Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Gender and Avoidance

matociquala comments, in her lj, that "like all right-thinking perverts," she hopes to win a Tiptree. I think this makes me a wrong-thinking pervert: I have been bending over backwards to avoid making statements about gender in my fiction. Most of my stories that have a boss-subordinate relationship in them feature women in both of those roles. Why? Because this is how I can avoid making statements about gender and power, when I don't want the story to be about that.

I suspect that some of the things I see as avoiding statements about gender might be seen as statements about gender: that having women as the math professor and grad student, for example, might be considered a statement in itself. This frustrates me. "Women can be math grad students, become math professors, and have female grad students of their own," is a statement about gender in the sense that, "Most men have an X and a Y chromosome," is a statement about gender: true, but not all that interesting just now. No, it's worse than that. It's on a par with, "Some men like cheese."

In the universe of Dwarf's Blood Mead and The Mark of the Sea Serpent, the way I set things up made it hard not to go making statements, because the gods hand out some of the magic with a gender bias. Not most of it, just trivial details like whether you can predict bits of the future or turn into a wolf or what-have-you (I'm not being sarcastic -- those really are fairly trivial in the context of magic use in that world). But the thing is, we are dealing with explicitly fallible gods in these stories. The Aesir have no claims of omniscience or omnipotence, and omnibenevolence is right out. The other gods they run into are the same: omni-nothin'. Omni-annoying, maybe.

Sooooo. It gets complicated, because occasionally kids are born with magic opposite their sex. Also, sometimes kids are born homosexual, or get there with other influences. Sometimes kids are born transgendered. These factors are not related: a girl born with fourth son magic will not automatically want to sleep with girls or wish she had a male body. Because it's not a grand statement about innate gender expression when a boy can speak to spirits, it's a minor oops on the part of the Aesir, and nobody claimed they knew everything anyway, so if they didn't have a noticeable number of glitches, that would be a thing in itself. It would say that even pretty fallible people know everything there is to know about gender, at least in practical terms; they know whether you're really a boy or really a girl, or whether you really should want boys or girls or both or neither. And they don't, and they should mind their own business. That's the joy of gods lacking omniscience: minding their own business becomes a virtue for them, too, because it becomes possible*.

None of this is a major part of the stories I'm currently telling. But it gets thrown into the world in little bits: when Soldrun is asking about crow transformations, Hreinn has to make sure she doesn't mean herself, even though that's a fourth son magic and she's the fourth child but a daughter. Later there'll be reference to Kleppjarn Ljotson becoming Gigja Yrsasdottir: a long hard spell, but not an abnormal one. It's not a major part of the stories I'm telling because it's not a major thing except for the person most involved and maybe one or two of his or her close associates. "Kleppjarn decides he would be happier as Gigja" is not more of a plot in this world than "Kleppjarn decides to become a weaver": most people don't, but you often have one in your village, or at least in the next village over. Some people would be annoyed if they particularly wanted their kid to be a fisher or a farmer or a skald instead of a weaver, but the rest of the world expects them to suck it up and cope, basically.

I just don't think, "People vary; deal," ought to be considered a statement about gender, or at least not an interesting one. "It's kinda complicated; deal," oughtn't, either.

*I think I have discovered the ultimate in Norse gods, but the proof is too large to fit in the margin of this livejournal. No, but seriously, I think I mentioned this before: Loki's brother Byleist. What does he do? None of the sagas seem to know. Why? says me. Because he is the introvert-god, that is why. What was lacking in the Norse pantheon but abundantly present in the Norse? Introverts. Hermits. People who mind their own business. This is Byleist's thing. His younger brother is loud and gregarious and makes a spectacle of himself, but who needs that in a god? All it does is get him [spoilered] by [spoiler] the Deathless, so [spoilers] have to [spoiler] him, and even then he's kind of screwed, and his brother has to come fix it.
Tags: dead vikings are lots of fun, full of theories

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