Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Men Who Hate Women

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Strange Horizons maintains a list of Stories We’ve Seen Too Often. Number thirty is:

Brutal violence against women is depicted in loving detail, often in a story that’s ostensibly about violence against women being bad.

I’ve been thinking about this recently because whilst I was on holiday I read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson. The original Swedish title is Män som hatar kvinnor which literally translates as Men Who Hate Women. Larsson was a journalist and obvious held strong and sincere beliefs about the evils of violence towards woman. However, when this was translated into fiction something unfortunate happened, he became complicit with the very thing he was decrying.

At the centre of the book are the sex crimes of a serial killer that, yes, are depicted in loving detail. Worse, a significant portion of the book is devoted to an elaborate, preposterous revenge fantasy. For this revenge to be possible the heroine of the book must first be brutally raped. It is gratuitous, grotesque and offensive.

As this article by Melanie Newman points out, this sort of thing is nothing new for blockbuster thrillers – James Patterson is a repeat offender – although it is particularly disappointing from someone professing to be a feminist. She concludes: “only misogynists make money from rape.”

More recently, The Guardian picks up on a short post by novelist and critic Jessica Mann on the same issue:

Authors must be free to write and publishers to publish. But critics must be free to say they have had enough. So however many more outpourings of sadistic misogyny are crammed on to the bandwagon, no more of them will be reviewed by me.

Val McDermid responds but obviously has half an eye on an old slapfight.

Written by Martin

30 October 2009 at 16:27

One Response

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  1. I have no problem with rape as a plot point, any more than I have with murder, assault or any other deeply unpleasant act. I do object when it’s lingered over for no reason other than prurience.

    Andrew Ducker

    30 October 2009 at 17:21

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