Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Are Heroines Getting Shortchanged on Suvudu?

by Megan S.

via Stuck in Customs

Suvudu, Random House's science fiction and fantasy blog, is hosting an epic March Madness style series of cage matches pitting genre heroes against one another in a fight to the finish this month.  The first round consisting of 32 matches began only yesterday, but that was more than enough time to notice something hinky is going on.  Heroines are being shortchanged in the battle royal.

First, a brief overview of March Madness style games.  March Madness is a college-level tournament of single-elimination basketball games involving 64 teams. The winner of each game earns a spot in the next round where eventually, in the sixth round, two teams compete to be the final winner.  Same goes for the cage matches, though the winners are predicted by the site and determined by audience votes.

Suvudu's series begins to look heavily imbalanced in favor of men when examining the numbers.  Only 16 of the 64 competitors are (humanoid) females, which means there are almost three males to every one woman in the theoretical games.  Furthermore, each match pits a female against a male making it's statistically improbable the pairs were randomly assigned. There has been a significant rise in both female protagonists and authors in recent years so there's no reason for such a disparity.  But, the fact that the numbers are against females but that doesn't necessarily mean women are being shortchanged.

What does indicate heroines are being disrespected are the descriptions of the matches themselves.  The breakdown of Suvudu's predicted winners and losers come out even with seven women winning and two matches listed as a toss-up.  However, in three matches where the woman loses, the heroine clearly is more powerful than her male combatant.  Each time, the male wins because he brings in reinforcements to overpower her.  This is not the case in any of the matches where a male is the ultimate winner despite the fact that relying on friends to help defeat a foe is something that a number of the characters, like Granny Weatherwax or Y.T., would do.

The final nail in the sexism coffin is the physical descriptions of three of the four Urban Fantasy heroines.  One of Rachel Morgan's disadvantages is "getting into her leather pants."  Chess Putnam's special attack is "sex appeal."  Evangeline Stone's disadvantage is being "boob-alicious" and is eventually felled by a love spell.  None of the men competing are described in such a patronizing, sexist way.  None.

So, what's up with this sexist crap, Suvudu?  We know the cage matches are just for fun but this is ridiculous.  There are very few women represented and a number of those present are mistreated and slammed based on their sexuality.  Really, Suvudu?

We love your books but we definitely don't love your misogyny.

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  1. The idea that female protagonists would always be felled by something stereotypically related to their gender (e.g. clothing issues) is just disheartening.

    So many badass urban fantasy heroines exist. The publisher wouldn't be putting put the novels if they didn't have more depth than gender stereotypes, so why trivialize them in the challenge?

  2. Good article. VERY disappointing game-playing. There should definitely be some of the females against other females (come on--some of the meanest characters are women!) and enough with the sexism. Boobalicious? Gimme a break.

  3. I was pretty stunned to see Chess Putnam's special attack listed as "sex appeal". This is a gritty, loner heroine who gets into no-holds-barred, bone-crunching throwdowns with ghosts and necromancers. Sex appeal? Seriously?

  4. Another thing I thought was strange (this could be a typo, but it seems like a big typo) is that on Chess's throwdown page, the title was "Babcock" versus "Stacia Kane". Not character versus character, but character versus author. For me that set the tone for the rest of the page and the way that Chess was going to be treated.

    Good post. Thank you.