PUBLIC RESPONSES TO
"Sexism in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time"
From Gavin Rathbone, June 24, 2007
~Abby's response is in red~
I just found your article concerning sexim in the Wheel of Time series, and, considering I've become annoyed myself with the constant competition between genders in the books, it sparked my interest. I doubt you've gotten any responses to it in quite some time, but I only recently stumbled across your site in the between-book desperate search for anything WoT.
It's true, the number of responses to this article has fallen off considerably since 2005. Why is that? Are people scared off by my public posting of their emails, or is there a worldwide reduction in the number of WoT fans?
I often find myself just thinking, "Why can't they just get along?" It seems very much as if the confrontation is uneccesary in many ways. Instead, too often you see "Oh he's a man, let's assume he's impossible on general principle." Or "She's a woman, therefore utterly insane."
Anyway, despite that, one major note I made concerning your arguements was in the strength of the Power. I myself actually liked the idea of having one gender more powerful and the other more skillfull. Now, as many people have pointed out, the major advantage of women is linking. Yet, as you counter, that requires simply having more women than men, so in a fight, it doesn't help much.
However: you adressed this issue from one angle, that of direct combat. Recall that in the Age of Legends, war was unheard of. There was no fighting between channelers. So, what matter if men had more strength?
I think having greater strength in the One Power would enable men during the Age of Legends to build awesome palaces, major sa'angreal, and all sorts of other things. Either gender can think of an idea or draw up a blueprint, but the men still have an advantage when it comes to construction. The inequality encompasses more than just using the One Power in battle.
It was the women that allowed every great Power-made advancement to occur. The true wonders of the Power were always made worked together, yet this would not be possible without women's ability to link.
This is an interesting idea, but I think it's a weak argument for the value of female channelers in the WoT. Both genders were necessary to make great wonders of the Age of Legends. Does this make them equal? No. Both men and women are necessary to make babies, too. That hasn't given women any particular advantages in a historical context.
Even without men, great creations and intricate weavings can be made by linking women that would not be possible for me. Certain things require far too much strength AND precision. If men have strength and women have precision, how are they made? Because women can link. They combine the strength of many into the control and skill of one, and are thus able to create objects of Power that would be impossible for me.
I find this even more intriguing. You've got a good point. If men are strength and women are precision, then balance is achieved. However, the WoT series never shows women being more precise or adept than men. Many of the women are more learned, but that's only because they've been able to channel for much longer. The men can (and will) catch up to them ... and the men will also be stronger channelers. I say there's no balance.
The men's strength can only go so far. Sure, they can create bigger fireballs, but to what end? Killing and destruction. That is the Asha'man. What about creation? This seems to have fallen on the female channelers.
Therefore, if you consider the strength in channeling to be purely on who could win in a fight, then yes, men have an upper hand, just as they generally would if man and woman decided to duke it out in a round of boxing. Yet, more important, is the strength to create. Without cooperation with the Aes Sedai, the Asha'man will accomplish nothing. Yet without male channelers, the women have kept alive their culture.
This is an interesting way of looking at it. I never considered the series equating men with destruction and women with creation. After all, some Aes Sedai throw fireballs (Nynaeve, Elayne, etc.) and some some Asha'man heal or create (Damer Flinn). I think I viewed the creation/destruction angle as Light/Dark in the series: The Forsaken destroy life and Rand tries to create life, or at least make it possible for his friends to create new life. I wonder, if only male channelers survived during the Age of Legends and females went insane ... would the male Aes Sedai have kept the memory of their female counterparts alive? Yep, that's interesting to consider.
One more thing concering the issue of Compulsion. If I recall, the reason Alanna was unable to use Compulsion on Rand was because he was currently holding the Source at the moment. Yet when Logaine and his friends took the Aes Sedai, they first shielded them, thus they lost that protection. Very likely the use of Compulsion in the bond depends on the few instants after the bonding takes place.
Hmmmm! Very good point. I don't think this has occurred to me. It's been a while since I reread the series.
As for Aes Sedai, they have been seen to use Compulsion. Near the end of LoC, when Lan first approaches Myrelle...
" 'Be Quiet,' Myrelle hissed. In a louder voice, she called, 'Come to me.' The horse did not move. A wolfhound mourning his dead mistress did not come to a new mistress willingly. Delicately she wove Spirit and touched the part of him that contained her bond; it had to be delicate, or he would be aware of it, and only the Creator knew what sort of explosion might result. 'Come to me.'
Also, the fact that Alanna attempted to use Compulsion on Rand the instant she bonded him shows that it is indeed possible.
The Aes Sedai stress a few times in the series that the Warder bond is NOT Compulsion. They teach their novices that Compulsion is punishable by Stilling. So, I remain unconvinced. I'm not sure Alanna or Myrelle were trying to use Compulsion in those instances. They may have been using a weak form of it, something that gets mixed into the Warder bond. Anyway, just compare the relationship between Logain and his women versus Aes Sedai and their Warders. Most of the Warders seem happy to defend their Aes Sedai with their lives. The bonded women of Logain would also be forced to defend him with their lives, but they wouldn't be happy about it. That's quite a different relationship.
Now, this of course ties in with your ideas of dominance in varying situations, but I for one still think that Saidin and Saidar are more or less equal.
~G. S. Rathbone
Well, thanks for your email! I don't think channelers of saidar and channelers of saidin are equal in the WoT, but you had some thought-provoking things to say.
From Rhydian, December 21, 2006
~Abby's response is in red~
Dear Ms Goldsmith
Firstly I would like to state that much of what you wrote in your article is
in many ways true in my opinion, i would however like to discuss one of two
things that I belive i can offer an explation for and also wish to ask for
1.In your article and indeed the responses one of the things that you appear
to have a large dislike of is Faile/Perrin's Saldean style relationship and
the submissive/dominant theme that runs through it. several time it is made
clear that the woman in this relationship expects her husband to be one who
is hard solid and unbending, I belive I can offer an explanation of why this
is so, Saldea is one of the four borderland nations, they are warrior
societies and have to constantly battle to hold back the blight and the
shadow. In another of these nations Shienar the women "pledge their sons to
fight the shadow" I belive this is possibly why the personal relations, in
Saldea are also so bizzare, the simple fact of the matter is that the women
there expect their man to be so to protect them from trollocs if the need
arrises. It's just a pity it leaves their personal relationships so
2. on the subject of the bonding, warders, Asha'man and Aes Sedai, it is my
opinion that the Asha'man [AM] hold the Aes Sedai [AS] in the compusion bond
for a very simple reason. they are afraid of AS, after all they are men who
can channel and one of the primary duties of any AS but the Red Ajah
in particular was to gentle a man who could do what they do. True those
particular AS who are now under the bond are no longer a threat but every
single other one is the AM still conceivably a threat and this fear makes
them hang onto the AS under their control since it gives them some degree of
leverage over the other AS (though it is sad that they should feel so
threatened by the opposite gender that they need to oppress that part of it
which is under their control).
Also it is my opinion that the AS have warders to protect them and men do
not for several reasons. one of the most obvios being that the AS have been
around longer than AM and have developed the need to protect themselves
against threats such as whitecloaks. due to the nature of their organisation
it is frequently the case that AS must apear not to be so. If they were out
and about carrying a sword as the AM do in a world where women generaly do
not take an active role in fighting they would be far more obviose as AS and
thier job would be far harder than it is.Although I admit the whole ageless
look undermines this arguement somewhat it is far less obvoise to those who
do not kno what to look for than a large lump of steel on their belt
3 on the subject of equality with the power, you see brute strength as being
the only deciding factor of equality, I would like to dissagree with this.
Men while stronger have a distinct dissadvantage in being unable to link
without women. many of the greatest acheivements in the book are done by
those who are linked such as the clensing of the taint and also the healing
of the weather with the bowl of the winds. Given the possibility of an
Ashaman of say Rand's strength using any given Angreal or Sa'angreal he may
be able to overwhelm any woman or several women with it, He can always be
overwhelmed by a linked circle of thirteen women. By comparison the reverse
is not (as far as we are aware) true of women the men would be unable to
overwhelm he no matter how many they wer since they would be individuals not
working together. You also gave an example of building things or breaking
them down as being an example of how strength gives man the advantage, in my
opinion this arguement is flawed since a group working as a team is always
faster and more efficient than an individual, men only have the advantage in
a one on one basis, but as soon as the task requires teamwork it is women
that have the advantage. This shows a greater degree of ballance than you
claim although it is still not equal to either gender.
These though are minor quibbles i do aggree with you on the whole and do on
ocasion find the unrealistic cattieness and deviosness of the women in the
novel somewhat tiring especialy Nynaeve's attitude toward Mat in A Crown of
Swords (what i am currently reading) and another point from this novel that
i find interesting is that Moghedein refers to Mordin 'owning' her although
it can be argued that since they are the 'bad guys'/'forces of evil' or
whatever you wish to call them Jordan is trying to portray this 'ownership'
in a bad light and the same could possibly be true of the Seanchan and their
practise of Slavery.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for visiting my site, and writing. I'm going to respond:
1. I understand the need for Borderlanders to have strong, warrior men. I
prefer the manly type of man myself. But is it manly to put up with a
manipulative, petty woman? Okay, the Saldaean women act manipulative and
petty on purpose, as a test to make sure their men can/will stand up to
them. But that's just plain stupid. They shouldn't need to test their
men at the expense of looking like jerks. And they don't make it
clear that they're testing the man (Perrin doesn't seem to get it, nor did
Lan), so their man loses respect for them. The relationship is unequal in
terms of respect. If the woman can't provoke her man into standing up to
her, then she will dominate him, which will presumably make him a lesser
warrior. And if the woman provokes him into beating her, then she ends up
with a manly man who has very little personal respect for her. Great.
2. On the subject of Bonding: I'm not arguing that the Asha'man have no
good reason to bond the Aes Sedai. They do. My article was making the
point that they have a much stronger ability to bond than the Aes Sedai.
They have absolute and total control over their bonded women. The Aes Sedai
do not have this same huge amount of control over their Warders. It's
completely unequal. And I've heard the argument that "maybe the Aes Sedai
have the same power, but just haven't discovered it yet." Well, they've had
3,000 years in which to experiment, whereas the Asha'man have had about 1
year. Are the Aes Sedai morons in comparison?
3. I disagree with the linking argument. Anyone (even children) can
overcome an enemy by outnumbering him and ganging up. That's nothing
special. It doesn't give the female channelers any advantage--they need to
outnumber the men in order to defeat them, which is the case with *any*
unequally matched opponents. When they are evenly matched, Jordan gives the
advantage to the Asha'man. There's no point in saying they're equal. But
they should be, because strength in the One Power varies greatly. There's Amys, who can barely
channel, and then there's Nynaeve. We can infer that male channelers follow
the same wide spectrum of ability. Well, if that's the case, then there
should be many weak Asha'man who'd be easily defeated by a mid-level Aes
Sorry if I come off a bit brusque, but it's hard for me to change gears and
put on my WoT brain. I haven't updated my WoT site in a year or two.
But I still get fired up about the subject, as you can see. I'm happy to
discuss it, actually. So thanks again for writing!
From Ben, June 8, 2005
~Abby's response is in blue~
Dear Abigail Godsmith
"Godsmith" . . . that
tickles the megalomaniac in me.
I came a cross your artical about sexism in WOT and
have read the emails you have posted. As a man or boy
if you will(only 17) i do not fully comprehend your
point of view and i expect i never will. i do agree
with some of your view such as women being shown naked
much more then men and no detailed information on any
female ta'veren. other then that i feel that in many
of the details you use to defend your points you have
eather forgoten some facts or the thought never oqured
For a 17 year old, your spelling is atrocious.
Is this a symptom of declining American school systems? Anyway, your email is difficult to
decipher, but what the heck, I'm up for a challenge.
1) in your artical you mentioned that Moiraine and
Loial had stated the fact that men and women were
equel in OP. Then in book five(Fires of Heaven)
Asmodean changed this fact by saying that men were
stronger. I beleive that RJ never changed that facts.
after the breaking and 3000 years historical
information about AOL would be scares scarce.
Morianine and Loial only repeated what was in the books about that
time, Asmodean lived in that time.
I'm correcting a few words for the benefit
of other readers. Most bad spellers dismiss spelling as unimportant . . . but dude, it was
impossible to understand you on the first two read-throughs.
Moiraine and Loial have never been wrong about historical info before or since. They have
access to historically accurate records. It's possible that the Ogier & White Tower records
were wrong, but that brings up questions of who revised the ancient records, and why?
Besides, having two mentor-type characters mention a certain fact serves to emphasize its truth.
Therefore, it seems to me that RJ changed his mind. If his plan was to make Moiraine and
Loial wrong on this one point, he could have gone about it in a clearer, easier way.
2) your right it does seem unfair that Aes Sedai need
a man to protect them but not vis-versa. the reason
for this is that the Ashamen practice with swords. Aes
Sedai do not do this so thats the reason Warders
exisist. this might have been the case with Ashamen
as well if it had not been for Rand who told Taim to
continue teaching them the sword when Taim did not
So, Asha'man would need Warders if they had
no weapon skills . . . this is a good point. I wonder what a world of Asha'man without weapons
would be like? It could make for some cool situations, provided forkroot tea works on them
(and it should, dammit). They might end up hiring bodyguards, or binding Warders. That
could open up the way for some male-on-male action, if their Warders are male.
Yeah, I like this idea.
3) now with the Ashaman capturing and binding Aes
Sedai. yes binding Aes Sedai for the hell of it is
worng but the compulsion bond is not unique to them.
In book ten(Cross road of twilight) an Aes Sedai told
Egwene that she had found a new form of the warder
bond and that this would help shift power to them in a
treaty with the black tower. Egwene relizes that this
bond is another form of compulsion and
allow it. not only does she think that this is
unethical but also against Tower law. so its not that
Aes Sedai can't do it just they wont do it.
I remember this scene, and had wondered if it was
the bond that Taim taught the Asha'man. But this doesn't explain (to my satisfaction) how
Rand was able to dominate the bond that Alanna placed on him, while Toveinne and the other
Aes Sedai in her party are utterly helpless against the Asha'man who bonded them. If it's a
different type of bond, then 1) Why would the female Aes Sedai, particularly the Red Ajah, lose
this knowledge? The ability to enslave channelers could have prevented the Breaking of the World.
The Red Ajah would have honed this skill to a fine art and enslaved male channelers rather than
kill them, using them to rebuild devasted cities. Don't say "They never had the
knowledge in the first place", because if I recall correctly, Mazrim Taim taught the bond,
which indicates that it dates back to the AOL, like all of his arcane knowledge. Also, I don't
think it's a matter of Logain being more powerful than Toveine and Gabrelle, because many
of the Asha'man would be weaker than the Aes Sedai. The Red Ajah have been culling the
ability to channel out of the population for 3,000 years, focusing their efforts on men; most
male channelers would be relatively weak by this time. Logain (and Rand, and Taim) are a
2) Why don't Logain and the other Asha'man have any qualms about using their compulsion-bond?
Some of those Asha'man have had experience with Warders and Aes Sedai, so they must know that
their bond is much harsher. It seems to me that they're all morally depraved. Sure, the Aes Sedai
wanted to kill them, but they were just doing their duty; it wasn't personal. The punishment of
ultimate long-term slavery and daily humiliation seems far out of proportion to the
crime (which was never even carried through).
3) Finally, I have trouble buying the idea that the Asha'man figured out this new bond thing
in a matter of weeks, while the Aes Sedai needed 3,000 years to figure it out--especially
because the early Aes Sedai could have used a compulsion-bond. Necessity is the mother
of invention. Are the Aes Sedai just a bunch of dolts, the men geniuses in comparison? That's what
this argument seems to indicate. Hence my sexism article.
thank you for reading this, i do not mean to argue
with your opinions. my intention was to point out
some weaknesses in your arguement. i would like to
state my own opinions latter if you would like to hear
them later on.
thanks again for reading
Ben [surname omitted]
p.s. i like your art work
Thanks! Sorry I ripped on your spelling; you had a
few new things to say, which is a relief for me.
From Tarun, September 17 and September 18, 2004
~Abby's response is in blue~
I came across your page at
http://www.abbygoldsmith.com/articles/wot-Sexism.shtml and couldn't
help being highly amused. It was a _perfect_ example of how one could
effectively argue a position by quoting _just_ those facts that
support it, without a mention of the facts that contradict or oppose
I hope you won't mind, but I'd like to publicly post your letter and my
response to it on my website. I've received a number of emails like yours
during the years that article has been online, and I believe that most of
those issues are repeated in those emails and my responses. This way,
potential emailers can get an idea of what my response is going to be. I
won't post your email address, and I'll make your name anonymous, if you'd
First of all, I agree with you in the observation that the difference
between men and women has been highly exaggerated - this rules out the
possibility of WOT earth ever being a real earth. I doubt though
whether that observation is sufficient enough to label Robert Jordan
or the WOT as sexist, unless ofcourse, your judgement was merely a
troll calculated to bring about a hullaballoo. :-)
I put far too much thought and effort into
this article to be a troll! A nerd, yes, but not a troll. I resent the accusation.
I didn't accuse you of being a troll. I just gently wondered (hence
the smiley). I apologize if that hurt you - I really didn't mean
Okay. Sorry for my overreaction; I didn't take offense,
but I thought it was an odd thing to wonder. Anyway, I can see you didn't mean any harm by it,
so no harm done. :-)
My responses to some of your points below:
1 & 2) The dominant-subdominant partner theme is one example of a
status-quo existing in a region of the WOT world. It's a world after
all and dominant-subdominant and egalitarian characterizations would
differ from place to place, culture to culture, as it does on Earth
for that matter. For example, the Aiel are completely egalitarian.
Their warriors include the Maidens of the Spear who can kick ass along
with any other Aiel warriors. Their Wise ones have just as much
authority as the chiefs do. (actually more)
The Aiel may be egalitarian, but they
still have the dom/sub theme going.
Women rule the roost while men rule the warfield. A chief can have several
wives, but a Wise One with several husbands is so rare that we never see an
example of it. The Maidens of the Spear are only one sept, while men have
eleven septs. You can argue that the Wise Ones have more authority than the
chiefs, but that's not true in every matter. Wise Ones don't speak for clan
chiefs and vice versa; clan chiefs overrule Wise Ones in matters of battle,
and often in politics.
Definitely in battle, but _cetainly_ not in politics. Remember, when
the remaining Aiel clans joined Rand after the battle with the Shaido,
it was the Wise Ones who gave the initial overture and performed the
negotiations, _before_ the Caracarn or the other chiefs were _allowed_
to meet each other. We can debate endless on this issue, but I can
throw up numerous instances which demonstrate the Wise One's
precedence in matters.
Sevanna's position of authority stems from the fact that she's speaking as a
clan chief. If the Wise Ones could overrule her, Therava would do it in a
heartbeat. This tells me that clan chiefs overrule Wise Ones in politics.
I agree that the Aiel are more egalitarian than the
rest of the WoT cultures, but many of those other cultures are extremely
dom/sub . . . far more than in the real world. I like the fact that the WoT
world is diverse, but they're all markedly similar when it comes to male and
female roles. I don't find that to be realistic.
A reverse example of dominant-subdominant behaviour would be Far
Madding, where the men are brought to task by the women, and where
women lead and men must be meek,well-behaved and brought to task with
a switch that every woman there possesses. You quote the Seanchan - no
man has sat on the Crystal throne for hundreds on years, despite the
fact that they eligible for succession. What about the Sea Folk ? Only
the women lead there - the Wavemistresses or the WindFinders. Men only
do their bidding. Why is it that Ogier don't have a choice on who
they can marry? Their mothers and would-be brides decide among
themselves. Why is that "Aes Sedai Lead and Warders follow" ?. Every
Aes Sedai keeps their Gaidin to a firm discipline. Green Aes Sedai
have more than one warder. Myrelle, apparently, has married all her
warders. I could use these point to effectively argue that Jordan is
My article is criticizing the interaction
between male and female in the WoT universe.
I completely agree with you in this. The male-female interactions are
at times surreal and _very_ irritating. I was just against the sexist
label, that's all. I believe that labelling him sexist is very wrong.
According to the dictionary, sexism is: 1) prejudice or discrimination based
on sex, and 2) behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of
social roles based on sex.
I believe that the WoT series fosters stereotypes of social roles based on
sex. The women protagonists in the series are portrayed with similar
personality flaws, such as being manipulative and self-serving, while the
male protagonists are often portrayed as being more humane and just. I
don't know if Robert Jordan does this consciously. For the record, I don't
think that he does. Maybe he believes that his female characters reflect
real women--if so, then he's been hanging out with the wrong gals--or maybe
he purposely exaggerates certain traits because he's trying to make an
obscure point about male and female interaction. Either way, it's his work
that I'm accusing of sexism, not the man himself. I don't think he
purposely portrayed women one way and men another. At least, I hope he didn't.
I don't understand why so many people assume that my article means I think the female
characters are being mistreated by the male characters. I guess it's because I used the
word "sexism". Let me elucidate: I think that BOTH sexes are being mistreated
and misrepresented by the AUTHOR. Not by other characters. Not by WoT societies. Yes, I
believe that the women are portrayed less fairly--and less realistically--than the men, but
the men are also stereotyped in less-than-flattering ways. Your examples actually serve
my argument that the female characters are treated less fairly/realistically than
the male characters. In Randland, women are all ruthless, power-tripping, authoritative bitches!
Men are the poor victims. Here's the message: Women with power are dangerous. Men with power
are good, just, and more deserving of it.
I don't like this message.
Wow, that's really strong. I don't agree with this at all, and I
completely fail to see how you came to that opinion. The women in
positions of power are without doubt authoritative (as are the men) -
but I fail to see how Jordan made them bitches. Was Siuan Sanche a
bitch ? (Even, if Elaida her usurper is). Is Egwene, a bitch by any
stretch of the imagination ? Is Ethenielle (the wise Queen of Kandor)
a bitch ? Was Morgase a bitch ? None of the good Aiel Wise Women are
'bitches'. Rands advisors - Moiraine, followed by Cadsuane certainly
aren't bitches. Many of these women are women whom the reader admires
for their strength, independence, equanimity and other strong virtues
- that certainly doesn't make them bitches.
This is probably a matter of pure personal opinion, but I stand by my
statement. I wouldn't want to hang out with a woman like Suian, Egwene,
Morgase, Moiraine, or Cadsuane. They are often unreasonable and pig-headed,
unwilling to cross-examine their own judgment. Suian continued to boss
around Min, Leane, and Logain even after she'd lost her position as the
Amyrlin Seat. To me, she comes across as overly proud. I recognize that
this can be an interesting character flaw; however, Suian never learns from
her mistakes. She doesn't grow as a person.
I can say the same about the rest of the female characters. Egwene turned
into a bitch shortly after she became the new Amyrlin. She's stopped
trusting Rand, and she seems to believe that everyone around her is a
willful, bumbling idiot, including Elayne and Nynaeve. She's been making
some poor leadership decisions, such as putting herself in danger to chain
the harbor of Tar Valon, yet it never occurs to her to ask her close
advisors for advice. She ignores advice unless it fits her schemes. Now,
Ethenielle has only had a few short scenes, so it's hard to judge with her,
but she seems awfully focused on personal romance for a queen who's on an
important quest that may determine the fate of the world. Morgase is a
spoiled, selfish brat, despite her years of experience. She makes a habit
of ignoring the advice of the few people who still love her, and she makes a
habit of humiliating the one man (Tallanvor) who inexplicably loves her.
She was determined to climb back on the Lion Throne for a few months after
she'd been exiled, and that certainly would not have been in the best
interest of Andor; it would have sparked wars and riots. She was focused on
regaining the support of the allies that she'd dumped during her time under
Rahvin's Compulsion--Gareth Bryne, Dyelin, etc.--without a single thought to
the shame they suffered, and the reparations she should have made. She
seemed to just expect that Gareth Bryne and Dyelin would forgive and forget.
That's not just selfish; it's stupid. And I could go on about Morgase's
continued arrogance in the camp of Faile and Perrin, where Lini has to slap
her around to keep her in maid-mode.
The Aes Sedai are the worst when it comes to pig-headed, condescending
arrogance. Moiraine failed--time and time again--to share knowledge with
the main characters. There seemed no reason for her to hide her knowledge,
other than to be "aloof and mysterious." She apparently had an image to
maintain. Her aloof, mysterious exterior finally cracked when she promised
to act as Rand's servant, but she had to resort to acting servile in order
to get an inch of trust from Rand. Nobody trusted Moiraine, not even Lan,
because she betrayed his trust by passing his Warder bond on to another Aes
Sedai without telling him. What kind of person treats lifelong friends like
chess pieces on a gameboard? Yet Moiraine isn't the only Aes Sedai who does
this. Cadsuane is another Aes Sedai who finds it necessary to manipulate
people in order to gain her trust, and like Moiraine, she is convinced that
her advice is the only advice that matters. Cadsuane belittles Rand to keep
him on his toes, and she uses Min's viewing to convince Rand that he needs
her. If that's not manipulative, I don't know what is. While I think it's
cool that Cadsuane is able to use people like this, I don't like her for it.
I respect her character as an Aes Sedai, but not as a human being.
The strong virtues that you mentioned in these female characters--strength,
independence, equanimity--are all virtues that the male protagonists have,
as well. But the male characters are less likely to withhold information
from allies, browbeat their friends, make unwise decisions, or deny
responsibility for their own errors in judgment. Both Perrin and Mat are
always forthright with their allies and their armies, and they make a point
of informing their people what danger lies ahead. When Nynaeve and Elayne
were in Ebou Dar and Tarabon, they specifically kept their male allies in
the dark about what was going on. Elayne, Nynaeve, Aviendha, and Min all
obsess over their clothing--what to wear, when to wear it, who's wearing
what--while important events are taking place. The male characters stay
focused on the important events. When a bunch of the female protagonists
get together in a group, it seems they are always bickering about who gives
orders and who takes responsibility. The male protagonists just fall into a
hierarchy without a problem, with the exception of Mat's attitude toward
Rand when Mat had the Shadar Logoth dagger. Lastly, the male characters
feel more sorrow, guilt, and agony over the destruction that they cause.
Mat feels guilty about the Seanchan Windfinders that destroyed Ebou Dar.
Rand chants a list of every woman he's ever killed. Perrin feels terrible
that his kinsman have to die for the causes that he fights for Rand.
Meanwhile, Egwene lays seige to Tar Valon and barely spares a thought for
the killing that will result. Elayne leads a war for her own status, and
she seems more focused on taking a bath than how many soldiers might die.
And I just realized now--the female characters lead wars against potential
allies, while the male characters only fight Darkfriends or Seanchan.
3)Yes, he has mentioned that men are stronger in the One Power in the same
proportion as physical strength. But, men CANT link which is a MAJOR
advantage that women possess. Two women linked _cannot_ be shielded by
a man - they can actually match a man easily and shield him. (unless
he is of forsaken strength class). This was told by Asmodean to Rand
So, there is a DIFFERENCE, but there is most certainly BALANCE. Women
can link to upto thirteen in number and with thirteen of them linked,
all men run away.
I completely disagree that linking is an
advantage. In order for this "advantage" to work, the women must outnumber their
male opponents. A woman can't defeat a man in a one-on-one battle. Outnumbering your enemy is
always an advantage, regardless of tactics and strength, so this doesn't
give the women anything extra. It doesn't create a balance.
I believe, you still would quote Jordan as sexist here, if the
positions of men and women in OP had been reversed. i.e. Women
stronger, but men can link. :-)
Nope. I still see greater strength in the
One Power as a definite advantage over linking.
Well, I guess we hold opposing viewpoints on this, that's all. In my
opinion, 3 linked Aes Sedai are more deadly than 3 separate Ashaman,
because they can do more with the power. My pesonal opinion is that
the one-on-one advantage is an romantic advantage from the point of
view of a duel - not from the point of view of a battle. In the TFOH,
when Rahvin, Sammael, Lanfear and Graendal met, Rahvin knew that if
the women linked, he and Sammael would be at a disadvantage - the
reason that Sammael and he didn't attack, despite them being stronger.
Sammael was going to try something when the womens attention were on
each other, but he ditched the idea when they became suspicious. There
are other advantages as well. Two weak Aes Sedai can link to Travel
(mentioned in COS), two weak Ashaman can't without the aid of a third
powerful one. Actually, that means that all Aes Sedai can travel,
while you need atleast one powerful enough Ashaman in a party to
travel. Thirteen Aes Sedai linked can make a gateway of 100 paces!
(when Egwene takes her army to Tar Valon). Rand, the strongest
channeler, can't make a gateway beyond 4 paces. Women linked can
operate poweful terangreal like the Bowl of Winds. Rand can't do that.
Pesonally, I wouldn't mind at all if Jordan made the women stronger
the men capable of linking.
I don't recall any mention that two linked Aes Sedai can Travel, no matter
their weakness in the One Power. Could Morgase and Sorilea conceivably link
Rand was able to operate a ter'angreal to the most powerful sa'angreal in existence by
himself. The Bowl of the Winds is minor in comparison.
One-on-one duels are just as common, if not more so, than large battles, and
all-important to the people involved. In the WoT universe, would you want
to be Alivia fighting Demandred? Or would you rather be Logain fighting
Graendal? Those one-on-one battles crop up quite often in the WoT, and I
think the men have a definite advantage. I think that Robert Jordan avoids
showing this advantage by making almost all of the duels same sex.
Beyond the fact that linking requires an advantage in numbers, it also
requires perfect cooperation, and in coed circles, a man must lead the
channeling. I think this is plainly unequal, and plainly sexist.
Yes, the Ashaman learnt in a matter of months what took Aes Sedai
years. But this was a matter of how hard they were pushed. The Ashaman
are pushed hard - Rand told Taim to "walk the line with them". Rand
was interested in making finished weapons before they could go mad. As
a result, the Ashaman also took heavy losses in training. As many died
due to mishandling saidin as due to madness. The White Tower, on the
other hand, considers training losses unacceptable. Rarely does a
women burn get killed in novice or Accepted training. The Ashaman are
"forced" to their strength. A novice like Nicola who wished to be
forced was firmly put down by the Mistress of Novices and her Amyrlin
This is true, but I have trouble accepting
the idea that Taim's brand of forced learning would--during a year--propel the Asha'man's
skill level beyond what it took the Aes Sedai three thousand years to learn, even with
their slow and careful ways. The Aes Sedai started with some base knowledge.
But I'm not sure the author did this on purpose.
The Ashaman were taught by Taim. Rand taught Taim a number of things
(travelling), etc which, in turn, were taught to him by Asmodean in
one-on-one private tutions. At this point in time, Taim himself is
suspected of being a darkfriend who has been taught stuff by one of
the Chosen. (WOT FAQ). Anyways, the Ashaman's skill levels certainly
aren't beyond that of the Aes Sedai at this moment. Egwene, learnt
travelling (mostly on her own) and numerous weaves from Moghedien.
Can you tell me a skill which the Ashaman know and the Aes Sedai don't
? I racked my brains - I can't think of one here. Oh, I forget - the
Aes Sedai and Wise Women know Telaranrhoid and dream-walking. The Aes
Sedai can see taveren, they have the Foretelling. No mention of these
abilities in the Ashaman as yet. I turn this point of yours completely
on its head. I state: The Aes Sedai know much more than the Ashaman
and to state otherwise is factually incorrect.
Skills that the Asha'man figured out on their own and Aes Sedai
did not: Damer Flinn's brand of healing, the Compulsion bond they can put over women
(which is a gigantic advantage), and making people's heads explode. The ability to Foretell and to see
ta'veren are minor skills in comparison.
Dreamwalking could be major, but the Wise Ones barely ever use it for
advantage in the books.
Egwene may have learnt numerous weaves from Moghedien, but Rand and Taim
(undoubtedly) learnt the same amount from Asmodean and other Forsaken. Taim
shared what he learnt with his Asha'man, and Egwene shared what she learnt
with her Aes Sedai . . . so why are the Asha'man at a higher skill level?
And I maintain that they are. They have more impact everywhere they go.
They're building a huge wall--the Aes Sedai don't build anything major.
They've turned back the Seanchan and the armies of the Forsaken on several
occasions--the Aes Sedai are limited by their Oath Rod. They've learned a
type of healing that no Aes Sedai can match, and a type of bond that no Aes
Sedai can break. And all of the Aes Sedai are afraid of them.
Even then, Jordan mentions that Aes Sedai are better at the power than
Ashaman. Rand knows that his Ashaman still can't compete with Aes
Sedai who have years of experience with the power.(mentioned in TCOS).
Narishma (a full Ashaman) still isn't as strong as Merise - the Aes
Sedia he got bonded to in WH. (Merise says he is stronger, but not as
strong as her yet)
I think that Rand is behind the times in
understanding what his Asha'man are capable of. All of the Aes Sedai--including Cadsuane--are
afraid of the Asha'man's growing power. Tarna Feir, of the Red Ajah, suggested bonding
all the Asha'man as Warders because she's afraid they'll destroy the White
Tower, otherwise. Egwene's people have suggested the same thing. And even
if Narishma is not yet as strong as Merise, she seems certain that he'll
surpass her soon.
In the spirit of your complaining, do allow me to make some trivial
complaints as well. Why is that women can make bridges farther than
men ? Why is it that only women can make terangreal ? Elayne can make
terangreal - none of the Ashaman have learnt how. I am sure if I
think hard enough here, I can draw up a litany of woes where women do
These abilities seem like pittances
compared to what the male channelers are capable of. The ter'angreal thing is major,
but a) Elayne is a whiny brat who seems more interesting in buying new clothes than supporting
her allies, a la most of the female characters in the WoT, and b) I'm sure the men will
gain that ability soon. Maybe in the next book. And of course, they'll use
it in a wise manner, unlike the silly, ruthless, power-tripping women.
I am hurt here.:-) I am fond of Elayne and don't see her as a brat
in any way. Even if you don't like Elaye's fashion sense, do remember
that she & Nynaeve, along with the Sea folk women turned the weather
which was touched by the Dark One in the COS. This was certainly more
important than Rand's execution of Sammael in the same novel. (which
was actually done by mashadar). And which allies do you refer to ?
Egwene's Aes Sedai ? How can she support her Amyrlin when she is busy
cementing her claim to the the Lion Throne ? She is daughter-hier
after all and it's her responsibility to take the Lion Throne. She
would be a very powerful ally (Aes Sedai + Queen) when is crowned.
Besides, everyone (Elaida _and_ Egwene) want he to take the throne.
Andor is too valuable to the White Tower.
I'm sorry to offend Elayne, but yeah, I don't like her character. Her
fashion sense is fine; I just don't like the fact that she thinks about it
constantly. She seems to think about clothes more than all the other
characters put together. Meanwhile, nations are depending on her, and
people will live or die by her decisions . . . she should start thinking
about those people and stop thinking about the embroidery on her new dress!
Sure, Elayne used the Bowl of the Winds, but she didn't lead the circle and
(like most of the woman) she was passive during the operation. There was
the usual bickering about who should lead the circle. Of course, Elayne is
pressured to take the Lion Throne, but would that really be the best thing
for Andor? A lot of Andorans don't want to see another Trakand in power, and
they're willing to lay seige to the city and burn down its warehouses to
prevent it. Elayne never even considers that she might gracefully step
aside and let Dyelin take the Lion Throne. I understand that this could
cause story problems further down the line, and Elayne is undoubtedly meant
to take the Throne, but she could think about the consequences for once.
She never thinks about how her actions might affect other people. She
assumed that Rand was insulting her when he flew his banners from her city,
and she never so much as bothered to ask him why, or tell him it was a
problem. She just held the grudge. She's too proud to ask him to help her
negotiate with the Asha'man, so she's putting her pride before the welfare
of her city and nation. I could go on, but this is turning into a long email.
4)I agree with you here. The "opposite sex" just can't be understood
theme is very irritating, especially when it is consistently repeated
in his books. That doesn't make him sexist. It shows the WOT theme.
I guess it does.
5)Well, frankly speaking, this is a bit too much. This is a story
where 3 boys from a village who were always found together in
childhood were also found to be taveren. Now if Jordan replaced them
by 3 girls, I would then have the liberty of complaining that he
wishes to highlight the importance of the women... You might as well
complain on why is Rand the Dragon Reborn in WOT - why couldn't it be
Egwene ? (Hmm.. interesting, I wonder who would be Ilyena, then..)
I have no problem with the main characters being men. In fact (as you may
have inferred), I like the male characters a great deal more than the female
characters in the WoT. My problem is with the fact that there is no
mention of a female ta'veren. Why not? Egwene was from the same village
as Rand, Mat, and Perrin, and roughly their age; she was caught in Rand's
ta'veren swirl, just as Mat and Perrin were. So why isn't she ta'veren?
Why isn't Birgitte ta'veren?
No answers here from my side. I actually think Egwene is pretty close
to a taveren anyways. Amyrlin at the age of 18, leading a rebellion
and an army against a usurper and luck enough to boot. At any rate,
you are justified in poking Jordan on this point. I poke him here too.
6)This is factually wrong. Men have got stripped so many times in the
novels that I have lost count. Doesn't Rand get stripped in front of
the maidens ? Isn't he told by Amy's and Cadsuane to get up and fetch
his clothes naked ? (he is told by Aviendha too earlier in TFOH). Mat
is found naked too a number of times. Graendal takes a fancy in seeing
naked men peform acrobatics, not just naked women. The Seanchan make
both naked men and women perform.
I've reread the series recently, and I don't
recall any scene where Rand has to get up and fetch his clothes naked in front of
Amys and Cadsuane.
heh-heh. He is forced to walk naked in front of Min, Amys, Cadsuane,
Bera, Kiruna, Corele, Samitsu, etc and even the Ashman in Chapter 41,
COS. Corele even says that he has a pretty bottom! Maybe Jordan has a
fetish for nakedness, who knows ? (ROTFL).
Hmmm. Actually, I think I do recall this. Was it after he recovered from
There were a few nude scenes with Rand, and with Mat. There were many, many
more nude scenes with Egwene, Aviendha, Moiraine, Nynaeve, Elayne, Min, Amys,
and assorted other Aes Sedai, Wise Ones, and female Darkfriends. I sense an imbalance.
The fact is that Robert Jordan isn't sexist.
The fact is that neither of us can say if
Robert Jordan is sexist or not, because we don't know him personally, and sexism has a
Neither of us know Robert Jordan personally and all words have
shifting meanings, true, but here an attribute has been applied today
to an individual on the basis of the works that he has produced. And
everybody would interpret that characterization with the meaning that
the attribute holds _today_ - not the meaning that it would hold in
the future nor the meaning that it held in the past. I believe that
characterization to be unfair and unjust.
I labeled the WoT series as sexist--or containing sexist elements--not the
author. I believe that works of art, music, and literature DO reflect the
perspective of the author, so I suspect that Robert Jordan may hold certain
views about women that aren't flattering, but I can't say for certain. I
still see an imbalance between the portrayal of women and the portrayal of
men in the series.
The WOT world is a primitive world that picked up from after the breaking and the end of
the Age of Legends - and whose peoples have evolved in diverse ways.
In some cultures men have dominated, in others women have dominated.
The women in the WOT play just as important and significant roles as
the men do.
I have not failed to notice that
women dominate in some WoT cultures, whereas men dominate in others. That seems balanced
and realistic. What bothers me is the fact that the WoT women who dominate in their
culture/society are almost always unjust, and unwise, in their domination.
They're portrayed as unfit to rule, so to speak. The WoT men who lead or
dominate, on the other hand, are almost always just, wise, and right. This
is the imbalance that I see.
Again, I'm happy that the WoT women play important and significant roles; I
just wish they were cast better.
I fail to see these unwise and unjust dominating women that you
consistently point to as the backbone of your argument. The powerful
women in the WOT who hold alleigance to the Light are _certainly_ not
described so. You have picked certain threads from a Tapestry to
support your opinion. These threads are very weak, scattered and not
colored enough to lend credence to your position.
But those women are described so! I guess this is a matter of
personal interpretation. I've already mentioned my examples, but I'll throw in a few more. Faile has a distorted
and negative view of her husband; she sees him as weak when he's just being nice, and she thinks he's cheating on
her when he's just being polite. In short, she doesn't trust him, and she has no reason not to. Perrin, on the
other hand, wholeheartedly trusts and loves Faile. Berelain plays a love game with no heed to the way it undermines
Perrin and imbalances his army. Elayne sends a love letter to Rand, then a hate letter, and expects him to decipher
her love from those contradictory messages. Myrelle keeps men like pets, including Lan. Nynaeve and Elayne both
humiliated Mat in front of Egwene, then waited several weeks to apologize due to their own wounded pride. The
Aes Sedai are constantly playing a catty game with each other, hiding information and spinning webs of manipulation.
And all of the women, from Birgitte to Shalon, worry about their clothes about five times more often than the
I really can't believe that I wrote that much. I guess I too have
become as crazy a fan as you. :-)
Yeah, and I'm going to some crazy lengths
to defend my argument! I swear, I don't get worked up about politics or religion, but if
it's fiction, I'm willing and ready to debate. Bring it on!
And finally - it was nice to have this debate with you... :-)
Thanks to you as well. You do have me thinking.
Have a nice day!
From Erica, March 22 and March 24, 2004
~Abby's response is in blue~
I just read your article about Sexism and Robert Jordan, you said there are
no crossovers between the men and women of Randland. What about Min
(Farshaw), who runs around in men's clothes and doesn't care what anyone
thinks until Rand. She also wasn't included in RJ's universal women
understanding each other, because when Faille was shooting looks at Min when
they were with Rand and Perrin, Faille didn't understand when until Faille
confronted her when they left. There is some sexism, like almost all the
women being naked at one point, but Rand and Mat ran to Rhuidean naked just
like Aviendah and Moiraine. Just saying, sorry if this was at all rude.
Thanks for reading my article. It sounds like you may have read the older
version (published on SFFWorld).
I've revised it since then. :-) The revised article is here.
But to answer your points:
Min does cross-dress, but I was referring to the way the characters think
and behave more than the way they dress. Min is one of the less girly
characters--and therefore my favorite female in the WoT series, along with
Birgitte and Aviendha--but she still gets on Rand's case without telling him
why. I have to admit, it is hard to argue my case with Min as the example.
She does get along with and understand most women, though. She didn't get along with
Faile, but Faile comes from a foreign culture that most Andorans have
Rand and Mat did not run to Rhuidean naked. They went fully clothed; Egwene and Moiraine went
naked. There are a handful of scenes in the series where men are naked, like the
gai'shain hanging out, and there are implications that Aiel clan chiefs hang
out naked together in sweat tents, but it is never described beyond that.
The main characters (Rand, Mat, and Perrin) are rarely shown naked. In their
smallclothes, sometimes, but never swinging free.
I hadn't bothered checking on Mat and Rand until yesterday, so sorry
about that one, you do have a point though with most of the other women.
Mat was naked a few times when the Aiel darkfriend woman was with him, with
only his scarf and medallion. That's really the only one I can think of.
Maybe with what's her name too. The women do always seem to understand her
though, it's not like we all do though.
From Ingo, October 30 and November 3, 2003
~Abby's response is in blue~
I find your articles and website very nice, but I cannot quite understand
your article about Robert Jordan's apparent sexism.
Thanks for writing to me about my article, and checking out my website. You
have some good points about the sexism article. I'm currently re-reading
the series with my boyfriend, and I'm thinking about revising some points of
that article. However, there are still a few things that bother me--mostly
the way women and men are portrayed. In the WoT, women are almost all
deceitful, manipulative, and condescending toward men. Men are all
suspicious of women. The sexes don't trust each other.
- The culture of Faile's native nation seems to base around "If a man is
nice to woman he must think she is weak". Jordan does also introduce places
where it is the other way around, remember Ebou Dar in general or even Far
Madding, where men are not allowed to do trade or banking and where there
are switches in guesthouses for women to use on their men... Ok, Min is not
using it on Rand, but then think about how often Rand is being slapped by
women and he is not even blaming them for it.
The culture of Faile's nation, Saldaea, bothers me. It was stated in the
books that "if a woman [Saldaean] has a weak husband, she must either
overpower him or make herself less, but if her husband is strong, then she
can be as strong as she is." To me, that says that men in Saldaea are
considered stronger than women. A woman can test her husband's strength by
provoking him into hurting her, as Faile does to Perrin.
There are other cultures where it's the opposite--Far Madding was the
notable example. I guess you could say that equalizes things . . . but Far
Madding is portrayed as "bad" in the books, while Saldaea is "good." That's
what bothers me. Rand, Mat, and Perrin hate being treated the way Far
Madding women treat their men. Yet everyone in the series condones Faile
and Perrin's behavior. The main characters dislike Far Madding, where men
can't vote . . . but they're fine with Saldaea, where women need to make
themselves "less" in order to stand next to a weaker husband.
I'm not saying that these cultures shouldn't exist in Randland--on the
contrary, they enrich the world--but both cultures should be portrayed as
"bad." Main characters (such as Perrin) should be bothered by the Saldaean
practice of hitting a woman to put her in her place. Either that, or they
should NOT be bothered by the Far Madding practice of hitting a man to put
him in his place.
- The way I understood the balance of men and women being able to channel in
the AOL was that men were stronger, but women were more skilled in what they
could do and this way the "brutal" strength of men is being equalised by
their skill. What good is strength in driving a car, for example? Thus,
healing may for example be something where strength is less important then
You have a good point about the brute strength of men in the One Power
being balanced by the skill or finesse of women. However, I maintain that
this gives men a huge (and arbitrary) advantage over women. It doesn't come
across as being equal. In any situation where being able to channel really
matters, such as war, or building/destroying something huge, brute strength
is more valuable. Also: Skill can be learned by anyone. Brute strength is
just something you're born with. There's no equality in that.
Beyond that--there have been no examples that women during the AOL were more
skilled than men.
- To point three: I'm a man and I must say that in a way I find this hard to
imagine too since I already struggle to please one woman, but then do we not
forget here that this is a different world with completely different
Also, what about Moslems? On earth we too have religious systems where one
man can have more then one women, but I do not know one where a woman could
be married to several men. Besides Jordan also takes that up in case of many
Green Sisters (come on, those bonds are worse then marriage) and some of the
I hadn't considered the Green Ajah's practice of taking multiple Warders
as a marriage arrangement, but I see your point. It is a lot worse that the
Aiel clan chiefs. Still--the Asha'man do the same thing to Aes Sedai, more
or less, but you never see a women who can't channel taking more than one
husband. I'm bothered by the inequality.
- When I read the books I sometimes suspect that Egwene & Co is Ta'vereen
too, but maybe not as strong. Don't you think that they too shape the
pattern around them? A simple girl becoming the most powerful person there
is (except Rand of course)? Don't you find it strange that things work so
well for them sometimes?
Elayne, Aviendha, Egwene, and Nynaeve seem to be ta'veren, but it's never
actually stated. Why not? That's what bothers me. Maybe women with the
Talent for seeing ta'veren can only see male ta'veren. I'd be happy with
that explanation. It would be cool if one of the Asha'man says "Hey, Egwene
seems to be glowing!"
I guess you are right with your last comment. When re-reading I was
wondering too if that was really necessary (now they are nude again...) But
on the other hand, Jordan is very modest about any sexual events or
descriptions aside from describing bosoms often....
Lastly, I do not quite understand your reasoning about Jordan's views on
women/men. After all, this is not a book about relationships or "How to
treat your wife/husband" but a fictional story in a fictional world. Better
said: A fictional world with an almost medieval touch to it. Your quoted
revolution only happened in the 1960, remember?
Could it not be that Jordan too finds most of these views amusing rather
then "the right way"?
Jordan's views of men and women: I'm actually more bothered by his
portrayal of women than of men. In real life, regardless of time period,
women are NOT all manipulative, lying, and secretive. I wish there were a
few more women like Min and Aviendha in Randland. They are the only major
female characters that don't have some huge personality flaw. What does RJ
think of women in real life? His views are reflected in the series.
I hope you find time to read all of this...
Thanks for writing--I am going to revise that article at some point. I hope my
explanations made some sense.
I am happy that you took the time to answer. I wasn't sure if you were
receiving loads of emails and had no time to answer all of them.
I think we probably could go on arguing about these points forever. But
then, in some ways I guess you are right, too.
Jordan has portrayed women generally in a very similar fashion no matter
where they come from. It does seem a little like they are always scheming
and manipulating, banding together against men and so on. On the other hand
Rand, Perrin and even Mat appear sometimes like little boys, all innocent
and brave in that relation.
Isn't it a bit like the Chinese idea of the Ying and Yang (or how that's
I do also agree with some of your points on the "What would be nice" part.
Especially the one about the good guys not talking to each other. Sometimes
it is nice looking at the different issues from various sides and none of
them knowing what is going on (such as cleansing the taint). But as many
times it is just annoying. Often I am thinking "Come one, you are allies!"
But on the other hand, isn't all that distrust and dissension the main
weapon of the dark one? How did Randland come into the state it currently is
in? Sure, there was the breaking, but the nations were hardly peaceful after
that and we know that Hawkwings downfall, him laying siege to Tar Valon...
was also the work of the dark one's minions. Most of the time they are
working on making everyone distrust everyone else. After all, in Randland
even your beloved husband could be a darkfriend. We know Min (OK, let us
take Perrin as an example.) isn't a darkfriend but theoretically, he could
be one too and he just could be lying non-stop to everyone else in order to
influence Rand. In Randland the "devil" is real and he is acting
realistically to enforce his interests.
1) I guess I will have to reread the sections about Far Madding and about
Faile at some time. I would still say that neither is portrayed as good or
bad. Both are just odd. But then I did not interpret that bit about a man's
and a woman's strength the way you did.
(Let me try to explain part of the Saldean issue with an experience: I used
to have a girlfriend that was easily... - I would call it "intimidated". I
just could not live with that. When something annoys me I must be able to
voice my dislike, without my partner going "Oh you are right and I am wrong
and I will never do that again and forgive me...". What I mean is, everyone
has a bad mood once in a while and if you have to worry that your partner
will collapse when you say "Boo" you will keep back and not say anything.
But that doesn't help your mood. If I say now "Boo" to my wife she will give
me a "Boo" back for sure. Thus she is as strong as I am and we are able to
sort matters out even if they are tricky.
I cannot remember why Perrin had beaten Faile, but I think that is wrong and
I for my part would not do it. But I for my part would not gamble either or
do many other things that are part of fiction/fantasy writing. Come to think
of it though my wife is hitting ME when I beat her at chess or in a game of
(To be fair in regards to Jordan, in medeaval Europe a woman was considered
the source of most evil. She was the one that had plucked the apple, she was
the one always luring "poor" men with her sexuality and so on. In face of
these weird ideas Jordan is very mild about women...)
2) In regards to the point raised by you, you are correct. But then I still
think battle is really a man's domain. I hope you do not think me now back
warded, but I just think women can not keep up to a man's physical strength
in a battle, especially one fought by swords. I guess it is quite clear that
the sexes are not equally strong (which is also why men and women do not
compete directly in Olympic games.) But then life is not all about battles.
Even in Randland the biggest problem they are facing is not the upcoming war
against Trollocs and fades. The biggest problem the good guys have is that
they are diverted and about to rip each others throat out doing the Dark
One's work for him. I'll ask you: What is more important? The ability to
unite nations behind a cause or turning trollocs into torches? And then tell
me who is usually better at diplomatics.
It is also common knowledge that war starts when diplomacy failed and that
the feather is more powerful then the sword. Also, in relation to your
statement of strength think about David and Goliat.
4) Maybe they are just not Ta'veren enough, but then I guess we come back to
5) I used to write a bit - nothing as grand or good as the WoT - and when I
think back I often wrote about something in order to show why it is wrong.
So, maybe Jordan is portraying women and men like that not because it is his
frame of mind or that this is "exciting him", but because he was hoping to
show how it is wrong without actually saying "this is wrong!"
Ok maybe that is not the case. I think he is just a little older then us and
has a different view of the world altogether... Overall, I do get your point
and Jordan is a little stereotype sometimes.
The thing that I don't like is people saying "but that is not how it is in
real life", meaning with "real life" present day. After all it wouldn't be
fiction if it was all realistic and on the other hand the 16th or 17th
century was very different to nowadays and so were the people, their ideas
I'm always up for a discussion, especially about things I wrote. :-)
discussion about this sexism article going on at Wotmania. I responded a little bit.
In the end, though--I think I should rewrite that article. I've been re-reading the WoT
series with my boyfriend, and his opinions are giving me a new perspective on the sexism issue.
I will still maintain that Faile and Perrin have an unhealthy relationship, and I'm not
happy with the portrayal of men and women being so alien from each other in the series,
but "sexism" may be too strong a word for all of that.
I've never liked the idea of "men are from Mars, women are from Venus." Though
the WoT is a fictional world, I wish the men and women were based more on the interactions
between real people. I don't mean 20th century reality; I mean ANY reality. Anyone can
come up with a world full of their ideal men and women . . . I'm sure some people fantasize
about a world where men don't exist at all, or a world where women are nothing but sexual
toys . . . but it bothers me in the WoT, because I like the series otherwise. To me, this
black and white portrayal of people is a flaw.
Compared to other authors regarding women, Robert Jordan is light years ahead. He gives women
strong roles. I think he's great for doing that. I just wish he would portray women as
mentally the same as men, instead of so different.
I would write more, and take your email point by point, but things are
really busy here. I think that wotmania discussion is covering just about
every possible viewpoint on the WoT and sexism. I might pop in there and
answer a few more posts, if I get a spare moment. Thanks again for writing!
From Melanie, October 5, 2003
~Abby's response is in blue~
I just happened to be looking on the net here for info on futures WOT books and came across your article on Robert Jordan and sexism. I do not understand why people like you must bash good stories like this one. Are you the same sort of person that gets offended at every joke you hear? Robert Jordan has created a fantastic world with rich characters and history, and you come along and point out that its not fair the way women are portrayed. Women in this world are more than equal to their men counterparts. I find it refreshing and ingenious the way he uses gender differences to add flavor in the story. I often cannot figure out the opposite sex and neither can the characters. Their internal struggles with each other parallels the external battles they are fighting.
I hate to break it to you, but the sexes are not equal. We are different and it is in those differences we realize our strengths and weaknesses. You do give the book and author some praise so I'll stop. Take the book for what its worth. Suspension of disbelief - WOT is not the real world. Next you might think Jordan should institute affirmative action to trollocs in Kandor.
If you had bothered to visit my WoT site, you would know that I'm a huge
fan of the series. Why can't you handle reading an article of critism? Your reaction says
that I struck some kind of deep nerve in you; either that, or you are so blinded by fandom
that you would defend RJ with your life. Talk about a lack of suspension of disbelief! My
article was only criticism based on my opinion and view of the world. Nothing more or less.
Not a personal attack against you, or even an attack against Robert Jordan. I think he has
a skewed view of the relationships between men and women, but I also like his books, and his
personal opinions (whatever they may be) don't stand in the way of my enjoying the series.
I am able to criticize a work of literature (or any art) and still love it.
The sexes are not equal? Well, have fun in your role as a submissive woman who has to
manipulate men in order to get anywhere in life, Melanie. Meanwhile, I will continue to stand
by my opinion (which seems to have really pissed you off) that the sexes are intrinsically equal.
This may shake your world view, but I am a woman who believes that it's okay to cross outside
of assigned gender roles.
From Dana, February 22, 2003
~Abby's response is in red~
I just read your "Sexism in Wheel of Time" article and
I have to say I think you were right on. The sexism
in Jordan's books has been bothering me since, oh,
about book three or so, and my frustration with it has
grown in direct proportion to the length of the
series. A good example is, as you mentioned in your
article, the ta'verenness of his three male heroes.
It seems quite obvious that Jordan intends Egwene,
Nynaeve, and Elayne--the "three channelling girls" as
my sister and I call them--to be the counterpart to
Matrim, Rand and Perrin--the "three ta'veren boys."
This fact can be indicated by the females' strength in
the One Power--the three of them, when first
discovered, were supposed to be the strongest
channelers the Aes Sedai had ever seen. However, by
this point in the series (CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT),
strong female channelers are all over the
place--witness the discovery of Alivia and that
grandmother in Egwene's White Tower, simply to name
two. The fact that so many strong female channelers
are present in the series now undercuts the
specialness of the girls and diminishes their
importance. However, the three ta'veren males are
still the only ta'veren in the world,leading one to
infer that they are correspondingly more important
than the girls.
In addition to this one fault that stands out, there
are lots of other instances, such as the fact that
female Aes Sedai need Warders, however that Rand's
(Taim's? Demandred's? ;) ) male Asha'man, while
bonding women either with or without consent, show no
evidence of needing any additional protectors; they're
just bonding women for the heck of it, not because
they *need* to. There's the fact that when Robert
Jordan's women fall in love, they seem to lose their
heads over their men and change their personalities to
attract their men, while men do no such thing for
women (witness Min's donning of tight clothing and
curling of her hair while trying to attract Rand).
There's the mechanics of linking; Robert Jordan seemed
to intend linking among women to compensate for men's
greater strength, however the mechanics of linking,
especially mixed-gender linking, don't seem like that
much of a compensation. As stated in the Wheel of
Time compendium, a man must lead the link in
mixed-gender circles of less than thirteen, and as
demonstrated by Graendal and Sammael, this involves a
woman basically giving control of the link completely
over to the man and not even being able to end the
link when she chooses. I would have serious
reservations about ever linking with a man--no matter
how trusted--in this situation, and I think most women
would; furthermore, if we're to take linking as
partially intended to be metaphorical for how the
genders relate to one another, this is
troubling--although I will say that indications in the
end of Winter's Heart, plus Cadsuane's comments about
Callandor (the only safe way to use it being linked to
two women with one of them leading) *may* indicate
that he's since changed his mind about that. There's
the very mechanics of saidin/saidar themselves. If
you look at saidin/saidar and channelers' relations to
it as indications of their relations to the opposite
sex (and I think there is some support for such a
view, esp. given Perrin's statement in Crossroads of
Twilight about how, having heard some of the Asha'man
talk about what it feels like to hold saidin, the only
thing he can compare it to in his life is holding
Faile in his arms) this is deeply disturbing. Women
embrace saidar and control it by surrendering to it;
men, on the other hand, must constantly fight saidin
while they hold it, and if they slip at all, it will
destroy them; the message thus becomes that women must
give way before men, while men must constantly fight
to dominate women.
Robert Jordan seems also to treat his female
characters with less respect than his male characters;
he frequently places his female characters in
situations where they have to obey male characters and
does not seem to do so with as great frequency to
males. For example, Moiraine promising in the Shadow
Rising to do whatever Rand tells her to do; Elayne's
submitting herself to Mat in A Crown of Swords;
Faile's liking it when Perrin tells her what to do.
He also frequently depicts his female characters as
more irrational and illogical than his male
characters, as well as seeking to impress males,
whereas males are not often depicted as seeking to
impress females; a good example is Elayne's two
letters to Rand in Shadow Rising, as well as Nynaeve's
desire to show to Lan how easily she could lay a false
trail in Eye of the World and Morgase's desire to
demonstrate to Tallanvor how easily she could disguise
herself as a commoner. Many times when his females
are shown as angry, it is not in ways that males take
seriously; males tend to become amused at female
anger, whereas the reverse situation is rarely shown.
Perhaps, however, the best example of this lesser
respect for his female characters can be seen in his
handling of Nynaeve breaking her block. This was a
*momentous* moment of character development for
Nynaeve, a moment of extreme personal triumph--or
rather, it should have been. However, she did not
even get to do so while confronting her enemy in
personal combat, and the emotions of joy and
accomplishment and triumph and fulfilment that she
should have experienced were swept aside so that the
author could focus on her reunion with Lan.
I'm sorry this is so long, but I could go on forever;
I just saw your article and had to vent. In summary I
agree with you completely about Robert Jordan's
sexism, to the point where it's starting to seriously
interfere with my ability to like the books. However,
Rand's laying the smack down on Logain about the
forced bonding of female channelers has helped to
restore my interest, and Mat's courtship of Tuon I
found to be funny and extremely charming (Mat has a
habit of getting in way over his head in romantic
relationships). Maybe I'll be able to keep reading
all the way to the end without throwing the books
across the room; I certainly hope so because there are
so many interesting elements and cultures in them (I
find the Seanchan in particular to be fascinating; so
many times in fantasy when an empire is needed authors
reach for Rome; it's really different to see a
conquering empire with a Chinese feel to it). Keep
writing about the Wheel of Time; i love reading
thoughtful essays about such a complex series.
Thanks for writing! It's nice to get an email regarding that sexism article
that's NOT an attack. I've had that article posted online for a year, and
during that time, I've received five scathing hate-mails about it. A few of
those people brought up good points, but for most of them, it was
like . . . "?Que?"
At first, I was so appalled about
getting these emails (I had never gotten hate-mail before) that I considered
taking down the article. But I'm willing to defend my opinion/ belief . . . at
least, when it's worth the effort. I've stopped responding to worst of
these emails because the person usually doesn't understand a word I say. They
become really defensive and insist that I'm a femi-nazi.
So anyway . . . I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks there is some sexism
in the WoT series. It's a weird sort of sexism, because the females in
Jordan's world do have a lot more power than females in most fantasy. At
least they're not all damsels-in-distress (a la Stephen King books, which I
also like). You brought up some good points. The women in the WoT seem to
need men more than vice versa, and do more to impress the men than vice
versa. I hadn't even noticed that. What did Rand do to attract Min,
Elayne, and Aviendha? He just . . . well, he's Rand. He's cool no matter what
he does. :-) Meanwhile, Elayne practically threw herself at him, and
Aviendha had a fit and fled from him, and Min follows him around like a dog.
Well, I guess none of that really bothers me, seeing as how I hadn't even
noticed it until just now. In all honesty, I don't mind male-hero-oriented
stories. A part of me is in love with Rand, Mat, and Perrin, while I just
don't care that much about the female characters in WoT.
What REALLY bothers me is inequality in channeling the One Power.
1) men are generally stronger than women in the One Power
2) men can naturally sense women channel, but not vice versa
3) only men can lead small mixed gender link circles
4) men linked are stronger than women linked
5) male channelers don't need women at all, but female channelers apparently need male protectors
5) male channelers can bond women like slaves, and make them obey anything, but not vice versa!!!
And that is just a bit too much inequality. What happened to the whole
balance yin-yang theme? According to these channeling rules, the Age of
Legends would have been completely male dominated.
May I incorporate some of your points in the sexism article? I'll probably
revise it at some point . . . after I re-read the series, when I actually have
enough free time for that.
Thanks for the point about Elayne's skimming using a boat. I had completely
forgotten about that. Would you mind if I use that in my ponderings
section? It's more proof that I need to re-read.
One last question . . . I hate to assume you're a woman, though I'll say I
strongly suspect you are. Your name, Dana, can be female or male, so
I'm just wondering if you are a woman. All of the email I've gotten
regarding the Wheel of Time so far has been from men (or boys) . . . and my
website has been up for a year.
I think it's really sad that there are people in the world (male or female)
who believe that ALL members of the opposite sex are inherently
manipulative, or brainless, or "evil."
Sometimes I wonder if James Rigney (Robert Jordan) was raised around those types of women.
If so, then I feel sorry for him. Judging by his
portrayal of women in his other writing (the Fallon series, and Cheyenne
Raiders), he really does have an old-fashioned, demeaning opinion of women.
I guess Harriet must have done wonders for him, because his opinion of women
seems to have improved greatly from his earlier works to the WoT.
Thanks again for the email!
From Josh, October 25, 2002
~Abby's response is in blue~
This response comes from a man, so reject it out of hand if you will.
I perceive what I consider a few errors in this article. I would
appreciate feedback if you disagree.
First off, I appreciate your mostly-polite and well-thought-out email. This
is the first one I've received regarding the sexism article that is polite
at all, and with correct spelling!
1. Domestic Violence
I have fewer problems with your analysis here than with other parts of
your critique. I wholeheartedly disapprove domestic violence. I worked
as an attorney for two years, part of the time for [omitted for privacy],
obtaining protective orders and divorces for victims in cases of
Jordan is not quite so one sided as you portray, however. In The Fires
of Heaven (Fanning the Sparks, page 50 in my edition) Gareth Bryne is
pronouncing judgment. He states, "For the bump on your head, I award you
one silver mark. Don't complain.... Maigan has given you worse for
drinking too much." The wife has hit the husband in this example.
I agree with you that the Perrin-Faile interaction is different, but I
also submit that Faile's response is not the same as the response from
other women in the series would be. Rather, this is a characteristic of
Saldean culture. There, the woman is free to harangue, yell at, slap,
etc her husband. In return, she expects her husband to put an end to it
when she has gone too far.
Additionally, note that Perrin spanks Faile after she has slapped him
repeatedly, and in retaliation for this "abuse." And yet, Perrin
forgives her and continues to love her as well.
1. Domestic violence:
I have reevaluated my view on the Faile-Perrin situation after discussing
this with several other people. It can certainly be seen as a sort of S&M;
after all, Faile is willingly provoking the beating, and Perrin is going
along. While I am personally uncomfortable with the idea of S&M, I
understand that consenting adults have every right and freedom to treat each
other however they wish.
As you stated, in the Saldaean culture, "the woman is free to harangue,
yell at, slap, etc her husband. In return, she expects her husband to put an end
to it when she has gone too far."
This shouldn't bother me because the women and men are willing. It just
seems unhealthy. Pain + Pleasure = not so much pleasure = maybe unresolved
issues with parents = maybe time for a shrink.
Also, I am bothered by the idea of an entire CULTURE like this. And it is
not just the Saldaeans. The relationship between Egeanin and Bayle Domon
comes to mind. One plays the "dom" and one plays the "sub" in the bedroom,
and their roles reverse when they're in public. Ditto for the relationship
between Suian and Gareth Bryne. It seems to me that a lot of WoT women
enjoy provoking their mate into beating them . . . and not all of these women
are Saldaean, so it cannot be explained by a cultural predilection. I think
Robert Jordan is just really turned on by S&M. It is a common theme in most
of his writing (including the Fallon series and Cheyenne Raiders).
2. You state,
"Well. later in the series, it was mentioned that men were generally
stronger than women during the Age of Legends. One of the characters
specifically thought that this made sense because men are generally
I happen to have read this section just yesterday (the day before
finding your article). Specifically, Asmodean states,
".it is also true that what a man can do with [the one power], a woman
can also. In kind, at least. But that has nothing to do with men being
stronger.. Some women have stronger arms than some men, but in general
it is the other way around. The same holds with strength in the Power,
and in about the same proportion."
I can understand how this could be intrepreted as stating that men are
stronger in the power because they are stronger physically. That is not
how I intrepreted it when reading it, however. Asmodean is attempting to
explain the difference in strength to Rand. I intrepreted this as a
metaphor, rather than a causal relationship or even a correlation.
You criticize this as evidence of sexism. And yet, Asmodean points out
that this has a balance as well. Earlier on the same page (104 of the
Fires of Heaven in my copy; chapter: Pale Shadows) Asmodean is
explaining about linking, and offers the difference in strength as a
balance for women being able to link without men, while the reverse is
not true. As a result, a group of women can overpower a man. This is
relevant to a general theme that Robert Jordan pushes (intentionally, I
believe), which I will address later.
2. The difference in One Power
strength between men and women:
I can see how women's ability to link might offset/balance the general
stronger ability of male channeling. But look at it this
way: It takes six (give or take a few) women to overpower one man. Those
numbers may vary depending on the situation, but it comes down to this: the
value of one channeling man = several channeling women. Men are more
valuable. Women are more expendable. Men are the "queen" in chess and
women are the "rooks, bishops, knights." During Tarmon Gai'don, would you
rather be protected by the power of one Asha'man or one Aes Sedai? How
about five Asha'man or five Aes Sedai? No contest; if the numbers are
equal, the men are stronger and thus more valuable.
It seems to me that in the matter of the One Power (which cannot be
corrolated to physical gender traits) men and women should have equal value.
And a new factor was introduced in Winter's Heart that really
got me raising my eyebrow: Apparently male channelers such as Logain can Compel Aes Sedai
to a brainwashing degree, but Aes Sedai (such as Alanna) cannot Compel male
channelers (such as Rand). To me, that is a HUGE imbalance that I hope will
be addressed later in the series.
A couple of arguments --
Historically, polygyny occurs far more often than polyandry. I recognize
that this argument is in fact meritless, since historically, most world
cultures have oppressed women. Jordan is, however, a great fan of
The reason that there are so few cases of polyandry in the novel is not
that more women are willing to share a husband. Rather, it is that there
are more women who are willing to become first sisters by going through
the ritual in front of the wise ones. When Elayne and Avienda are
passing through this ritual, one of the wise ones says that some women
leave at a given point (after exchanging blows), and that most men do.
The reason (I don't recall if this is stated or not) is that the ego of
the men is more important to them than the fraternal love they share.
Since there are fewer men who complete this ceremony, there are fewer
who share a spouse.
I would point out at this point, that the Green Ajah has something akin
to polyandry going on. It is stated at several points that some of the
Greens are closer to their Warders than are other Aes Sedai, and that
some even marry their Warder(s). There is no express mention of
polyandry, but the implication is there. Not quite the same, but very
Okay, good points. I hadn't considered that male Aiel would be less willing
or able to go through the brother-husband ritual.
As for the Green Ajah . . . yeah . . . but it's nothing compared to what Logain
and friends are doing to their Red Ajah pets!
No argument. Jordan does mention a few female ta'veren (one was
instrumental in creating the ten kingdoms after hawkwing), but there are
none specified in these novels.
Again, no argument. We do see men stripped naked (mentioned in the sweat
tents, the baths in Sheinar, the Gaishain). But Jordan never dwells on
these as he does on the women. He is a male author, and his bias shows
Some years ago I had the opportunity to serve a mission in [omitted for privacy].
A phenomenon that I observed. When the missionaries were male, there was
almost always a senior and a junior companion. The senior was
responsible for directing the companionship. The authority was by no
means absolute, but the junior deferred in almost everything.
Occasionally, two male missionaries would be made "co-senior"
companions, meaning that they were equally responsible and shared
authority equally. These situations usually ended badly, unless one of
the missionaries voluntarily assumed an unofficial "junior" status.
With the female missionaries, the situation was different. They were
almost always "co-senior", with the "senior-junior" scenario occuring
infrequently (usually only if one had been a missionary less than 3
months). These co-senior relationships usually worked. Only very seldom
was there the kind of conflict seen with male co-senior relationships.
The following is an overgeneralization that I recognize up front: men
are taught to compete, while women are taught to co-operate. There are
exceptions - perhaps the most competitive person I know is a woman. She
is, however, a professional, who is obsessed with "competing" in the
male professional community. Whether this difference is genetic or
cultural I won't go into at this point (an evolution based argument for
male-competition female-cooperation can be made, but it would be highly
controversial at best).
I believe that this is one of the central (though oft ignored) themes in
Jordan's series. Women can link (cooperate), while men cannot. Women
share a spouse (cooperate), while men (generally) do not. (this holds
even with the Green Ajah mentioned above, since the warders are
committed to the Aes Sedai first, the other warders second, while with
the Aiel sister-wives, the women are committed to each other first [as
when melaine asks Bael's wife if she will accept him before asking him
for marriage] and their spouses second). The a'dam links two women,
while the male a'dam links a man and one or two women. The white tower
is led by the Amerlin, but she hold only limited power - the Hall has
(arguably) as much, while the black tower has a more traditional
hierarchical structure. Even the actions of individual One Power
wielders - the female Aes Sedai act fairly automously for the most part
(not totally, but generally this seems to be so), while the male Ashaman
do almost nothing without being told.
The women/men theme of the WoT:
The way I see it, women DO have a real-life tendency to cooperate and get
along, while men tend to compete. No argument. Robert Jordan has taken
these tendencies and exaggerated them to a point where no cross-overs exist.
There is no "gray area." While I respect his decision to do this, I wonder
if it was a totally concious decision, or if he really sees things in such
black and white terms.
I think there are some people who see things in this stark black and white way.
I worry that this view of men and women might make the wrong impression on some of
the younger readers of the WoT series. Men who believe that "all women are either
compliant or manipulative" can end up trying to dominate and mistrust all women.
Speaking as someone who works in an industry which is about 98% male, this can be a real
roadblock to a woman who does not fit those stereotypes.
To go a little more in-depth there . . . I know a woman who believes
that "women must always be in control and dominate a man, or else he'll take control
of every aspect of the relationship." She justifies every manipulative or unjust thing
she does to a man by saying (basically): "This is what a woman needs to do because all men
are like THIS and all women are like THIS." The result is exactly what we have in
the WoT universe. Men and women don't trust each other. Not healthy! Not fun!
I agree that Jordan has established gender based differences in his
world. I do not believe that this distinctions are inherently sexist.
They are based on differences he has observed. He is serving as a
descriptionist, rather than a prescriptionist; he reflects what he sees,
rather than stating what he thinks it should be. Whether this is bad or
not depends upon which you place the greater value on (description or
prescription). But even in these differences, he has established
balancing forces - men are stronger channellers individually, but women
are stronger in groups. Polygynous relationship are more prevalent among
the Aiel, while pseudo polyandrus relationship exist amond the Aes Sedai
(the only polygynous relationships among the Aes Sedai are
Rand-Elayne-Min-Avienda and (arguably) Nynaeve-Lan-Moiraine).
I think that Jordan IS playing the presciptionist. He is not describing true
common male-female interaction; it's greatly exaggerated.
Few women that I know are that conniving, manipulative, or slap-happy. The WoT women
are viewed through a strictly black and white lens.
The male WoT characters seem more realistic.
In short, I think Jordan demonstrates gender differences rather than
gender-bias/prejudice. You can argue that they are the same thing, and
there are many who would agree. I submit, however, that men and women
are not identical. There are differences. Some are physical. Some are
socially created. Some may be genetic. I don't believe that Jordan shows
one gender as being inherently inferior to the other. Just different.
And I think that you can have different, without necessarily relegating
one to inferior.
This is true, but when you have
"many women who can channel are equal to just one man who can channel" and
"female Aes Sedai can be strongly Compelled by male channelers but not vice versa,"
then the inferiority is introduced.
Thanks for your response!
Let me know what you think.
From Mike, April 24, 2002
If I may, I think most of your points in the wheel of time article where you critisize
the series as being sexist is flawed. First of all women are naked in the book usually as a form of
humiliation or as a way of showing that there is no humiliation in their society for their naked body.
They are also naked as a way to show that they are just as deadly dispite no help or weapons. For
instance the Aeil and their sweat tents, nakedness is part of their society and is not thought of as
dirty. He is just discribing a diffrent culture he created and this is a signifigant difference from
some of the other cultures. If every culture was created the same then the book would be boring. There
are points in the book where men have to fight naked as well. For instance when they are caught sleeping
or when they are taken prisoner. Secondly the poligamy is not something that the main charictor wanted
but something that was writen in prophcy and I think will be given special importance later on in the
novel ( needing three women he can trust to handle the one power together etc.) This is something that
is totally forign to the main charictor and he acctually fights against it. In fact his situation of
loving three women almost drives him crazy if he wasn't going mad already, while in fact the women made
plans to share him in the second and third book and he doesn't find out until the last books. That doesn't
sound sexist to me at least not towards women. In fact I would put it on the level of the rape of Mat.
The only diffrence is that after Rand found out and when he finally works things out I am almost sure he
will be happy. On second thought even Mat was somewhat happy about his rape situation as was evidenced
by the method of his departure. Thirdly while men are generally stronger in certain aspects of the one
power there are aspects of the one power that men generally cannot use, for instance healing and being
able to work with spirit also they are able to link while a man must stand alone. This was explained
thrughout the novels from the begining.
Finally, in the novel Perrin is a gentle giant, he struggles constantly with his fate since all he
wants to do is be a blacksmith. His wife on the other hand loved him but was loosing respect for him as
a "man" because the culture that he came from was one in which the man was supposed to take charge. She
liked when he took charge and she invited his beating. They were havng problems because of his handeling
of her. She was disappointed in his fragile treatment of her and constantly told him so. He in fact spanked
her to save his marrage not because he wanted to. This was put in by the author again to show the
diffrence in cultures and to bring the charictors more depth. I could see your point if he beat her with
a stick until she was whith in a inch of her life but otherwise I think that you missed the point of that
chapter. These are the issues that I had with your interpretation of the book. I did think however that
it was diplomatic of you to put in the last paragraph. Since I am a big fan and have read the entire
series three times already ( some books more ie Dragon reborn) I can't expect you to remember every detail
the way that I do. If you go back and read those chapters again I thing that you will find that the
story goes that way I specified. I thank you for the time you took in reading this letter.
From Chris, March 6, 2002
your essay about Sexism in the Wheel of Time
and I must say that you've hit on some excellent points. I wanted to point out one flawed
point you DO make, number 4 - about Birgitte being ta'veren; and to respond
to number 5 - the imbalance in nudity.
She was not ta'veren at any time. Specifically, she did not have the
Wheel weave the Pattern around her, she was just exemplary at how she
reacted to her life. It was because of that (her becoming a legend) that
she was bound to the Wheel. Nynaeve et al are not ta'veren nor have they
been bound to the Wheel - yet. While it is doubtful they are ta'veren, it
is unlikely that they will not become Heroes in the same sense that Birgitte
has. So, while it is true that at the moment the only ta'veren mentioned
are Rand, Mat and Perrin, it is not the case that women are never ta'veren
(such a thing certainly would have been brought up) and Nynaeve, Elayne and
Egwene will almost certainly be bound to the Wheel as was Birgitte (though I
cannot say what will happen when she dies).
Now, the imbalance. First, let me agree - there is a lot of that sort of
thing. Your point about the reason being 'he's a male writer' is not a
valid point. You rest your argument primarily on his gender, which he
cannot control and therefore should not come into question. Now, allow me
to offer an explanation? Generally in the WoT battles, you'll notice that
the men almost always do all the fighting. Therefore, it is not likely that
men would be captured and then stripped. Faile et al were captured and
stripped as part of being made gai'shan only because they could not escape
the attack and did not die as so many of the armed guards (who were men)
I would like to say also that though I've read the series a number of
times, I've not come across any mention of rape, which is a pleasant change
from many fantasy writers. Myrddraal certainly have been mentioned to
"amuse themselves" but I've not read of anyone involved in sex against their
will except Mat.
Kudos on a generally well-written piece.
From Gilbert, February 17, 2002
Lady you need to get off your high horse. Isn't there anything better that
you can do but complain about how a writer chooses to write his story. If a
lady were to have written this you would never be tearing it apart. You have
a right to your opinion just as I do and I am sure that you will be writing
My question is why did you read all of his stories if you were going to tear
it apart? Don't you read just for the enjoyment, the escape, that reading
does. There are novels and stories that are just for pure entertainment and
shouldn't have to be scrutinized. If you have problems take a look at the
world and take your venom and use it towards something or somebody that needs
From Jeff, February 10, 2002
I agree wholeheartedly with what you said about Jordan's quirky views of relationships in his series.
I don't really know where Jordan is coming from, but as I grow older and read a wider variety of
books I ask myself where where he got the idea to make the men and women in his series the way they are.
It is very peculiar, as you said.