Gold-Plated Misogynist

(I am reblogging this from Cedar’s blog this morning. First, I agree with everything she says. Second, I will admit that my mind is not on blogging today. In just a few hours, my son will be home for the first time in more than a year and, well, that takes precedence over everything. I will be back next week and I’ll be checking comments today. In the meantime, enjoy Cedar’s post.)

That’s what she said. It was in a comment thread online, after a friend of mine had shared a Robert A Heinlein quote. I looked at it, shook my head, and wondered when the man who was accused of being too pro-women in the era he wrote in, had become a woman-hater. It’s not true of course, but people will just say things with nothing to back them up, and unless you question them, observers have no way of knowing they are flat-out lying.

“Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, “equality” is a disaster.” ― Robert A. Heinlein

RAH wrote women who were strong, competent, and happy being women. I have admired Star from Glory Road for her fierceness and dedication to her duty. I put to you Hazel Stone, who is no man’s – nor woman’s! – weakling. Wyoming Knott, in Moon is a Harsh Mistress for goodness sakes. How can you read Heinlein’s work and then dismiss these women as another person in that thread did as ‘oversexed secretaries’ unless you are deliberately being obtuse and lying?

When I asked that question in a group of people who actually enjoy Heinlein’s work, I was reminded to go look at Spider Robinson’s essay on Heinlein. It had been a while since I’d read it, and even in 1980 when it was written, the accusations were being thrown about his work.

(2) “Heinlein is a male chauvinist.” This is the second most common charge these days. That’s right, Heinlein populates his books with dumb, weak, incompetent women. Like Sister Maggie in “If This Goes On—”; Dr. Mary Lou Martin in “Let There Be Light”; Mary Sperling in Methuselah’s Children; Grace Cormet in “—We Also Walk Dogs”; Longcourt Phyllis in Beyond This Horizon; Cynthia Craig in “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”; Karen in “Gulf”; Gloria McNye in “Delilah and the Space-Rigger”; Allucquere in The Puppet Masters; Hazel and Edith Stone inThe Rolling Stones; Betty in The Star Beast; all the women in Tunnel in the Sky; Penny in Double Star; Pee Wee and the Mother Thing in Have Space Suit—Will Travel; Jill Boardman, Becky Vesant, Patty Paiwonski, Anne, Miriam and Dorcas in Stranger in a Strange Land; Star, the Empress of Twenty Universes, in Glory Road; Wyoh, Mimi, Sidris and Gospazha Michelle Holmes in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress; Eunice and Joan Eunice in I Will Fear No Evil; Ishtar, Tamara, Minerva, Hamadryad, Dora, Helen Mayberry, Llita, Laz, Lor and Maureen Smith in Time Enough For Love; and Dejah Thoris, Hilda Corners, Gay Deceiver and Elizabeth Long in “The Number of the Beast—.[1]

 

Brainless cupcakes all, eh? (Virtually every one of them is a world-class expert in at least one demanding and competitive field; the exceptions plainly will be as soon as they grow up. Madame Curie would have enjoyed chatting with any one of them.) Helpless housewives! (Any one of them could take Wonder Woman three falls out of three, and polish off Jirel of Joiry for dessert.)

 

I think one could perhaps make an excellent case for Heinlein as a female chauvinist. He has repeatedly insisted that women average smarter, more practical and more courageous than men. He consistently underscores their biological and emotional superiority. He married a woman he proudly described to me as “smarter, better educated and more sensible than I am.” In his latest book, Expanded Universe—the immediate occasion for this article—he suggests without the slightest visible trace of irony that the franchise be taken away from men and given exclusively to women. He consistently created strong, intelligent, capable, independent, sexually aggressive women characters for a quarter of a century before it was made a requirement, right down to his supporting casts.

 

Clearly we are still in the area of delusions which can be cured simply by reading Heinlein while awake.

I am particularly fond of that last line. Clearly those who are still  flinging mud have slipped dreamlessly into a delusion so deep they might never be able to get back out again. When the woman who had first made the titular accusation was questioned by multiple voices in startlement, she finally admitted that she knew it to be so, because she had read it in Asimov’s biography. Wait a minute, was my reply, you mean that man that Eric Leif Davin in his recent book Partners in Wonder wrote this about? ” Isaac Asimov is on record for stating that male fans didn’t want females invading their space.  According to the letter columns of the time, it seems that the only fan who held that opinion was… Isaac Asimov.  A number of males fans welcomed their female counterparts.  As did the editors, something Davin goes to great lengths to document.” (You can read more on the women that other women ignore here at Keith West’s blog) So this woman has taken a known misogynist’s claim that another man is a misogynist without questioning and swallowed it whole.

This, boys and girls, is why we do our research and do not take a single point of data as truth, just because it fits what we want to see. The final point I will address is one brought up in the thread, albeit with a misspelled name, so I am not quoting it. Heinlein wrote of Gillian from Stranger in a Strange Land that she was a nurse, and made a hobby of men. I’m not sure if the objection was to ‘nurse’ which was a solidly female profession in the time Heinlein was alive and writing, and a very respected one, as well. I suspect the objection was the making a hobby of men. Frankly, my dear, if you have not yet met a woman whose hobby is men, then your life has been a very sheltered and innocent one. Pick up any celebrity rag in the supermarket checkout line and you can look into the airbrushed eyes of a half-dozen of them. Is this misogyny on my part? No. Like Heinlein, I am very interested in people. People are not always nice, and perfect, and noble. Heinlein’s trenchant observations of human nature are a big part of why I enjoy reading his work so much. His characters are real, vivid, fully formed… which means that they are not always conformable to the ideals. Just like real people.

Heinlein had, as is evident from his work, a very high regard for women. But he did not perch them on so high a pedestal as to not see that some women are not perfect. Just like the woman who threw out the accusation against him of being a gold-plated misogynist isn’t perfect. Blinded by her ideals, she seeks to topple a man who helped write some of her freedoms into existence. But he’s a mere old white man, and conveniently, dead, so he cannot defend himself. So I will take up a little of that defense in honor of a man I never met, and further, his beloved wife who by all accounts was a wonderful woman who doesn’t deserve to be backhanded along with her husband.

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57 responses to “Gold-Plated Misogynist

  1. Draven

    I can imagine RAH’s reaction to the Puppy-kickers and their ilk.

    • I wasn’t thinking puppies, this is just more of the same divisiveness between the sexes I am seeing pushed. It’s senseless and insane. I’m all for equality, but this? No.

      • Oh yeah. The Bookworm Room blog had a post lat week about the damage the campus activists are doing to young women (and men). Let’s just say that it is NOT “empowering women” to push men to the point where they prefer their only social contact with a female to be spending an hour or so with a prostitute. Nor does it strengthen and encourage women to be told that we are too weak and fragile to survive without government protection. I’d love to see Mother Thing, Deja Thoris, Jirel of Joiry, and Lessa of Benden show up at a campus activists’ meeting. With Eleanor of Aquitain, Elisabeth of Inner Austria, and Margaret of Tirol close behind.

        And Amanda? Congrats and have a wonderful reunion.

        • Something I wrote the other day, inspired by remarks hereabouts:

          It’s been pointed out that the main reason women hold social power is their ability to offer or withhold sex, and that the “sexual revolution” negated that power by making sex freely available to males without any effort or value given on their part. This, contrary to feminism’s claims, greatly reduced women’s social power.

          But today’s feminazis have found a way to get it back — by declaring every interaction with a male “sexual harrassment” and by defining every sexual encounter (real or imagined) as “rape”. Feminazis *created* “rape culture” as a way of reclaiming sex as a valuable female resource. But by accusing every male in sight of rape, feminazis have mistaken “costly” for “valuable”. And then they wonder why so many good men are making themselves unavailable. Feminazis won’t be happy until *actual* rapists (who don’t care about “availability” or “value” or “costs”) are the only men left in the gene pool.

          • re: “making sex freely available to males”

            This is maybe a nitpick, but sex has not been freely available to males in the decades since the sexual revolution. The “free sex” has been doled out to thugs, players, Casanovas, studs, jocks, and other guys in the top 20% of men as ranked in terms of raw sex appeal.

            The average chump that goes to work, builds a career, and that just wants to settle down and pursue the “dad” strategy in earnest…? They increasingly get the short end of the stick. Not that any of them would complain about their lot or would want to be thought of as being whiners or losers.

          • Scott

            Not quite. Not every sexual encounter, but every sexual encounter that does not go both during and afterwards exactly as the woman wishes.

            I used to believe in equality. I now believe that a man needs a woman like a fish needs a fishhook and that women of childbearing age will do and say anything to avoid acknowleding any responsibility for anything bad.

            • Feminist women, perhaps. I can guarantee you that my yard ape has a keen sense of responsibility. I am, however, already triaging my friends and the parents of my daughter’s friends who have sons for conservative (philosophy, economics) and Christian (morals, outlook) values.

              If all you want is to get laid, my child is not for you. If I do my job right, she’ll have too much self-respect to play the slattern, and the understanding that duty and loyalty trumps always trumps feelz. I hope she will be worthy of the kind of young men these parents are raising (and vice versa)

              After all, the greatest gift a woman can give her child is to love and honor her husband. Ditto, the corollary for men.

              And… I just realized we need to bring back the 21st century version of Almacks. Lord love a duck.

        • Timid1

          Fear not: There will always be Iron Magnolias, who view with contempt the “dainty” things that invariable lead such nonsense.

        • I would add only one name – Clarissa McDougal – Kinnison (the Red Lensman)

          • Scott

            Change one and add one. Dejah Thoris to Dejah Thoris Carter and add her mother in law. Please God, have it covered by PJ Media.

        • Bob

          These days, the Nazgul would just need to clap instead of using jazz hands and Eowyn would collapse and curl up in panic.

        • HerbN

          Actually, if you’re going to bring Eleanor of Aquitain I’d bring along her great-great-grand-daughter-in-law, Isabella the She-Wolf of France and wife of Edward II.

          The watered down version of her we got in Braveheart had more strength and ability that a Harvard full of campus activists. The real thing would cause them to burst into flames with her eyes. She had all of Eleanor’s fire and little or none of her grace. A grace that, to my mind, the campus activists do not deserve.

      • Draven

        Oh, I know Cedar, just thoughts running together while on a deadline crunch.

  2. Draven, from what I’ve read, I’d beat Mr. Heinlein’s response to the anti-puppy crowd would be polite, mannerly…

    …and devastating.

  3. Draven, from what I’ve read of Mr. Heinlein, I’m betting that his responses would be polite, to the point, succinct, well-spoken…

    …and devastating.

  4. If anything, it’s become pretty clear from the historical record that Mr. Heinlein’s politics and worldview could be swayed by women with whom he was close (okay, mostly those to whom he was married). I suspect this putty in hands effect may have been why his conflict with that female editor of his juveniles was kinda fraught; he didn’t want to be swayed back to nannyism by her crazy-talk.

    Of course, it’s also possible that the historical record shows that he was already changing his worldview internally, and that the ladies he met just happened to run in tandem with that. It’s a pretty common phenomenon with religion and politics, and often it’s hard to tell who’s swaying who (at least from outside the relationship or the individuals in it).

    Anyway, all outside observers of his relationships with his wives have agreed that both Leslyn and Virginia were likeable women whom he certainly seemed to like being around. (Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue is a fictional portrayal of the local LA writers, and the characters analogous to Leslyn and Robert Heinlein are the breezy fun ones.)

    • I have observed this. If she has his ear, the results can be pretty shocking. Six months down the road he will start having these ideas… and he will completely believe they are his own. He explain them to people in complete earnestness and not have any awareness of where they came from.

      Modern women tend to almost reflexively burst this bubble, tease him about it, maybe even embarrass the guy in front of his company. But I suspect that in previous generations, women coached each other in how best to take advantage of this dynamic– and understood how much power they had even if they were discreet in leveraging it.

      • Timid1

        That was once so well known that it was a stock joke in skits and early sitcoms.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          In one of the Lord Peter novels, Lord Peter and another man were discussing a tough NCO they had known. The tough NCO had married this “little bitty woman” and she had tamed him. [Smile]

          • That is a stock bit, too! I always think it’s funny that if I see an older, tall American male with a little itty-bitty Asian woman, I assume serviceman who brought home his bride from abroad. They look happy 🙂

          • emily61

            chase him until he catches me. I thought that a woman’s power as the heart of a family.

        • That may be. Wives I have observed don’t seem cognizant that they have a hand that they can play in this regard. They see to be being trained to behave without grace or tact in this area on principle… in order to make it clear that they are EQUAL to their husbands.

      • Not quite sure what you’re saying about women of that generation. we did not coach each other. We just knew that we were on unfirm ground and figured the best way to avoid sinking. Sure, we were feminists, but Heinlein was one of our heroes. Revisionist history does no one any good. He was one of the few writers of that era who had really strong heroines sharing the good and bad with the MC. If they can’t see the man as a frontrunner of his time, the have no sense of history.

        Look at any author from the past, and ask if s/he is acceptable to modern forms and sensibilities. Most would not be, but we still read Dickens and Thomas Hardy because they wrote so well about the mores of their time. Somehow scifi writers aren’t given that same courtesy.

        • “Look at any author from the past, and ask if s/he is acceptable to modern forms and sensibilities.”

          The question is whether we would be acceptable to them.

          • Timid1

            Or whether they were acceptable to their own times and sensibilities. I wonder how “radical” some really were. For example, Dickens had social commentary in his writing, but was it really daring for his place and time, or was it what his audience wanted to hear?

            One reason we continue to read authors like Dickens is that they immerse us into their world. We read them because they were good writers.

            • Lovecraft was more than likely beyond the pale even in his own day. And the answer to that is, “we don’t care.” I mean really… so what?

              This kind of shunning, purging, and contempt is never directed at icons of the left. I mean for all their talk of the crime of “erasing people from history”, these schmucks sure seem to do a lot of it. It’s just another face of the sort of ritualized denunciation that passes for intellectual/academic critique today. It is literally retarded. Disingenuous. Bankrupt. It’s the bailiwick of ignorant hacks that have nothing better to do than gin up yet another pointless “Two Minutes Hate” in order to suck up to the cool kids.

              And about Lovecraft? His stories are superb. They’re positively timeless. His influence is stunning. His foibles and peccadilloes and all around wrongheadedness are probably the least interesting thing about him. If you are the sort of person that reflexively denounces him every time his name comes up it’s only because you think that such displays will cause the real Lovecraftian horrors of today to eat you last.

              Of course, it never works that way, does it…?

            • Dickens social commentary was every bit as daring amongst the bien pensants then, as social commentary is among that set today. In his benighted age, however, the salon and the coffee house crowd demanded a rollicking good tale be seved up first.

  5. Timid1

    Clearly we are still in the area of delusions which can be cured simply by reading Heinlein while awake.

    Here we have a greater problem: relying on “Cliff Notes” type synopsis rather than simply reading.the material to find out what’s going on. Of course, the latter is more time consuming and tedious, but much more rewarding. In this case it’s Heinlein; in another it could be Card; still another Hemingway; or Fitzgerald; really anyone or anything. It’s particularly interesting when supposedly “great” writers aren’t so hot, and you have to wonder if those who tout their greatness have either read them or read much of anything else.

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    Heinlein confounds his critics, even today. Every attempt to pigeonhole him fails. Call him misogynist, and then you have to explain his strong female characters. Denounce him as fascist, you have to explain his beliefs in the importance of freedom and the individual. Accuse him of racism, and you’re stuck trying to explain how Juan Rico and Rod Walker square with white supremacism. And watch how mad they get when you point out that a man of the Right was far more progressive than many of his contemporaries.

    No wonder the other side can’t stand him.

  7. Reality Observer

    Cedar, if the misspelling was “Jillian” – that was in (at least) one of the editions of “Stranger.” “Editor” is a curse word…

  8. Bob

    Well, in a few years they’ll have forgotten Heinlein and it’ll be Joss Whedon who’ll be the new king of the misogynists.

    Imagine the gall of actually showing a woman character with imperfections. Showing her screwing up and occassionally needing help. As if a heroic or complex character, man or woman, actually needs an arc.

    Then you wonder why female characters have become boring and lack the variety of male characters.

    See ladies? This is why you can’t have nice things.

    • HerbN

      The both sad and frightening thing is I can see you as being proven completely right on this one. Especially given it has already started.

    • Ravenshrike

      The recent Batgirl ‘controversy’ exemplifies this. Because she was shown terrified at being at the mercy of the Joker, it was somehow clear evidence of misogyny. Now, imqgine you lived in the DC universe and were a cape. Further imagine that previously, the scariest fucker on the planet had turned you into a parapalegic merely to taunt and drive further insane (batman is the least sane hero in the DC universe) one of your closest allies. You had after years of healing and learning to live as a parapeligic gotten surgery that allowed you to walk again. Then the bastard kidnaps you again and holds a gun to your head. Now I ask you, what sane person wouldn’t be pissing their pants in fear?

  9. John R. Ellis

    I’m old enough to remember all those brainless articles, books, and essays that used to claim women had no interest in SF at all until “Star Trek” existed. Then, since all the dames thought Nimoy was smokin’ hot, they suddenly got interested.

    THAT was chauvinism.

    Heinlein’s writing on female characters was SO far away from the actual thing that I can only assume those flinging around the claims haven’t yet experienced the real anti-woman stuff. :/

    It did exist…just not in his writings.

  10. I’ve said this in other spaces: put 40 women into a room, and you will not get them to agree among themselves about what a “real woman” looks like, how a “real woman” dresses, what a “real woman” thinks, or how a “real woman” responds to any given situation. If women (among women) cannot agree on this thing, how can a male writer be expected to magically get it right for every potential female reader?

    I say: write your women as you experience your women. No matter how you write your women, there will be some “feminist” to tear you down for doing it wrong; even if you, yourself, are a woman. (see above: 40 women in a room cannot agree on what “real woman” means.) If your women in your books and stories are true to you, then they are true to you. And chances are, they will be true to someone else — be they male or female readers.

    Screw the nitwits. Tell your stories. Entertain your audience.

    • Reality Observer

      Good words. “Strange” thing is, RAH was always a gentleman in his literary treatment of the ladies (in the old meaning of the term), despite some very poor experiences with some of them. Just think of what he could have done by turning his juveniles editor into a character…

    • Geoff Withnell

      Heck, you can’t put 40 men into a room and get a coherent description of a real man, either.

  11. I know I shouldn’t ask, but… why gold-plated? I mean, labeling someone a misogynist, chauvinist, racist, or pick your poison is one thing, but what does gold-plated add to the picture? Gold, silver, bronze, iron… does the choice of metal armor indicate something?

    What about another metaphor? Bottled in bond? I’m just trying to figure out how a gold-plated something or other differs from the ordinary run-of-the-mill variety. Is this a sneaking admission of admiration for the level of achievement they have? Brass plated… no, that’s courage or something, isn’t it? Would a brass-plated misogynist be better or worse than a gold-plated one? What about one that was solid gold? Or what about the always popular heart of gold?

    • Beats me – I didn’t use the phrase, I picked it up when she left it lying there and ran with it.

      • Yeah, it’s one of those intensifiers that doesn’t quite make sense when you stop and think about it. My guess — gold-plated stuff is more expensive, right, so being a gold-plated something or other must be better? Interesting that it’s often a bad thing that gets gold-plated, though…

    • BobtheRegisterredFol

      Feminist Hussein made a habit of plating misogynists and chauvinists in gold. It is a code worded death threat, and I am ever so triggered. I must go lie down on my fainting couch!

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  13. jsharbour

    It’s good to read an opinion about Heinlein from someone who actually read him rather than those who just read internet opinions about him. And no one mentioned “Friday”, either. I’m reading the Patterson biography now; RAH was so far ahead of his time in the 1930s that were he a young man today with the same views he would completely fit in–and drive pop culture. Not sure about joining the Navy, though.