("jingles" are quite similar to slogans, I think!). But then, come to think of it, wasn't "sloganeering" an early U.S. phenomenon -- Vote for "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!" from the "Log Cabin movement" (a slogan in itself!) but it seems to have gotten Harrison elected in 1840. Hmmm, bet we could find graffiti examples from ancient Rome to show "sloganeering" is a typical human trait... Wink

All sloganeering apart, yes I too remember the Tolkien criticism between 65-75 (even the negative ones) as being highly "nuanced!"

Having lived through it, I find myself in teeth-grinding rebellion when people stereotype the 60s 70s era activism as a "bad phase" of U.S. history, best forgotten and NEVER to be repeated!* LOL, personally, I found it fun to have my classic U.S. conservative values challenged (racism was a given in Huntsville Alabama back in 1956 - 65, as was the assumed righteousness of all U.S. foreign policies -- even though some malcontents in Europe called us Imperialistic/ Social Darwinistic/ and Militaristic!). Luckily, and this is a personal-morality issue, I'm glad I had a liberalizing episode to live through -- racism, a paternalistic vision of women, and even monopoly capitalism can be un-learned. Another useful "liberation" was strictly an "appearance" issue -- I finally got rid of my awful "crew-cut" hair-do, and just this action of growing 6-inch locks vastly improved my modest appeal to women -- even resulted in a long term contractual relationship with a genuine female!

But, in an attempt to be "non-divisive," I'm wondering how I would have opened this topic. Alas, there were some rabid type comments regarding Tolkien's "sexism" from the 1965-75 era. Statements that even I could not stomach then, let alone now. I think it would have been an excellent essay for TORN to bring some of these statement up for discussion. But, I would have done this on an "individual" basis, and would not have approached this exercise from what I consider to be the "stereotyping" formula I think Malveth used. So, had I been Malveth, I would have dropped the "feminist" contention entirely. Then, I would have actually looked up some of the really outrageous statements made against Tolkien regarding sexism. Some of these "attacks" are still being made, so even the 1960s - 70s time frame Malveth uses should be jettisoned? Then using full quotes and source attributions, I would have asked how people today, here at TORN, felt on this issue. This would have involved no apriori assumption that "classic 60s- 70s feminism" was automatically anti-Tolkien. It would also have avoided a long-winded subsidiary discussion trying to define the terms "feminism" and especially "60s - 70s classical feminism." We would deal strictly with the writers as individuals, without assuming they were "feminists," classical or otherwise, and without trying to assign a generational classification scheme assuming that the 60s 70s was cut all of one cloth.

An easily made Google search under the rubric "Tolkien + feminist critics" would have given Malveth all sorts of KOOL quotes to illustrate his concerns. With quotes from these sources, we here at TORN, could then see how "reasonable or how rabid" the supposed "attacks" were.

1. Edith L. Crowe -- "The most problematic aspect of Tolkien is indeed the disappointingly low percentage of females that appear in his best-known and best-loved works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings" (in Reynolds, Proceedings of the JRR Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992, p. 272)

2. Candice Frederick and Sam McBride examine JRRT biographical material to explain the roots of what they interpret to be an "antifeminist" presentation of women in Middle-earth. ("Women Among the Inklings," Contributions in Women's Studies, vol 191, 2001)

3.Catherine Stimpson, who sees evidence of misogyny in Middle-earth, in "JRR Tolkien," Columbia Essays on Modern Writers, vol. 41, 1969

4. Patrick Curry, who concludes that Tolkien's presentation of females has a "paternalism if not patriarchy [that is] unmissable (p. 127)"Less Noise More Green: Tolkien's Ideology for England," in Reynolds Proceedings of the JRR Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992 Mythlore 80; Mallorn 30, 1992.

Of course, I don't think we would find any of the really "juicy" "malevolent" attacks made in these respectable sources -- but, approaching this from the Popular Opinion side, I think we could mine the online Tolkien Fora discussions to get some REAL examples to illustrate what I think Malveth is holding up for our scorn. Could be fun -- I'll look for some tonight!

______________________________

RE Malveth's: "I'm not talking about scholars who find imaginative and relevant ways to address the female characters in Tolkien. I am speaking of classic 60's-70's Feminism, which still rears its head often enough whenever anything is to be said or written about Tolkien." (my emphasis)

If I understand Malveth correctly here, he/ she, admits that there is a valid place for female studies in the academic works of Tolkien criticism (and we do all know that a critical work can be positive, negative and even neutral, don't we?), but that some statements (supposedly from the "60s - 70s classic feminism" -- which I deny ever existed in the way Malveth means it) were quite overblown. So, let's do the Google Searches until we do find some of these "rabid" examples, and then we can actually "quote" them, and compare them with the "more sober judgments" of other feminist and non-feminist Tolkien scholarship, and measure our own biases against theirs.

_______________

* Yes, Tim, I know Malveth did not say this, nor do I attribute it to him, I'm sure he holds the "liberalizing" (was it really liberal!?) era of 65-75 in the highest esteem. I am merely reacting against the non-historical assumption that "feminism" in the 60s 70s could be seen as a "classic" type. There were conservative feminists even then, women who wanted to exercise their equal rights under the U.S. Constitution to hold political office, a truly feminist view point held by Anita Bryant, remember her? Hmmm, wonder if she would see Frodo/ Sam as a "homosexual" pairing!? Eeeeeck!


Morthoron
Gondor


Sep 10 2010, 4:19am

Post #20 of 104 (2091 views)
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In a historical context... [In reply to] Can't Post

Previous to the last 100-150 years, there were only a handful of extraordinary women who wrote their names on the virtual blank slate of feminine history. The further one goes back, the less of a percentage of historically famous women there are. It is a sad fact, but it is a fact nonetheless.

By the time you reach the Middle Ages, you read about very few indeed: Joan of Arc, Christine de Pisan, Catherine of Siena, Eleanor of Aquitaine, etc.

Therefore, given the remote time period Tolkien wrote about, it is remarkable the actual amount of truly powerful women he created. Melian, Luthien, Galadriel -- these are no figureheads queens or birthing machines.

But yes, in the context of 60's/70's Women's Lib, these are not ultra-liberated Xena Warrior Princesses, but those characters did not exist even at the beginning of the 20th century. To populate a novel of ancient (or even medieval times) with such high-testosterone women would be anachronistic, and would be pandering to modern societal truths. Truths that did not exist previously.

Please visit my new blog...The Dark Elf File...a slighty skewed journal of music and literary comment, fan-fiction and interminable essays.



Malveth The Eternal
Lorien

Sep 10 2010, 2:04pm

Post #21 of 104 (2058 views)
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I'm Feeling Like The Scarecrow Here [In reply to] Can't Post

Desicon: Just ask what I mean, don't assume & dump pages of angry rhetoric on my head. My aim wasn't to make a defensive point with scholarly annotations. In the past, I've come off strongly on these boards (which I regret - I made the mistake of posting when I was not in the friendliest states of mind, a bad habit that is now broken) -- my only goal here was to toss a ball in & let everyone have a chance to bat it around. I'm just carefully reading & thinking on everyone's posts. I will post again this w/e I hope, but it will Not be a defensive lecture with annotated footnotes. Don't make a "strawman" of me. "He/she" is right - my gender shall remain happily unknown in this anonymous forum! I would be male/femal straight, male/female gay, transgender, sex-change -- you have no idea.

"I think you'll find that Feminism has moved on to become a more complex, realistic movement."
I really beg to differ. Misandry is rife in Western culture & there's no doubt where it stems from. But that's not the topic - the topic is repetition of weak Feminist criticisms & whether strictly Feminist criticism has added anything of real worth to Tolkien studies.

As for where these cliches appear: I can think of a few essays that are printed over & over again that enforce the minimalist Feminist criticism -- Marion Zimmer Bradley's “Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship" is one -- an essay not carefully read & often quoted in articles.

Anyway -- I am enjoying everyone's point of view :)
I knew this would be a good topic -- especially if left open for everyone's individual input.

Ugh - I'd give anything to shake this 'flu!!

PS: No matter how hard I try, I always sound angry when I write! Always imagine someone speaking softly and laughing a lot (at themselves) when you read my posts - that's what I'm like in real life!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/CarrotField/257960949766?created

(This post was edited by Malveth The Eternal on Sep 10 2010, 2:06pm)


CuriousG
Valinor


Sep 10 2010, 4:23pm

Post #22 of 104 (2052 views)
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Boys and girls [In reply to] Can't Post

I grew up in a small, rural neighborhood in Colorado in the 70s, so when we played games needing numbers (football, tag, hide & go seek), we always invited the girls, and it was fun for all. If we did boy things (setting ant hills on fire), we stuck to boys. And no one grew up to be cross-dressers. ("Not that there's anything wrong with that," as Seinfeld would say to be politically correct.)

And good point, Aunt Dora, about your being able to identify with male characters in LoTR. When I read about female characters (The Scarlet Letter, Margaret Atwood's "The Robber Bride" and "The Handmaid's Tale"), I have no trouble identifying with the women in lead roles. It's pretty natural to do when reading, and you don't lose your gender identity in it, nor do I feel rage that someone wrote about a woman instead of a man.

Yes, we can all lighten up a bit, huh?


CuriousG
Valinor


Sep 10 2010, 4:40pm

Post #23 of 104 (2041 views)
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Extreme feminism [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Feminism, as I tried to point out, is a vastly complex movement with a myriad of positions, outlooks, and traditions that alter considerably over time. There are even "conservative" feminists. So, when Malveth equates "feminism" with an anti-Tolkien stance he is quite mistaken in his "stereotypifications."

I don't dispute what you say, Desicon. But it's possible, from reading everyone's posts, that we're viewing feminism from our own experiences with it. So for a few examples from me:

As a kid I read "Encyclopedia Brown," boy detective whose tomboy female friend was his bodyguard. Never bothered me; grew up believing in equality, and didn't understand why both my brilliant grandmothers were barred from careers of their choosing.

Then I'm in college at Univ of Colorado, Boulder in the 80s, where the feminist groups on campus would hold open rallies of throwing eggs at walls and saying they were the men that had oppressed them. I call that extreme and not a form of reconciliation, nor rational behavior. (For men to do the egg-throwing would be just as odd.)

Worse, a professor wrote a short chapter in a children's book about big words and how to remember them. This very liberal guy wrote about a woman trying to woo a man who loved the color gray, so she always dined with him wearing gray clothing to "ingratiate" herself to him ("in gray she ate"). The feminists groups on campus went on fire and demanded that he be fired for this sexist outrage. (This same prof was my lit prof for the Tolkien class and led a very balanced discussion of how women are treated in LoTR, so the outrage was bogus.)

So we get colored views based on our own personal experiences. I'm pretty opposed to extremism of any kind, so my hackles go up over "simplistic feminist outrage over Tolkien" which I have read. But if the discussion is nuanced, as you say, that's fine with me. I guess I haven't seen enough of it, so thanks for providing references where it is more sophisticated and not shoot-from-the-hip


squire
Valinor


Sep 12 2010, 4:01am

Post #24 of 104 (2101 views)
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Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Readings of Tolkien - in the JRRT Encyclopedia RR discussion [In reply to] Can't Post

Modtheow, who is a feminist scholar of Tolkien in her unimportant real life away from TORn, wrote on several of these topics for the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia (ed. Drout, pub. Routledge, 2006). In 2006 we had a "secondary" discussion of the Encyclopedia articles that were written by Reading Room contributors. I thought it would be interesting for this discussion to review the threads that she led on the subjects:

Gender in Tolkien's works
Sexuality in Tolkien's works
Feminist Readings of Tolkien

Obviously, there's a lot of overlap in the three subjects, so that there is relatively little discussion by the third thread. Still, she provide us with good context on the early "F"-feminist criticism of Tolkien, primarily by Stimpson and Partridge. Then she balances that with a lot of information about feminist criticism of Tolkien that does not automatically put him down for his largely male character set, but instead perceives that the women that do inhabit Middle-earth tend to be rather strong and independent.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Malveth The Eternal
Lorien

Sep 12 2010, 9:20pm

Post #25 of 104 (2129 views)
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Nice [In reply to] Can't Post

Excellent work Squire, thanks.

I'm looking over all this & mulling a longish ppst.

Good contributions, all.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/CarrotField/257960949766?created

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