girls girls

One thing has bothered me about the novels in this class. All of them are written by men. This itself doesn't bother me, but I feel like it's clear from the writing that they are written by men. Two of the books dealt with WWII, which is typically a masculine topic. Otherwise, women had very small roles. The Mendleson article on the encyclopedic novel mentioned this trait, but I still found it tiresome for me personally. Not only do women have small roles, but if they appear in the novel, they will have sex with one of the main characters sooner or later (usually, at least). This insistence of women in relation to male sexuality is, in my opinion, problematic because these novels cannot seem to escape it. Perhaps if the books were shorter it wouldn't bother me so much…but after so many pages, I sort of expect a rounded female character who doesn't have to have sex with someone. I think it reveals a certain amount of ignorance on the part of the author. This is fine, but I should think at least one of the authors would be able to write better female characters. I believe that there are male authors who can write females. I also think it's problematic that the encyclopedic novel is supposed to give a range of a society or represent and era but they are so male-oriented. They (the authors) are missing a huge part of humanity.

I was kind of disappointed with how Amy turned out in the end of Cryptonomicon. I had such high hopes for her at the beginning of the novel--she seemed like a strong woman who rode her own agenda, instead of that of a man. But towards the end she just jumps Randy and then it's pretty much assumed that they'll get married/live happily ever after. What happened to her? Out of all the female characters we've read about (which really isn't that many), I didn't expect this from her.

Yeah she is a little lame, in some ways. I think it was a little predictable/flat to have her so sexually aggressive. I think that's more of a sterotype of strong women: they must just jump on men. I'm glad I'm not alone in being disappointed.

I don't know. I am torn on the topic of Amy Shaftoe. I kind of like her earlier gung-ho tough woman depiction and I like how she is not a stereotypical Lara Croft sort of sexpot-- I mean, she was a virgin! I guess her character did wrap up sort-of oddly; that sex scene was very anticlimactic. But I do like how even though she was shot with an arrow, she still tried to shoot Andrew Loeb with her little pistol. I love how self-sufficient and present she is. I guess she isn't perfect, but I did enjoy her character. By the way, I think for a man like Randy, a girl does have to jump him if she wants to get anywhere with him in the next century.

Maybe the novels are trying to depict an historical and cultural moment that is itself male-dominated and (arguably) the worse off for it? I think the novels are at their most interesting when they seem to criticize their own need to encapsulate everything, because it's those moments when the texts are aware of their own limitations (like the lack of women). But I don't find the lack to be problematic in and of itself; in fact, there is something deeply ingenuous, to me, about a male author willfully not trying to depict female experience.

I also don't think that the male authors we've been reading are purposefully trying to portray all femals as hypersexual bimbos. Maybe this feeling of disappointment is a reaction the author was trying to evoke in his audience? Maybe this just prvoes that men don't understand women at all?

Whatever the case, I admit, I do wish for better female characters in the books we've read. What happened to the good ol' virtuous virginal heroines? Oh, that's right...they don't exist in modern society.

And by the way, Surgio, I love you for this: "By the way, I think for a man like Randy, a girl does have to jump him if she wants to get anywhere with him in the next century."

I too used to think that the novels (and authors) were completely conscious of their male-domination and were trying to make some sort of point about the negative effects of this. But if this is their goal, they don't do it very well, because the negative effects are never showcased as blatantly (if at all?) as the male view is. I definitely think Stephenson is aware of what he's doing (because it's pretty obviously written from a male perspective) and probably Gravity's Rainbow too, but the other books I'm not so sure. And I do respect authors for not trying to depict an experience they know nothing about, but why are all four of the masterworks we've read written by men who know nothing about women? Why are these perspectives the ones who encompass a national culture? I definitely think there are male authors who can provide insight into a women's perspective. I guess these just aren't the authors we've read? I don't know.

I've been thinking a lot about the females represented in these novels and I think that we have to recognize that all the books are written men. I noticed that with all of the books we are never allowed inside the head of any of the female characters, we only read the thoughts of the male characters. All the books need males and females for the stories to work, and I think that we should recognize that none of these male authors are attempting to say that they can create truly realistic 3-dimensional females.

Also, today in class I said that Randy might as well have been masturbating, instead of having sex with Amy. It seemed like he was using her to satisfy himself, with no thoughts about her pleasure or enjoyment. His grandfather, Lawrence sends the same message. On page 572 it says, "A few minutes later, Waterhouse and cCmndhd go downstairs, headed for "church," which in Waterhouse's secret code, means "headquarters of the Mary-fucking campaign." I mean, he ends up marrying her, and he gets nervous around her, but we don't see him falling in love with her, as much as we see him needing a release for his sexual tension. He says that she has some special effect on him, but his use of the word "fucking" makes me think it could have been anyone.

i had the same reaction

I was really put off by that section. On one hand, the way he kept saying how he wanted "to fuck Mary" over and over was kind of funny, because the reader is just thinking "jeez...what a hypersexual, desperate guy...chill out!" (or at least I was). On the other hand, the use of the word "fucking," like you said, made it seem as if Mary was just an object for him to release his desires upon. I really liked Waterhouse's character up to that point, and I wanted him to view Mary more...romantically, I guess. But maybe that's just me being too idealistic.