I just finished There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo, a book I absolutely loved. After writing up my own review I couldn’t help but see what others had said, and to my surprise many hated it, mostly because many deemed it sexist. At first I was very worried. Had I missed something? Am I one of those women that somehow brush such offenses under the rug as just how things are? I would surely hate to think so. After all, I’m a woman who was a mechanic in the Air Force, not exactly a stereotype of what’s expected of women. I’m all for women being brave and strong, of pursuing whatever dream they have. Whether that’s being a warrior or a stay at home mom. But that’s the problem isn’t it. Too often we expect for women in literature to play the roles that have so often been designated for men in order to prove our equality. Having the women work in the kitchen and the men going to battle is just sexist right? Does it matter if in reality that is how things might would be, we’re not talking about reality, we’re talking about how things should be. This is our battle cry that women can do anything a man can do, heck we can do it better. But really? Is this true? Is it fair?
In the book the world had come to a virtual utopia. People could literally be anything they want to be. I’m talking from mermaids to unicorns. They could play anywhere all over there world, they could pretend to exist in any time, and some picked up hobbies like farming and welding and mining like dwarves if they wanted too. But more so most partied and just enjoyed life. Then a war breaks out and the power that controlled these things that allowed them to live the perfect life went offline throwing them back to basically medieval times. They have to build their society from the ground up, and protect their homes with what they can, usually meaning swords and lances. This leads to what several people are upset over, mostly there are men fighting the wars, and the women fall to cooking and weaving, though they seem to overlook the fact they’re the doctors also. They see this as sexist, but it’s realistic.
Right now a woman can do whatever she wants, and yet a very small percentage chooses to go into the military. Is that bad? Should we demand that more women go in, or should we just accept that that life isn’t for everyone? But once more, we’re talking about characters that suddenly have none of the comforts we do so right now, such as birth control. Many women ended up pregnant before they realized the technology that was keeping them from getting knocked up isn’t working. And even those that weren’t yet knew that if they didn’t abstain they’d end up pregnant, and while pregnant women work in our military, that’s not very feasible for people who are marching across undeveloped terrain to fight in a bloody war. Even so there were those in the book that chose to join the military. That wanted to prove they were just as tough as anyone else, and they fought in the battles and some even led the troops. And the percentage added up to about the same as what currently exists in our own world.
More so, for a group of people who were used to relaxing and having fun, how many would want to pick up the harder tasks, and how many would have the skills to do so? And someone has to do the weaving and the cooking. People act like the women are shunted off to do woman’s work, but keeping people fed and clothed is just as vital if not more than protecting them from possible attack. Because the attack may or may not come, but everyone gets hungry and cold every day. Besides, no matter which a way you slice it, only women have babies, and only women can breast feed a baby when there’s no such things a formula any more. So if that’s the case for a people to thrive and grow women have to be able to be in a situation to have children and care for them. That’s not sexist, that’s reasonable. They’re precious and need to be protected. We live in a world now that is set up for women to have kids and work. We have daycares, and baby formula, and so many things that make such easier. But if such things weren’t available, would we still expect women to go and work and do the same things men do while also at the same time having kids and care for them? That’s unreasonable and putting way more work on women than men.
In the end my point is that sometimes we’re too hasty to call things sexist. That equality doesn’t mean everything is perfectly 50/50. In the book everyone went through the same training program and everyone made their choices, which seems pretty equal to me. But also, you shouldn’t hold a group of people against our own standards when their own situation is so vastly different than ours. While fiction is there to push the boundaries and dream up new possibilities, it should also hold onto a bit of realism to ground it. It has to make sense, whether it seems fair or not.