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A feminist's view of the Honorverse

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Re: A feminist's view of the Honorverse
Post by runsforcelery   » Mon Nov 04, 2013 5:55 pm

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I was not aware of this entire thread until very recently. I have skimmed through it, reading comments from quite a few people but completely unable to keep all of the posters straight. Having said that, however, allow me to state my own view on some of the topics expressed. You may or may not think that these points have been made or alluded to in the novels; all of them, however, are there in the subtext for me, just as the nanotech, the AI, etc. They are considered by me to be so self evident that they do not need to be expressly stated.

First, there are innumerable ways in which marital status is demonstrated in the surnames of men and women alike in the Honorverse in general and, specifically, in the SKM and on Beowulf. In the case of the Harrington family, the tradition has been to keep the Harrington surname for both men and women after marriage. This goes back to the decision that Stephanie took when she married [insert name here, because I'm not going to tell you who it is ;) ]. They could just as easily have adopted their spouses' surnames, but they have chosen not to. You will note, however, that there are numerous Harrington cousins whose surname is not Harrington. Thus, you will undoubtedly deduce, that not all Harringtons have retained the Harrington name after marriage. I did say there were innumerable ways, did I not? In the case of marriages between members of the aristocracy, however, the surname of the marriage partner with the higher aristocratic rank comes last. Thus the surname "Alexander-Harrington" indicates that the Harrington half of the marriage is a duchess whereas the Alexander half of the marriage is a "mere" earl. Sorry, but there are absolutely no gender connotations to it.

The decision as to what to do about married surnames on Beowulf is entirely up to the couple. There are two or three core traditions (and probably at least two or three dozen acceptable alternatives within those core traditions), including the one in which each spouse adds the other's surname as the second half of his/her married surname. In those marriages, generally — but not always — the sons take the pre-married surnames of the fathers and the daughters take the pre-married surnames of the mothers, but it is also perfectly acceptable (and not at all unknown) for a child to choose to take the surname of the "opposing" parent.

Grayson, obviously, is an entirely different case where surnames — and much else — are concerned. I trust no one thinks that I am suggesting Grayson as a hotbed of gender egalitarianism.

Second, there is absolutely no disdain for "traditionally female" roles in the society of the Honorverse. Anyone who believes that there is is straining at gnats. We don't see a lot of people exercising skills, talents, or roles which I would think of as uniquely male or female very often. I happen to very much enjoy cooking, both my younger brother and my sister were hand-crafters (he a potter; she a weaver). My mother was an advertising copywriter in an era in which she was never going to get to be the head of a copywriting department in an ad agency, so she opened her own ad agency. My father loved to cook and to bake. Both of them reared children, and both of them were working parents who were out of the house a great deal. The "traditional" division into male and female roles is, in my opinion, a chimera. We perceive them as being male or female — aside from the unavoidable roles of impregnator and pregnant, and even there technology is rearing its head — because that's the way they've always been perceived. Luis Roszak cooks, Admiral Sarnow (although I don't think it's actually been mentioned anywhere in the books) does needlepoint and weaves as a hobby, and Alfred Harrington is the primary childrearer in his marriage with Allison, although that certainly does not mean that Allison is a "hands-off" parent. Does this mean that I believe there are no women in any of those "traditionally" female roles? Of course not! It simply means that two thousand years from now, people don't worry about how the X and Y chromosomes are arranged in an individual or in a familial, social, or cultural role. I most certainly do not believe that "everyone has to be the same" or that women have to somehow man up and assume masculine roles to be valid. The stories that I write tend to focus on characters who are functioning in what may have traditionally been assumed to be masculine roles, but that's because of what the people I'm writing about are doing — i.e., defending their societies against military aggression. If that is seen as a "traditionally male role" that is, I would submit, the fault of the cultural spectacles through which the individual who assumes that it is a male role perceives what is happening. Someone from the year 1920 PD is not looking through the same spectacles.

As for nitpicking over issues like "man and wife," that is a choice to be made by the couple involved in the marriage. Manticore has no problem with "husband and wife" or even "man and woman," or for that matter "husband and husband." (Although, again, I don't think it's ever been expressly stated in the novels, Admiral Sarnow is gay, and when it is mentioned in Allison Harrington's thoughts that bisexuality is part of the Grayson social matrix because of the numbers of wives who have to share a single husband, I sort of assumed that the tenor of her thoughts made it fairly clear that she thought it was a ridiculous thing to worry about, that Sphinx was more "straightlaced" (one might even say a tad reactionary) in that sense than Manticore (the planet) or Beowulf (that is, there are planetary cultural differences), and that as soon as the thought occurs to her she realizes that Honor — the quintessential Sphinxian — would never have been concerned about it one way or the other. Have I deliberately crafted a homosexual relationship and brought it center stage to show my enlightenment? No. I haven't seen any reason I ought to have done so. My purpose in writing these books is not to espouse ironclad social or cultural principles which I think ought to apply. I am not myself homosexual and have never had any desire to be so, that does not mean that I do not have any friends who are. If it were germane to this story to tell you that someone is homosexual, I would undoubtedly do so. It has not been germane in, for example the case of Sarnow, because you have never met the male individual to whom he is married and so it has never been germane to the story line.

In many respects, I think there's a little bit of a tempest in a teapot aspect to this entire question in the Honorverse. The bottom line is that I paid the female half of the species the respect of assuming that by two thousand years in the future, they will have gotten the situation sorted out and they will not put up with being relegated to secondary roles. That doesn't mean that there will be a code of conduct in which the coup counting elements of some present-day feminists are retained. I don't see Honor Harrington having a big problem if someone calls her "My Lady" or if an older individual — male or female — refers to her as "dear" or even "darling." Well, maybe darling. But, by the same token, I don't see Alfred Harrington — or, for that matter, Hamish Alexander — being particularly put off stride by equivalent treatment or forms of address.

Bottom line, at least half the human race is female. That means at least half the brains of the human race are female, and suggests to me that at least half of the capable brains of the human race are female. As the enabler of technology continues to reduce the excuses/justifications/philosophical biases in favor of gender-restricted roles, then the rush to define them as male or female roles, as masculine or feminine roles, will also decline. That's what's happened in the Honorverse, and if the occasional archaic phrase slips through, I have exactly zero interest in playing word police to stamp it out. I hope that that won't offend anyone, but personally, I take a certain amount of offense at the notion that I ought to.

Edited to correct several voice-activated induced typos. This has been a wild and crazy week in Greenville and I ripped off the original post in what I thought was going to be a sufficient window of time, then didn't have enough of the aforesaid time to proof it before I hit "SUBMIT."

Or, as my kids (and some other lady in a book somewhere) would put it, "Oops!" :D
Last edited by runsforcelery on Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
Re: A feminist's view of the Honorverse
Post by Charles83   » Mon Nov 04, 2013 7:36 pm

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Duckk: Charles, the rules are crystal clear regarding the decorum expected of members of this forum, and your post crossed way over the line. You have made several off color posts in the past, but I've let it slide. No longer. This is your first and final warning. Any further infractions will result in banning.
Re: A feminist's view of the Honorverse
Post by Scuffles   » Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:45 pm

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Location: Gold coast, Queensland, Australia

Charles: This female of the species reported your post. If you can't work out which part is offensive I'll give you a hint - it's not the hilariously bad 'science' in which you link height to breasts.

RFC: Thanks for posting! I've followed this thread along just because it's interesting and haven't really posted in it all that much, but your reply pretty much fits in with how I've viewed the thread all along. Just because something's not actually there in text doesn't mean (to me at least) it's unimportant to Honorverse societies, it just means it's background to the story being told.

It's great finding out little bits and pieces about what characters are like that didn't make it into the books as well. Thanks for that!
Re: A feminist's view of the Honorverse
Post by blackjack217   » Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:55 pm

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Mark Sarnow is gay? Interesting. In retrospect I'm not surprised, because that would explain why Young didn't think Sarnow and Honor were in a relationship when he did think that about both White Haven and Raoul Courvosier.
Re: A feminist's view of the Honorverse
Post by namelessfly   » Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:49 am

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I have generally attempted to avoid this thread. I have however; made disparaging comments about "Darwinian Failures" who have devoted their lives to fornication rather than fornication to make a very valid point. The Honorverse can not exist unless the current trend in which developed and even developing countries have birth rates and Total Fertility Rates that are well below replacement level. At some point women need to resume having more than an average of 2.1 children which is far above the average in Japan, Russia and Europe. Even the US slipped below replacement level in recent years.

In At All Costs Weber tentatively ventures into the abortion issue by having Honor become unexpectedly pregnant. Her personal problem is resolved by simply "tubing" the baby so she can resume cammand of 8th Fleet. I presume that this technology predates the Honor Harrington era, but by how long?

The point here is that to perpetuate the species you need to have babies and until some type of "tubing" technology is developed, having babies is a very gender specific function. A pregnancy and birth need not incapacitate a women for very long, but it does restrict capabilities. Nursing a baby tends to keep a woman somewhat occupied (I favor breast feeding both for nutritional needs and emotional bond but I confess that I like to watch) for six months to a year.

I was a very hands on dad, but I was never as instinctually attentive as my wife. We could go out on a date and hear a baby cry which would trigger her lactation. There is a bit more to the gender roles than mere social convention.

If you assume that giving birth and nurturing a baby keeps a woman preoccupied for one year, then maintaining a very healthy TFR of 3 babies per woman takes about three years out of their life during the 15-45 year old age range. This will effect educational and career opportunities, but not preclude success in non traditional female endeavors.
Re: A feminist's view of the Honorverse
Post by Duckk   » Tue Nov 05, 2013 1:06 pm

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This thread is a headache in general, so I'm content now that David's had a chance to defend himself. Topic over.
Shields at 50%, taunting at 100%! - Tom Pope

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