Sunday, April 19, 2009

Heinlein's Female Troubles - New York Times

Heinlein's Female Troubles - By M. G. LORD - New York Times : "Given Heinlein's apparently feminist ideas, you'd think he would be enshrined as a champion of women's rights. And had he stopped writing with his young-adult novels, he most likely would have been. But the sexual revolution took a toll on him, tainting some of his post-1970 novels with a dated lasciviousness and impairing his ability to create three-dimensional women. In Heinlein's earliest stories - the ones in which lady scientists used their initials - Heinlein eroticized his women. But the prim conventions of 1950's fiction precluded doing this explicitly. By the 1980's, however, he felt licensed to reveal more - or, in the case of Friday, to describe sexual experiences from a woman's point of view. Friday is an 'Artificial Person'; she was conceived in vitro and brought to term in an incubator, which in the book's fictive world is a terrible stigma. To today's AIDS-conscious reader, however, Friday bears a worse stigma: she is a brazen disease vector, recklessly promiscuous, with a bizarre weakness for male engineers. (Heinlein trained as an engineer.) This gives unintended meaning to the idea of Artificial Person; Friday exists only as a mouthpiece. Heinlein has so thoroughly objectified her that her subjectivity falls flat.

Sometimes I wish Heinlein were a less complex writer, that I could cheerlead for his early novels"

As a result of this paragraph I am rereading Friday. So far MG's criticisms seem a little dated and shrill. I find his later novels, while sexually explicit in conformance with the popular fiction of the time, Heinlein was above all a popular fiction writer, still had that unusual emphasis on females as competent fully participatory humans, who just happened to be the half that got pregnant. I think some of the problems feminists have is that Heinlein's women are interested in having babies. Many of his explorations of family structures are setting up child care situations for women who are not dedicated child care providers. In all his families in the later novels, the men are expected to be involved in child rearing coequally with the women. Radical for the time.

No comments:

Post a Comment