Category Archives: ethical conundra

Fanmail FAQ: The F Word.

Dear Pat,

Life got busy for me early on this year, and I fell behind reading your blog. But now that school’s started back up again, I’ve been able to catch up by reading back through the archives during my more boring lectures.

So I’ve got a couple of questions. Well…. honestly, I have a couple hundred questions I could ask you. But I’ll limit myself to two that came to me from a blog you wrote back in April.

You talked about going to see Cabin in the Woods. And in that blog you said:

“My plan is to go see it, preferably in the company of an attractive, easily startled young woman. That way, when the movie gets scary, she will cling to me desperately for comfort.”

This struck me as a little odd. In you’re biography, you describe yourself as a feminist. That doesn’t seem like a feminist sort of thing to say.

I’m not trying to pick a fight here, honest. I’m genuinely curious. One of my favorite things about your books is how you handle your female characters. They’re strong and smart and… well…. kinda real. They’re not generic stereotypes and helpless maids in need of saving. They’re not cliche.

So my questions are these:

1. Was Cabin in the Woods any good?

2. How do you reconcile being a feminist and at the same time wanting to have pretty young girls cling to you for comfort?

Sorry this e-mail is a long one. And I understand if you don’t have time to answer it. I know you’re busy.

A fan,

Alanna

*     *     *

Okay. First off Alanna, you really shouldn’t be reading my blog in class. I am a former teacher, you realize. I can’t condone that sort of behavior.

Second off, while I am busy. (So busy.) I enjoy answering questions like this. Especially when it gives me a chance to talk about two things I enjoy: Feminism and Joss Whedon.

  • 1. Was The Cabin in the Woods good?

It was was so, s0 good.

How good? Honestly, I think I enjoyed it more than the Avengers. And I enjoyed the hell out of the Avengers….

It was so good that I bought the DVD just a couple days after it came out and watched it with my friends when they’d come to visit. I think it’s the first time in two years that I’ve done that. (Have I mentioned the whole so busy thing? Yeah. I’m that busy.)

Don’t worry about it being your typical cliche horror movie. Joss Whedon is way too smart for that. And he does a good job with female characters too, in my opinion.

  • 2. How can I consider myself a feminist and still want women to cling to me?

Okay. Here we go.

First off, we have to leave aside a huge, in-depth discussion of what, specifically, feminism is. Because that’s a big, big topic. It’s a whole book’s worth, let alone a blog.

Suffice it to say that there are roughly as many types of feminism as there are feminists.

Which means it’s really complicated. And believe me, it leads to some really interesting discussions when feminists get together and talk.

(And I’m not being catty when I say that. Yeah sure. Sometimes when feminists get together they fight like Paglia and Steinem. But most of the time when I’ve gotten together with other like-minded folks to discuss the nature of feminism, the conversations have been rewarding and enlightening.)

If I were asked for a very general, simple definition of feminism….

Well, honestly, if someone asked me that, I’d probably avoid the question. Partly because I’d suspect them of wanting to start a fight, and also because because there is no simple definition. As I’ve said, it’s a pretty complicated thing.

But if I were pressed for a definition, I’d say something like this:

1. Feminism is the belief that women are as worth as much as men.

1a. (Corollary) This means women should be treated as fairly as men.

1b. (Corollary) This means women should be respected as much as men.

1c. (Corollary) This means women should have the same rights as men.

1d. (Corollary) Etc etc.

2. Feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re women.

2a. (Corollary) Men shouldn’t have to do things just because they’re men.

3. Feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t have to *avoid* doing things just because they’re women.

3a. (Corollary) Men shouldn’t have to *avoid* doing things just because they’re men.

As an example:

#2 up there means that (to pick a trivial example) ladies shouldn’t feel obliged to shave their armpits just because of some fucked up societal pressures that started due to marketing campaigns back in 1915.

#3 means that if you *want* to shave your pits, that’s cool too. It’s not like you’re letting down all of womankind if you do.

A more serious example of this relates to raising kids.

#2 means that women shouldn’t feel obliged to be stay-at-home moms.

#3 means that if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, and it makes you happy, then you should feel free to do that. It doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist, and it doesn’t mean you’re an Uncle Tom. (Or an Aunt Tommasina, or whatever.)

The key, in my opinion, is that people in general (and women in particular) shouldn’t feel obliged to do things due to pointless, bullshitty cultural constraints. Including (and here’s where #3 comes into effect big time) the cultural constraints put on them by other feminists with differing viewpoints.

Other folks have different opinions. And there’s more to it than that, of course. I could go on and on. But this isn’t really the place for it, as your question relates mostly to how I reconcile my being a feminist with a sentiment that, to put it plainly, reeks of machismo.

My justification comes from 2a and 3a.

2a means that I don’t *have* to act like a big testosterone-y alpha-male protector of the wimmins.

3a means that, if I feel like it, I can indulge myself and play the part of the manly protector. If (and this is key) I’m not a dick about it.

Here’s the thing: It feels good to be a big tough protector sometimes. Other times it feels good being protected.

It’s like when you’re spooning. Sometimes you’re the big spoon, sometimes you’re the little spoon. They both can be nice.

Here’s the problem: there are precious few chances to be a big tough protector in our civilized society. And honestly, that’s a good thing.

But watching a scary movie, that’s different. When I’m sitting in the dark theater, and the woman sitting next to me screams and grabs at me, her fingernails digging into my chest. Sorry. My broad, *manly* chest. It fills a deep-seated gorilla-type need to occasionally feel like a big damn heroic protector.

Now I’m not saying that’s now I’d like to live my whole life, but that’s one of the best thing about horror movies – they’re not real life. They’re like emotional cardio. They give us the chance to be terrified in a consequence-free environment.

That’s the joy of all fiction, really: you get the benefit of experiencing something without the burden of having to actually experience it.

And you know what? I’m gonna be completely honest with you here. Occasionally, it’s nice to have an attractive young woman cling to you in a moment of pure animal terror.

I know this because I went to see the original Scream with two pretty young women back in the day. They sat on either side of me, and I got it in stereo. Simply put, it was awesome. They both grabbed me at the same time, one of them hiding her face in my shoulder. And at that moment, I felt like Batman, Malcom Reynolds, and the next avatar of Krishna all rolled up into one.

Part of me, the educated feminist part, feels like I should be apologetic for this. Like I should feel guilty about it.

But you know what? I’m really not. No one is harmed by this behavior.

So there you go, Alanna. I hope you like your answer. It got way longer than I’d planned. But isn’t that always just the way of things…

One last thing before I sign off. Let’s be civilized persons here in the comments, okay? That means polite discourse. You can disagree with me or other folks expressing opinions, but let’s not be dicks about it.

Right? Right.

Fair warning: undue assholery from any corner will be viewed with extreme scorn.

Love and Peace!

pat

Also posted in Fanmail Q + A, Nathan Taylor Art, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat131 Responses

My Fictional Nature

It’s strange to me, knowing that if I write a blog, thousands of people will read it. Thousands and thousands. A ridiculous number of people, really.

It was less strange when I wrote the College Survival Guide for the campus paper. With the column, I knew what my job was. I wanted to make people laugh, and maybe, occasionally, slip a bit of reasonable advice to my unsuspecting readership.

Pure advice is unpalatable. It’s preachy. But if you make people laugh a little, they may not notice you’ve slipped them a little bit of truth. And even if they do notice, they’re more likely to forgive you for it.

I was a tiny bit of a local celebrity when I wrote that column for the campus paper. A few hundred people read it every week. On rare occasion people would recognize me as that-guy-who-writes-that-column. Once, the guy delivering a pizza to my house looked at my name on the credit card receipt and said, “Are you THE Pat?”

I laughed. “I didn’t know I’d become superlative,” I said.

I haven’t done the column for a couple years. These days I channel my humor writing into the blog instead. But there’s a difference. Back then I was a little bit famous because people read my column. Now people read my blog because I’m a little bit famous.

There’s more to it than that, of course. People read the blog because it’s amusing, or because they’re interested in news about upcoming projects and appearances. They tune in because they’re curious about book two, or because they’re looking for writing advice.

But mostly, people read the blog because they read my book and were curious about the author.

So I tell stories and post pictures. I screed and opine. I post up little pieces of my life. Then y’all take those pieces, fit them together, and you form an impression of me in your heads.

This is the interesting thing. It’s something I think about a lot. That person you create in your head out of these bits and pieces. That Pat Rothfuss you get to know from the blog, he’s fictional.

(It’s true that you could say the same thing of anyone. You could say that you don’t really *know* any of your friends or family, you just have flawed impressions of them based on your limited perceptions and experience.

This might be true in some small theoretical way, but in a bigger more practical way it’s pure bullshit. You know your friends. Let’s not become hopelessly meta here. If you follow that line of reasoning too far you end up in the pointless philosophical morass of relativistic solipsism.)

Anyway, my point is this: I think about this fictional Pat Rothfuss sometimes. I wonder what he’s like.

I expect in some ways, fictional Pat is pretty much like me. I’m honest to the point of blinding stupidity, and I talk about things here on the blog that any sensible person would keep quiet about. Anyone who’s ever seen me speak in public can attest to the fact that I can’t help but express myself freely and clearly, even if it’s not entirely appropriate.

Still, I can’t deny that I present an edited version of my life on here. The blog lies by omission. I talk about my signings and answer fanmail. I post a cute picture of my baby and talk about the new foreign edition of my book. I link to an interview and do a fundraiser for my favorite charity.

Given all of that, fictional Pat seems to have a pretty swank life. He seems really nice. He seems kinda cool.

And that makes me feel dishonest, because it’s not really true. You’re putting together the fictional me without the grubby bits. The truth is, I am at times a contemptible human being. The truth is, I have deplorable habits.

For example, when I go on Facebook, I post status updates talking about Dr. Horrible. Or I joke about the dream where I ended up in bed with Willow and Spike. I don’t mention what happened the other day with Oot.

You see, right now Oot loves my beard. In terms of desirability, beard ranks #3 in all creation. Boobs hold the top spot, of course, and the telephone is currently a strong #2. But other than that, he loves nothing more than to clutch at my beard.

I think gripping it appeals to some primal, monkey part of him. He gets his sticky little hands tangled up in the beard, and some piece of his primal baby brain thinks: “Good. I’m safe. If we’re attacked by a predator and forced to run to safety, I won’t be left behind.”

The problem is this: if you don’t have a long beard, you have no idea how painful it is to have it pulled. He could swing from my hair from all I care. He’s even managed to kick me square in the junk several times in an ongoing  campaign of sibling prevention. Those pains are nothing by compairison. Having your beard pulled hurts as much as when you’re walking around barefoot in the middle of the night and you stub your little toe really hard against a table-leg.

Usually I’m able to head him off when he grabs for it, but his motor skills have really been developing lately. So the other day, before I know it, he has both drooly little hands in it up to his forearms, then he yanks on it for everything he’s worth.

“Ahhh!” I shout. “Stop it you little fucker!”

Oot doesn’t seem to mind in the least. For all he knows I’ve just called him by one of his other countless names, (Thunderbutt, Prancibald, The Dampener…) He just laughs and tugs the beard some more, happy to be safe from prowling lions and packs of hyenas.

Still, it’s a shitty thing to say to your baby, and I feel bad about it.

The point is this: I suspect that fictional Pat would never refer to his adorable baby as, “you little fucker.” I suspect he’s better than that. I expect he’s a nicer person than I am.

Part of me thinks, even as I write this, “Of course you don’t talk about those things on the blog. Why *would* you? That’s not why people read the blog. You’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward….”

But then I think about that fictional Pat again, and I feel dishonest. There’s a difference between putting your best foot forward and subtly misrepresenting yourself.

The thing is, professionally, I should be careful here on the blog. If I was going to be smart about this, I’d never talk about sex or politics or religion, never make any jokes that could offend anyone, never tell you a story that makes me looks like the idiot I sometimes am. The smart thing for me to do is carefully groom and maintain this fictional Pat and use him as a promotional tool.

But the truth is, the thought of maintaining that sort of professional persona makes me distinctly uncomfortable. Given the choice, I think I’d rather be too honest and have you like me a little less. I’d much prefer to look like a bit of an ass, because… well… I am a bit of an ass.

So tomorrow I think I’ll post up a story of one of the countless times I’ve made an fool of myself in public. Maybe I’ll tell a few of those stories. I don’t know if they’ll help round out the fictional Pat some of you have come to know, but I expect it will make me feel a little bit less like a poser.

Barring that, it should be good for a laugh or two.

See y’all tomorrow….

Pat

Also posted in a few words you're probably going to have to look up, BJ Hiorns Art, blogging, College Survival Guide, emo bullshit, my beard, Oot, things I shouldn't talk about | By Pat112 Responses
  • Our Store

  • Previous Posts

  • Archives

  • My Twitter

  • Bookmark this Blog

    (IE and Firefox users only - Safari users, click Command-D)