Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sexism in the Realms

Being ill, I wanted to read an easy book this weekend. I chose R. A. Salvatore's The Dark Elf Trilogy, a set of Forgotten Realms novels describing the youth of that well-known D&D character, the good drow Drizzt Do'Urden. They were pretty bad, of course, but just the kind of light entertainment I was looking for. Except...

There has been some discussion of sexism in roleplaying games on the internet, among which John Kim's interesting and shocking Gender Roles in RPG Texts. Although Salvatore's books are not roleplaying games, the fact that they are official TSR-published novels set in one of the most popular roleplaying settings in history makes them relevant to this discussion. And boy, these books are so sexist that I couldn't believe what I was reading.

Not that Salvatore ever says anything like "women are inferior to men". I suspect that he is not even aware of his own sexism, and that - what is even worse - most of his readers never notice it. But look beyond the surface, and what you see will not make you happy.
  • The corrupted elves known as the drow are also the only elves with a matriarchal society.
  • All dark elfs in the book are evil, except for two. Both of these good dark elfs are male.
  • Drizzt Do'Urden is good because his father was also good - the implication being that blood carries morality - but Drizzt's full sister is evil. Perhaps the father's blood wasn't strong enough to defeat the inherent evilness of women?
  • Two drow characters in the series show some understanding of what it means to be a father. However, none of the drow females in the books has anything even approaching a mother instinct. In fact, they seem to believe that sacrificing your just-orn baby to the spider goddess is the most normal thing in the world.

  • About one thousand times Salvatore shows us how male drow are humiliated and repressed by female drow. Presumably, we should be appalled by this. But when Drizzt comes into contact with a human society where the men make all important decisions, he does not even seem to realise that the same kind of humiliation and repression is going on here.

  • All characters in the books that excel in any way are men. There are women who are said to excel, but they are never shown in action. Quite in general, the men always defeat the women.

  • The strong drow males are strong because of their own innate and trained powers. The strong drow females are strong only because they have been given powers by the spider goddess Lolth. As soon as they fall out of Lolth's favour, they are helpless. In other words: female power is unnatural.

  • Even worse, the actual women in the series fall out of Lolth's favour because they are not effective enough at humiliating ans repressing their men. In other words: female power is unnatural and can only be sustained by repressing the natural power of males.

  • Then, we get to sexuality. Salvatory luckily spares us the details, but the ritual that is the graduation ceremony of the drow schools consists of (1) all students are dragged into a sexual orgy by the priestesses of Lolth; and (2) the best of the student-priestesses has the honour of having intercourse with a huge demon. Alle women are whores who prefer fucking rough beasts?

  • To make that point worse, one of Drizzt's sister already has lustful thoughts about him the moment he is born.

  • Drizzt's father is a good drow, which is frowned upon, but his Matron Mother allows him to live for two reasons. (1) He is the greatest fighter in the realm. (2) He is very good in bed. A single good man surviving by impressing the evil tyrant women with his sexual prowess? In your dreams, mister Salvatore!
This seriously makes me wonder how sexist the rest of TSR's offerings are. And what about fantasy in general?


Afterthought

If you search for "drow + sexism" on the net, you will find people talking about the sexism of the drow, where they mean the fact that the drow themselves are sexist because they repress men. Isn't it ironic that in trying to show the evils of sexism, people like Salvatore actually reveal themselves to be sexist?

31 comments:

  1. ...and we haven't even gotten to the "dark skin" = "evil race" thing.

    Tangent: Despite consisting of gorgeous books, I got rid of the Iron Kingdoms products I started to collect a while back. Why?

    There are two main gods in the setting. The good one is male, the evil one is female. Of the minor gods, I can only remember one other female: a dwarf goddess of (big surprise) home and hearth.

    Add to that the racial descriptions including, to the last one, a paragraph on the ways in which that race's women are hot, and I just gave up.

    I guess it's the genre. :-/

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  2. About half your arguments form a really good case for the predominance of sexism in these books. I say this without having read them or having any intention of doing so.

    However, about half your arguments are simply "cases of exclusion" which are weak arguments at best, outright fallacies at worst. The lack of something doesn't imply or prove the existance of something else. The strong tendency toward encouraging fatherly roles or masculine ideals, for example, doesn't suggest any detest or prejudice against motherly roles or feminine ideals despite that one is absent and the other is not. Likewise, the fact that the only good elves are male doesn't necessarily suggest anything in a case study of exactly two.

    I would suggest removing these weaker "exclusion" arguments and focussing more on your arguments that show an effective and outright indecency toward females and feminine ideals.

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  3. Buzz,

    Salvatore actually does a good job of not being racist: there are no scenes where dark and light skin colours are contrasted, for instance.

    That Iron Kingdoms stuff sounds pretty bad too. :(


    Rahvin,

    Obviously, that all good dark elves in the books are male is not a valid argument for the books' sexism. Alone, it doesn't say anything at all. But when there are many such examples - and I have listed several - they start forming a pattern, and it is the pattern that is sexist.

    I agree that maybe my indiscriminate mixing of stand-alone arguments and mere pattern-indicating examples is not the strongest rhetorical strategy. :)

    Regards,
    Victor

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  4. “About one thousand times Salvatore shows us how male drow are humiliated and repressed by female drow. Presumably, we should be appalled by this.”

    Appalled? By men being humiliated and sexually abused by hot dark elf babes? I think there might be another presumable response… (I haven’t read the book, though.)

    “A single good man surviving by impressing the evil tyrant women with his sexual prowess?”

    There you go. Sounds like a pretty good BARBAREN! scenario, by the way. ;o)

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  5. Never been much of a fantasy reader ;)

    To respond to rahvin: I personally think that taken together, the less explicit exclusion cases are a very strong argument. They demonstrate the sexism below the surface. My guess is that Salvatore used them intuitively, which means they reflect either his sexist nature, or the feeling he has about the whole setting (this would mean the (un)conscious sexist tendencies of a lot of people).

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  6. Bear in mind that the culture of the D&D dark elf was largely set in place long before Salvatore ever came onto the scene. I don't deny your arguments but recall that Salvatore was standing on the shoulders of giants (or midgets) when he wrote what he did.

    I also seem to recall the character of Catta-brie as a rather strong female in the series, though the argument that she is the token female could easily be made.

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  7. Hi,

    I really didn't know what side all of you were on. I mean, are you complaining? Seriously, they are good, books, so... who really gives a shit?

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  8. I’m sorry for the grammar and orthography. I am an outlander and dont use your language often. I know that it's a spoiler, but please read it: You are really prejudicative calling Salvatore a sexist knowing nearly nothing about drow nor the FR. I reply that You look beyond the surface a second time  This is my responce to your theorys:
    1. The wrighter did not invent the drow nor Lolth, hes not responsible for their matriarchy (that sounds realy funny). Evil duergar are patriarchal – does that make in some weaked way the worlds authors double sexists? Wth?
    2. That argument is realy paranoic. Besize there is a cult of Eilistraee not mencioned by Salvatore – a good female deity of the drow that has more female then male worshipers.
    3. If the goody-good geen was inferior to his evil allel (rather obvious) there would be a 25% or 0% probability to inherit it. Dont you think, that the fact, that Drizzts sisters were more indoctrinated and directly linked to the evil demon- deity influenced them a bit? There is in fact no adnotation to be found that women are more evil then men.
    4. There are only two good drows in the serie, others are fiends. What do you expect?
    5. I dont remember no humiliation (I readed it long time ago), but i know for sure that in the vast mejority of the FR human populations there is no such thing and women are treated with respect and can be whoever they are. Full emancipation roothed in tradition. The exception are some primitive societis, were people live like cavemen.
    6. I cant remember, so i wont argue, but thats rather normal in the books. Take any other book with lot of fighting gouing on and caunt woman-fighters. I’m not saying, that I’m allright with it, but that is nothing, that You dont have to deal with in other books.
    7. That’s absurde. This kind of weakness hounts all spellcasters. When a priest/priestess (not only drow worship gods) looses her/his powers she/he still has her/his armor and fighting prowess. A wizard without his magic (antimagic zone for example) is truly helpless.
    8. Your frightening me!.. Every cleric must falow his diety dogmas to attein their power, one of Lolths dogma is that men are inferior. Nearly all drow are evil and will exploit such a thing if they can.
    9. Now I’m scared.Your interpretation is highly subiective. The drow students are druged and You readet what happens when they dont want to participate in the ritual. The one who’s mating with the demon does it not for plesure but to become pregnant and bere a demonic child, that is a blessing of her godess. I doubt, that the author inventet that.
    10. She’s a pervert. Drow are evil and screwed in the head, she is no exepcion.
    11. She kills him when he becomes replaceable as a weapon master, so Your wrong.
    Why did I put an effort to tell You this? I dont even like those damn books. It’s probably that day after day I hear somebody yealing: “OMGosh, thats politicliy incorrect, let’s torch it!!!” or “It might offend someone, lets torch it!!!”. Salvatore wroth a book, it becomed popular, so now its sexist. Rowling did the same and the Katholic church is aginst it becouse it’s drawning children to occultism and satanism . People theese days are censoring everything, falling in a real paranoia. I am kind of liberal and this is freaking me out.
    – Ratel.

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  9. I might have to get that book. Most fantasy these days is so feminist, it's sickening. At least this would be a change of pace from.

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  10. You are an arrogant idiot. You should never read a book again. Go join the army.

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  11. I just happened upon this looking for something totally different.. but I have to say... wow you are one petty person. It is a fantasy book set in a mythical realm. Just becuase it does not fit your idea of socially acceptable does not mean there is anything wrong with it or the individual that wrote it.

    Some of us like a break from the politically correct nightmare that we have to live in day to day.

    Youdo not know much about TFR as a whole and that makes your entire argument invalid. You do not know enough about the subject matter being discussed.

    Did you read the harry potter books? Most of the people in leadership and positions of power are men. Does that make the women who wrote them a closet sexcist to? Oh and none of them are black... actually theres only one mentioned black character up to the point I have read... so is she racist to?

    But then again after that crap she pulled in India... I would not doubt she is a racist... but thats besides the point and the point is you are a idiot.

    I have been reading fantasy books since I was a small child and I am an avid DnD gamer.

    Until I read this post none of what you mentioned ever occured to me... why you ask? Becuase it is a fantasy book. F A N T A S Y.

    To the post above me implying that if someone is stupid they should join the army... wow go shoot yourself.

    You just failed at life.

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  12. There are plenty of good, evil, capable, incapable, moral and immoral characters of both sexes throughout the many Drizzt novels

    If anything, I think Salvatore's books portray women as more capable than they are in reality (when have you ever heard of female warriors, etc. etc.)

    It's also a good break from the norm in movies, where almost every bad guy or bully is actually MALE

    Anyways, if you had read the books following the Dark Elf series, there's the characters Catti-Brie and Aulustriel who are shown as capable women, who are definitely non-evil

    I think your article is pushing it...there isn't going to be sexism in every aspect of everything you will encounter in life, certainly not in these books.

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  13. i don't think that this argument is valid in a single point it makes, first of all,you are paranoid to look that deeply into a book like this, and you read things that are not actually there. for example, Drizztz sister is no evil inherently, she shares the genes of her father as well, if you had read the story instead of searching for points of sexism you would have noticed this.
    also the human societies are not run by men, the largest city that Drizzt really comes across in the first five books is run by a capable and good woman, Alustriel
    other than the Drow, almost all the other evil characters are men.
    also, in the demon mating ritual mentiones, the girl obviously does not enjoy it for its own pleasure, but for the benefit in power it gives her.
    as mentioned before, Cattie-brie is shown in action and kicks ass, as does Alustriel
    and actually in Drow society it is shown that the women are stronger physically than the men

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  14. Intersting as always, Victor. (And, I wonder how interested you would be to discover that you're basically using Mill's Methods to drive your inferences?)

    Technically, what you're talking about is not exactly sexism. That is, it falls under sexism: but sexism equally includes describing characters according to stereotypes.

    Thus sexism may be a symptom of laziness around providing detail, for example, rather than outright hostility of the kind you describe. What you're talking about is more particularly misogyny.

    By the way, are you aware of the historical link between sci-fi and porn novels?


    Conrad.

    ps - I haven't read these novels. I haven't read TSR novels in years. (Two decades -- Good Lord! Not only am I old, but TSR is old!)

    But your discussion of them reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend's wife. She had given up on reading romance novels, because the men were always stereotypes (she said) and she didn't like the rape scenes (one per novel, I guess).

    She turned to pulp fantasy because (she said) the sex scenes always involved the man being tied up...

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  15. While you do make some valid points, and yes, the drow are a sexist representation of women you must understand the context of which they where written; you also missed out on some crucial factors of the drow and their history/society in general.

    1. As stated before, their culture was not developed by R.A Salvatore.

    2. The time in which they where developed and who they where developed by; they where first included in the 1977 "monster manual" as enemies, possibly by gyax or his associate. Make of that what you will, but political correctness wasn't as prevalent as it is now.

    3. Drow women must work hard to develop and maintain priestly powers; a cleric (If you have *ever* played D&D) develops new spells and abilities as they level up, experience adding to that. They have to develop their clerical powers as much as a wizard must develop his arcane powers.

    4. There are positive FEMALE representations of drow in the FR expanded universe: Qilue Veladorn, a benevolent drow priestess of Eilistraee, Eilistraee herself, and Liriel Baenre.

    5. Male drow are just as clerical as the female drow, if they become priests of Vhaerun.

    6. The drow are subject to a mad goddess, and are amoral, a bit like orcs. Perhaps what I mean to say is they have no sense of morality as we understand and this is equal between the sexes. e.g. A male would not hesitate to kill a female if it means advancement in rank.

    7. Female drow are under two times as much scrutiny as any male drow; they run their society and positions are highly sought after; these girls are constantly on their toes.

    8. They are for the most part well written "evil" women; I have only read one Drizzt novel and all of Elaine Cunningham's drow novels, and they're cunning, clever and brilliant players in drow politics; wouldn't want to be on ANY of the Baenre's bad sides.

    But all in all, you make some worthwhile points that are nonetheless pretty obvious. But the evilness of the drow make them so damn fun to rp. It could be worse. It could be the gor novels.

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  16. Thanks for your comments, Snaga. I am glad to hear that other works about the drow have moved away from the stereotypes portrayed by Salvatore.

    As for obviousness -- one would hope so, but some of the comments here have shown clearly that what is obvious to you and me is not always obvious to others.

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  17. I'm hoping 4-5 of the 'anonymous' posts above were made by the same person. Lots of trolling going on here. Oh, and yes, R.A. Salvatore's novels are extremely sexist, but I think it more or less reflects the 'boys club' mentality most fantasy rpgs revolve around.

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  18. I haven't read the Drizzt novels, but I did read the Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends trilogies a couple of decades ago, and tried to re-read it recently, but gave up after the first Chronicles book, due to chronic deus ex machina overdose.

    But as I recall it, there's rather less sexism than what you describe the Drizzt trilogy as containing.

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  19. I have to say that you are very much picking and choosing certain things from a single trilogy that is actually a part of a much larger project simply to suit your own fabricated perceptions. In fact, I would dare say that you already had preconceived opinions before you were even done.

    But rather than rant, I am simply going to re-state each of your arguments and then make a counter-point. Starting with...

    "- The corrupted elves known as the drow are also the only elves with a matriarchal society."

    - You seem to be assuming that since the drow are the only elves with a matriarchal society that all the other elven societies must be patriarchal. That alone is actually a very sexist viewpoint. Can a society only be ran two ways? By men or by women? Of course not. In fact, most of the elven societies are ran with equal gender roles so really one could say that the drow represent the idea that no society should be ran in a way that alienates another people regardless of gender, race, etc.
    OR it could be that it is a fantasy setting and the drow are a fantasy race created evil for the purpose of plot.

    "- All dark elfs in the book are evil, except for two. Both of these good dark elfs are male."

    This is wrong. Drizzt often reflects on the idea that his people are "naturally evil" as this is a main theme in this particular trilogy. It is actually mentioned in other books (such as the Icewind Dale trilogy which actually came out before the Dark Elf trilogy) that there is a group of drow who live on the surface who are dedicated to a moral lifestyle and who have similar stories to Drizzt about escaping the iniquitous society of their people. This alone suggests that despite overwhelming statistics, no race or species is inherently evil and that we are all products of our environment. Also, Drizzt's full sister Vierna (her father was also Zak and Malice) was explored to sharing similar moral feelings with her brother Drizzt but was shown to very much be a product of her environment. Is every young person who grows up in the ghetto an inherently bad person? No. Does it excuse certain actions? Of course not. But it does explain them. It could just as easily be said that this is what is represented in Vierna's character as opposed to your sexism theory.
    It could also be explained that the books are geared towards teenage boys who statistically speaking relate better to male characters and a lot of action and so it is not a huge surprise that a lot of the main characters and hero-types are male. Not to mention that it would be foolish to present every single society in the Forgotten Realms as exactly the same because that would ruin the entire idea of having an engaging fictional setting. It would also be naive to try to ignore the fact that gender/race/etc. roles are fully equal in all current and past human societies. That's just silly.

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    1. "- About one thousand times Salvatore shows us how male drow are humiliated and repressed by female drow. Presumably, we should be appalled by this. But when Drizzt comes into contact with a human society where the men make all important decisions, he does not even seem to realise that the same kind of humiliation and repression is going on here."

      You actually ruined your own argument in this point with one word. Presumably. You've just admitted that you are making assumptions about something that you obviously do not fully understand. When Drizzt makes it to the surface, the main setting include Icewind Dale and the Silver Marches (I am not knowledgeable in Forgotten Realms geography so Icewind Dale might be a part of the Silver Marches) and the Silver Marches main city is Silverymoon which is ran by one of the most well-known, influential and even powerful people in the Realms, Alustriel (a woman). You were obviously basing your presumptions off of the farm that Drizzt viewed when he first made it to the surface (the Thistledowns). Why do you find it so offensive that a family unit would have the man doing physical labor and the woman staying at home and taking care of the children? I would not be offended by a family that was established the other way around.

      "- Even worse, the actual women in the series fall out of Lolth's favour because they are not effective enough at humiliating ans repressing their men. In other words: female power is unnatural and can only be sustained by repressing the natural power of males."

      I am not normally offended by a person's ignorance of the lore of a fictional setting. If you don't know then you don't know. That is fine. But I do find it offensive when that person's ignorance of the lore leads them to wild accusations concerning such serious charges as sexism, racism, etc.
      The males' powers (such as being able to levitate, etc.) are granted through enchanted items that have been enchanted by the women and remains with them for so long as they remain in the favor of their goddess (as a quick side note, Drizzt went from living under the rule of a malevolent female god to that of a benevolent female god). So if the females fall out of faith with their goddess, that could very well sap the power from the males since the females' standing with their goddess is actually the SOURCE of the males' powers. In this way, the males in the society actually rely on the females for their strength.
      In terms of physical prowess, however it is stated multiple times that female drow are actually larger and stronger than the men.

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    2. And I'm done. Personally, I think you should feel ashamed of yourself. You are accusing Bob Salvatore of being a male chauvinistic sexist based off of self-professed assumptions of a world and lore that goes way, WAY beyond the three books you read (which were actually a prequel to another trilogy). Unless you simply did not like the books (it would seem like you did not), I would suggest you keep reading and get to know characters such as Catti-Brie who are strong females leads who make it a point to the men in their life (from an over-protective father to a very macho-wannabe husband) that she is perfectly capable of taking care of her (and also pulls her companions out of their own trouble, as well).
      When you read too deeply in to something, you are going to start connecting dots purposely to support something that you were obviously already looking for. If you are looking for it, you will find it even if it does not exist. Are you honestly telling me that you believe that the Drizzt books are a secret conspiracy by an evil, male chauvinistic man to discredit women? That sounds more like tin-foil hate paranoia, to me.

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    3. Alright, I re-read what I wrote and I feel kind of bad. I did not want to come across as being mean or anything and it was not my intention to insult anybody. I still stand by everything that I said. I just did not want it to come across as insulting.

      I'm all for reading in to things. When I read fiction, I love to analyze even little things that may or may not be directly related to the main plot. It's fun. I even come up with different theories or ideas (similar to this) but I never go so far as to come a full-blown confusion.

      I would never assume that I understand the moral complexities of a person simply because I read a piece of fiction they wrote. To bring up the idea or speak of the possibilities of such over-analyzing is one thing but to then exclaim them as the ultimate conclusion based off of vague and narrowly selected points strikes me as simply irresponsible.

      NOW I am done. Thanks

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    4. Thanks for your posts, Shawn. No reason to feel bad about them; you're a model of civility compared to some people who commented here.

      I'll reply in a bit more detail later today. I won't really be able to go into the details of my interpretation, because I read these books about 8 years ago and simply don't remember the details well enough to say anything sensible about them. But you make a few general points which I can say something about.

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    5. As I said, I won't be able to give a point-for-point defence of my original post, because my recollection of the books has grown too dim for that. And if anyone wants to point out that the original post is not the most closely argued piece I've ever written, then, yes, I recognise that.

      It is, however, not the case that I started reading these books with any preconceived opinions about whether they would be sexist or not. In fact, I don't think that topic was on my mind at all when I started reading the trilogy. If anything, I might have been on the lookout for a racist subtext, since -- as you may be aware -- Gygax has been severely criticised for making the only evil race of elves also be the only black race of elves. As far as I remember, Salvatore sort of sidesteps that issue by never bringing it up as a theme, and the books are not offensive when it comes to race.

      My experience of these books as sexist, then, really just came upon me as I was reading them, and was very strong. You may disagree with my conclusions, but I don't think it's fair to accuse me of having preconceived opinions about the work.

      Now I want to stress that I have not called Salvatore a "male chauvinistic sexist", and that I do not believe that these books are part of a "secret conspiracy by an evil, male chauvinistic man". As I make clear in the original post, I don't think Salvatore self-identifies as a sexist, would defend any explicit sexist claims, or is even aware of the sexist content of the books. In fact, that is what is so bad about bias and discrimination -- you can be part of it without being aware of it. I don't know Salvatore, but I'm willing to assume that he is a very nice person who doesn't look down on women. Unfortunately, being a very nice person who doesn't look down on women in no way safeguards you against writing sexist books. (Please note that I'm only applying the word "sexist" as an adjective to describe works or expressions, not as a noun to describe people. I don't think its productive to group people into "sexists" and "not sexists".)

      So when you write: "I would never assume that I understand the moral complexities of a person simply because I read a piece of fiction they wrote." I completely agree with the sentiment you express. I'm not judging Salvatore as a person, and I don't think I did so in the original post.

      (Though that post could have been more subtle in several places. A sentence like "In your dreams, mister Salvatore!" is something I wouldn't write now, eight years older and -- we may hope -- wiser.)

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    6. I have trouble following some of your arguments. For instance, you say: "You seem to be assuming that since the drow are the only elves with a matriarchal society that all the other elven societies must be patriarchal." I don't think I'm assuming anything about other elven societies being patriarchal. Surely you agree with me that Gygax's choice to make a single evil elven race, and then make them both black and female-led, was an instance of very poor judgement. As I said, Salvatore just doesn't pay much attention to skin colour, which is smart. Now he couldn't do the same thing for gender relations, and in fact, gender relations are central to the book. Really, given the somewhat troubling premise he had been handed down from Gygax, he should have been very careful to explicitly counter any appearance of sexism; and there would have been many ways to do that without compromising basic facts about the drow already established in the canon. I was evidently not very impressed by his efforts in this regard.

      You write: "It would also be naive to try to ignore the fact that gender/race/etc. roles are [not] fully equal in all current and past human societies." (I've added the word "not", because I assume that's what you mean.) That's also very true. I do not in any way object to the depiction of sexist societies; that would be weird and counterproductive. Racism and sexism should be discussed, not ignored. What I objected against was the way that women are depicted in these books; and also the weird asymmetry where Salvatore goes out of his way to show that repressing males is a bad thing, but then, when he gets the chance to show that repressing females is a bad thing too, he completely ignores the opportunity.

      Anyway, that's getting a bit too close to detailed argument about the specifics of the books, and as I said, I don't recall them well enough to be able to give those arguments.

      I don't think we're going to be in final agreement about these books, but I hope to have convinced you of three things.

      1. I'm not accusing Salvatore of being a chauvinist sexist; I'm merely accusing him of having written books that are -- very probably unintentionally -- sexist.

      2. When you start writing about a fantasy world where there's a mostly white, mostly male-dominated population, and then there's also one group of black, female-dominated people, *and that latter group is radically evil*, you've manoeuvred yourself into very risky territory. You should then handle this material with extreme care, and prove to the reader that you're aware of what is troublesome about the premise, and that you can handle it with sufficient subtlety that it actually illuminates sexism rather than simply perpetuating it.

      3. While Salvatore chooses to focus on sexism, he certainly doesn't handle it with a lot of care. (I think it's worse than that, but maybe we can agree on this weaker statement.)

      Cheers,
      Victor

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    7. I simply cannot agree that authors should feel the need to tip-toe around their narrative in order to avoid unconsciously broaching a touchy or offensive subject. When you get right down to it, a person could spend years writing the most politically correct book as to avoid all possible sub-texts and insinuations and someone out there would still find offense with it.

      I cannot speak for Gary Gygax or even much else to do with Dungeons & Dragons (they have been accused of everything from responsibility for delusional and mentally unstable teenagers to promoting Satanism). I could point out that during the time of Gygax, the D&D audience were primarily white, teenage males. But that is honestly neither here nor there. Maybe Gygax was a big ol' racist. Maybe he dressed up at night and rescued kittens from trees and other nefarious kitten traps. I know little about him beyond a smattering of inter-company lawsuits and so-on. Maybe it was a bad choice to make the only "evil" elven race in the same black and matriarchal. One can also point out that the way their skin is defined as ebony is actually an unnatural shade and that they also have red eyes and white hair.
      I understand that some people can unintentionally say something insensitive that might be taken as racist or sexist but if they did not honestly mean for it to come across as that way then can we really say that what they said was racist or sexist? Does interpretation automatically equal definition? I would say not.

      "I have trouble following some of your arguments. For instance, you say: "You seem to be assuming that since the drow are the only elves with a matriarchal society that all the other elven societies must be patriarchal." I don't think I'm assuming anything about other elven societies being patriarchal. Surely you agree with me that Gygax's choice to make a single evil elven race, and then make them both black and female-led, was an instance of very poor judgement."

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    8. I mentioned that you insinuated that all elven societies are patriarchal because you pointed out that the drow being matriarchal was rather sexist and you said that this was so BECAUSE they were the only matriarchal elven society. In reality, they are the only elven society (at least commonly known elven society because I'm not actually a D&D gamer and my knowledge of the world beyond a few choice novels is limited) that are run by any sort of dominant system. All other societies are actually gender-equal.
      In essence, one could argue that this shows that ANY kind of discrimination is wrong and does not represent a reasonable or ideal society. I mean, if the drow were patriarchal and not matriarchal but everything else about their culture was the same, would we still be having this discussion? Would you say that it is sexist towards men? Again, I have to say probably not.

      In the end, my main point is that even if you did not have any preconceived notions before reading the books, that you are only finding sexism in the theme because that is what you are interpreting it as. If I had a neurological symptom that caused my brain to interpret heat and being cold, that would not automatically make it so (that was a poor example but I'm not good at on-the-spot analogies).
      As for Salvatore's "careless handling" of sexism, well that goes back to a narrow interpretation. Who is to say that sexism ever crossed his mind while he was writing it? Salvatore did not choose to focus on sexism when he wrote the trilogy. It was never an intention. It was to tell Drizzt's story of growing up in an oppressive society. So those oppressors happened to be the females of the society. So what? Someone has to be the oppressor and if human history has taught us anything, it is not uncommon for those oppressors to share something (such as race, gender, religion, etc.) in common and use that force to keep the minority in line. When telling a story that takes place in a oppressive, matriarchal society, one cannot be surprised when most of the female characters in the books are evil. Why are two of the main characters (and heroes) male? Because they live in a society where males are oppressed. Just like any underdog struggling against the odds in a story, this fact makes them the protagonists of the story and thus paints them in a very positive light.

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    9. On a lighter note, I did not mean to imply that you were insulting Bob Salvatore. Granted, I feel like your wording was very poor, as you had pointed out. But you also said, "Isn't it ironic that in trying to show the evils of sexism, people like Salvatore actually reveal themselves to be sexist?" This was, in my opinion a horrid accusation. When did Salvatore ever say that sexism was the theme of his story? More than anything, the story of Drizzt's origins is to speak out against ANY forms of oppression and the drow (an oppressive society) helped him do that. As for race, he also touches on that and many times after the trilogy you read, Drizzt remarks how he is pre-judged, "Because of the color of my skin."

      "When you start writing about a fantasy world where there's a mostly white, mostly male-dominated population, and then there's also one group of black, female-dominated people, *and that latter group is radically evil*, you've manoeuvred yourself into very risky territory. You should then handle this material with extreme care, and prove to the reader that you're aware of what is troublesome about the premise, and that you can handle it with sufficient subtlety that it actually illuminates sexism rather than simply perpetuating it."

      If you have to prove that you are not racist, sexist, etc. then you might actually be. If I write a piece of fiction and someone takes offense to it then I will politely explain my reasoning and if this does not appease them then I am done. I do not feel the need to prove that I am not something that I'm not. I only feel the need to prove that I am that which I claim I am. I expect the same of people that I meet. Do not prove to me that you are not a bad person. Prove to me that you are a good person.
      Look at the revolution of comic books that is currently going on. How many characters have been re-made to represent some minority or another? Why? Because things like Marvel comics were made during a time that their majority audience was white, teenage males and thus, characters like the angsty teenage Peter Parker made an easy character for their majority audience to relate to. A lot of people are upset about some of these changes and more-or-less, I don't really care. In fact, some of it has even worked out for the better (Samuel L Jackson is a natural Nick Fury =] ).

      But Enough! I'm rambling. I hope that my comment is more organized than what I fear it actually is. I tried to use quotes as much as possible. Thank you for your response.

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  20. I think that by "flipping the script" and having male Drow in a repressed role actually calls attention to the fact that this is more often not the case in many cultures. It is a way of helping men to feel what it is like for many women who feel helpless or overlooked, and to open a discussion on how we can move forward together.

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  21. My god.. This person paid attention to absolutely none of the books. Drizz't was good because he was brought up by his father who is good. Being male has nothing to do with it.

    Vierna Do'Urden is evil because she was raised by clerics who were raised by matron mothers who are also evil. Males aren't allowed to interfere with the raising of a female child.

    Sacrificing your third son is completely normal to them because that's what indoctrination and religion can do to a perfectly sane and rational individual. It is also because the clerics consider male children to be useless and powerless. (Except for Wizards)

    Drizz't doesn't see the "repression" that doesn't exist because it isn't important enough for the author to draw focus to it because he's too busy fighting for his life against Barghest whelplings to avenge a farming family to worry about "repression".

    Female drow are also mentioned to be several times stronger than the more lithe male counterparts of their race, and are given training in the clerical weapons of Lolth (Maces and whips), but I guess you just overlooked that. How convenient of you to have done so.

    The orgy at the end of graduation is meant to signify just how corrupt as a society that the Drow who live in Menzoberranzan actually are. They live to inflict pain and suffering on others, and are more than willing to consort with the abyss to get their way.

    Vierna was shocked by the color of Drizz't's eyes, there was never any kind of lustful thoughts, this is just an idiot reading into something that doesn't exist. Immediately afterwards they decide whether or not they're going to sacrifice him depending on whether or not he's actually *blind*. How's that for "lust"?

    And the primary reasons that Matron Malice Do'Urden lets Zaknafein live is because he's the best Weapon Master in Menzoberranzan, and because he is the personal trainer for every soldier of her entire army, it has little to do with "how good he is in bed". At the time of the first book Homeland the Patron is Rizzen Do'Urden, not Zaknafein.

    Please read the books before you even consider writing any kind of critique on anything please.

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  22. Oh shut the fuck up and stop bitching, you idiot. It's the culture of a fictional race in a rather enjoyable book. Instead of trying to apply your pointless political correctness bullshit here, why not just enjoy it for fucking once?
    Find something to ENJOY, rather than something to look at, tear down, and ultimately do what you and your ilk enjoy doing and calling all those who enjoy the medium or the piece within the medium sexist.

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