Recently I’ve read some really interesting essays on werewolves, gender, sexuality, and race at Fangs for the Fantasy.
The Problem with Female Werewolves.
Excerpt: In many ways a werewolf is the utter opposite of how we view womanhood, especially white womanhood. In many European traditions (and, we have to remember, the shapeshifter tradition is a broad one) the werewolf is an uncontrolled, hairy, animalistic creature. Something utterly unrestrained, something that is unleashed, something aggressive and violent. In short – everything a woman “should not be”. A woman should be restrained, delicate, gentle, always in control and most certainly not hairy! This unrestrained, unrefined, uncontrolled aggressiveness (and hairiness) is the very antithesis of pedestal womanhood. When we do see female werewolves they usually have difficulties above and beyond what is experienced by other werewolves. They have extra angst, or extra problems or some other issue dealing with their werewolfdom.
Anita Blake: Faux Champion of Sexual Agency at Fangs for the Fantasy.
Excerpt: And in response to the criticism, the straw man was raised that the critics were prudes who were against a sexually pro-active, powerful woman and there’d be no problem if the protagonist was a man. Which is a shame because it misses the actual complaint – that the books were a really well written, fascinating series of books that had all the plot and development cast aside. I don’t actually mind Meredith Gentry – because Meredith Gentry has been squeezing plot in between the endless sex scenes and occasionally humping to a new level of magic since book 1. But let us examine this straw man a little closer – Anita is a sexually pro-active woman. Is she? Because I question this a lot. Now, I very much like a book that includes a woman who is in charge of her own sexuality, has sex as and when she wants to, with whom she wishes, without pressure and without shame. I love that and praise that. But Anita Blake is not that woman, primarily because Anita Blake did not choose her sex life, did not seek it out – and most dramatically, did not consent to it.
Mixed Race Characters in Urban Fantasy don’t Necessarily Constitute Inclusion.
Excerpt: The second reason is, of course, the woo-woo. There is a prevailing believe that magic has to come in a brown skin – and it’s glaring that so many of these characters get their magic from their (absent) parent of colour. Mercy Thomas is a skinwalker, because of her Native American father. Anita Blake is a necromancer, because of her Hispanic, voudoun grandmother. Jeremy of the Patricia Brigs Mercy Thompson series, has abilities above and beyond normal werewolves, because of his Japanese kogitsune mother. For some reason, woo-woo and white skin don’t go together well (which we already see by the the inordinate number of magical mentors, advisers, helpers and servants, who constantly come to the aid of white protagonists) – but by having a mixed race character with some “exotic” features we get the explosion of magical forces. This is very reminiscent of white people being “civilised” – people of science and technology – while people of colour are more “mystical” “close to nature” and primitive. In the current prevalent model, authors are able to operationalize the civilised white character, with just dash of “mystical” person of colour to give them woo-woo. The mixed heritage is used as an excuse to give the protagonists magic, without going to the effort of writing a person of colour who is different than White characters based in specific cultural differences that would be natural in a fully fleshed out character of colour.