Sexism in The Wise Man’s Fear, part 2

The sexism in The Wise Man’s Fear was so pervasive and wide-reaching that I had to split my discussion of it into two posts. Here‘s my full review, and here‘s the first part of this feminist critique.

The most problematic part of the book for me was the fairy Felurian. Felurian is a stereotypical siren. She’s seductive and dangerous, using her sex appeal to lead men into the fairy realm, where they waste away or go insane. Kvothe, the hero, follows her singing and falls into her fairy trap. Here’s a really good video explaining why this trope is sexist:

My favorite quote from the video: “female characters written as The Evil Demon Seductress are portraying women as manipulative, conniving and controlling. These demon women always have ulterior motives, their sexuality is dangerous, and they’ll probably bite your head off. The harmful, misogynist myth that this trope reinforces is that women primarily use their so-called sexual power as a way to manipulate, trick and control men.”

So the mere inclusion of this trope is in itself an issue. What’s even worse is the way the character deals with it. Kvothe tricks Felurian into letting him leave the Fae by singing her a song with understated compliments, and saying he can’t truthfully give her greater praise because she’s the only woman he’s been with, so he needs to go sample some mortal women, and then he’ll return. She agrees, and an inherently sexist situation has just become even more disempowering. Because of the trope, the only power Felurian has is erotic power. Kvothe takes even that away through outsmarting her, proving that his intellectual power is greater than her legendary sexual power. She becomes yet another example of a hot and sexy female who’s vain and not too bright. Worse still: before he leaves the Fae, she teaches him lots of sexual techniques, so now we all know how amazing in bed our hero Kvothe is. (Since technique, not emotion and connection, is what makes sex good, of course.) All this just felt like so much penis-waving. “Look how big and potent I am, guys!”

Kvothe returns to the real world and no one believes his tale, until a lusty barmaid compares pre-Felurian virgin Kvothe to the self-assured, worldly bachelor before her, and speaks in his defense. He beds her later, of course. (Did I mention he’s just 16 at this point? Not to mention that he’s supposed to be in love with Denna. This feels dirty.) Here’s his reaction to his first human woman:

How could any mortal woman compare with Felurian?

It is easier to understand if you think of it in terms of music. Sometimes a man enjoys a symphony. Elsetimes he finds a jig more suited to his taste. [blah, blah, blah, more objectifying tripe] Each woman is like an instrument, waiting to be learned, loved, and finely played, to have at last her own true music made.

Some might take offense at this way of seeing things, not understanding how a trouper views his music. They might think I degrade women. They might consider me callous, or boorish, or crude.

But those people do not understand love, or music, or me.

The problem with that metaphor is that it gives all the power to the man, the musician or listener. The man is active and the woman is passive. The woman is just a song to be selected and then played. It doesn’t give room for a woman to have similar variety of appetites. Each woman has only one tune. The man is encouraged to collect women like a bard collects songs, or like any collector collects objects, one for every mood or season, regardless of whether women prefer to be part of a collection, or a single showcase piece.

Maybe my offense means I don’t understand Kvothe, love, or music. I’ll give him two of the three. I do, however, understand sexism, and I know it when I see it. I just hope that Rothfuss has some distance from his narrator here, that these are Kvothe’s ideas and not his, that he’s saying this to show that Kvothe and the society he comes from are sexist. Because I wouldn’t want to say Rothfuss doesn’t understand women, sex or writing. That would be insulting.

PS. I’ve responded to many comments on this post, and many of the comments say the same things. I’ve started to resort to linking to my previously written comments. Please read the comments and my responses before leaving your own note, in case your issue has been addressed already. 9/28/2014

Advertisements

75 thoughts on “Sexism in The Wise Man’s Fear, part 2

  1. So you readily admit that you don’t understand Kvothe, love, or music…. But you uphold that this is sexism?

    You need to understand how a musician actually views their instrument; if not, you’re going off half-brained. They love their instrument, more than anything else; the playing of an instrument isn’t some ‘passive’ activity, where there is a controller and the controlled; to believe otherwise is just stupid.

    I wouldn’t want to say you don’t understand feminism, literary critique, or reading comprehension, though; that would be insulting.

      • Some musicians favour their instruments with different regard. For a musician of Kvothe’s calibre and era, an instrument would have been comparable to a companion, considering the rarity and cost of musical instruments back then, not to mention the sparsity of musical talent and training. Common people could hardly read, let alone learn to play music.

        Heck, I know a violinist who treats her violin like an extension of herself.

  2. I just wrote a comment, them my computer did something I didn`t understand and now its gone 😦 But I wanted to say: Interesting blog! These things make me think a lot…
    I nevertheless like Rothfuss´s books. The problem seems to be that it just is a story told by a male first-person narrator, who, by the way, is in many ways a problematic character and maybe can´t even wholly relied upon as a narrator…
    There shouldn´t be fewer books like this, but more which are about female characters and describe female perspectives.

  3. Agreed, Lea! Most of the issues in WMF stem from Kvothe being a 17-year-old product of a sexist society as well as narrator. More books about women are the answer. Thanks for reading!

    Alex, if you couldn’t tell, I was being kind of cute in that ending line, and I’ll take it on faith that you were too when you parodied my parody. I admitted that I may not understand Kvothe or music, but did not concede that I don’t understand love, which I consider to be the most important of the three. Beyond a pithy barb, what about my post made you think I didn’t understand feminism, literary critique, or reading comprehension?

    If you really want to engage in a discussion about what I’ve said here, I recommend this forum: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/04/rothfuss-reread-the-wise-mans-fear-part-25#comments. Several others made the same point you did, that the comparison has different meaning for Kvothe than it does for me because he’s in love with his lute and I’m not. However, no matter how much the relationship between a musician and his instrument is romanticized, it is still an object, and the definition of sexual objectification is this: “the objectification of women involves the act of disregarding the personal and intellectual abilities and capabilities of a female; and reducing a woman’s worth or role in society to that of an INSTRUMENT for the sexual pleasure that she can produce in the mind of another.” When a person is treated like or compared to an instrument or any other object, it’s a problem, and it’s worth talking about. That’s the main point my post was trying to make.

    In the next two days, I’m posting some excerpts from what I wrote on that forum here in my blog, because I thought that writing needed to find a home here.

  4. Pingback: Posts from TOR | MeReader

  5. Pingback: Thanks, Jezebel! | MeReader

  6. What really bugs me is that how every SINGLE ONE Female character with a name is related to sex in some way. Fela and Mola are praised for their beauty and the sex jokes happen once in a while. Fela is so far portrayed as a woman who cannot protect herself. Denna lives in a world where sex is common and dangerous, even if she doesn’t relate to it directly. Davi flirts with Kvothe all the time. The female mercenaire that travelled with him was a love interest of another mercenaire. His sword teatcher and the best fighter of the Edenre both had sex with him. The girls he saves at some point were raped. The only one who stays out of it is Ari, but she is portraied as childish and insane.

    This gets really boring and frustrating. As a fantasy enthusiast, I just want to relax and enjoy the book.

    • I always saw the above as a way of pointing out how bad the sexism was in his world and trying to show it as a bad thing. It worked best with Denna where he was basically saying “look how terrible her life is because she’s constantly treating as an object to be won and then owned!” This is reinforced when the only positive relationship in her life is STILL motivated by romantic interest. Every description he makes of her values her looks and graceful movement above all else.

      The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that Kvothe is a bit of an arrogant arse who deliberately spreads lies about himself to enhance his reputation – he probably would remember his teenage years as a time when every girl fell at his feet. Not that this makes it any better, but I think Rothfuss was trying to mirror real misogynistic issues.

      It’s not a very good defence though; given some of the other deeply problematic things he did which were mentioned in the excellent original blog post.

    • When was fela made out to be defenceless? The scene where ambrose was being all grabby in the first book or the fire bit where kvothe saves her?

    • When I read this, i immediately got defensive and wanted to argue. And yet… I’ve certainly read enough female pov fantasy books where the men are all associated with sex in some way; and you’re right. It’s annoying.

    • Being described as beautiful doesn’t automatically mean you’re related to sex, and they make sex jokes about Simmon and Kvothe too, not just Fela and Mola. That comes of being a teenager. While Hespe and Dedan got together, I don’t think it’s fair to claim that she’s related to sex either. There’s nothing offensive about including women who are in a relationship in your story. Of the characters we meet in Adem, you mention that he sleeps with two. What of Shehyn, Magwyn, Carcaret, Celean? Implying that the only relevant characters in Adem are the two he slept with is pretty offensive. Additionally, I don’t think it’s fair to say that Fela is portrayed as a woman who can’t protect herself just because she choked when she was surrounded by flame, particularly when she goes on to talk about how frustrated she was in her childhood, that the girls in stories didn’t take charge of things and save themselves.

    • I think that this is part of the greatness of the Kingkiller Chronicles. If it were a third person narration I would agree with you but in a first person book the narration itself has to tell you about the character. Remember that Kvothe is a 15-17(18 maybe by the end of the 2nd book) year old male in an incredibly sexist society. Even males today find that a large portion of their experience of females is shaped by sexuality, even if it is in just resisting it in some way. This is not to defend Kvothe as someone who objectifies women or anything else but to defend Rothfuss’ choices in how he presents the narrative. Sex and sexuality is a humongous part of the human experience especially when you are young. Is it any wonder that it should be a large part of a persons’ experience of the world?

  7. Hey, I think your interpretation off a few things here is off.
    Felurian is a siren, but not *just a siren. She is also one of the Faen and serves as an Introduction to their race. Whatever “Lady of Twilight” stands for, it’s not insignificant.
    As such she doesn’t seduce men for her evil intent, or because she is in such need for their sexual skills, she doesn’t know anything else and has no sense of wrong.

    She doesn’t think anything of taking men from their lifes, families, Worlds only to eventually leave them insane. For her, the World revolves around Felurian (see how she only capatilizes herself ? That’s a clue if I ever saw one). What Kvothe said about Denna’ cruelty applies to Felurian as well: “If a storm blows down your house, or breaks a tree, you don’t say the storm was mean”. She doesn’t think of consequences.
    I didn’t get the Impression of weakness either, there’s that nice scene where she pushes Kvothe into deep water …
    Oh, and she’s a sex Godess.
    I find that sometimes conflicting, how can she have an “old and knowing” smile while she simultaniously “brought back my lute case like a child a new toy”.

    Point I’m trying to make is, for a siren Felurian is surprisingly well characterized, for the plot (Kvothe gets sex lessons) the scene’s a re surprisingly deep.

    Yea, I dislike the Instrument comparison too, particulary the waiting part. (What does the woman do while she’s waiting ?)

    As for “There’s looking and there’s looking. When some men look at you it’s a greasy thing. It makes you want to have a bath. With other men it’s nice. It helps you know you’re beautiful.”
    I think you overinterpretated that, which is pretty easy, as Simmon demonstrated. In my opinion, it’s nothing more then a nonverbal compliment. “Men like it when woman smile at them”. “Honest Compliments are flattering”. It’s the same, just less obvious. Oh, and Kvothe’s looking is intense and honest, but that’s hardly a surprise.
    What Fela says later looks far more damning in my eyes “Eventually you’d move on to something more important then me.”

    Regarding the men’s “anger”: If woman had “anger” and could use it to teach, reproduce and fight, while I could only use it to either fight, or give it to a woman to use …
    I’d feel pretty useless.

    I dislike the Woman=Instrument comparison too, particulary the waiting part. (What does the woman do while she’s waiting ?)

    • I have to say that in some ways it seems to me that you read the book and then wrote the analyses assuming that the books were sexist and looking for evidence therein, rather than just reading the books and then getting the impression they were sexist.

      For example, if you were looking for a siren trope in a book, you might see Felurian that way because she is a mythical creature who has lots of fatal sex. However, if you just look at Felurian, I am not at all sure you see that. As far as I can see, the key point of a siren trope is that she uses her sexuality as a means to an end, where as an empowered sexual woman simply explores her sexuality. In Felurian’s case I can’t see any evil objective – she just loves having sex, and one of the (mildly unfortunate from her perspective) consequences is that her human partners die. I don’t see her primary objective as killing, as if it were I think she would have found some way to kill Kvothe instead of sleeping with him many times after it initially became clear that her normal pattern of having sex with men until they died was not going to apply. And I definitely don’t agree that once Kvothe managed to find a way out of her proposed “sexual wiles” that she was powerless. She demonstrated a superior understanding of magic in the making of the skein, and I am certain that if she really wanted to kill him she could for all his naming prowess.Certain other comments (like the slippery slope argument you made with the male gaze) reinforce this view.

      I do feel there is some merit in your analysis of his comments about women as instruments – it is disturbing for me as well. That said, I am a musician from a family of musicians (my sister is a viola professor who went to Julliard) and so I think I can sort of understand why Kvothe could have said people were like instruments without meaning they were passive. Almost everyone I know who has tried to play an instrument really well has broken themselves against it – they come to suffer crippling anxiety and depression because they can never sound good enough, and the physical consequences of playing (crushed nerves, torn rotator cuffs and ligaments) are hardly minimal. Despite the obviously inanimate nature of an instrument, when you are playing at a high level, there is almost a discourse, a two way interaction between instrument and muscian – it is absolutely not the actor on the passive recipient. I am not sure if Rothfuss’ understanding of music is intense enough that he could grasp this subtlety – the fact that he says women “wait” when they are not being played is clearly sexist, but I would prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt about the actual playing.

  8. Pingback: Mereader: Year One in Review | MeReader

  9. That women=instruments metaphor is really, really bad, but what’s worst about it is how Kvothe tries to defend it, completely missing the point.
    If the bad metaphor had just been there, I probably would have skipped it, but then Kvothe tries to tell me that it’s all fine and okay because he doesn’t consider women worthless objects, no, he considers them valuable objects! Like his beloved instruments! And because of that, it’s all okay!
    And most men don’t even get what the problem is, claming that it’s a “heterosexual male point of view”, and clearly, it’s the only way a heterosexual man can think about women, since, from a male heterosexual point of view, women have no lives of their own, no sex drive, nor are they able to move on their own!

    That’s how Fela justifies his looking at women, too, or at least I got that impression. “He looks at women and thinks they’re great objects, but that’s okay because he doesn’t just look at their breasts, he things their minds are great, too!”

    This is a man, who has never learnt how to not treat women as objects, trying to be feminist. It’s quite sad.
    But it also makes me angry, because he could have learnt, if he had wanted to, if he wasn’t arrogant enough to think he can tell women what is sexist and what isn’t.

    Don’t even get me started on Felurian. Okay, the evil seductress is a common trope, and one might want to use it out of nostalgia, or whatever, and it can be done okay, as I’ll explain below.
    But Felurian is first set up as that powerful, powerful supernatural monster, and then effectively becomes Kvothe’s pet. That’s just ridiculous. Okay, he has been a Gary Stu all the time, it’s what he is, probably, but how he defeats her, first by crude violence, and then by using her vainness, that’s the last straw. It’s just stupid. She didn’t get the reputation she has by letting herself be defeated by any stupid 16-year-old.
    Okay, apparently he’s a genius, and therefore I would have tolerated his being able to escape her if he had met her as a grown man. But he’s still a boy. Being able to kill 20 or so armed men, fine. But Felurian is a legend. Granted, he is telling the story himself, but do we have any choice but to believe he tells the truth if we’re not told any other version of the story?

    In the computer game Quest for Glory IV, Shadows of Darkness, there is a Rusalka, a female water spirit (with big breasts, barely covered by her hair, admittedly) who wants to lure the hero into the water and then drown him. If the hero shows her some kindness instead of jumping on the opportunity to have sex with a woman he just met, she stops trying to lure him in and tells her sad story, which actually gives her a good reason to want to kill men who see in her an object of sexual desire and nothing more.
    I liked that story, in spite of using the trope of the evil seductress. So, yes, it can be done right, or at least okay.
    It could have been done like this with Felurian. But Kvothe never asks her, he just arrogantly assumes that she is lonely – which doesn’t make much sense, since she is not a prisoner and seems free to go and have tea and biscuits with her fairy friends. Or, if that’s what she likes best, have sex with fairy men, who 90% of the time are probably better lovers than a random human boy.
    (The Rusalka I mentioned above? Cursed to kill any man who enters her lake. Was human once, and hasn’t any fairy friends. For her, it makes a lot more sense to just swim around in a boring lake and hope for men she can drown to come there. It is possible to … what’s the right word for this? Release her? Deliver her? Well, a hero of noble character can enable her to die, which is what she wants, and the scene you get if you do it is very, very cute and touching, or at least I remember it that way)

    • Thanks so much for your detailed response! I think you’ve pointed out a lot of things here that I didn’t. You’re so right that the worst thing about the women-as-instruments passage is Kvothe’s defense of it. As you say, it’s a great example of a man trying and failing to be feminist. You’re also right when you say that the mere inclusion of the evil demon seductress is much less of an issue than the way Felurian is treated in the narrative. She’s tamed and tricked by a boy, though she’s supposed to have mythical status. It’s kind of insulting. Your example of the seductress trope from the video game sounds like a decent story, a subversion of the trope that humanizes her and encourages the game player to see her as more than an object (despite her sexualized appearance).

    • I completely agree that Kvothe compounds the problems presented by the women=instruments metaphor by defending it. It’s like a white guy telling a racist joke, and then deflecting criticism by pointing out that he has lots of black friends.

      Still, my least favorite part about that bit comes at the end: “But those people do not understand love, or music, or me.” It’s not enough that Kvothe says something potentially offensive before immediately disqualifying himself from any of its offensive implications–he then has to insult anyone not enlightened enough to see things his way. It’s like that white guy from before claiming that anyone who got offended by his racist joke just didn’t get it. It’s condescending, and it belittles the ability of the readers to interpret the text on their own.

      I also agree that, when looking at this passage, it’s important to consider how Rothfuss wants us to look at Kvothe. Is he a defensive 16-year-old too dense to know that what he’s saying it offensive? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s a well-written passage, with little to suggest that it’s supposed to be viewed ironically. Also, remember that Kvothe is narrating the story from some unspecified point in the future, after he’s grown older and wiser. Considering that, it’s hard to dismiss the passage as the ramblings of a daft teenager. I think Rothfuss endorses this message, although he seems well-aware of its implications. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have had to make so many excuses for it, which probably should have been a clue not to include it in the first place.

  10. Please read “The Song of Ice and Fire” series by George RR Martin, beloved by millions of both genders. If you think Patrick Rothfuss is a sexist, you will positively faint after reading that. Following this article, I completely get why people are afraid of feminists. Sometimes, it reaches a limit. Please do not over interpret things so much and remember, Kvothe was a boy of 16 at the time, fully an adolescent.

    • I have read the first two books of the Song of Ice and Fire series and enjoyed them. Here are my reviews:
      https://mereader.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/game-of-thrones/ https://mereader.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/a-clash-of-kings/

      Both Rothfuss’s and Martin’s books are set in patriarchal societies, but that isn’t necessarily enough to make the books themselves misogynist or anti-feminist. Just because characters say misogynist things or because horrible things happen to women doesn’t necessarily make the entire novel bad and wrong. The narrative could be structured in a way to show that this misogyny is itself bad and wrong, and it has to portray it to do that. Martin’s books are better than Rothfuss’s as far as feminism is concerned because they value the point of view of several female characters and show that their stories are important. This difference is largely a function of the different points of view of the two series–predominantly first-person vs. multiple third-person limited.

      You’re right that Kvothe is an adolescent. I have said that I hope that these problematic attitudes are things that he will grow out of; only the next book will tell. Nevertheless, so far the narrative doesn’t seem to make any effort to prove that he is wrong in the things he says about women.

      When someone says “over interpreting” this is what I think of:
      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory
      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EpilepticTrees
      I have a hard time believing that what I have done here is on that level. I’m not pulling stuff out of thin air. In my experience, nine times out of ten when someone accuses someone else of “over interpreting” they mean that that person has said something that makes them uncomfortable and they don’t want to think through why they’re uncomfortable, much less put aside their own biases for a second to consider whether that person could have a point.

  11. The Fae situation is complicated because I have always had the impression that all of the Faye are conniving, manipulative, and egotistical about their vices, seeing as they are immortal beings. They all have simple natures, whether its food or sex. But seeing as the only real Faye we have met if Felurian, that is a problem

    I might also point out that I really don’t actually like Kvothe as a person. I think he is kind of like Bruce Wayne, a happy kid who was irreversibly damaged by witnessing the death of his parents. Maybe Kvothe can’t actually love anymore, and he is broken, which is why he only seems to have sexual relationships with women, and despite “getting people,” he doesn’t seem to get people. Kvothe is annoyingly skilled at many things as well, you (you meaning myself) can’t help but be jealous and irritated with his ability to excel at everything.

    Though honestly, despite being a guy with sexual fantasies, I am never envious of Kvothe and his sexual exploits because they never seem meaningful to him other than in terms of what they represent as sexual conquests. We have sex queen of the Faye, most skilled student of the Adem, and then his teacher, which all fit somewhere in the top of the bro playbook of sex fantasy women. And then there is Denna, who I honestly CAN’T see any value in other than as a conquest. Once he “tames” Denna, what value will she have.

    Kvothe definitely seems evil, and I think there are a lot of subtle hints to prove this. So Kvothe is not a role playing fantasy character who I want to be or be friends with, he is more of a psychological test subject that I find really facinating.

    Back to the original point, having a sex goddess is probably sexists and just fulfills a male fantasy. I don’t personally fantasize about her, but then again I can’t say she provides any other point to the series.

  12. thanks for these two posts! i really don’t read science fiction and fantasy much any longer, but every couple of years i get a craving for it and i decide to sample something popular. i’m halfway through ‘the name of the wind’ and each next appearance of a female character is worse than the one before it. so i decided to click around the net a bit to see what other people’s reactions were. for me the (then potentional) sexism was a painfully obvious problem from the very beginning of the book, a topic i had hoped would be addressed somehow, but the matter actually deteriorated into, hm, systematic misogyny. i doubt the third novel will bring anything better, and i’m not willing to read the first one any further. i’m dropping it this very instant, actually. rothfuss can declare himself a feminist all he wants, but what i read in half his novel told me more and a much different story.

  13. It doesn’t seem sexist to me, more like feminism… this description:

    “female characters written as The Evil Demon Seductress are portraying women as manipulative, conniving and controlling. These demon women always have ulterior motives, their sexuality is dangerous, and they’ll probably bite your head off. The harmful, misogynist myth that this trope reinforces is that women primarily use their so-called sexual power as a way to manipulate, trick and control men.”

    Matches the character of Felurian, it does not fit all the women in the book, Felurian just happen to be that kind of character, she is that way, she is not a representation of all the women in the king killer chronicles, I don’t see why I find a lot of complaints from this part, to me it only seems like a little girl pointing at the book saying “OMG, he tricked a female character in the book! because she fell into his trap! THIS PART IS SO SEXIST!”, I found little reference to excellent and strong characters like Devi who beat the crap out of Kvothe in a 1 one 1 duel with sympathy, Mola who is intelligent and stoic, or Vashet another female who beat the crap out of Kvothe even the little Adem girl that used to train (and also beat) Kvothe. Felurian it’s just a character and it happen to be that way, not because it says something “cliche” it means that is sexist, following that line of thought then Ambrose is an insult to all the man!, his descriptions is the one of a dumb person obsessed with power charmless and tries to buy anyone with lots of money and power!, what a sexist character not all man are like Ambrose!

  14. Of course it’s a sexist story, but that does not make it a sexist book. I don’t know if you have noticed, but Kvothe is utterly up his own arse, it would be ridiculous if he was not sexist. But don’t worry, he looks down on everyone, not just women. He sees himself as a god among men.

    As for the “female characters written as The Evil Demon Seductress are portraying women as manipulative, conniving and controlling.” it’s not sexism. It just plays into the weakness and fear of men. As in, men can not control their desire and fear being tied down.

    It’s like you missed everything this book is about. Which is the self obsessed egotistical rubbing of one man’s ego.

  15. Pingback: The Slow Regard of Silent Things | MeReader

  16. Thank you for this blog post. I have been listening (audiobook) happily to the lilting language of Rothfuss with a growing feeling of unease. There is a seriously insidious line of deeply ingrained heterosexual sexism running through this book (less so in the first) and it cannot be dismissed as easily as some would like by saying “but Hespe is a strong woman and so is Mola”. Very few contemporary sexists think that women cannot be strong and certainly no writer who wants success (as clearly Rothfuss’ ego demands) will write Princesses locked in castles waiting for Kvothe to save them. The world has been viewing women in a limited way for thousands of years and sexism has evolved and embedded itself in the psyche.

    Marie was the first moment I realised it was not just a dim feeling of discomfort, but an ‘institutional sexism’ that Rothfuss was demonstrating. This is how she was introduced:

    “I liked Marie. She was taller than most men, proud as a cat, and spoke at least four languages. Many of Imre’s musicians did their best to mimic the latest fashion, hoping to blend in with the nobility, but Marie wore road clothes. Pants you could do a day’s work in, boots you could use to walk twenty miles.I don’t mean to imply she wore homespun, mind you. She just had no love for fashion or frippery. Her clothes were obviously tailored for her, close fitting and flattering. Tonight she wore burgundy and brown, the colors of her patron, the Lady Jhale.

    The four of us eyed the stage. “I will admit,” Wilem said quietly, “that I have given Marie a fair amount of consideration.” Manet gave a low chuckle. “That is a woman and a half,” he said. “Which means she’s five times more woman than any of you know what to do with.” At a different time, such a statement might have goaded the three of us into swaggering protest. But Manet stated it without a hint of taunt in his voice, so we let it pass. Especially as it was probably true.
    “Not for me,” Simmon said. “She always looks like she’s getting ready to wrestle someone. Or go off and break a wild horse.”
    “She does.” Manet chuckled again. “If we were living in a better age they’d build a temple around a woman like that.” ”

    I’ll move pass the more obvious focus on her appearance and onto the immediate sexual objectification by the assembled ‘main’ characters. Wilem (a character I really liked) ponders Marie as one might the idea of buying a new car. Simmon rejects her as a sexual partner because she presents as being strong. But worst of all Manet, the grizzled 50 yr old student, describes her as something they need to “know what to do with”. Do we have the impression of a sentient equal being or do we have the impression of Marie as the wild horse not the breaker as Simmon weakly suggests? Rothfuss has admitted that there are strong, unusual women with talent in his universe, but that is irrelevant. Do the men admire her talent? No. Just discuss whether or not they would take a turn trying to tame this wild and unusual creature.

    And then the worst bit, the part that men after men after men (especially new agey types) have said time and time again “I’m not a feminist – I love women” as Manet raises a temple to Marie. There is one thing as bad (sometimes worse) than women being regarded as less-than-human is them being regarded as more-than-human. Why? Because we are not more than or less than, we just are. A woman put on a pedestal and called a goddess will never be able to live up to the false beliefs and aspirations of their partner. It is no better than telling a woman that she is worthless because both prevent her from being an average human being with flaws and talents. Consider me a goddess and I can only disappoint you. This is the latest incarnation of sexism and allows men, who actually need to take a long hard look at themselves and their attitudes, to claim their position as a feminist because they think women are “AMAZING! I wrote a worship poem to the breast. Women are incredible, sacred beings.” No. We are not. We are just people. We are as sacred as any other human being. The worst bit of ‘goddessing’ women (real or fictional) is that it is quite nice to be worshipped a bit and to have our bits praised so many women may regard my comments as counterproductive or as a criticism to complimentary behaviour. There is a difference between being told you are beautiful by someone who loves you and being put on a pedestal – watch out for the difference.

    Finally, we can make the excuse that “this isn’t Rothfuss, this is Kvothe – it’s Kvothe who is a bit of a dick”. Come on people – he is the author and he created Kvothe and then chose to write the book purely from his point of view. Rothfuss has crafted an inherently sexist world – a world with sexism all the way through the Fey (as described above). Rothfuss created a universe that is incredibly detailed and real with fairies and demons and magical spells. But he couldn’t create one where women were anything more to the main characters than something to f**k.

    Men reading this – if you have, repeatedly and endlessly been judged as whether or not you may be worth taking a turn on, then please express an opinion. If you have not, try to put yourself in our shoes for one moment and then re-read Rothfuss’ words. We’ve been living this for thousands of years. Enough is enough.

    The truth is that if Rothfuss was a sh*t writer I wouldn’t care, but he’s really good so it makes me angry he is so short sighted and one-track when it comes to women.

    • “men need to take a look at themselves and their attitudes” – and women don’t, of course. Men are bad, women are good. We get it.

      “men, have you been endlessly judged as to whether you’re worth taking a turn on?” – Check your female privilege. Any woman can get pregnant if she’s physically able, fulfilling the need to reproduce with little effort required. Men are the ones who are judged and rejected; on their looks, like women are judged, but also in countless other ways that women never have to worry about. Even in this comment, women are likely to show up and call me a loser who can’t get laid, or say that I live in my parents’ basement, or let me know that I’m unworthy to “take a turn on” with some other shaming language that would never apply to a woman. No woman gets rejected because she isn’t tall enough, isn’t rich enough, doesn’t have a prestigious career, doesn’t wear the right kind of shoes, or any of the petty reasons most women use to judge a man worthy.

      But you know all of that, since you’re thousands of years old like you said. And for thousands of years, you’ve been using men as your disposable slaves, letting them do all the work and all the defending your home with their lives, while you sat safe inside where you liked it, using your leisure time and lack of stress to work less, have a longer lifespan, and enjoy a higher standard of living.

      But that wasn’t good enough for you, so you demanded sweeping changes to our entire social structure. Now the majority of our children are raised only by women, and most students don’t have a male teacher until they’re 12 years old. And aren’t things great now? The first male authority figure some kids meet is a cop, and it doesn’t usually go well on their first try. But keep it up, maybe you’ll be able to completely destroy all civilization. Since every building you’ve ever seen was built by men, and men keep cell phones and Internet working, and your toilets, all you have to do is keep taking away their incentives to maintain modern society. Now that they can’t have a monogamous relationship with a respectful woman, and they have no rights concerning their own children, many men have already dropped out. Good work so far, but a few of them are still clinging on to your imaginary patriarchy (reality). Make sure to let all men know how bad they are for being men, and in 50 years we’ll all be living in caves. Or ruled by Muslims if you can only convince Western men to throw away their manhood. But I’m sure you ladies will do just fine without us if World War III breaks out. As with most wars, women will be perfectly fine sleeping with the invaders who killed their husbands, because men are disposable and interchangeable.

  17. You’re completely wrong. Kvothe allows Denna to use and abuse him throughout the entire story, and he sees it as natural because the author is from our culture which values women more than men. Kvothe breaks a man’s arm for “victim-blaming” a woman, but Felurian rapes Kvothe and he still sees her as a wonderful matriarchal goddess. This book plainly tells us that it’s a harder life for a woman to eat expensive dinners for free while controlling every man she meets, compared to a young man being homeless and starving after witnessing his family being murdered by demons. The young man agrees that his life of poverty is easier than that of the privileged woman, and he guiltily berates himself for any criticism of her behavior. She violates his consent by using magic to coercively manipulate his thoughts and actions in their relationship, but he is painted as “a fool like all men” whenever he cannot satisfy her every unspoken whim. His role is to be an object of usefulness for women, and he is treated as if his feelings are irrelevant when compared to the desires of any woman. He loses his virginity by being raped by a woman who intends to kill him, and he speaks fondly of her for the rest of his life. His second sexual partner is a woman who physically beats him and intends to deliver him to her culture’s death penalty. His third sexual partner tells him that any child she bears is hers alone, because there is no such thing as fatherhood, and men have no role in reproduction nor any rights in raising their own children. It’s typical feminist brainwashed man-hating trash, and we see it every day until we don’t even notice it. Some of us are brazenly self-centered enough to call it sexist against women, while fully aware of the fact that men have no reproductive rights at all in our society, nor are they even allowed the right to vote which women enjoy for free.

  18. Thank you for this. I had avoided the Kvothe stories specifically because of a Penny Arcade strip commenting on all the sex in TWMF ( and anything those guys like is suspect) but because I had to read the first book in the series for a book club, and more or less enjoyed it, I read the second. Having finished it, I was left feeling very puzzled, knowing that something felt wrong about it from a feminist standpoint, but I was having a hard time drilling down exactly what. Your words helped me contextualize and better understand what was bugging me (and that I was right to be bugged). I can still appreciate the female characters in the book, but be bothered by the overall message.

    • But you’re not bothered by a serial rapist and murderer, as long as it’s a female.

      I’ve discussed it a few times online, and I’ve heard a lot of apologies for why it’s okay to drug, rape, and try to murder a 15-year-old virgin. As long as it’s a male.

      In my experience, rape apologists are the only people who say these books are biased in favor of men.

  19. This was a really well-written article. Your points are spot-on. I find it interesting that Rothfuss actually has a bit of a feminist background. When he was an English professor at UofW Stevens Point, he advised their Feminist club. He talks so much about how women are objectified and how careful he is to avoid the negative, subconscious attitudes society has towards women, yet even readers who are simply reading his books for fun can’t help but notice how sexist some of the passages are.

    Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Rothfuss quite a bit. At the same time, I couldn’t help but groan when I read some of these passages. Forgive me if they’ve already been mentioned, but I had to bring up these “gems:”

    NotW Paperback page 274:

    “It was a young woman of about eighteen. A rarity of sorts. The ratio of men to women in the University is about ten to one.

    Hemme’s manner softened when she entered the room. He moved quickly up the steps to greet her. “Ah, my dear. I am suddenly pleased that we have not yet begun today’s discussion.” He took her by the elbow and led her down a few of the steps to the first available seat.

    She was obviously embarrassed by the attention. ‘I’m sorry, Master Hemme. Mains is bigger than I’d guessed.’

    ‘No worry,’ Hemme said in a kindly fashion. ‘You’re here and that’s what matters.’ He solicitously helped her arrange her paper and ink before returning to the stage.

    Once there, it seemed as if he might actually lecture. But before he began he looked back to the girl. ‘I’m sorry, miss.’ She was the only woman in the room. ‘Poor manners on my part. What is your name?’

    ‘Ria.’

    ‘Ria, is that short for Rian?’

    ‘Yes, it is,’ she smiled.

    ‘Rian, would you please cross your legs?’

    The request was made with such an earnest tone that not even a titter escaped the class. Looking puzzled, Rian crossed her legs.

    ‘Now that the gates of hell are closed,’ Hemme said in his normal, rougher tones. ‘We can begin.’

    ‘And so he did, ignoring her for the rest of the lecture.'”

    I think we all understand what PR is trying to say here: Hemme is an asshole. PR even said at one of his panel discussions that he included this little exchange to illustrate Hemme’s character. However, PR could have (and did) employ plenty of other means to illustrate Hemme’s sour disposition. The scene would have been a lot pithier if Hemme was the only one with such attitudes, but we can all agree he definitely isn’t. Even Kvothe demonstrates extremely sexist (and dare I say, bizarre?) attitudes towards women. One example I found especially cringe worthy is as follows:

    NotW page 313

    “‘I would settle for a primer,’ I said with a smile. ‘I have it on good report that I don’t know the first thing about [women], so anything would further my knowledge.’

    ‘Something with pictures?’ Ambrose spat.

    ‘If our search generates to that level, I’ll be sure to call on you,’ I said without looking in his direction. I smiled at Fela. ‘Perhaps a bestiary,’ I said gently. “I hear they are singular creatures, much different than men.'”

    The assertion that women are different from men wouldn’t have been so bad if Kvothe had left it at that, but by saying he needs a bestiary to learn about them reeks of sexism. While Kvothe probably meant this as a compliment, comparing women to beasts imbibes the assertion of “difference” a negative connotation. In essence, he’s saying women are to men as animals are to humans.

    “‘Fela’s smile blossomed and she gave a small laugh. ‘We could have a look around, I suppose.'”

    Fela is portrayed as one of the best students at the university, but I can’t help but feel like PR undermines such a portrayal. He insults her intelligence by having her laugh at a comment that is just as chauvinistic as Ambrose’s advances.

    PR, are you mocking yourself? Are you really the feminist you say you are?

    Apologies for the long rant. It’s just that I really like PR and it’s frustrating to hear such a gracious, talented writer can call himself a feminist while writing sexist passages like these.

    • You’re reaching pretty hard. I know feminist interpretation of literature is nothing more than pointing at something and saying “that’s sexist”, but you’re pointing at the author mocking sexist attitudes. He’s already agreeing with you, but it’s never enough. Try to heed the lesson, because you’re a man too. You can try to agree with feminists that men are bad, but you’ll always be bad. They will never accept you, because you are their enemy.

      Rothfuss literally has someone tell his main character, “Men have nothing to offer the world but anger” and Kvothe can find no good objection. Kvothe agrees that men are worthless, but you say the book is biased against women.

      Kvothe saves his virginity for a woman who dates his worst enemy, and dozens of other men. He makes himself subservient to her every whim. But when he is raped at the age of 15 by a serial rapist/murderer, Denna throws it in his face and blames him for seeing other people while she sees even more. While he’s been homeless, getting gang-raped in alleys, starving and barefoot, this young woman has been eating free steak and drinking free wine, staying in luxurious hotels and getting expensive clothing and jewelry. But the story goes out of its way to tell us that her life is much harder than his, because she’s a woman. This book is right in line with the feminist teaching that men are bad and women are good.

      His first sexual partner was planning to kill him, but females are so much more valuable than men that he couldn’t bring himself to kill her. When people raped girls, he killed them. He even broke a boy’s arm for “victim-blaming”. But when someone rapes a teenage boy? Nobody cares. But you say the book is biased against women.

      Then he had a sexual relationship with his teacher/prison guard. She was also planning to kill him, like his first partner. She initiated the sexual relationship, even though he was a teenaged student and she was in a position of power over him. In that culture, women are physically stronger and have all the social and political power. Kvothe was helpless against her, and she even beat him in the face. He walked around with huge disfiguring bruises, and everyone looked at him with disgust, agreeing that he deserved to be beaten by his much older sexual partner of the dominant gender. But you say the book is biased against women.

      Then his next sexual partner told him that men have no reproductive rights. She mocked his belief that he should have a part in his own child’s life. And he ended up letting her win the argument, because he couldn’t think of a good response. But you think it’s sexist against women.

      Then he goes back to Denna, who still treats him as an inferior. When she writes a song that’s basically called “The guy who killed your parents is a wonderful hero”, he blames himself for having a negative reaction. The word of a woman is holy doctrine, and he committed the ultimate sin of displeasing her.

      But I’m sure there are plenty of mad-libs ways people can fill in the blanks and explain why this blatant hatred of men is actually sexist against women.

      • As I mentioned in the post above, I would be more willing to accept that PR is mocking sexist attitudes if such attitudes were displayed only by a handful of characters (including Hemme). But as other readers have pointed out, it isn’t. This makes it hard for me to believe that PR is mocking sexist attitudes.

        Felurian didn’t “rape” Kvothe, by the way. Kvothe was perfectly willing to go along with her games, even after regaining control awfully fast.

        • “She liked it”

          “She could have gotten away if she wanted”

          “Her judgement was impaired, and she never would have willingly gone to have sex with someone who was going to kill her, but it wasn’t rape because she wanted it.”

          Any other rape apologist excuses you’d like to add to your explanation of why it’s okay to rape and murder a 15-year-old virgin?

          • After willingly following Felurian into Fae and having sex with her, Kvothe leaves unscathed and still in control. Rothfuss even includes pages upon pages describing how much he is control. Kvothe’s “power rode like a white star on [his] forehead” as he names and binds Felurian within a silver flame. He was obviously in control of the situation. There was no rape. There was no murder. ‘Nuff said.

            Any other weak attempts to twist my words?

            • “After willingly following Chad into the frat house under the influence of a roofie, Suzie leaves the next morning in full control and without even a bad memory!”

              That’s you.

              You say “there was no murder”. You mean other than the hundreds or thousands of men she already raped and murdered? Will you admit that there was an attempted murder?

              Do you believe that Kvothe wanted to die? If not, why would he follow Felurian, knowing that she would kill him? Obviously his judgement was impaired by her magic like a date-rape drug.

              Kvothe is forced under Felurian’s control, and he has a post-traumatic flashback to being gang-raped in an alley. The book plainly says that he is unable to control his own body as she forces him nearer. And then she even begins to take away his own thoughts, his entire mind.

              He manages to break free for a short time, but then he loses his power over her and is once again her prisoner, completely unable to escape the Fae and return home. He still has to trick her into not killing him.

              So just say what you believe: “It’s okay to rape people, even if you’re planning to kill them.”

  20. “Your Honor, it’s not my fault. She’s just too sexy! I never would have run into the woods with her if it wasn’t for the pull of her amazing charm and bodacious form. I didn’t rape her. She raped me!”

    That’s you

    I never implied that rape is okay and you know it. That’s just a straw man you came up with to avoid the other valid points people have indicated. How convenient of you to ignore the fact (among others) that Kvothe thinks he needs to read a “bestiary” to understand women.

    Given his attitudes and the fact that he’s telling this story, it suffices to say that the attitudes are present in the novel.

    Try to twist what I say all you want, but all the other points brought up by Mary Jo, other commentators, and myself still stand. While there are instances of sexism towards men in the novel, the ones against women outnumber them.

    The most I would be willing to concede is that different characters in the novel each display sexist attitudes towards men or women.

    I rest my case. You can say I’m fraternizing with an enemy that will always hate me all you want. I call the book like I see it. The book displays sexists attitudes towards both men and women.

    • Do men die after Felurian has sex with them? Yes.

      Did Kvothe know that? Yes.

      Did Kvothe go anyway? Yes.

      Did Kvothe want to die? No.

      Was Kvothe’s judgement obviously impaired? Yes.

      Did Felurian violate Kvothe’s consent by leading him into a death trap against his will? Yes.

      “How convenient of you to ignore the fact (among others) that Kvothe thinks he needs to read a “bestiary” to understand women.”

      How white-knight of you to be offended on Fela’s behalf when Fela wasn’t offended. You are saying that women are too stupid to see sexism, so you have to point it out to them. Kvothe was making a joke at Ambrose’s expense, and Fela liked it. She also tried to have sex with Kvothe later, and he turned her down. Isn’t that interesting, since he later was unable to refuse a rapist who was planning to kill him. The difference is that Fela wasn’t using date-rape magic to impair Kvothe’s judgement.

      Did you ever read that story about a male demon who had sex with 15-year-old virgin girls and then killed them? The main character could’ve killed the demon and saved more innocent girls from being raped and murdered, but the book said the demon was so wonderful and beautiful that the world would be a lesser place without this demon continuing to rape and kill girls.

      Of course you didn’t read that book, because nobody would write that. Nobody would stand for female lives to be treated as so worthless, but they have no problem doing the same to men.

      I’ll provide some passages from the book, changing the genders to see how it sits with you:

      (I would usually provide a trigger warning for graphic descriptions of rape, but you’ve already read this and it didn’t bother you at all)

      “I woke with something brushing at the edges of my memory. I opened my eyes and saw a naked man sleeping near me. It was Bill Cosby. I looked down at my own naked body, my 15-year-old breasts reflecting moonlight. They had never been touched by a man, until last night. I didn’t even remember, but I knew I was no longer a virgin. I looked around and realized that no one from home would ever find me here. I was alone and at his mercy.

      A distant thought began to nag at me, but I brushed it away like an irritating fly. That’s Bill Cosby! Right there, in bed with me! Just the feeling of being with such a rich and powerful celebrity was probably worth the price all girls must pay for experiencing it.

      Something in my mind screamed at me, but the roofies in my system just made me stare at him in a trance.

      This man is going to kill me. The idea finally fought its way through to my conscious mind, and I felt every hair on my body stand suddenly on end. I had a moment of perfect, clear lucidity that resembled coming up for air and quickly closed my eyes, trying to lower myself into the Heart of Stone.

      It didn’t come. For the first time in my life, my mind was not mine to control. The drugs he had given me prevented me from achieving my normal calm state of mind.

      What did I know about this man? I had heard a hundred stories. He kidnapped girls and they died beneath the crush of his body. How did they die? It was fairly simple to guess: extreme physical stress. My entire body felt like a well-wrung rag. My shoulders ached, my knees burned, and my neck was bruised from his bites, from my right ear, down my chest, and…

      My body flushed as I forced myself to examine the aching pain of my anus and torn, deflowered vagina. Blood covered my thighs.

      But something didn’t make sense. Admittedly, he was charming and skilled. Without a doubt. But to the extent that every girl was fooled by him and followed him to her death? No. It simply wasn’t likely. I briefly entertained the notion that I was insane and didn’t know it. But then I realized that he must have drugged me before I was even aware of his presence last night.

      I looked up, and he was watching me.

      It may seem strange to you that at this point I felt fear. It may seem strange that only an arm’s length from the greatest and most famous comedian in the world, I was suddenly reminded of my own mortality.

      He smiled like a knife in velvet and stretched like a cat in the sun.

      His body was built to stretch, the arch of his back, his hard belly going taut. The heavy hanging weight of his penis was lifted by the motion of his movement, and suddenly I felt like a bitch in heat. My body reacted to him, and I felt as if someone were hammering at the cool impassivity of Heart of Stone with a hot poker.

      If not for my mental training, I would have been a broken, pitiful thing, only able to concentrate on my own captivation. I clenched my jaw and struggled against the effects of the drugs.

      He looked at me with eyes as intent and expressionless as a bird’s. ‘Why are you so quiet, lover?’

      He came closer, moving on his hands and knees through the pillows. I looked into his eyes, and in a flash of understanding I realized what his life must be like. An old man, and lonely from time to time. If he wanted companionship he had to seduce and lure. I felt a moment of pity for him. I know what loneliness is like.

      ‘Are you weary?’ he asked with a hint of a smile. ‘I would not have tired you, had I known.’

      I gave my best apologetic smile. ‘I’m sorry, but it seems to be getting late. I’ll need to be going…’

      My vision went black as he struck a blow to the back of my head. I felt him inject me with more drugs, and I felt my will to resist melting away. Only because of my arcane training did I hold onto any concept of my own identity at all.

      His face was angry and terrible, his eyes cold and hard as distant stars. With a deliberate calm he prepared more drugs to give me. There was such a weight of fury in his simple motions that my stomach clenched and I realized this fact:

      No one EVER left Bill Cosby. Ever. He kept girls until their bodies and minds broke beneath the strain of his ‘love’. He kept them until he tired of them.

      I was powerless. I was a novelty. I was a toy, favorite because it was newest. It might be a long time before he tired of me, but the time would come.

      As I sat among the silks with my control slipping away, I felt a wave of cold sweat sweep over my body. I clenched my jaw and felt a small anger flare up. Over the course of my life my mind has been the only thing I’ve always been able to rely on, the only thing that has always been entirely mine.

      The part of me that was still myself raged, but with a horrible fascination I felt him bend down to kiss me. I howled inside my own mind. I threw myself against the bars of an intangible cage made of terror and drugs.

      He touched my cheek softly, and something broke in my mind.

      I felt the snap as four years of my life slid away. Suddenly I was back on the streets of Tarbean. Three boys, bigger than me with greasy hair and piggish eyes had dragged me from the broken crate where I’d been sleeping. Two of them held me down, pinning my arms. I lay in a stagnant puddle that was bitterly cold.

      One of them had his hand over my mouth. It didn’t matter. I had been in the city for months. I knew better than to yell for help. At best no one would come. At worst someone would, and then there would be more of them.

      Two of them held me down. The third cut my clothes off my body. He cut me. They told me what they were going to do. Their breath was horribly warm against my face. They laughed.

      I had never again experienced the terror of being held down and raped, until that night with Bill Cosby. But, long story short, I tricked him into letting me go without killing me. I promised him I would return one day, and I was sad to leave him. Looking back, it was a wonderful time and the world is a more beautiful place for having him in it.”

      Any of this sounding a little like rape to you yet? Maybe? Any gender bias in there? But only when it happens to a female, right?

    • “Your Honor, it’s not my fault. She’s just too sexy! I never would have run into the woods with her if it wasn’t for the pull of her amazing charm and bodacious form. I didn’t rape her. She raped me!”

      Are you suggesting that Bill Cosby’s accusers raped HIM?

      Do you believe that following someone into the woods, or into a hotel room, means that you deserve to be raped and/or murdered?

      In your mind, what is the difference between a woman following Bill Cosby into his hotel room, and Kvothe following Felurian into the woods?

  21. Excellent question, and I’d like to hear the answer from feminists:

    “What is the difference between a woman following Bill Cosby into his hotel room, and Kvothe following Felurian into the woods?”

    Is it different because Kvothe is male, so it’s not important to you if he is raped and/or murdered?

    Is it different because the facts are plain that Felurian has raped and murdered men for thousands of years, while some of Bill Cosby’s accusers are liars?

    When it’s Bill Cosby against 12 accusers, the word of 1 man against 12 women, of course you believe the women. Why? Because “those women can’t all be lying”? Because “the word of 12 outweighs the word of 1”? Then why, when it’s the word of 1 woman against 12 fraternity members, do you still believe the woman? Even after she is proven to be a liar who fabricated her accusations, you believe 1 woman against 12 men.

    If 12 women can’t lie, then how can 12 men lie? If 12 outweighs 1, then how does 1 outweigh 12? It’s not about justice, evidence, facts, or truth. You just believe women over men, and you do not want men to have the same legal rights as women.

    Men’s human rights don’t matter to you, because you say our power structure gives men the power and makes women the minority (even though there are more women, showing that you don’t understand the definition of “minority”).

    But when you create a power structure in a university with women in control and with men as the minority, THEN you think it’s okay for the gender with more power in that system to discriminate against the minority gender. Because feminism isn’t about equality, it’s about elevating the position of women even farther above men than it already is.

  22. did you even read the book??? The thing about Felurian wasnt that she was trying to kill him. The men died from sexual fatigue. Felurian never once tried to fool him into doing what she wanted, as the book stated it ws merely natural the way Kvothe reacted. It also implies she only came across a human only every so often. I don’t think its all that unnatural for her to her to be the way she is. She never once tried to force im to stay. The problem was Kvothe, he couldnt get away from her any other way than he did. I hardly think “sexual” powers are all she has, she did make him a cloak of shade and moonlight remember? and idk if you’ve looked at the real world, but most musicians are sex deranged assholes :P, so nothing different there. He AT LEAST values his music in comparison to them. If you look back on other mythological crestures and such, 99%of them revolve around sexual culture as well. and actually im pretty sure Kvothe was 18 when he left Felurian, He was at least 17 before he went in, and he was there anywhere from a month to a year, even then as i said culture. 18 hasnt been the indefinite law of the sexual universe. its more or less modern morality.

    Theres nothing wrong with Kvothe sleeping with amother woman when he’s in love with Denna, if you actually read the book you’d know he wasn’t even aware of it first of all, and second both sexes equally sleep with others whether or not they already have someone they love.

    Third, yes all men have a perfect image of a women, no we’ll never find, yes we still like to dream.

    Not only did Kvothe trick her into letting him go, surely you realized if he had killed her he would have been stuck in the Fae. He was in a separate world, he didn’t know his way home and im sure he realized that. So it would have been easier to have her show him out.

    Anyways another thing. He didn’t say no one can compare to Felurian, he clearly stated that while Felurian was good, Losine was just as good BUT in a different setting.

    stop viewing the world in a single manner, there was nothing wrong with the way he wrote those chapters. if anything its a much more minor version of what goes on in the real world.

  23. I can’t believe you didn’t mention that not only did he trick Felurian into letting him go free (because he’s just that speshul) by manipulating her vanity, she also initially wouldn’t believe he’d been a virgin because he’d been just THAT good at sex even before she taught him how to be better. And that’s not even touching the super special cloak gift and the fact that on a separate occasion, he pretty much bested her in a magical fight by calling the name of the wind (didn’t it say that he could have killed her then?). So he wanders in and leaves as having gotten the upper hand on this immortal, legendary being in every way possible, as if Pat couldn’t bear to have him be bested by her in even one respect. It’s just an embarrassing mess of a stew of wish-fulfillment to read. By itself that wouldn’t be so bad, but this guy’s *critically acclaimed*!

    • Why don’t you care about a serial rapist and murderer raping teenage virgins?

      You must be educated in a rape culture where rape is so normal that you don’t even notice it. But only when it happens to men.

      Rothfuss has been brainwashed by feminism, and that’s why he wrote the book that way. Kvothe murders rapists – if they rape women – but he agonizes over the ones who were female. Nobody gives a shit how many men he kills, but he is sick that some of the poor rapists were women. Luckily a woman absolves him of guilt and tells him it’s okay to kill female rapists. But only if they rape women. He still believes that a woman who rapes and murders teenaged boys makes the world a more beautiful place, and he chooses to allow her to continue raping and murdering more teenage virgins.

  24. You’ve committed a faux pas in assuming that a depiction of one character is symbolic of the entire female gender. If that were so then Ambrose – chauvinist and possible rapist – would depict all men and Kingkiller would be misandrist too. We see in the books women using other skills and talents not related to their sexuality to overcome difficult situations or to advance the plot in significant ways, such as Devi overpowering Kvothe with her Alar, and Fela is the first to succeed in Elodin’s class and call the name of Stone.

    There is also the consideration of the narrative being told as a pubescent teenage boy. Yes, things are bound to be sexualized, especially because of the first-person perspective, that’s just realistic, not sexist. Kvothe is depicted as a modest and considerate person, and despite his lustful thoughts I can guarantee *every* teenager has been susceptible to them, girls included.

    While we’re talking about tropes, Ambrose is the walking effigy of a rich boy chauvinist, yet I don’t see you jumping to defend men against the injustice of Rothfuss’ inclusion of this particular trope. Taking it a step further with Lanre, who is the “knight fallen from grace”. Are all men susceptible to corruption?

    • Good points. Do you think you have a more balanced view of gender since you wear breeches and don’t angrily tug your braid?

      Do you think there’s a difference between Kvothe following Felurian into the woods, and a young aspiring starlet following Bill Cosby into a hotel room at 3AM? (Other than the fact that hundreds of people haven’t died immediately after having sex with Bill Cosby)

  25. I was incredibly disappointed with how many results I found when I google searched “Kingkiller Chronicles sexism.” I really really enjoyed the books and there was a tiny bit of hope deep down inside me that I was being too sensitive and maybe I would be able to read the third installment without feeling too much shame. And then I read about the encounter with the faux Edema Ruh. And Rothfuss–the award winning author that he is–used the phrase “not all men.” Granted, The Wise Man’s Fear was written before that idea became popular, but the whole conversation leading up to that was actually pretty unnecessary. It almost seemed like Rothfuss was tipping a hat to his high school self in his protagonist. I could feel fedoras everywhere thinking, ‘Yep, I would do the same thing because I am different than other guys.’ This is fine. A conversation not really required to the story line, but fine. Maybe he did kill the bandits because they were hurting Ell and Krin and not because they were giving a bad name to his deceased family. Fine.

    Then we find a new and brief character, Gran. A wise woman. A woman who knows more about arrowroot than Kvothe! We like her! And Rothfuss gives her a quote for the ages! When Kvothe feels bad about killing the two defenseless female bandits, Gran makes him feel better by explaining (and forgive me for paraphrasing as I do not have my copy on me currently): *When men do something [like physically abuse and sexually assault women] they are acting on instinct and are dogs that need to be put down; they have no control over it. When women let it happen, they are worse because they should know better.* Forgive me if I feel like EVERY PERSON EVER should know better.

    That was the nail in the coffin for me. A sexist author exists when he (or she) cannot write from the perspective of a non-sexist character. Maybe it was just supposed to be Kvothe, society and all that. But then how can we read novels by male authors such as Martin and Durham, explicitly writing that their female characters exist in a sexist society but without creating excuses for their male characters. Fantasy novels frequently rotate on an axis similar to the middle ages; women were discriminated against at that point. True. Kvothe is 16 and obsessed with sex. A given. We all were. Patrick Rothfuss is a famous author and can write whatever he damn well pleases. I agree. I will read the next installment because I am desperate to know what happens. Yep. However, it is a terrible shame that the young men who read novels like this are going to grow up and turn into the men who are writing novels like this. I-deserve-Denna-because-I’m-the-nice-one men and my-lingering-stares-make-Fela-feel-beautiful men. Fantasy novels are supposed to show young people how heroes should act. Anti-heroes are enticing, but they can be misogynists.

    I credit Patrick Rothfuss with many good qualities. It has been years since I’ve read something this unique. I will read the next book and I will enjoy it. But sexism in fantasy novels needs to be talked about. It is creating generation after generation of men who do not understand the concept of feminism and think they are each a very special version of a hero. Giving a female character the ability to split her alar 6 ways is not the same as creating a way for young people to understand equality.

    • So you don’t mind as much when a teenage virgin is raped and (attempted) murdered, as long as the victim is male. You don’t mind when one gender has all the physical and social power in society, and a member of that privileged gender physically abuses her sexual partner of the weaker gender – as long as the teenager getting used for sex and then beaten is a male. You don’t mind when someone’s sexual partner says that one gender has no reproductive rights, and nothing to offer the world. The entire gender, nothing to offer. That doesn’t bother you, as long as it’s a male.

      No, what bothers you is when a man says the wrong word, or kills rapist with a slightly incorrect attitude. Because feminism is all about men – what men do wrong, what men should do differently, what men aren’t doing correctly enough.

      Feminism has taught you to see women as objects to be acted upon by men. You have no comments on what women should do differently, because you don’t think woman can do anything at all. You think it’s up to men to do whatever needs to be done. That way, women are always victims and everything is always a man’s fault.

  26. I’d almost bet the farm that every one of the people critisizing the female characters as being patently sexually related are from a sexually repressed culture.
    In my opinion people should relate to each other sexually, and not in any dirty way, but in the simple way that animals do. Our reproductive vigor is a huge part of what motivates our survival instinct, our protective instincts, and our familial instincts. Oh, that’s right, in sexually repressed societies (like the USA) instincts take a back seat to ambition and money.
    Where has this lead us? Global environmental crisis for one. Thanks to the pursuit of science over the priority of quality of life, enslavement and exploitation flourish as the drive train for catastrophic extinction and environmental events. Where we could have just roamed making offspring, gathering food to survive and dodging the occasional jaguar, now we have tragic on epic scale for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the unpopular while the educated elite and their pseudo – feminist allies run roughshod over “lesser” species and people, all in the name of good old education and science.
    Thanks for nothing. Being a sexual creature (at least for the sake of furthering the survival of the species) is as natural as a seed germinating in fertile soil as pure rain falls upon it and the sun warms it. Nothing dirty or degrading about it. Just simple, clean, righteous instinct.

  27. “Because of this trope, the only power Felurian has is an erotic power.” First, we see that Felurian is faster, stronger, and generally more powerful than Kvothe. Obviously eroticism isn’t her only source of power. Second, Kvothe mentions, on more than one occasion, that the strength in her voice reminds him of Elodin’s. You could interpret this to mean that he’s got some sort of homoerotic crush on Elodin (and that’s why Felurian makes him think of Elodin), you could disregard it completely (which I’m assuming is what you’re doing) or you can recognize that she has strength and power that isn’t necessarily visible to the human eye. Additionally, it’s ridiculous to claim that it’s sexist for Kvothe to outsmart her. Kvothe is brilliant. This is something we’re told over and over again, and we watch him outsmart people (both men and women) again and again.

    “The problem with that metaphor is that it gives all the power to the man, the musician or listener.” This is true, except for the fact that you could easily reverse the sexes in this metaphor. Does he? No, because he’s speaking only for himself.

    “I do, however, understand sexism, and I know it when I see it.” Some people find what they’re looking for, whether it’s there or not.

    • Also, Devi, a female character is repetedly shown to outsmart Kvothe throught the series. Also Pat himself said that Devi is definitely smarter than Kvothe. (Although he is a prodigical student)

  28. Hmmm it seems pretty clear that there is some male-gaze gender role stuff going on in the series, especially seeing as how the lead character is an egotistical teenage male. The character of Felurian seemed to me to be more of a representation of the problems with the male gaze and the idea of the ultimately sexualized woman. Felurian is both the most attractive woman in the world, and the most sexually insatiable, which basically sounds to me like the adolescent male brain’s ultimate wet dream. But Felurian is also a complex character, not necessarily evil, but she creates problems in the story not through her own fault, but through Kvothe’s. Where a siren is an evil creature with no characterization, Felurian is more complex and seems to serve more as a vehicle for Kvothe’s faults to become more pronounced than an enemy character. Whether or not her inclusion in the story makes WMF sexist I think is up for debate, but I would argue that Rothfuss knew what he was doing when he included a character that would so obviously rouse a discussion about sexism and the male gaze.

    I would say that some of the other characters in the series actually demonstrate Rothfuss’s ignorance of the story’s sexism more than Felurian. All of the most powerful characters are male (I think there are no female masters at the university), and Kvothe’s classmates at the university seem to be more steryotypically feminine. Like that girl who Kvothe saves from the fire. She straight up falls in love with him, and I think we all saw that coming. Denna has a lot more depth than most of the other female characters, but of course she’s the love interest.

    Honestly a lot of this stuff seems purposeful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s ok for Rothfuss to be doing it. That’s a matter of opinion. Anyway good article, these are the discussions that we need to have about stories.

  29. “My favorite quote from the video: “female characters written as The Evil Demon Seductress are portraying women as manipulative, conniving and controlling.”

    No. This is portraying a god of lust, sex, and passion as the god of lust, sex, and passion. Says nothing about all other women. Felurian, a mythical(or is she?) character has these traits. Don’t ruin a great story with your shotgun approach to feminism.

    “These demon women always have ulterior motives, their sexuality is dangerous, and they’ll probably bite your head off. The harmful, misogynist myth that this trope reinforces is that women primarily use their so-called sexual power as a way to manipulate, trick and control men.””

    Stop. By this logic, men should be upset about the portrayal of the Greek god Ares or by the way James Bond treats women in his movies. These examples don’t reinforce any trope because most people who read books and watch movies remember that it’s fiction. Actually, I should be pissed about Athena, because she’s supposed to be so wise that she isn’t lured by the folly of men. What’s wrong with us men(I’m sobbing right now at the unfairness)

    Also, in my opinion, Felurian is wise, strong, and kind.. Should she be the god of wisdom, strength, and kindness instead? Would be cool, but not as cool.

    This is fiction. These are stories, no one is claiming fact. This isn’t a Bio or Anatomy book claiming that this is the nature of all women. Felurian is a god of sex, lust, and passion. Let her have sex, show lust, and be passionate.

  30. I agree that the tale is viewed from the eyes of an adolescent, exposed for the first time to sex. He’s in love, but not with felurian and his attempt at staying true is to view his interaction with felurian as purely a learning experience.

    He’s young, inexperienced, and still developing, so his view at that moment in his life appears shallow to us. But I’m sure later on we see who he once was and how far he will come from his early views. His thoughts aren’t refined just yet.

    I think felurian is an attempt at pure sensuality. Almost an explanation of where strong emotions or feelings come from. I wonder if the other beings are pure embodiments of: anger, happiness, love, fear, etc. But he doesn’t encounter them and the other fae are exaggerations of human emotion.

    Not necessarily good or bad, they just are.

    • You view being raped as a “shallow” moment in a 15-year-old virgin’s life? Serial rapist/murderers are “not necessarily good or bad”?

        • Felurian has been raping and murdering for thousands of years. Kvothe was a 15-year-old virgin. He didn’t want to die, but Felurian used her magic like a date-rape drug to force him to have sex with her. Then she was going to kill him. But you didn’t even notice anything wrong with it, because you have been taught that women are always good and men are worthless.

          • He made the choice to run after her. We all have choices to make. I thought he knew who she was and what she does when he saw her and his friends tried to warn him.

            • He was not free to consent, because she was controlling him with magic. That’s why Hespe had to break Dedan’s arm to keep him from running to his death.

              He told her he needed to leave, and she struck him with violent magic that felt like he had been hit in the back of the head. Then she tried to rape him again, and kill him, “her face angry and terrible, her eyes cold and hard…no one ever left Felurian. Ever. She kept men until their bodies and minds broke…She kept them until she tired of them…I was powerless. I was a toy.”

  31. This post is degrading women to be idiots who can’t understand when someone is actually empowering their gender. The next part of the book is about a matriarchal society where women are better in everything, and have such control in that society that they have come to believe men have nothing to do with giving birth.

    Learn to distinguish sexism you feminazi bitch.

  32. It’s sexist because of of a siren-like figure? Oh please.
    And I suppose it’s sexist that Dedan is prortrayed as a “big, strong but stupid” stereotype?
    Or the “men are rapist” stereotype with ambrose, or the guy hitting Denna?
    Oh no, Sinder and Haliax are men, and they’re prortrayed as bad people. Horrible..horrible I tell ye!

  33. Bad case of overreacting here. If you want to read a perfectly political correct book, write one by yourself. Because there is no book, that doesn’t offend some idiot

  34. What’s the difference between Kvothe following Felurian into the woods, and Krin & Ellie following the singers into the woods?

    Is it different because you think women aren’t responsible for their own actions, and only men have the power to make anything happen?

    Is that why “don’t meet strangers in the woods” isn’t an option for teenage virgins when they’re female, but “Teach Felurian not to rape” isn’t an option when the teenage virgin is male?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s