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I got to thinking about this when my beta, after reading the argument between Murphy and Harry, asked, "Did the events in White Knight just not happen in your canon? Because Harry's actually stopped keeping stuff from Murphy, and this seems like a huge character backslide for him."

And I think she's right -- but I didn't change it.

Truth is, Enemy Mine isn't a story that I was driven to write just for the sake of the story, all the plotty stuff with the silencing spell and a rogue warden etc. It was my way of engaging (and trying to reconcile) some of the issues that sat poorly with me as they were handled in the series. Gender issues, in particular, are extremely problematic, and sometimes Butcher's doing it on purpose -- he proved that with the Luccio plotline, which surprised and impressed me. However, I suspect that a lot more of my problems with the book stem from good, old-fashioned, unexamined genderfail.

You see, "chivalry" is nearly a four-letter word to me. I have trouble seeing it as anything other than a very disingenuous form of sexism. There are several ways you can go with this, I think, but none of them are positive. Are you going the extra mile to be polite to women because they are delicate flowers who will wither under the onslaught of opening their own doors? That attitude (subconscious or otherwise) does not set you up to be the kind of man who's likely to respect women's strength and autonomy in other areas of life.

Or even if, as Harry claims, he does respect the ability of women to handle themselves, it still sets up a separate-but-equal mentality, and we all know how well separate but equal works. The struggle of professional women is to be treated the same as their male colleagues, for people to stop thinking "woman!" every time they look at her, and I can't help feeling that it's a setback if someone rushes to get the door for her, or pull out her chair in a meeting. It's reminding everyone in the room that she's Different, that she plays by slightly different rules, a great big SHE'S FEMALE arrow highlighting her outsider status. And Harry wonders why women don't appreciate his thoughtful gestures.

The other part of my problem with "chivalry" comes of me being a dude, because it makes me go, What? Am I not worthy of the same courtesy you'd give a woman, just because you don't want to STICK YOUR DICK in me? What's so hard about having a baseline level of politeness and applying it to everyone equally? And I realize that I'm taking it personally when I shouldn't, and I realize there's a lot of historical sexual politics that need to be taken into consideration before men can cry reverse sexism, and that I'm operating from a position of male privilege, and you are welcome to show me the error of my ways, I will be happy to engage you. But seriously, when I come across references to Harry's so-called chivalry, it doesn't read as courteous or admirable to me, it reads as fucking skeevy. That he's a guy trying to suck up to women because he wants to get in their pants.

In any case, I don't touch on Harry's chivalry much, and when I do it's either for humor (chapter 3ish, Murphy makes fun of him for it a lot) or identified as problematic, or both. Putting him in a romance with Marcone, rather than with a woman, actually saves me from having to deal with a lot of that, and also sort of cuts Harry adrift in that relationship, lost as he is without conventional gender roles to fall back on.


Meanwhile, Harry's argument with Murphy in chapter nine has less to do with chivalry, and more to do with the fact that while Harry loves his friends with a depth and dedication that would put many to shame, he's not that good with people or relationships, romantic or platonic. At the point I'd read to in canon when I conceived of this scene, Harry had repeated this mistake of withholding information several times already, and I wasn't quite satisfied with how Butcher had dealt with it.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not angry or frustrated with Harry for not learning. Quite the opposite, in fact. In reality, people usually don't learn their lesson after one mistake, or even two, because they're not good at pattern-matching, at recognizing that this new situation is a lot like the last they fucked up. I think it's fantastic that he's allowed to develop as a real person would, but I wanted more airtime given to the grievances of the people around him. I wanted this scene with Murphy so she could articulate some of that -- the POV of a person who loves Harry right back and really gets him, gets that he's disfunctional when it comes to relationships, but can't help getting frustrated with him anyway sometimes.

I'm with (my) Murphy on this one -- Harry is good at the grand gestures. He would throw himself in front of a bullet for his friends, would walk through fire, would go to hell and back for them. Literally. But that's not the problem. The problem is that people don't live that epically on a daily basis, and Harry isn't good at being not-epic. He'll swallow poison for you, but he'll forget to call on your birthday. He'll sell his soul to save your life, but he'll flake out of giving you a ride home. And no matter how much you care for him and know that he has the best of intentions, that's going to get old.

So even though Harry had finally evolved past that behavior by the point in canon-timeline where Enemy Mine is set, I kept this scene. Murphy needed to be allowed to get angry with Harry, and Harry needed to hear WHY, explicitly, directly from the source, not to be allowed to make up his own narrative for why she was angry.


And I know I certainly didn't get everything right -- the instance of my Epic Fail involves Molly, and how canon-Harry has been working so hard to teach her that morality is something you obey always, not just when it's convenient, and that you obey the laws because they're the right thing to do, not because you're afraid of getting caught breaking them -- and then EnemyMine-Harry never even considers the example he's setting for Molly by agreeing to go along with the roofies plan. Situational morality indeed. I had conceived of a scene (and written some lines of it) for a conversation between Harry and Molly, epilogue-ish, in which they discuss that decision and Harry, in reflection, frankly admits that it was a bad one.

At the end when he and Molly are agreeing that they will never pull anything with roofies again:
Harry: With great power comes great responsibility.
Molly: You know, someday you’re going to have to start coming up with your own catchphrases instead of just cribbing them from comic books.

It ended up not fitting anywhere, since the epilogue is already running way long, but I maintain that they do have that conversation offstage sometime.


In any case, for all my criticism, I definitely give props to Butcher for having written characters complex and compelling enough to make this discussion worth having.

I'm interested to hear what other people have to say about the gender politics in these books. Harry's chivalry -- love it? Hate it? Think it's endearingly stupid? Debating books is my #2 hobby (after writing them), so please weigh in with your opinions. :)


( 46 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2010 09:07 am (UTC)
I like chivalry in that I like people going out of their way to be helpful to other people, so, holding doors, helping people carry heavy stuff, being kind when you don’t have to be. So, I’d give up my seat on the bus to say, an old person, a pregnant woman, someone struggling to hang onto bags of shopping and a toddler, because I’d feel a sense of obligation to them. I would be epically annoyed if someone tried to give me their seat on the bus because I’m female. Being female does not mean I have a greater need to sit down than any man on the bus. I don’t care about door-holding because everyone in my office holds doors for everybody else, regardless of gender. I get paranoid about a guy wanting to do something like pay the bill on a date or buy my drinks in a bar, because it seems, to me, to create a sense of obligation or expectation…though no-one in their right mind would be thinking I have bought you dinner so now you must have sex with me.

Uhm, and to swing back to the Dresden Files, I think Butcher is a better writer than I give him credit for. I get caught up in the first person narrative of Harry’s worldview thinking ARGHHARRYYOUFAILSEXUALPOLITICS101YOUCHAUVINIST, and tend not to notice when the text is actually showing these views to be problematic. The best illustration of Butcher surprising me is probably in Heorot, which I don’t know if you’ve read, though it doesn’t actually tie-in with the chivalry thing as it’s just about Harry being a dick. There’s an exchange there between Harry and Gard where Harry is making jokes about a situation that is leading up to rape. And yes, tasteless jokes are Harry’s way to deal with things that scare him or take him out of his comfort zone, but this was massively NOT OK with me, I was going OH JIM BUTCHER NO and staring at the text in horror. Except. Then Gard turned around and Slapped. Him. Down. It wasn’t ok, it was very much not ok what Harry was saying, and he was saying it to someone more than happy to point this out to him. Which doesn’t happen when a lot of the stuff stays inside his head.

And I think Butcher improves as a writer as he goes. I think, perhaps at the beginning, the chivalry was being played straight as part of the Noir schtik, but it got complicated the more Harry’s world developed. However, that’s a gut feeling that I have no textual evidence for, having not done my thinky re-read of the Dresden Files yet, so feel free to call me out on that idea.

Where did Harry even get this from? I genuinely think it must have been his choice of reading material as an adolescent, maybe fantasy quest fiction with a side of detective stories that he’d be modelling his conception of masculinity from. Because I doubt Justin tried to teach him this, unless, perhaps, as a way to control him though a dedication to Elaine? No idea.

Sep. 25th, 2010 09:29 am (UTC)
So much to say about that! Thank you for taking the time to craft such a thoughtful response.

I actually don't have much time before I have to leave, but I wanted to talk about the noir thing real quick, because that jumped out at me. That's something I'd meant to touch on in the main post but didn't get around to mentioning -- I do find the series' treatment of women a lot more palatable if you think of it in terms of an homage to noir tropes. "And then... SHE walked into my office. The Woman in Red." You know how it goes. ;) However, the series doesn't stick with noir for very long -- it never really tries for a noir feel, even though it hits some of the tropes, and by the later books it seems to be leaning more toward a lone gunman archetype for Harry. But definitely, I think treatment of women in the early books can be chalked up to noir influence.

The point about character's opinions vs. author's opinions is a good one, and one that's historically been the crux of a lot of censorship. And how do you write a character with an unpleasant or unpopular worldview while making it clear to the readers that This Is Not Okay? Moreover, to show that as the author, you aren't necessarily endorsing that worldview.

And I have to go. But we will continue this~~!
(no subject) - grenegome - Sep. 25th, 2010 09:49 am (UTC) - Expand
part II - rassaku - Sep. 26th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: part II - grenegome - Sep. 26th, 2010 09:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: part II - rassaku - Sep. 26th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Sep. 25th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)
I find Harry's chivalric tendencies somewhat endearing, and a lot annoying. Kind of makes me think, "Aww, Harry, you're so sweet," and then slap him upside the head and say, "Snap out of it!" I get the feeling that having been raised by Wizards, many who are "ancient" and who have lived through years of "Chivalric" imprinting, may have something to do with it as well.

I love your take on Harry's character and the type of friend he is. So true. We've seen that in the books, as well.

Somehow, Harry, in a relationship, even with Marcone, exhibits if not chivalry, then the propensity to throw himself in front of the train if it will save that person he loves. He loves completely, Thomas, Susan, Murphy, Molly, Michael. It's what makes him so appealing to me as a character.

To me, Harry's chivalry has very little to do with sexism, and everything to do with his heart.

Sep. 25th, 2010 02:12 pm (UTC)
I'm so bad with canon, but I believe he does say, in defense of his own chivalry, that "that's just how I was raised." And yeah, that I can totally get. If he picked it up from Ebenezar, whose morals were formed in a very different age and then passed them along to Harry, then it's understandable and forgivable if he has these atavistic instincts that he knows aren't exactly appropriate anymore but can't shake anyway. (Much like religion -- people who are raised a religion, even if they then later turn apostate, tend to have a lot of trouble shaking the beliefs that they consciously, intellectually know aren't real, but can't convince their hindbrain of.) Chivalry = bad religion for Harry, I'm there.

The line between chivalry and friendship does blur, because in many respects, he does approach them the same way. Harry, as a character, is willing to do so much for his friends. And part of it has to do with him living in a more epic world than I do, but I still think it's safe to say that he's more willing to sacrifice himself for other people than I am. (If real life were fiction, I'd be a charismatic villain, frankly.)

In any case, I definitely think that he would try, initially anyway, to protect Marcone the way he would a female partner. And it's kind of funny -- in the not really funny way -- that there are so many issues that have the potential to break the two of them, but I think this is the only thing that would make Marcone end it with Harry, rather than the reverse. Because Marcone may love Harry immensely, but Harry is not even close to being the most important thing in Marcone's life. Chicago > Harry, hands down. If Harry's protectiveness started to infringe on Marcone's autonomy, Marcone would end it.
Sep. 25th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
I just checked out your booklist on your website. I'm a librarian so I love knowing what people are reading. You featured two of my favorites, Swordspoint, and the Liquor series.
Sep. 28th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
This might be because I was influenced by other fanfics of Dresden Files or because I have a major soft spot for main characters, but could Harry's chivalric tendencies be because of his childhood to present time?

He might believe that females should be treated better since for most of his life, the females he befriends tends to be in some sort of danger.
An example from the book could be from Fool's Moon when Harry's subconscious told him that the root of his problems with Murphy started with Elaine. This is because he presumbly was introduced to Elaine who pretty much was his only childhood friend and first love. Then, he might have felt helpless as Dumore subjected Elaine to the same treatment as him and when he was forced to fight against her.
Susan's departure when she turned into a Red Court vampire really devastated him when he felt useless for not being able to cure her.

Also, this might only be speculation, but did he ever felt guilty for his mother's death? She did die due to Lord Raith's curse, but Harry didn't know till Blood Rites.

On a non-agnst note, in Death Masks, Susan asked Harry why did he know how to ballroom dance and Harry replied that he learned how by dancing with old ladies. This might reinforce Harry's theory that women should be treated with more respect.

Even though his chivalry gets him into trouble with the women he knows, he tries not to let it control him in Blood Rites when Lara asked for his help, but it's a part of who he is.

He is improving in my opinion, in the later series when he starts to trust his friends more, but when he gets emotional, he just wants them all to hide away while he tries to make the problem go away (but he usually fails at that).
As Harry said to Lara when she was shocked at how long he didn't find someone new, he has abandonment issues.

On the Molly issue, I don't really see Harry abusing his master role unless it was the scene in White Night, but mainly just trying to impart knowledge to make the world less scary in his own way while having fun(like in Small Favors where he tells her to shield against the snowballs her siblings+Harry threw).
Also, the scene in White Night is due to Lash's influence, making Harry angrier and irrational.
True, in the Dresden Files, they do emphasis on Molly's figure a bit too much, but it could be that Molly is a reminder of Harry's loveless life and she did proposition him once. I'm not sure if this is in the book, but I think Harry once commented that it's hard to like a person that way when you could still remember when they were going through that age of puberty.
Nowadays, in the recent books, Harry trust Molly enough to give her some tasks to do and control/influence his life to some extent(eating healthy).

Hmm... Sorry, this ended as a really long post, but these are some facts I thought I had to get out. I know Harry is NOT a perfect character, but really realistic in terms of a person who can't help, but do what they think is right even if it pisses off the person they're helping. He's too honest to ignore what's in front of him and he's like some of the few people in the world that are really selfless about helping others, but was raised wrong and grew up to be a disfuntional person who is always in a bad situation.
Sep. 28th, 2010 07:53 am (UTC)
Don't apologize for length -- on the contrary, thank you for taking the time to respond. :)

I definitely agree that a large part of Harry's trouble with women and relationships stems from the fact that he just doesn't have that much experience, when you get right down to it. His touchstones for what a relationship should entail are based entirely on his experiences with Elaine and Susan, and considering the way those ended, it's no wonder that he's gun-shy -- which I use as the cornerstone for Harry's action/thought process in his evolving relationship with Marcone in Enemy Mine.

When you say "the scene in White Knight," I'm not actually good enough with the titles to know which one you're talking about. >_> If you're talking about the scene where he's inducting Molly into being his apprentice, I can buy blaming that on Lasciel's influence, because it's more irrational and vicious than Harry usually is. The morgue scene, though -- nope, that's all Harry.

And I wouldn't go so far as to say that Harry abuses his position as Molly's mentor, because he has a strictly hands-off policy with her and never fails to abide by it. However, his general tendency to view all women as sex objects certainly bleeds over into the way he interacts with her, which Molly -- not as dense as Harry -- is going to pick up on. Mixed messages galore.

I can sympathize with Harry being single for too long and suddenly finding himself saddled with an apprentice too young and and too hot for her own good. I teach high schoolers, and some of them are uncomfortably attractive, oh yes, I sympathize with Harry's predicament. But the thing is, even if you can't help thinking it and even if you'd never act on it, you have to keep that shit strictly to yourself. It's not kosher to even let the students realize that you're thinking of them like that. =/
(no subject) - kaishiro15 - Sep. 28th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
I'm really glad I came across this, although I seem to be a little late to the table.

I starting reading the first book a while back, and I threw put it down because of Harry's chivalry. There was this line - something like "I believe in treating women as more than boys with breasts," - and it made me want to scream at him, tell him that what he thinks of as more actually works out to less, that pedestals are damn restrictive.

However, from what I've heard, the attitude seems to be Harry's more than it is Mr Butcher's. There are strong female characters of all stripes in the books, which is more than I could say for a lot of works, and it does sound like there are times when Harry's viewpoint is shown as problematic. I may give them another try, so I at least know what I'm talking about.

I don't really know if this is the right place, but there's something I found mildly problematic in Enemy Mine (which I am enjoying immensely, btw, for I am one of those people who has no problem diving into fanfic for canons I barely know). The line about silencing spells being a worse invasion than rape. Again, there's the author vs. character question, but I'd still like to discuss it with you.

The ranking of trauma is not OK. Telling someone who has suffered that their suffering is less than someone else's can feel like telling them they aren't allowed to be messed up about it. It's not entirely rational, but, well, trauma. Besides, how would Harry know? He can imagine what it's like to be silenced. He can imagine it happening to him, and be terrified. He doesn't know what it's like to be raped (as far as I know), and while men can be raped most of them don't really believe they can, don't live with the possibility the way women do. Even if it were OK to judge weigh up trauma levels like that, there's no way he'd be able to.

Just my thoughts.
Dec. 2nd, 2010 01:54 pm (UTC)
The line about silencing spells being a worse invasion than rape. Again, there's the author vs. character question, but I'd still like to discuss it with you.

And I'm always up for discussion, so no worries. When I get called on something I've written, I've found it's useful to take a step back and ask myself, analytically, "Why did I say that?" I can usually unpack an answer, and I did in this case -- though what follows is an explanation, not an excuse. I don't want this to feel like one of those "I'm sorry you're offended" non-apologies.

(Incidentally, my first thought was that I could easily shunt the blame onto Harry and claim that the thought's in character for him, which would be true but also disingenuous -- I'm the one who wrote it, after all, and I wasn't consciously thinking of it as Harry Fail when I did.)

So, what was I thinking? Structurally speaking, I was using it to draw a parallel between a crime that readers weren't likely to have an emotional reaction to (silence) and a crime whose impact was visceral and immediate (rape). Metaphors are more effective than simply telling readers, "By the way, wizards who cast silencing spells are bad, bad people." Comparing it to something as recognizably horrible as rape makes readers go, "Ah, it's that bad." My gaffe was in not realizing that I was de-legitimizing rape trauma. (Or possibly that I was emotional-button-mashing.)

I agree, you can't rank trauma -- though I can tell you I'd rather get slapped with a silencing spell for a few days than get raped. However, we can and do rank crimes, and weigh their punishment accordingly. What interests me, the idea that I was toying with here, was of wizards having a different morality, so to speak -- one that would weigh certain crimes as far more profound and frightening, on a metaphysical level, than an ordinary person would be likely to care about or even understand.

Admittedly, that idea wasn't developed enough in this fic to give adequate context for that line -- it's spillover from the world-building I did for a different novel, in which the open existence of magic has shaped a society with a very different system of ideas about philosophy, morality, and self. The main character gets his tongue cut out early on in the story and suddenly has to struggle not only with the day-to-day reality of not being able to use magic (among other things), but with the fact that so much of his core identity was tied up with being a mage, and he doesn't know what he is without that. ......None of which is in the Dresden fic, but that's the state of mind I was coming from.

A more accurate metaphor than rape would have been comparing silencing spells to castration or blinding. However, if you try subbing those into the line in place of rape, it sounds odd; both of those are pretty uncommon crimes these days, and Harry would be trying to put it in terms that a modern audience would intuitively "get."

If I understand your objection right though -- could this issue have been sidestepped if I'd said it was "as bad as" instead of "worse"? Or does that still constitute careless use of a hot-button issue?
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Jan. 15th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
I absolutely agree with you about chivalry - it is (in my experience) almost ALWAYS the nasty "sweet" side of sexism, and the times I've hung out with men who most often cited it as the reason they were doing something, those men were by and large interested in reinforcing a power dynamic that meant they had the power to be kind to us women who somehow needed that.

And I don't really hear man-privilege in your request for a basic level of politeness. I think that is actually the base level I'd love to see actually played out - that we all treat each other with respect, including the little markers of respect like opening doors for people.

That being said, that kind of respect, and the makers of what gets labeled chivalry, i think fall into two separate categories: offering your companion your jacket because they're cold and you're not is different than letting someone win chess games because you think they're women and can't be as good as you (yes, I had that happen to me, and the guy *honestly* told me that he did that because he had so much *respect* for me as a woman).

Some of the things that were bound up in modern notions of chivalry, like walking on the street-side of the sidewalk if you're a man, and shop-side of the sidewalk if you're a woman (so the man's clothes will get splashed) or sitting with your back to the room at a restaurant so the woman can view / be viewed by the room i think are actually things that reinforce a kind of power balance that i'm not comfortable with if you're doing it without thinking about the why of doing it. For example, if you take the street side position because you want to 'protect' your companion... does that mean he needs protecting because somehow you are stronger than he? well, not always. it may mean you like the person. as long as you (or i) don't do it to reinforce notions of power i think it's ok. If you take the chair with your back to the room, does it mean you want to show off your date as beautiful property which reinforces that you were strong/fast/subtle enough to 'acquire' that property for a night, or does it mean that your date is awesome and everyone should be staring at them because even you are amazed by them? But it's a bit of a slippery slope.

Now, I wasn't jarred by the Harry/Murphy thing, and I thought you actually did it deliberately *because* it is not that easy to change one's habits, despite even firm promises that one will seek to overcome one's nature. I know in the next couple of books that Harry has begun to try to break himself of that nondisclosure habit, but seriously, it is not an easy habit to break, and he's going to backslide. It also felt natural because he lied about Marcone, and as much as I have a much longer comment about Harry's sexuality that I'll make after I've read the whole thing, the way you've framed this as Harry's first true foray into men, I assumed he was somewhat hesitant to talk about Marcone with Murphy for a variety of reasons - that she'd tease him, that he still admires her and hasn't completely stopped wanting to flirt with her, that he isn't quite sure what his relationship with Marcone would be, and all of *those* reasons (combined with the fact that the less people who knew about him being alive the better) unconsciously overrode Harry's commitment to telling Murph what was going on when it is happening.
Jan. 15th, 2011 11:12 pm (UTC)
letting someone win chess games because you think they're women and can't be as good as you (yes, I had that happen to me, and the guy *honestly* told me that he did that because he had so much *respect* for me as a woman).

That is brain-breaking, right there. I've come to appreciate that everyone has an internal logic to their actions, that the shit they do makes sense to themselves if not anyone else, but I run into a wall trying to puzzle out the logical disconnect in that.

I assumed he was somewhat hesitant to talk about Marcone with Murphy for a variety of reasons

Good point, though I was not cognizant of those reasons when I wrote this scene, which either means that I got lucky or that I was taking them into account subconsciously. Both have been known to happen before.

Speaking of writers' subconscious doing really cool stuff, did I ever tell you about the time I went out to dinner with Miyamoto Kano? We were talking about her books, and I brought up Not/Love and Please, which have weirdly parallel stories and very similar characters. They're basically the same book, except for one defining moment in Please when the pair are in a fight, and one of them finally asks, "...Why'd you do it?" and instead of bullshitting, the other one answers honestly. And they fix it. And that changes everything, that honesty and that ability to communicate, and the boys in Please get their happy ending, while Not/Love gets mired in angst and tragedy and uncertainty.

So anyway, I was like, "This! This moment right here is genius, the way you set it up as a parallel and then showed what a world of difference can be made by changing just one aspect of the characters."

And she was like, "Huh. I never thought of it like that before."

....Right. So much for authorial intent. I don't think it negates her brilliance at all, but apparently her subconscious does the heavy lifting sometimes. :D
(no subject) - katekat1010 - Jan. 16th, 2011 12:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Mar. 6th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
*wanders by in the middle of reading Enemy Mine*
As others have said below, I believe that the gender fail in the first few books can mostly be thrown at the Noir genre's feet, though also I think it's because Butcher was a new author and was going off of what he knew, which if it was such things as D&D and comic books, tend to also be full of gender fail. It's a shame because I have at least one friend who couldn't make it past book one due to all the fail in the first book. Hell, I barely made it past that myself. I'd assumed the books would get better, but by book 3 I was so frustrated with the gender fail and Harry's misogyny (presented as 'chivalry'), I was ready to quit. If I'd have had to pay for the next book in the series, I'd never have bought it, but fortunately my copies were free and characters actually began to call Harry out on his misogyny and Harry began to change.

That isn't to say that the books aren't full of problems still. The titillation of Lara in particular always makes me roll my eyes. Or the fact that pretty much every single strong female character has been sexually assaulted. And it still bothers me that there's no gay men in the series (it's always confused me that Thomas isn't bi...), though part of me hopes they don't show up because like most male authors of series of this type, I'm sure he'd make the gay man evil (If you've ever read the Sharpe series, the only time a gay man shows up (near the end of the series no less) he turns out to be evil which annoys me just as much as when the black man turns out to be evil).

It bothers me that I'm more forgiving of gender fail than race fail. I'm not forgiving of it in real life, and I've kicked a boyfriend to the curb for thinking I needed to be protected and defended when we were out and about, despite the fact that I'm a high ranking martial artist with arse kicking skills that will always trump someone untrained like my ex. But the fact that I grew up reading so-called male oriented series like Sharpe, or Wheel of Time (or a million other fantasies and science fiction) has conditioned me to a certain amount of gender fail in my genre fiction.

It was a huge relief to me when Harry finally acknowledged Murphy as a force to be reckoned with and to be treated as an equal and I was glad she got that kick arse fight scene in Changes. On the other hand, it's awful that it's taken Harry this long to acknowledge her, that it was because of her gender, and that in the end, Harry's ego is satisfied because he granted her that power through the sword in the first place. I'm glad Harry's learning because I wouldn't be able to read the series otherwise, but there are so many little fails in the series it's both hard to justify reading it and makes me glad there's fanfic.

As for your story, I did find Harry's decision to rufie someone in front of Molly extremely out of character for the reasons you've said, but since you managed to stay in character pretty much everywhere else, I wasn't going to quibble:) Thanks for the good read.
Mar. 7th, 2011 03:36 am (UTC)
Re: *wanders by in the middle of reading Enemy Mine*
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. :)

I agree, the wink-nudge leering over Lara gets old, and Butcher's heteroblind bias is so. fucking. obvious when all the female vamps are perfectly willing to be strategically bisexual, but it never occurs to a single character that the men could use bisexuality to their advantage too.

It bothers me that I'm more forgiving of gender fail than race fail.

Heh, I'm kind of the opposite, but only because I have the tendency not to notice racefail. >_< Obvious stuff like making the black guy the bad guy, or, uhm, Avatar, sure -- but more subtle and insidious fails in racial politics often slip beneath my radar.

I'm getting better though!

The other day I'd started reading China Mieville's Un Lun Dun and found my lip curling at the fact that The Chosen One was the tall skinny pretty blonde girl, and her shorter, Pakistani friend was the sidekick. (Something I might not have even noticed or identified as problematic five years ago.) And I was like, Uhh -- Mr. Mieville? Are you aware of what you're doing here? ...Turns out the answer is yes, and I should have had more faith in him. :D

As for your story, I did find Harry's decision to rufie someone in front of Molly extremely out of character for the reasons you've said

(Not getting defensive, but talking about something that I'd been pondering before...)

Keeping characters "in-character" is one of the most subjective things about writing fanfic. I hadn't realized it before Enemy Mine, but while we think we're all reading about the same characters, every reader has a slightly different interpretation of them, and that's how things ping as OC -- when someone else's interpretation doesn't line up with ours. (Or when the author just plain sucks, which also happens.)

Characterization in original fiction is a lot more fluid, and assuming the author doesn't suck, readers are much more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If a character does something unexpected, the readers will go, "Whoa! This is a side of him we haven't seen before!" rather than going, "Out of character, denied." (Especially when you're extrapolating on a character who doesn't get much screen time and whose motives are rather opaque, because there's so much greater room for divergence. My primary beta and I clashed frequently about characterization, Marcone in particular.)

I think it's honestly debatable whether or not Harry would have gone along with the roofies plan -- there's canon evidence both ways, and depends heavily on where in the timeline you're looking at, because he does change a lot over the course of the series. Harry has done some pretty ruthless shit in his days, things he knew even at the time he'd feel bad about later but shelved his conscience long enough to get done; on the other hand, he's also caught himself right before stepping over the edge on a number of occasions.

Ultimately, that was a large part of why I felt that this was a fun experiment, but I prefer writing original fiction -- I dislike having my interpretation of the characters be no more or less valid than anyone else's. >_> I don't share my toys well, and I'd rather get the executive say of the original author. :D
May. 11th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
Honestly, I think that Harry's "chivalry" is a combination of several things and is mostly unconscious on his part, except when someone like Murphy makes him really stop and think about it.
I think it has three general root causes:
1) His early socialization examples: i.e. Justin DuMorne and Eb McCoy. Both of them, being Wizards, are therefore long-lived and probably at least one (or two, for Eb) generations behind current society when it comes to mannerisms and thought-patterns. Little things like how you interact with people (especially non-threatening people) on a daily basis are much more difficult to consciously reject than large moral issues such as the appropriateness of mind-control, etc. Harry can make a choice not to embrace Justin's moral viewpoints easily enough, but something like the hundreds of small mannerisms and assumptions that make up "chivalry" - well, they just don't squeak enough to draw his attention. Given his overall isolation from other, more modern viewpoints during this critical period of inculturation, and it's no surprise that Harry is playing with outdated rules.
2) Harry likes, even needs, order and rules and stability in his daily life. Knowing where everyone is supposed</> to fit helps him to see when things don't fit. It makes threat assessment easier for him, at least on the surface. This is unconscious on his part and is actually more of a hindrance than a help, but there you are.
3) Which leads into the fact that Harry just isn't comfortable with social interaction, and he's even more uncomfortable when that interaction is with women (strange and mysterious creatures that they are to him, given his total lack of mature female influences during his childhood). His isolated childhood means that a lot of unspoken social rules, cues, and subtext just go right over his head. The unspoken nuances are even more important to communication than the spoken nuances, and these things are learned through experience and imitation during childhood. As a home-schooled, socially isolated child myself, I can totally understand where he's coming from. Stereotypes and chivalry impose some understandable order on apparent chaos. But most importantly, they impose order on him: his responses and behavior are neatly charted out. If he follows the predetermined formula, he's supposed to reach the desired outcome. For someone who's already invested in the power of ritual, this is understandably even more appealing.
May. 11th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
Point 1 had occurred to me, actually, and that's my personal canon for how he got this way. Ebenezar definitely comes from a culture that values old-fashioned politeness and I have no doubt at all that he would have hammered that into young Harry's head.

But chivalry as a substitute for a more flexible set of social skills is a fascinating theory, and an entirely plausible one. It provides a really clever link between two seemingly independent aspects of his character (his chivalry and his suckage at relationships) -- and here I wrote a post talking about both of them side by side and it didn't occur to me that they might be related.
(no subject) - bookworm_2005 - May. 11th, 2011 05:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 15th, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
Some hope
I'd just like to comment that I try to always act chivalrously, I open (and keep open) doors, allow someone to eat/move/speak first, although I don't pull out people's chairs unless it's for the elderly because people tend to freak out when you move their chairs. I think it's from all those 'pulling the chair out from underneath you' practical jokes, I hate those jokes.

But I more think it as being polite, I'm female and do this for both genders, generally because it makes most people happy.

So chivalry doesn't have to be a big fight, it can just be moved into the area of general politeness instead of courting tactics. So I accept chivalry and return it, this way I can make it equal.
Sep. 18th, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
I remember in Grave Peril where Michael is ripping apart Harry's lame excuses for not being more open, and the impression that I got was that Harry was meant to be seen a socially awkward. And while Harry's continued sexism is annoying It's more palatable than say.....lair of the white worm, and even Dracula (I love that book but god damn it the way they talk about mina is sometimes pretty cringe inducing) due to the fact that Harry is able to acknowledge that it's a weakness rather than a strength (there's the scene where he has to force himself not to yell at Kincaid and to accept that he really can't force murphy to behave the way he would like her too, than when he still feels irrational anger even though he's accepted that he's got no reason from a logical standpoint he's like "okay I've got issues.").

He has made progress and he's nowhere near as bad as he was at the very beginning. What did you think of changes and ghost story by the way?
Oct. 10th, 2011 05:39 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... there's definitely a thin and difficult-to-illuminate line between chivalry and annoyance. One of my largest pet peeves is when I am already holding a door open for someone (male, female, whoever) and a guy comes up behind me and reaches over my head/ past my shoulder (I'm 5'10) to get it for ME. I'm already holding the door, just accept the gesture and not a comment on your lack of 'chivalry' and go on through.

I hold the door for whoever, but I'll pull out my own darn seat.
Dec. 15th, 2011 03:19 am (UTC)
Hi. I've just read through the entire series for the second time (first last year just in time for Changes, then again over the last three weeks. I don't find Harry's chivalry troubling at all. It's charming, and frankly, his thoughts and words are a far cry from his actions. Harry doesn't tell Murphy all the info in the first few books not because she's female, but because it's forbidden. He has a similar issue with Billy Borden in a later book. Murphy is a woman, she's mortal, she's his friend, she's small - all reasons that lend themselves to his feeling protective and chivalrous - but he doesn't stop her doing her job, and he doesn't stop any other woman from making her own choices, even when he wishes he could.

The scene with Molly when he has her kneel down, she's completely living in the fantasy of submitting to the older heroic male/mentor. Harry knows it and he uses it to shock her out of it. It's not a power play, it's not hazing, it's breaking her pre-conceptions about the grand romance.

It doesn't bother me that Harry is so obsessed with women's beauty, because the man has the romantic life of a Vulcan or a stump. Elaine in his teens, then something unpleasant with The Leanansidhe, Susan in his twenties and the incident with Bianca's Red Court vampires. Then there was the short affair with Luccio, and the revelation that she'd been mind-controlled, so that their romance was both false and against her will. Then Mab's public induction of Harry into Winter, and what he did to Susan, good lord.

At this point, if he wasn't bound to Winter and Mab, I'd expect Harry to hide himself away on Demonreach for a couple of years.

I don't particularly want to see Harry/Molly, not after the continued emphasis on his knowing her when she was a kid, and I think Harry/Elaine has long sailed, and I don't know if Harry and Murphy will get together or not, though it may be too late for them, too. Butcher has done the romantic lead lady bypass by introducing Maggie, so I don't know what he may intend for future books, but I hope Harry, after his chance to reflect in Ghost Story, gets some kind of romantic counseling as well as strategy.
Jun. 30th, 2012 09:54 am (UTC)
I realize I'm joining this party way late, but I can't resist a prompt like that!
Chivalry has to do with protecting and assisting those weaker than yourself--which, yes, led to unfortunate ties to and implications regarding the female gender, but helping an old man cross the street, donating to St Jude's, and holding the door for someone are all equally chivalrous acts. It also has to do with a certain code of conduct when interacting with your peers.
There are complex codes of interaction between males and females in any society, ours not excluded--but these codes are perhaps made more frustrating and complex within ours for the fact that they are essentially a taboo conversational topic, because to bring them up is to run to risk of implying sexism, either on your part or someone else's. Our society lives in fear of being accused of prejudice, which makes it difficult to navigate questions such as "Mom, why can't girls tackle boys on the playground?" In almost any other society, that could be answered simply and in a way a child could understand.
I'm not saying that I want to return to the days when women were bought and sold or anything on that order. What I am saying is that there are *differences* between men and women, and that acknowledging them--and acknowledging them in a way that is *not* the hypocritically sexist claim that women are the superior gender--does not inherently make you sexist. For example, recent studies have shown that women are, in fact, more aggressive than men. This makes perfect sense to anyone who has ever seen Mean Girls, and also goes a long toward explaining why women are near-universally discouraged from aggressively violent behaviors and encouraged to be more docile than their male counterparts. Is what that societal adaptation has led to good? No. But is the idea of training your naturally more aggressive children to be less likely to have an unthinking violent reaction a good one?
I've wandered a little off-topic here; my point is, we shouldn't be so harsh on chivalry because the argument can easily be made that our modern codes of gender interactions are more detrimental & have less reason behind them. Chivalry, itself, is not a bad concept, but it's a harsh code that is often misapplied.
Which leads me to Harry. Let's examine a few of Harry's actions, from a chivalric perspective. For example, his early interactions with Murphy--sure, she's a woman, and I'm not about to claim that doesn't factor in to Harry's mindset, but Harry's a powerful wizard, and just about everyone he meets classifies as weaker than him. Murphy's a normal, ordinary, woman, who seems determined to put herself in harm's way. Harry's reaction is to attempt to protect her--it's misguided, yeah, but at that point he had no way of knowing that Murphy could, in fact, face up to threat. You notice how, as she defeats more and more supernatural baddies, he starts to treat as more and more of an equal? I'm betting that's not coincidence. Also, it's hard to compare male vs female, because most of Harry's male friends are pretty much on a level playing field with him. The exception is Butters--who, in Dead Beat, Harry treats pretty much the way he would an ordinary female character, minus the checking out. (which, he's a guy, who almost never gets laid, is almost chronically lonely, and happens to run across the world's most beautiful women every week or so. If the lead were female, I would expect her to notice the New York Firefighters Calendar on parade almost as much as Harry notices the Miss Universe contest on his doorstep.)
So. Harry's chivalry is not good, but it's not bad, either. He's a bit of a lech and yes, he applies chivalry to females way too much, but speaking as a woman? I appreciate a character and an author that don't treat women solely as decorative ornaments, don't allow them to get away with being bitchy in the name of "strength", and don't try to pretend that women and men aren't different.
Nov. 27th, 2013 05:57 pm (UTC)
i just found your fic, which of course led me here.

if it's okay to comment three years later...

re: chivalry. Harry's got it WRONG. chivalry was NEVER about treating WOMEN differently, or putting them on pedestals, or protecting WOMEN -- it was TAKING CARE OF and BEING POLITE TO EVERYONE WEAKER THAN YOURSELF. this is naturally confusing, since during the time period that chivalry was created, and for the lifespan of it as a Code, "weaker" almost always included all women by default.
but it WASN'T because there were women qua women.

if that follows?

[i've had this discussion so many, many times in anthropology, sociology and women's studies classes. please don't mistake me -- i absolute HATE being treated that way. if i never ever have to spend another semester as the lone woman in a poli-sci class having to prove OVER AND OVER that ovaries and breasts do NOT mean that i'm incapable of understanding the politics of war and GODS i have no clue how i DIDN'T kill most of the guys in that class.... anyway, my point is, i HATE being judge "weaker" merely because of said physiological differences. that said... i admit, *I* have bouts of chivalry. kids and sick people, for one. my older niece is almost 18, and GODS do we have fights, sometimes, when i forget that she *IS* almost 18, and she's growing up pretty well, and not only doesn't need me to shield her from everything, but actually needs me to step BACK and let her start learning to shield herself. i think i'm doing okay at it. i hope i am. i've got people i trust to smack me when they think i need it. *crosses fingers*]

re: Molly, Harry, and roofie-ing.
here is where...
well, first? i think Harry *DID* get it across that this? was NOT the thing that should be done. before, during, and after. that may only be my take on it, since he DID do it and all -- but you know what? some of the BEST lessons come from watching someone you respect fucking up like that, doing something that you and they BOTH know is wrong, and paying for it [and yeah, he did, in guilt]
on the other hand? it was actually the SAFEST THING FOR EVERYONE, however gray it was. even for Jonathon, though they didn't know that. mind magic [in Dresden-verse] FUCKS YOU UP; it would have been safer to drug the guy with HEROIN than use mind magic.
again, that's just me -- i've been playing D&D for 30 years [i was given the boxed set when i was 6 *G* being a geek? it's in my DNA, totally not my fault!] i *KNOW* i'm Chaotic Good bordering on Neutral Good [it depends on which edition's definition you use, really] [though people have tried to tell me, for years, that i'm Lawful Good, because i have my OWN rules and i follow them, to the letter, no matter what. but i ignore rules that are wrong, or stupid, so... *shrug* i have a point, i return to it]
there's this line about ends justifying means, and it's a GOOD line -- the ends do not justify the means -- and it OFTEN has a point, and is correct.
like the test; would you torture a person to save the lives of X other persons?
at SOME point, for almost everyone, the answer becomes "yes". it may be because one of the X is a specific person, or may be sheer numbers outweigh good conscious, or may be that ethics trump morals in that instance. it's different for everyone.
i try to live ethically. morally? morals are, in my opinion, too hazy. often not clearly thought out, not defined. Harry's come close to death in the series more times than i can COUNT because doesn't understand his own morals.

this is a lesson ANYONE fighting in a war needs to learn; even more-so when that "anyone" is a baby wizard with a gift that means she can cross ALL boundaries of "rightness" that we hold to in modern society [western? our "free will" arguments are *SO* new, the way we frame them... nother discussion, sorry]
Molly is naturally more introspective than Harry. they both know this. i think he got the point across...
and so did you.

i say again; this was one of the most AMAZING works i've ever read, and is my favorite "getting together" romance *EVER*.

thank you, so very much, for writing and sharing, and then writing about your thoughts and sharing THOSE. :)
Nov. 27th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
My take on Harry's reason for insisting on Right vs Wrong morality is that he doesn't trust his ability to differentiate between shades of gray. That if he starts "slipping," he's not sure that he'll be able to stop before he winds up entirely darkside. I don't think he would, but it's not an irrational fear.

The difficulty comes when the option that keeps his conscience clean is not the one that helps the greatest number of people. Like roofie'ing Jonathan vs going "welp, guess we're not going to find out what he knows then."

I've had this conversation on the topic of Batman before, after the second movie, when his personal code of not killing was GETTING MORE PEOPLE KILLED because he couldn't bring himself to stain his conscience/backslide/whatever and kill the Joker. My friend came down on Batman's side, but I maintain that it's moral cowardice to hide behind principles when those principles are getting people killed, in exchange for the smug complacency that *you're* not doing anything immoral.

...I think I mentioned that I come down much stronger on Marcone's side than Harry's.

If you're interested in chaotic good protagonists, you should check out the Donald Strachey books. :D
(no subject) - denelian - Nov. 27th, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
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