I admit that I’ve never read beyond five pages of Bakker’s debut novel The Darkness that Comes Before. It may have something to do with the fact that the thing opens with a little boy being repeatedly raped, though really the writing is leaden as fuck too.
What you need to know about Bakker’s books, though, is that in his setting women are–objectively–spiritually inferior to men. And that, throughout his books, people are raped a lot: not just women, mind, but even so. It’s a lot of rape to go around, a lot of juvenile grimdark. A lot of people complained about this. Bakker fired back with this:
In a Q&A you did five years ago, you brought up the issue of exploring sexism in the guise of what if religious tracts were correct about the “inferiority” of women. Despite this, you’ve received some flak for the lack of female characters that aren’t variations of the “crone, whore, or saint.” Has this affected your portrayals of some of the female characters?
When it comes to the misogyny charge my answer has been fairly consistent, I think. First, that I am a sexist, insofar as I think men are generally less competent than women across the majority of modern social contexts.
Awwww isn’t he adorable. He thinks this will let him off the hook! Isn’t it just the cutest? Maybe it’d have been if Bakker was ten.
I generally find women more reliable and trustworthy. If anything, misandry is my problem, not misogyny.
Pity misandry isn’t a real thing, hmm? And, yeah, sure. Sure you do, boyo.
Third, that those who decide my books are misogynistic cannot help but find evidence to confirm their view (just as people who decide my books are feminist (my intention) cannot help but find evidence confirming their view). Fourth, that I recognize the problem of the ‘Archie Bunker effect,’ that for many readers the feminist subtexts are simply too opaque to rescue the books from misogynistic misreadings.
So, if you think his whole “women are objectively spiritually inferior” thing is misogynistic, you’re just letting your bias get into the way. You’ve already decided, in a vacuum, that he is a sexist cock. It can’t have been something Bakker wrote, or said, can it? Ah no. The problem, my friends, is that the feminist subtexts are just too opaque for little minds like ours to comprehend. Here’s a hint, boyo; while it’s possible to explore feminism through creating a fictional misogynistic culture, it takes a good bit of finesse to do. The finesse that you, being an egocentric little wanker with gargantuanly overinflated ideas of your own writing ability and worth, do not have. You aren’t exactly Ursula le Guin or… or anything who’s done anything worthwhile to contribute to feminism, really.
And fifth, that the story is far from done, that my critics are passing judgment on fractions of the whole.
Eat shit. The first bite tastes like shit? Keep going, eventually it’ll become cake.
A surfeit of ‘weak female characters’ they then consider a flag for misogyny. Add that to a brutally patriarchal setting, and we have a pretty compelling case that Bakker is a misogynist.
All they need do is keep reading after this point: a character will have a hundred thoughts, and they’ll pounce upon the one involving sex. That thought will have a hundred different possible interpretations, but they’ll crow about the one that confirms their criticism. The very semantic density of the works begins working against me. Competing interpretations are dismissed, particularly if they’re charitable. To preempt the possibility that I’m doing something more complicated, I get dragged through the mud in other ways. I become trite, derivative, preachy, and the list goes on.
Well I don’t know about your prose, boyo, but you know what you sound like right now? Trite. Preachy. Whiny. Stupid. And pretentious, while we’re at it. You see, sonny, people are not obliged to read your work the way you want them to.
Once people socially commit to this position, then its game over. Others challenge them (because the books really are more complicated) and suddenly making their case becomes a matter of in-group prestige.
Oh my goodness can you get any further up your own anus. MY BOOKS CHALLENGE YOU, THEY ARE SO COMPLICATED. What a self-important little roach.
They become invested, to the point of repeating the same arguments over years. It really is remarkable. They end up sounding like, well, gay conservatives.
HAHA PEOPLE WHO THINK HIS BOOKS ARE MISOGYNISTIC ARE JUST LIKE GAY CONSERVATIVES
What did you have for breakfast on that day, Bakker? Your own piss?
And the unfortunate fact is that they prime the expectations of other readers, bend the funhouse mirror in ways that tend to close the possibility of open, charitable readings–a mindset that I think the books genuinely reward. I have no doubt that sales have suffered, such is the power of labels. Books that interrogate misogyny, that ask genuinely hard questions about gender (as opposed to politically correct ones), become shunned as ‘misogynistic.’
My jaw actually dropped IRL here. I don’t think this part requires any commentary. It speaks for itself, and what it says is: “I, R. Scott Bakker, is an egocentric snowflake who can take no criticism and I’m as good a feminist as Joss Whedon, totally.” Good job sneaking in the “politically correct” jibe in there, shit-eater, because this diatribe just wouldn’t be complete without.
Is this me ‘blaming the reader’? Fucking A it is.
Awwww people don’t read your books just the way you want them to.
How harsh reality is.
There just has to be something wrong with me or my books. It’s so obvious. And yet, when I tell friends of mine, male and female, that people ‘out there’ think I’m a male chauvinist, they laugh their asses off. People who actually know me think it’s preposterous.
Why do all neckbeards trot out this one? “You don’t know me, you don’t know meeeee.” Either it’s their wife, or their mom, or their goldfish, who thinks they are just dandily perfect human beings and would never, ever do or say anything that’d be sexist/racist/homophobic. The thought that people might be remotely justified at all never strikes them. It’s simply not possible. After all, people who know them say so. The rest of us who simply derive his attitudes from what he says and does online, well, we could never be magical enough to truly know him.
More than a few times I found myself writing material that I knew people would intentionally read against my intent, but like I said, I was already committed. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that a certain subset of readers will see flags instead of ciphers, and that this controversy will always dog the books. All I can hope is that the overall reputation of the series will survive and eventually overshadow this perplexing sideshow. For all the praise you hear about ‘risk taking,’ you still get punished for taking them. That’s what makes them risks in the first place!
Bakker has taught me that:
- it’s always the readers’ fault you come across as a sexist douche
- it’s incomprehensible that anyone would find his texts misogynistic (despite the “women are, objectively, spiritually inferior to men”), “perplexing sideshow” even
- writing misogynistic texts in a genre full of misogynistic texts constitutes significant risk-taking
Thank you, Mr Bakker.
He is also notable for masquerading on Westeros.org while referring to himself as though he weren’t Bakker. That’s right, compatriots: he honestly sock-puppets in praise of himself. When caught out, he erupted into excuses. Like everything else he says and does online, the excuses he throws up are incredibly wanky and pretentious.