I’ve been a member of TheOneRing.net’s forums for several years. We’ve had a lot of good discussions on anything from distaste for the Hobbit films to a chapter-by-chapter readthrough of The Lord of the Rings. In one of the recent threads on that topic – the one on “The Steward and the King”, to be exact – the subject of Éowyn as a “feminist icon or female stereotype” came up; inevitably, I suppose.
The whole thing regarding women in literature is one I’m passionate about, and one poster’s comment set me off. (Disclaimer: not attacking the poster himself; he’s one I deeply respect and he was only really posing a question, not an opinion.) His comment read thus:
You are highlighting for me a distinction – do we view Eowyn as an individual person who might decide she prefers gardening to warfare (or vice versa) … Or do we see her as a representative of a set of people (women, in this case) such that her choices are to be taken to represent what is or isn’t right for this group?
“There’s always been a baggage living here under The Hill…” by noWizardme
Now I hope the problem with that quote is instantly obvious! I’ve replicated my reply below.
NOT to consider Éowyn as an individual would be sexist.
I think it is skewed that every woman in fiction is taken and dissected as she relates to the feminist movement. This relegates them to objects, means to an end rather than realising that they are human beings and individuals. (Obviously, “human beings” used loosely, since they’re fictitious!)
We shouldn’t be so concerned over whether or not Éowyn can be taken as an icon for feminism. We should hold her to the same standards to which we hold Tolkien’s male characters and ask whether she is a believable character in her own right.
Why should our analysis of female characters be different than our analysis of male characters? I generally ignore the whole sexism thing because it’s so hyped and most accusations ridiculously unfounded, but that position sounds sexist even to me. If people want fiction to be “inclusive” of women, stop singling them out and subjecting them to a test of emotionlessness and fighting skill and treat them as human beings instead!
I would absolutely welcome discussion on this topic, so comment away!