For those interested in reading this book, beware the spoilers, beware....
Sarah J. Mass is a big name in the 'YA fantasy world' and for good reason. I just finished the second book in her latest series and have been itching to talk about it. But instead of a typical review, I decided to focus on one element that I particularly enjoyed- gender dynamics.
For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, the series revolves around nineteen year-old Feyre who gets tangled up in the magical world of faeries. She gets reborn as one at the end of the first book and becomes part of the political struggles of the land of Prythian in the second (A Court of Mist and Fury). She also falls for the wrong guy... then the right guy. And oh...she has cool powers.
Basically, that's the gist of things. Now let's begin!
6 ways A Court of Mist and Fury undermines gender stereotypes.
1- Reversal of the 'damsel in distress.'
Although Rhysand supports Feyre through her struggles and protects her, she's not a passive 'damsel in distress.' In fact, she saves Rhysand twice from captivity. And this is Rhys we're talking about. The man is supposed to be the most powerful High Lord in the book, but it takes a woman to rescue him.
The first time we see this is when Feyre saves a wounded Rhys from Hybern soldiers. She also breaks the spell imprisoning the characters at the end of the book and sacrifices herself to stop Rhys from entering a disadvantageous bargain with the King. Then there's that amazing scene where she helps protect Velaris from attack. And let's not forget the way she put herself in danger to save her then love Tamlin in the first book. Feyre is a seriously tough cookie and it's not all talk. We can actually see her power and strength as readers.
2- Rhysand 'the whore'
This really drew my attention when I read the book. You usually hear of women being accused of or tormented for 'selling their bodies'. In fact, the very word 'whore' is a term used to refer to women, not men.Yet in the book, Mass uses it to describe Rhys. Well, that's what the characters call him from time to time. I also love the fact that Rhys is haunted by his forced relationship with Amarantha. Sexual abuse and manipulation is something that affects and harms men and women alike. It was good to see this highlighted.
3- The failures of traditional masculinity
Tamlin in the novel represents traditional masculinity in my eyes. He is the overprotective, jealous, possessive lover who ends up suffocating Feyre with his 'love'. This contrasts to Rhysand who was willing to lose his mate to another male out of respect for her right to choose who to be with. In this way, we can see Rhysand emerging as the representative of modern masculinity- the man who does not believe in babying and sheltering a woman he loves.
4- The role of women in politics
Feyre being crowned the High Lady of the Night Court despite social laws against this sends a powerful message about the role of women in politics. Rhysand is a real face for feminism in the way he was willing to share political power with Feyre. Again, this contrasts to Tamlin's treatment of her at the beginning of the novel and the way he wanted to restrict her to the domestic realm. Of course, him literally locking her up in the house reinforces this desire to exclude her from the 'male' world of work and politics. Whereas Rhysand actually gives her a paid job and treats her as an equal.
Well done Rhys!
5- Female sexuality
Feyre is definitely not your stereotypical coy, shy inexperienced woman. She enjoys the company of men and has no issue being open about it. We see this in the first book too when she sleeps with a family friend despite not having strong feelings towards him. Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, generally, women in the first two books are very comfortable with their sexuality. And some, like Ianthe and Amarantha can even be seen as sexual predators. This again undermines the gender stereotype that view men as being more sexually dominant.
6- Proactive women, passive men
There are both positive and negative examples of men and women in the book. But there is something that can be said about the striking number of strong, proactive women in contrast to weak men. Just have a look:
Feyre's father- could not support his daughters for years
Lucien- does not stand up for Feyre
Tamlin- watches Feyre die
King of Hybern- his spells don't work, failed to capture Rhys the first time, can't even break their bond properly (not feeling the fear to be honest)
Mor's dad- wimpy and insults Feyre under his breath.
High Lord of Summer Court- nice but a bit clueless and naive
Jurian- creepy zombie but did he really do anything?
Strong, proactive women
Ianthe- tough in a sly conniving way
Amarantha - evil but still...
The mortal Queens- they are stupid but hold positions of power (well, I guess I'm not totally sure about this one)
Am I forgetting anyone? In any case, you get the idea.
It is also noteworthy that the women in Rhys's circle hold higher positions than the men. Again, this is really nice to see
Well, that's it! Hope you enjoyed this post and let me know your thoughts in the comments.