The Ultimate Mary Sue Test

I got to seriously thinking about some of the discussions around the internet about this movie character is or isn’t a Mary Sue, or this TV character, or this, or that, etc.

A pattern emerged quickly among the discussions that, according to these conversations, makes a Mary Sue test exceedingly short and simple.  So I present one.

The Test

Instructions:  keep 2 columns of tallies for answer a or answer b.

1) What is the character’s gender identity?

a) Male
b) Female

2) Is the character competent in more than 1 thing not traditionally a feminine role/activity/interest?

a) No
b) Yes

3) Is the character attractive?

a) No
b) Yes

Time to tally up!

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Reader Request Week 2013 #9: Women and Geekdom

What more is there to say except, possibly: Ahmen, Mr Scalzi

Whatever

In e-mail, Brian asks:

Women in Geekdom. Why is this all exploding now? Where is it going?

I am assuming Brian means women in geek-related fields taking a stand against the both latent and overt sexism in those fields and having to deal with outsized, histrionic freakouts some geek dudes are having about it in response.

What’s happening? To explain, let me go to one of my favorite little bits in the film The American President, which I think these days is best known as writer Aaron Sorkin’s rough draft of The West Wing. The scene has President Andrew Shepherd navigating his way through a Christmas party at the White House and coming across a florid, very concerned man in a green jacket:

INT. RESIDENCE - NIGHT An informal Christmas party is underway with maybe 20 GUESTS, some of them familiar faces. SHEPHERD and a GREEN-BLAZERED MAN GREEN…

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This Is What a Feminist Looks Like (reblogged)

This is just wonderfully said. Feminism really ought to BE about women having the right to be themselves, to be treated as equals, to make up their own minds.

It’s even better for how she speaks of her husband. Of rcognising the EQUAL part. Feminism isn’t about dominance. It’s about the elimination of it. The men do those things for which they are suited, the women their own and for those things not affected by gender then share and share alike.

Choices, equality, freedom, respect. Not whether or not one wears bra or corset, not always wearing pants, or any other nonsense. It’s the right to say I shan’t wear a bra because I don’t wish to, the freedom to wear no skirt ever because you hate them. THAT, my friends, is feminism.

Oh my, I must be tired. I’ve gone all preachy instead of hitting share. I’ll shut up and let you read the post now.

Love

Cinnamon&Sassafras

Several years ago, I was playing Apples to Apples. The adjective to match was “scary,” and the “judge,” a young woman majoring in mathematics, chose “feminists.” I said, “I’m a feminist, what’s scary about that?” Another player, also a woman, who was in her 50s and had spent a long time working as an engineer, said, “Are you wearing a bra?” as if to imply that wearing a bra makes one NOT actually a feminist (not that it matters, but I was. Wearing a bra, that is).

I wish I had had the presence of mind to respond to her as Caitlin Moran would: “What part of liberation for women is not for you? Is it the freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man that you marry? The campaign for equal pay? Vogue by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that stuff just get on your nerves?”…

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Drama, angst, tragedy, and rape

Writing is a strange business. It’s the only one I can think of, besides sports, where people seem to be inclined to believe that they know how to do things better than you. Though most sports fans don’t tell the players and coaches this, so maybe writing is unique (or I just know even less about sports than I think I do). I’m not talking praise or criticism here. This isn’t about “oh, my what a wonderful plot with such deep characterisation” or whatever, nor “oh my, so many clichés one after the other I feel I must bathe thoroughly”. No, I mean “you know in Chapter 3 on the second paragraph when Bubba said …” or “You know the best thing you could do for …”

Blows my mind. If you know so much about writing, by all means go write. It really isn’t hard. And if you’re so brilliant you should take the plunge, get something out there and let us all see.

What’s this to do with the title?

Read this: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/470626.html
It’s all right, I can wait.

There. Now. That isn’t the whole of things, but it’s a starting point.

That link deals well with the ideas that women can only grow and change through very limited events. I do not fathom this. My characters grow and change, male or female, through life and experiences. In Love or Lust Sally begins to grow, spiritually and religiously because of people she gets to know and such. Love makes Lauren stronger and helps her grow to better appreciate the important things in life and to realise that what looks to be the easy way is just a different way with different difficulties. No one gets raped, but people change and grow.

There is death in Ready or Not (oh my! Spoiler!). The death is sad, tragic, and hopelessly random and senseless. Unfortunately so are all too many untimely deaths. It changes those people it impacts.

The thing is, that angst, darkness, tragedy, rape, murder, death, self loathing, self doubt, fear, and all of these things are facts of life. Their absolute absence in a modern day setting is something that would be felt profoundly by a reader. You needn’t have them all. Harry Potter avoids some of the least chivalrous ones, as do I. And they aren’t the be all and end all of character growth. Joy, love, romance, tenderness, life, birth, hope can be as profoundly changing or more so.

“Oh, but Jaye, you have to have one of the girls raped. After all, not doing so is unrealistic! One in six women have been raped you know!”

Please, learn how statistics works and are gathered and the scope of the statistic you’re quoting. It helps. Please, I do not mean to say people aren’t raped (men can be raped too, after all, and hardly anyone seems to be fighting to do anything to help those poor fellows. Sexism, truly, works both ways folks) and I have deep sympathy for you if you are one of them. I merely point out that one in six is a broad scope, world wide average. This means it counts the sad state of some countries in Africa where nearly any woman over the age of 20 has been raped because there really are bands of men roving around looking for a poor defenseless girl to offload into. There’re some very interesting wearable contraceptives for this that involves barbs. It includes certain schools where a mickey and a lot of beer are a tradition. There are countries where the average is quite lower and areas of the world where the horrible act is quite rare. In my writing therefore, I’m not being unrealistic, just locating my stories in a different part of the bell curve.

The rape and violence, the murder and hate, all the darkness and brutality of so much modern fiction is really just as cliché as June Cleaver. A different overused trope is still an overused trope. Far too many stories that are very good feel they must insert these events to make the story more believable, or edgier, or whatever. Many a good story is ruined by this. Sadly, the converse is true. Some authors avoiding these events, even when it makes perfect contextual sense for them to be present, for fear of resorting to cheap instadrama.

Admittedly, all too often it’s not just weird, creepy, annoying fans and armchair critics or backseat writers who feel inclined to make these bizarre and tasteless recommendations. Other authors, people who should know better, are guilty of it too. I wish I knew who to blame for that, but I don’t. I’ll say my editor says it’s writer’s workshops. Which could be true, I just refuse to hold an opinion. I’ve never met with one and never plan to; they seem terribly silly to me.

Is there a real point to all this? Only as much as anything that comes down to opinion. Maybe to God there is a right or wrong answer, but aside from divine, omniscient understanding of creativity I should think that it’s safe to say no one is any more right or wrong than the next person – merely more or less capable of providing a compelling argument to sway the opinion of others into line with her own.