[DWJ] Bad Mothers (was HP)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Thu May 17 10:33:03 EDT 2007

Jadwiga to Minnow:

>  > It occurs to me suddenly that we wouldn't be having this discussion if the
>>  parent in question were male rather than female.  The adult male of the
>>  household equally doesn't do any housework, after all.  Shame upon us, eh?
>>  Gender stereotypists that we are!

Well, no - to fit this pattern, wouldn't the father-character have to 
be the sole parent and be neglecting his children to go out and 
organize fathers' rights events?  While simultaneously telling his 
sons they had to be super achievers and stars at whatever appropriate 
manly sport, and his daughters that they shouldn't bother too much 
with school so they can take on the housework and child-minding. No, 
perhaps a politician going around the country spouting forth about a 
'return to family values'.  I'm stretching to make it fit, but that's 
because it's harder to do when there isn't a stereotype.  And 
preferably, you'd have previously written a lot of abusive/neglectful 
fathers - certainly more than your abusive/neglectful mothers.

>What's interesting is that we're obsessing over a single example,
>because it fits a cultural stereotype. Logically, of course, some
>people in a given group are going to fit the stereotype, and some of
>them will be nasty. In this case, the failed feminist writer. Is it
>possible for someone to  include a negative character who fits a
>stereotype safely? How?

Brushing past the implication of obsessiveness ;) - this is in part 
what I was wondering too.  So far, I'm thinking it may be possible 
with a central character done with some depth (and if you're 
scrupulously clear about your own set of biases) but it's not so 
likely to be done well if you don't allow readers get beyond that 
easy 'fit' of character and stereotypical characteristics.  But I 
guess - why bother anyway unless you are going to go into that depth? 
For example, there are surely more than enough fat kid characters who 
are lazy & greedy or a bully that you'd need to be doing something 
very different with the character to add another.


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