Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday Book Post

I got three fun books (read: like fast food but not just like fast food) from the library for this weekend. Two newish Sara Paretskys and C.S. Friedman's Wings of Wrath, a fantasy book. I had not read Friedman before and probably won't in the future (her fantasy not being the kind I like), but one particular quote I found interesting.

Kamala is a peasant woman who has managed to become a Magister, an immortal wizard of a rather nasty type. All other Magisters are men and very few of them are even consider the idea of a female Magister, because women are too weak and emotional to wield such power.

In the following scene Kamala is watching (in a bird shape) two soldiers, a woman and a man, riding towards danger. The man is important for her plans, the woman is not. This is what Kamala thinks:

If he had been alone she might have approached him directly, but he was not. And for reasons Kamala did not fully understand, the presence of a woman by his side made her uneasy. It probably wouldn't have if the woman had been decked out in a stylish riding gown, trailing silk skirts sidesaddle over the flanks of her mount. Such a woman Kamala would simply disdain and dismiss, a mere traveling accessory to the one who really mattered. But no, this woman was clearly a comrade-at-arms in every sense of the word. And that bothered her.

You are jealous, she thought.
What a bizarre thought! Jealous of a morati [mortal]?
Jealous of how he accepts her.

The woman was dressed in a man's garb, but not in any manner that kept her true sex hidden. She had not flirted with the men outside the meetinghouse as a normal woman might have done, but Kamala was willing to bet that the other Guardians were not unaware of the difference between them, or its sexual potential. Yet they all kept a respectful distance, of their own accord. Sometimes one or the other would make a joking comment about her effect on them all, but even then they were laughing with her, not at her.

True acceptance.

It burned her to see it. Why? Because they accepted a warrior woman for what she truly was, not for some role that she must play in order to win men's favor? Because she did not have to pretend to be something less than a woman to win a respected place among them?

If the Magisters had half so much tolerance, Kamala thought bitterly, things might be very different for her now. And at night, in her fitful dreaming, she imagined what that might have been like for her. To be part of their brotherhood without the need to deny her sex. Simply accepted.

She kept her distance.

I found this fascinating as a parable about the way young women might feel in the military (if they are let down in similar ways Kamala was), in the academia and even in business if their particular sub-fields are male dominated. It may be that young women are now "simply accepted" in all those places? Still, the above quote reminds me of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's attempt to take her deceased brother's place in her father's esteem.

And what about the Paretskys? They were fun. I like to read descriptions of cities, especially with a nice dose of lefty politics.