So, by now everyone’s seen Niall Harrison’s article about the (mis)representation of women in reviewing. Not everyone might have seen the followups: Juliet McKenna, Kari Sperring (who has started an awesome list of women to read), and Sherwood Smith, who has a great reflexion on which viewpoints are considered the norm (and great comments, too).
One sentence in what Sherwood wrote struck me:
The sense that men write about Important Things and women write about Domestic or Sentimental Things still appears to be pervasive.
And it did make me want to elaborate, on something I’ve been meaning to blog about but haven’t so far. Sherwood touches on it a bit, I think–mostly in the context of literature–but I kind of wanted to take it a step further.
See, the one thing I hate most about gender perceptions? That Important Things cannot be Domestic or Sentimental: the pervasive notion that the things men do are Important; and the things women do are not (I’m using “the things men do” in a sense of traditional gender roles–which, thankfully, have evolved quite a bit since the 19th Century). That somehow, it’s still more Important to talk about war and fighting as a soldier, still more Important to talk about science and inventing things–than it is to talk about taking care of a household, about raising children, all the myriad things that are the traditional prerogative of women. It’s sort of like saying, “as a woman, you cannot have worth until you do the things of men-essentially until you become a male surrogate.” And it saddens me, because it dismisses so-called “feminine” activities as unworthy: it’s just another way of putting men first. 
Not sure how clear this is? I’m struggling to articulate it into words.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important that women who want to have a career be able to have one; that as a woman, you can be a soldier or a scientist or any occupation that catches your fancy. But I do think that as a man or as a woman, you should be allowed to stay home and take care of the kids, and be a good homecook–and not be ridiculed. That being a feminine boy should have as much worth as being a tomboy–which is so not the case today.
Which is why we need more books that aren’t about traditional male activities such as saving the world and getting the girl; books like Jo Walton’s Lifelode, and Cao Xuequin’s Dream of Red Mansions (which, pretty impressively, was actually written by a man).