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Does Historical Fiction Glorify Racism, Sexism & Discrimination?

A place to debate issues or to rant about what's on your mind. In addition to discussions about historical fiction, books, the publishing industry, and history, discussions about current political, social, and religious issues and other topics are allowed, so those who are easily offended by certain topics may want to avoid such threads. Members are expected to keep the discussions friendly and polite and to avoid personal attacks on other members. The moderators reserve the right to shut down a thread without warning if they believe it necessary.
Stephanie Dray
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Post by Stephanie Dray » Mon October 10th, 2011, 9:17 pm

[quote=""rebecca""]

I remember belonging to a reading group and a woman upbraided me for daring to say I liked Gone with the Wind, stating that it was a 'racist book'...Just because you love a particular book doesn't mean you approve of the characters and the ways they use to survive.
[/quote]

Oh dear lord. :mad:
~Stephanie Dray
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LILY OF THE NILE -- Berkley Books, January 2011SONG OF THE NILE -- Berkley Books, Oct 2011
DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE -- Berkley Books, Dec 2013

Stephanie Dray
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Post by Stephanie Dray » Mon October 10th, 2011, 9:20 pm

[quote=""MLE""]The only thing that surprises me is that anybody should feel any angst over this. I may live in a bubble (which includes historical re-enactment) but I have never even heard anybody complain about 'glorifying brutality' in HF. I have heard complaints about sugar-coating, anachronism, modern-day sensibilities, and the like, but never one about accurate historical portrayals.[/quote]

Well, that is another kind of zealotry that can get in the way of good storytelling but the 'glorifying brutality' thing has been coming up on the internet a lot recently. This is especially true with regard to historical romance--which I don't write, but I do pay attention to that reader community because they buy so many books.
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LILY OF THE NILE -- Berkley Books, January 2011SONG OF THE NILE -- Berkley Books, Oct 2011
DAUGHTERS OF THE NILE -- Berkley Books, Dec 2013

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
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Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon October 10th, 2011, 9:41 pm

If it's the romance community you are talking about, you'll never settle that one. That's because women (and men too, but we're talking romance readers here) are imprinted by their first several exposures to sexuality. Orgasm, even in fantasy, has an extremely strong training effect on the developing brain. It releases the twin hormones Oxytocin and Vasopressin (the latter more prevalent in the imprinting of male sexuality than female).

These chemicals are the same mechanism that make a gander and a goose mate for life, or two stags fight to the death for the right to reproduce. In our culture, courtesy of the media, we are imprinting teens/children with images and text, frequently in a relationship vacuum.

The result? A girl finds Mommy's novel. What has little effect on her sexually mature mother is startling and titillating to the unformed sexuality of the child/teen. She pores over some lurid description of a rape, as in Follett's Pillars of the Earth, for instance. And runs over it in her mind, which has little real experience to moderate the effect. To the degree that she dwells on this, normal, healthy and sustainable sexuality with a future mate is being displaced.

And then she looks for more literary experiences that are similar. There is a whole constituency of women who want and will buy stories that feature sexual brutality, because that is what turns them on most.

Stinks for their real relationships, though, since experiencing brutality is nothing like reading it on a page or watching it in a movie. Though there's a whole S&M industry of producing pretend objects to feed the disease.

It's a free country. You ain't gonna stop it; all you can do is guard your children's and grandchildren's minds as much as you can, and arm them with the truth.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Tue October 11th, 2011, 12:36 am

Gladiatrix was one o the most violent books and rape filled books i ever read. You could tell it was written by a man for men. sometimes I felt like I was reading someone's weird twisted sexual fantasy. :o

It did well though cause the guy is writing a sequel.

Some people might like the naughty side of history. Let em have it I say!
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Post by rebecca » Tue October 11th, 2011, 2:55 am

I believe in writing a realistic view of what life was like for both men and women in whatever time frame the author chooses to focus on. What I hate is when rape is romanticized in that the woman or girl 'falls in love with her rapist'...It is unrealistic and dangerous and perhaps leads girls to think that being treated badly by men is somehow 'natural.' It is not. One young girl is Margaret Beaufort who gave birth when she was basically a child and the damage that caused her.

When it comes to teens it is up to the parents to explain what the position was for women in ancient times even up to the Edwardian Era. There was such hypocrisy for instance the Master of the house could have a mistress(or 2) and that was acceptable(in some cases even for women once they had produced an Heir) but if a maid were to get pregnant she was dismissed without references, thereby ruining her entire life.

When reading these books I often feel that men write more hardcore sex scenes(and some of these are pretty horrid George Martin as an example) while women are able to create intimacy and even humour into their stories Penman, Chadwick and Higginbotham and even when writing about rape these authors are able to do so with a delicate hand which doesn't mitigate or excuse the violence done...They are able to write without the reader cringing or doing an eye roll.

I suppose in the end it is a case of what the reader will tolerate and if they do not like it then don't buy it. That's my philosophy anyway.... :)

Bec :)

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Tue October 11th, 2011, 5:10 pm

What I hate is when rape is romanticized in that the woman or girl 'falls in love with her rapist'...It is unrealistic and dangerous and perhaps leads girls to think that being treated badly by men is somehow 'natural.'
I hate it, too, and I don't see anything "accurate" about this portrayal of history. While there is such a thing as "Stockholm syndrome" in which people who are isolated and mistreated develop an emotional bond with their captors, the books in this particular category of "romance" novels clearly are not writing about the syndrome. It is fantasy, and not a very healthy fantasy. I'm not advocating censorship, but in a perfect world, no one would be interested in this kind of reading material.

Although I would agree that the hardcore, explicit sex scenes are generally written by men, the rape fantasies in which a woman falls in love with her rapist are generally, I think, written by women. They may not be anatomically explicit, but the harmful aspect of the fantasy is the idea that it is OK and even desirable for a woman to be raped, something conveyed through the emotional text and subtext of a scene, not the physical details. Personally, I find the explicitness less offensive than the romantic rape fantasy.

One writer who deals with the complexity of the Stockholm-syndrome type of situation is Kathryn Harrison. The only novel of hers I've read is The Binding Chair (see review), which doesn't tackle this as directly as I believe some of her other novels do, but it does give me a sense of how she would approach the subject. It's about a Chinese woman whose feet were bound during the last generation when this was done. Harrison deals quite frankly with both the horribleness of foot-binding and the sexually charged nature, for both sexes, of the bound foot. The novel romanticizes nothing, retaining the squirmy ickiness of the association between sex and pain/deformation. It's not a book for every reader, but is a good example of how a novel can deal with this type of subject in an honest rather than an exploitative way.
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Divia
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Post by Divia » Tue October 11th, 2011, 10:54 pm

Wasnt there a soap oprea where this happened? Luke and Laura? I think I saw something about it a long time agao when I was younger. When I was a teen I waslike um :confused:
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Post by Misfit » Wed October 12th, 2011, 12:08 am

[quote=""Divia""]Wasnt there a soap oprea where this happened? Luke and Laura? I think I saw something about it a long time agao when I was younger. When I was a teen I waslike um :confused: [/quote]

Luke and Laura. Patch and Kayla. Jack and Jennifer. Who else was there?
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Susan
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Post by Susan » Wed October 12th, 2011, 12:25 am

[quote=""Misfit""]Luke and Laura. Patch and Kayla. Jack and Jennifer. Who else was there?[/quote]

Jack raped Kayla and Lawrence Alamain raped Jennifer (I'm a long-time Days of Our Lives fan.) There was never anything negative between Patch and Kayla.
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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Wed October 12th, 2011, 12:30 am

[quote=""Susan""]Jack raped Kayla and Lawrence Alamain raped Jennifer (I'm a long-time Days of Our Lives fan.) There was never anything negative between Patch and Kayla.[/quote]

Thank you. It's been soooooooooo long, but I could have swore Patch raped Kayla. Or was it just all his yelling?
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