¿Quien es esa nina? Why, the Wheel of Time Reread Redux, of course!
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Before we begin: OMG you guys, it turns out I DID get to go to JordanCon 2016!
Hahahaha, y’all are mad and beautiful people. I grinned for days, no lie. Hugs to every last oneaya.
Chapter 35: The Falcon
“I scent something strange in a party of travelers such as yours, and strange trails are what Hunters look for.”
[Perrin] blinked; there was no mistaking that emphasis. “A Hunter? You? You cannot be a Hunter. You’re a girl.”
You’re a girl!
Yep. There it is. The three word phrase which encapsulates and summarizes, in infuriating succinctness, the centuries-old condescending (and infantilizing) incredulity that is the bane of every woman’s existence who has ever dared to aspire to something more than the world has told her she is allowed to do, or think, or be. It’s all the more condescending for how often the speaker doesn’t even realize that fact. You’re A Girl, so the idea that you can or want to do X thing is just unthinkable. Or even worse, laughable. You’re a girl. How dare you.
This is a thing that I think every woman I have ever met in my life has had to confront, in lesser or greater form, one way or another, whether they realized it or not. And in most stories, its appearance would garner from me—well, anger, of course, but it’s a type of anger that has a significant portion of grim resignation mixed in. By which I mean, in most contexts, the appearance of You’re A Girl is upsetting, but not particularly surprising.
But, I gotta say, I really do find it surprising here. Even now, after all these years.
Maybe it’s just me (but really, I don’t think it’s just me), but I have always felt this attitude in Jordan’s Randland to be particularly incongruous—not to mention irritating. It’s one thing to see this kind of statement in a setting where casual sexism towards women is a regular thing, but it’s quite another to see it in a context where supposedly prejudice against women is not only not a thing, but it’s actually supposed to be the other way around.
Jordan justifies this attitude in various places by having his characters express the opinion that women in mainstream Randland don’t do warrior-type stuff because they feel it is beneath them, rather than that they have not been allowed to do it, but this is… kind of a wonky justification, at best, in my view. Certainly, if that were the case, it would not support the kind of blatant astonishment Perrin displays here at the notion that a Hunter of the Horn could be a girl, shock, gasp. At most, his level of surprise should be no more than that of discovering that a boy he met had chosen to become a ballet dancer. Because maybe ballet is a little more the purview of the female dancer, but it’s not like male ballet dancers are some incredible fairy tale, either.
I just feel like in a supposedly mostly-gender-egalitarian society like mainstream Randland purports itself to be, that finding a woman choosing to do something that is generally a more male-oriented profession should not be cause for so much over-the-top amazed whatthefuckery on Perrin’s part as is displayed here. It should just not be that shocking, is my point.
Note that this is with the definite caveat that outside of “traditional” mainland Randland culture—i.e. the Seanchan, the Aiel, and even the Sharans—women warriors appear to be very much a normal thing, so it’s certainly not like I am accusing Jordan of believing that no woman could be a warrior, or anything like that.
It’s more that I think it is kind of a strange discrepancy to imagine a society where women are (sort of) the dominant gender, and yet are also apparently so strenuously uninterested in protecting that society, to the point where it seems sufficiently bizarre a notion to Perrin that he would blurt it out like that. That just seems very odd, to me.
Chapter 36: Daughter of the Night
And similarly, when it comes to strange discrepancies re: gender and societal attitudes towards them in “mainstream” Randland, equally bizarre to me is the Superboys’ overwhelming disposition towards chivalry, to the point of refusing to acknowledge women as a genuine threat even when they obviously are threats.
But even weirder than that, in a strange inside-out way, is Rand’s behavior in this chapter, where he casually beheads a woman like it ain’t no thang, with (apparently) only the flimsiest of proof that she was genuinely Real Live Evil and ergo deserved such an execution.
I dunno. I’m aware that it’s sort of hypocritical of me to be appalled by Rand’s actions in this chapter, but I defend it by observing that it’s not on a feminist level that I am objecting to it, but more that it seems wildly out of character for him to do it. I regard Rand’s chivalry as a character flaw on his part, but it’s still something that is a part of his character—a quite fundamental part of his character, in fact. So just blatantly ignoring that aspect of his personality, as this chapter seems to, is offensive to me on a writer level rather than a feminist one, if that makes any sense.
I guess the rationale is that Rand is seriously feeling the crazy in this chapter (and, really, in most of the novel), and so that’s why he’s so nonchalant about killing a woman even though later the notion becomes such a source of endless angst to him, but… enh. It’s still just weird.
But, again, this is also the scene where Rand lines up a bunch of dead corpses to kneel to him, soooo, yeah. Safe to say that Rand is not exactly playing with a full deck at this point.
I dunno, the rationales are there if you want to accept them. But both of these chapters have left me with that little tilt of my head of “ooookay”. Make of it what you will.
And that’s all the things I have to say for the nonce, kids! Come back next Tuesday for more, and more you shall get, yeah? Yeah! Whoo!