This, again?

So Paul Kemp wrote a thing. “Why I Write Masculine Stories.”

Both Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig responded. Probably other people did too, and I haven’t seen them, because I am writing a thesis and oh god oh god my life is a BLACK HOLE AND EVERYTHING IS DISAPPEARING –


So Kemp has written some books, and he wrote a thing about why they are masculine stories. (And how he’s not anti-woman and why no one should jump down his throat.) But there’s a problem here.* And because I’m cranky, I’m going to add my two cents pointing it out.

Kemp is basically framing the positive attributes of honour culture – among them defence of people less capable of defence than oneself, honesty, loyalty, self-discipline and true friendship – as essentially gendered, and ignoring the problems that creates. Framing it thusly removes women a priori from the category of those expected to participate in (capable of) honourable acts.

That’s prime retrograde bullshit right there, under the guise of “traditional masculinity.”

His comment in reply to Simon Spanton brings this problem a little more clearly into view, where he asserts that what would be cowardly in a man is seen as normal for a woman. Whatever his intentions, that right there reinforces a worldview in which femaleness is lesser than maleness.

I’m tired of treading this ground. I can’t quite express all my inchoate frustrations with it without resorting to expletives, so I’m just going to say:


*Quite aside from some apparent confusion over the Roman term virtus, but I’ll leave that to the Latinists.

11 thoughts on “This, again?

  1. “… what would be cowardly in a man is seen as normal for a woman. ”

    Isn’t the key here “is seen as”? The problem is that he wants to reinforce beliefs that have no business being reinforced. Just because something is commonly “seen”, doesn’t mean it should be.

  2. And I also think that anybody who feels the need to justify himself like that, but turns off comments when he gets any push back, obviously knows he’s way out on a limb.

  3. His target audience for that post was obviously David Gilmore i.e. “What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. […] Real guy-guys”-man.

  4. I am so sick of personality traits being defined as masculine or feminine, as if that had anything to do with anything! Why not, “I write about honor,” or “I write about stoicism.” Why the hell limit oneself? Why shouldn’t women also get the chance to let someone younger or weaker into the boat instead?

    Also, I’m pretty sure the Romans understood that women could show virtus! Lucretia, Cloelia, Arria, etc. Okay, some of them are mythical, but still!

  5. Yes, to all of this. If it post had been introspective, exploring his own motivations for doing things, his own history, that would have been one thing. But from the start it was prescriptive and gender essentialist rather than descriptive, trying to draw boundaries around what he writes (and what other people are) rather than making connections between his experiences and his actions. And it just kept getting worse.

  6. Pingback: First Gender Debate of the Year – Hurray! | Cora Buhlert

  7. Pingback: World Wide Websday: January 15, 2014 | Fantasy Literature: Fantasy and Science Fiction Book and Audiobook Reviews

  8. Pingback: Linkspam: 01/17/14 — The Radish.

  9. Pingback: What Star Wars Doesn’t Need Right Now «

  10. Pingback: Sunday Links, January 19, 2014 | Like Fire

Comments are closed.