Sunday, June 17, 2012

Beka Cooper: Changes in gender roles

One of the fascinating things about Tamora Pierces novels that are placed in Tortall is looking at gender roles, and how they change.

There are the majority of her books placed in a time when women are finally being accepted as warriors again. These start with the quartet Song of the Lioness. Alanna disguises herself as a boy so that she can become a knight. She paves the way for women to be warriors (or she makes it more acceptable...I'm not sure if some commoner women already fought?) and is the first female knight in 200 years.

Then there are the Beka Cooper books, which take place 200 years before and have the lady knight Sabine in them. Beka herself is in law enforcement. As the quartet (I assume it will become a quartet) proceeds it's interesting to see how society is changing so that gender roles will change.

 In book one (Terrier) some, such as Beka's sisters, disapprove of her career choice because of her gender. But for the most part she's accepted. A woman breaking up bar fights and getting black eyes? No big deal. What's the problem?

But then the cult of the Gentle Mother is briefly introduced in book two (Bloodhound) and we get a big dose of it in book three (Mastiff). This cult basically teaches that women are gentle souls and that all we need to be content is to sit around the house doing needlework and raising children. For women to go out and coarsen ourselves doing men's work is a terrible thing. That's what men are for, after all.

This goes a long way to explain the shift in gender roles from the Beka's time to Alanna's time, which is something I had wondered about.

(I'll probably expand this, and include direct quotes, later.)

3 comments:

Toriz said...

Interesting; I like re-reading books and looking for things like that; society's views on things, etc, I mean.

Carrie said...

Man, I've really got to get my hands on book three! lol. I love the way the Tortall books show different sides of women's roles, and how there's power to be found in all of them.

Sarita Rucker said...

Toriz -- It's not something I generally look for, but here it's pretty obvious. And after all, it's also a major theme in the other Tortall books.

Carrie -- Yes you have got to read it! Great story, and some really interesting character development on characters we already know and love. Plus one awesome hot new character. ;)

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