Sexism and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series
by Abby Goldsmith
Page 1 of 2
"Separate But Equal."
There’s a slogan which most people associate with the propaganda against the
civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Separation is just a step away from
disadvantage and stereotype, which is a step away from oppression. For this
reason, I have trouble accepting the notion that "men are from Mars and women
are from Venus." We are all human, and gender crossovers do exist.
Robert Jordan makes a point in his Wheel of Time saga to starkly
delineate the separate properties of male and female. Everything in that world
is a balance between the two. Men and women have different functions and behave
in separate ways, and in Randland (as fans refer to it), no crossovers
In my article Robert Jordan: Genius or Hack?, I praised the author for his
powerful portrayal of female characters. While my opinion on that remains firm,
I left out my criticism. Here I’m going to let loose. I do have some bones to
pick about Robert Jordan’s apparent opinion of womenfolk.
Some uncomfortable examples:
Let’s go for worst first. As I recall, there was a scene where Perrin "put
Faile over his knee" until she couldn’t sit down later... meaning he spanked
her. Hello, domestic violence? Not once do we see a woman physically
humiliating her husband like this. Strangely, Faile forgives Perrin almost
immediately. I might have dismissed this scene as a fluke, or some kind of
weird Robert Jordan fantasy... except I read some of his historical fiction
under the name Reagan O’Neal. More than once in the Fallon series, women are
beaten by big, strong men, and then forgive them as though nothing happened.
Yes, there were some cultures where domestic violence was commonplace, and
the old South was one of them. But a world dominated by women who can channel
the One Power does not strike me as a world that would permit that type of
society. Perrin’s treatment of Faile doesn’t quite fit. I get the feeling that
Jordan was implying that women (in general) do not mind being beaten as long as
they’re in love with the man doing the beating. I beg to differ!!! That’s how
many solid relationships fall apart.
During the first three volumes, I was under the impression that men and
women during the Age of Legends had been equal in the One Power. Some men were
stronger than women, and some women stronger than men. Remember, we’re talking
about the One Power here, not physical strength. Well… later in the series, it
was mentioned that men were generally stronger than women during the Age of
Legends. One of the characters specifically thought that this made sense
because men are generally stronger physically.
Once again, I beg to differ about this reasoning! Men are often
stronger than women physically… so to create a balance, wouldn’t women
be stronger in the One Power? The Wheel of Time is all about balance:
the Light and the Shadow, saidar and saidin, female and male. If
Jordan feels the need to make men stronger in the One Power- and I can
understand his desire to do this- then he should have spared us the faulty
logic. I’d rather just pass it off as a fact of nature. Say they evolved that
Polygamy. Yes, we are dealing with a male fantasy author- but once again,
equality and balance are not apparent. We hear about polyandry (the practice of
a woman having more than one husband) in the Aiel culture, but it’s rare, and
we never see an example. Meanwhile, we see many Aiel men with two or three
wives. And I can’t neglect to mention Rand… and Min, and Aviendha, and Elayne!
The improbability of four people sharing each other like this is heightened by
the fact that Jordan promotes womenfolk as a sort of ‘sisterhood.’ Women in
Randland all ‘understand’ each other.Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Abby Goldsmith, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.