Women Characters in The Human Division

Question in e-mail today asks, of my book The Human Division: “What’s up with every one of the side characters being women?” 

My first thought was: Huh, a reader finally e-mailed about that.

My second thought was: Huh, it took a year and a half before a reader e-mailed about that.

My third thought is: In fact, not every side (or featured) character in The Human Division is a woman. If you were to take a pencil and write down the name of every named character, you’d probably discover that roughly half of the named characters are women.

I did consciously decide to include women characters roughly at parity to male characters, for two reasons. One, in the Old Man’s War universe, there’s no reason not to — thanks to genetic engineering and social attitudes (and other things), the OMW universe is one where there is no reason not to have parity between the sexes in the events related in the books. Since there’s not, introducing a disparity would be inauthentic to the universe I created.

Two, regardless of the world I created, we live in a world in which women are underrepresented in the media, relative to the numbers they exist in the real world. I also think that’s inauthentic, and I don’t see why I would want to be a part of that. So, unless there is a compelling reason not to (see: The God Engines, in which the lack of representation of women is there as a tell about the culture), I’ve decided in general to replicate the parity of the sexes that exists in the real world into my fiction.

I didn’t make a huge deal about it when I was writing THD; I just reminded myself to write women characters. I also didn’t generally talk about making an effort at that parity after the book was published, because I didn’t think something as simple as accurately representing male/female ratios in the real world (and how they would logically be in the universe I created) was a big deal.

I was curious if anyone would notice. I think there was one review that noted it (in passing, not as a central feature), I was asked about it in one interview, and now I’ve gotten this one e-mail about it from a reader. And pretty much that’s it.

What does that mean? Well, you tell me. I like to think that generally speaking it means that people who read my books don’t think it’s a big deal that women are at parity to men in terms of characters. I’m good with that.

To those who do notice and think it’s weird or indicative of some political agenda they feel suspicious about: Meh, get used to it. It’s not going away anytime soon.

114 thoughts on “Women Characters in The Human Division

  1. There’s so many things in this world that are like dinner music. If it’s done badly, it negatively brings down the scene in a way that’s hard to ignore. If it’s done well, no one notices.

    It took an article online for me to realize that whatever else its flaws, the newest Battlestar Galactica series had gender parity. We see males and females in almost every role in society except maybe doctors, where we only see one, and he has male and female assistants.

    The Human Division is the next Scalzi title on my to-read list. I think knowing in advance that there’s gender parity might actually bring my enjoyment up that last little bit.

  2. I noticed (not that anyone cares), thought, “Good for Scalzi”, and moved on with a very enjoyable read. If anything, JS, I think your women tend to be better developed than the men by a fraction.

  3. I didn’t notice. Perhaps because I’m female and it seemed quite normal to have female characters doing stuff, as I and my (often scientifically oriented) gal pals are already busy doing stuff. Having a sister as a good rifle shot in ROTC probably meant I was used to capable military women, too. So it just seemed normal and not noticeable in any way. Well done, Mr. Scalzi.

  4. The fact that the gender of a character only matters insomuch as it needs to matter for the story is one reason I so love your writing, Mr. Scalzi. But it’s only one reason of many.

  5. I did notice, and I really liked it. I assumed it was just a reflection of society, and that being a good thing. It never occurred to me to think about how it might be so unusual that someone would point it out as being out of the ordinary.

  6. I also noticed, and thoroughly enjoyed the result. It didn’t occur to me that it was worth overtly commenting on.

  7. one person sending an email 1.5 years after the book is published doesn’t exactly show that alot of people care or even notice this kind of thing. I didnt notice.

  8. I noticed that this questioner apparently interpreted half side characters being female as “every one” of the side characters being female.

    Depending on what researchers you ask, when women make up from anywhere between 17% to 30% of a population (people in a room, characters in a crowd shot in a movie, amount of talking being done in a population), apparently most people start perceiving them as “outnumbering” or “dominating” the men. It makes me absolutely hopping mad. It’s so pernicious and it shows up in so many disparate spheres of life where women start making any kind of gains in representation or participation.

  9. Mr. Scalzi: Well (and this is anecdotal, I know), I didn’t notice it. Probably because it seems normal to me that roughly half the humans in a piece of fiction should be women. Because roughly half of humans are women. Seems to make intuitive sense.

    Guess: I think there’s a difference between not noticing this sort of thing and not caring about it. I didn’t notice. I do care. Gender parity is a very good thing in fiction. I’d like to see more of it. I care about seeing more of it.

  10. @bloodygranuaile beat me to it.

    I understand this effect is — unsurprisingly — most apparent when women are some of the people *talking* and not just some of the people visible.

    The flipside is that most people don’t notice when women are significantly underrepresented in situations unless they have it pointed out to them, or they specifically look for it.

  11. I like to think that generally speaking it means that people who read my books don’t think it’s a big deal that women are at parity to men in terms of characters. I’m good with that.

    Yeah, that’s pretty much where I am. I’d never actually thought about it until I saw this, and I’m pretty sure it never even occurred to me to wonder about it.

  12. I noticed and assumed that you were doing the things you noted in this post. I think being a reader of your blog predisposed me to make that assumption.

    Thank you! It is a big deal; keep up the good work :)

  13. I’m not sure if I noticed there was parity, but I’m sure I noticed that there were plenty of important female characters. It’s something I expect from you and enjoy in your writing. Sadly, I think I notice because it’s not yet the norm in the entertainment media, so when I get engrossed in the story and I’m not thinking about the fact that it’s a Scalzi story, it’s a little startling to come across a new powerful female character. Then I think, “Oh. Cool,” and move on.

    Thanks for helping to change that norm. Hopefully, it won’t be long before I don’t even notice.

    Do you know if your books have a higher percentage of female readership than science fiction in general?

  14. Didn’t notice. Unless there were a reason a character had to be one gender or the other or is the character were poorly written I am not sure I could care. Some ScFi has some really clumsily written female parts and I find that jarring (pasta bless RAH but he did that too often – his age group I assume). Other than that I expect people to speak, act and react the way people do.

  15. What bloodygranuaile said. This is the second time this week I’ve read about a 50/50 split in characters being interpreted as “all women.” Our culture has such skewed perceptions. When I was growing up, there were pretty much no female protagonists, precious few female authors in SFF. Now it’s a new world, but wow, there’s still a long way to go.

    I’m not enough of a reader to have an informed opinion about gender demographics among SFF characters, let alone the quality and depth and diversity of those characters — how they would fare in the Bechdel test (cf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test) … but when you look at movies, and realize that most utterly fail and few actually pass, it’s a reminder how slowly things change.

  16. I noticed that there were more female characters and thought, “Hm, wonder if any of the episodes will be from a female point of view” and then wandered off because I don’t really think ‘hey, I’mna get on the Internet and tell a writer to write the way I want them to’.

  17. I did notice, but then again I expect you not to be some macho dudebro shithead who has problems writing women who aren’t prostitutes, girlfriends/wives (who are astoundingly stupid and only exist to be rescued by OUR HERO) or raped and tortured corpses.

  18. Unfortunately, I tend to notice it more if the role division is more one sided. For instance, the Lego movie was soo good and soo much a sausage fest. It isn’t the time of Tolkien anymore. Writers who tend to write good characters, female and male, tend to get my money. But unless it is set in a all boy/girl school, shouldn’t every story have a lot of both sexes as characters?

  19. Several others have already remarked on the whole “if you have a % of women of more than 25% but less than 50%, people will see it as overwhelmingly female” thing, which is just distressing to me.

  20. For me, it’s a given in a Scalzi novel, and I enjoy it. Tough it makes me mad at myself sometimes, because as the unfortunate bearer of internalized sexism, I’m still taken by surprise by the gender of some characters.

  21. I’m sorry to say I did wonder about what happened to the women in Redshirts.
    Or more specifically, I read the whole thing while telling myself that it’s okay, Scalzi must have some reason for only having one major female character, and having her plot be via being a love interest and single entendres about blow jobs.

    I thought it was going to be part of the meta humour, a commentary on the sexism of sci fi shows.

    And then I was very sad.

    What happened there? The second most interesting female character was the fridged woman whose actress turns up in one of the codas.

  22. I noticed & rejoiced quietly. Being a middle-aged female, I still find it necessary to celebrate when women (and minorities, gays, young people) are treated like the humans they are.

  23. It IS a tell about the culture: It’s more gender-egalitarian than ours.

    katepreach, hard to talk about while avoiding spoilers, but the fact that there are few women in Redshirts is a tell about it, too…and it’s not a tell about a future society.

  24. To answer a question posed here more generally: for a man to write well about women it helps to have grown up in a family with lots of girls and women around and later to be around women – but it is essential to pay attention.

  25. I notice when there isn’t gender parity or a reasonable explanation for the lack of it. In those cases, I feel irritated with the book and sometimes stop reading it. Human Division didn’t raise my hackles that way (thankfully), so I finished it all and enjoyed it.

  26. I’m a longtime fan, and I only managed to read THD two days ago for the first time, loved it. Absolutely loved it. The world felt natural to me. I liked having female characters. I never noticed that there were more women than in other books.

  27. I didn’t so much notice the gender parity as not notice there was something weird or unbalanced about your universe. Which is nice. It helps maintain the illusion of living in another universe. As to anyone who doesn’t like it, I feel bad for them and wish their brain was different.

  28. **Spoilers ** This post discucsses some stuff that you might prefer to learn first hand if you haven’t read Old Man’s war or The Ghost Brigades yet.

    One, in the Old Man’s War universe, there’s no reason not to — thanks to genetic engineering and social attitudes (and other things), the OMW universe is one where there is no reason not to have parity between the sexes in the events related in the books.

    I think I may have noticed a little, but I didn’t find it particularly noteworthy in the context of the events in The Human Division.

    I assume that when you mention genetic engineering, you are referring to the engineered soldiers of the OMW universe. Are other humans being engineered (that we readers know of so far)? Here we are talking about beings who are engineered to excel in all things military including infantry action and hand-to-hand combat.

    If you have the ability to build soldiers to order and you have the ability to put the same technology into soldiers that are shaped like either men or women, you are going to get more combat capability out of male soldiers. A designer just wouldn’t deliberately attach enhanced muscles to a female skeleton when he or she could choose a male one. It just doesn’t make sense to assume that genetic engineering tehcnology yields parity between the sexes for certain physical tasks. For that matter, I expect you’d get more capability yet out of some arbitrary design that doesn’t look human at all.

    I assumed that the colonial defense forces were working within the constraints that their soldiers are genetically enhanced versions of their former selves and that their transferred consciousness wouldn’t cope well with living in the body of a non-human flensing machine, or any other body too dissimilar from the one in which he or she had already spent 75 years.

    I don’t recall if you ever explained, or if perhaps I forgot, how recruitment works in the colonial defense forces. Did they take everyone who met the age qualification and volunteered?

    It makes sense under the assumptions that I suggest that there would be a fair number of female soldiers in the CDF. The CDF needs people, and a bunch of the people they need are female.

    Likewise, given the unique provenance of special forces in the universe, there seems to be a limit on the available supply. The CDF has to choose between having Jane Sagan or not, rather than having Jane Sagan or a soldier with a more efficient form factor. Of course, if the CDF were sufficiently evil, it could easily fill the Ghost Brigades with as many people as it liked by giving a little bit of “help” to a few more recruits. Who would know or object?

  29. Katepreach : I took the role of women in Redshirts to simply be a reflection of the material it parodied/commented on. Star Trek TOS had three women: Uhura, Yeoman Rand (who was pretty much a “sexy secretary”), and whoever Kirk was sleeping with.

  30. So what does this say about our culture that (if I read this correctly), creating a story with gender parity was something that required conscious effort?

    (Not a dig at you personally…you don’t have to read much 1950s SF to see how difficult it is for authors to escape their culture without lots of conscious effort.)

    We too often think of sexism as deliberate when in fact it’s often more the case that it takes conscious deliberation to escape it.

  31. Getting tired of the definition of “combat capability” as “upper body strength”. Because you totally have to be able to bench press 350 to pilot a drone.

  32. @Mike, have you read “The Female of the Species” by Rudyard Kipling? That was 19th to early 20th Century, and disagreed with you then! Actually, I don’t want to start a ‘which is the most dangerous sex’ argument. However I am more than willing to allow John’s idea of sex-parity here, when so many other things have also been solved – small things like: traveling faster than light, transference of souls by machine, etc.

    The story(ies) ran smoothly for me; didn’t notice odd mixing of genders.

  33. I had noticed, and what’s more, I had noticed that your female characters are PEOPLE. Not a whole lot of science fiction writers do that, make their women characters people first. They’re not MacGuffins whose sole purpose is for the hero’s actions or character development. Even if they’re two dimensional minor characters, one of those dimensions isn’t their gender. And if they’re main characters, they don’t fit one of the few stereotypes that exist for female characters in science fiction (hard as nails captain, alien seductress, innocent girl, etc.). They’re just as real people as the male protagonists.

    It’s one of the many reasons your books are a pleasure to read and have broad-based appeal. Thank you for doing that.

  34. I also noticed it, but slightly different from everyone here. I remember seeing a reasonable number of female characters but was sorta irked that none of them felt like the “lead”. Coloma is one of my favorite characters, and I can tell the Hafta Sorvahl is a kick for you to write, but I had the slight feeling that all the women in the novel were like apologies for none of them getting to be the “hero”

    Maybe that says more about me that I saw the Campbellian Harry as the protagonist, despite Sorvahl and others getting whole point of view chapters. But across the OMW books (I haven’t read Zoe’s Tale, I’ll admit) the characters I see as the leads are all dudes.

  35. Re Redshirts, I am familiar with the source material & with the concept of parity.

    But I struggled through the whole book with few meaningful female characters thinking ‘it’ll be worth it, Scalzi wouldn’t do this to me for no reason, this has got to be a setup for a big payoff’, but it WASN’T.

  36. I definitely noticed and was delighted by it, especially because the women in the book were all people, not just women. They all felt natural, as they should be, and being female didn’t set them apart or anything, their gender was more like their height, or hair color, not a statement about their capabilities. I really like that about the way you incorporate women in the story.

  37. Mike:

    Your analysis is flawed. You’re assuming that the Hercules-Series combat bodies (that the CDF uses) amplify the previous attributes of the person who’s consciousness they recieved and amplifies them.

    From what’s written in Old Man’s War, that isn’t the case. They use the DNA of the original hose for some things, like facial appearance and to get a brain that’s sufficiently similar to the original that the transfer process will be smooth.

    However, for things like bone density, muscle mass, joint durability, these are bodies that are designed from the ground up to be combat machines. They aren’t just taking the attributes of the previous body and multiplying them by some ratio. Their frame and build is a completely new system, only superficially resembling the previous one.

    Think of it as a suit of powered armor. It doesn’t matter who’s wearing it, it’s going to perform just as well. Except the “suit” is the CDF Hercules body that you’re driving.

  38. As a woman, when I first read Old Man’s War (recommended by my daughter) I was stunned, thrilled, and excited to find so many woman in all roles. Of course, since I’m also a culturally-conditioned Baby Boomer (even tho I’m an ardent feminist), when I’d first “meet” a character in a stereotypical “male” role (pilot, drill sergeant, any person in power), my 1950s brain would assume that person was a man. Until the pronoun “she” appeared. And then I had to do a double-take. And then I felt happy, happy, happy. And so grateful. And then I read all the Scalzi books I could find. Thanks, Mr. Scalzi. I’ve recommended your books to many folks.

  39. It’s been a few years since I read any of the OMW-series, but I did not at the time rally make note of gender parity, because the story was very good and the characters were well written. I know that OGH seeks to hit those marks before worrying about gender parity.

    I read a story by Connie Willis that didn’t reveal the gender of the narrator until at least 100 pages of very interesting story and dialogue had passed. Well done for her as well.

    Maybe it’s due to my 2 decades of experience in uniform, working with females as peers, seniors, and subordinates, but for me it really comes down to, “Are you a competent, honest, and hard-working person or not?”

    All ages, sexes, races, creeds, I’ve known heroes and dirtbags, so a book that reflects that is a good start for me.

  40. I don’t count character numbers, but I notice when there’s a marked lack of women as characters (both primary and secondary) in a novel. In some cases, it can make me stop reading. Unless there’s a reason for a story to be a sausagefest, it tends to turn me off when one is. It’s the one fly in the ointment for the Hobbit and LoTR, though I cut Tolkien some slack because he was writing so long ago. It bothers me a lot more in modern books and movies. I haven’t gone to the Lego movie yet, in fact, because it looked like it’s very male dominated from the trailers I saw. It’s something I notice when workshopping or critting fantasy and SF by other aspiring writers too. “Why aren’t there any women in your story? I’ve been known to ask, or, “Why are the only women wives, mothers, and wailing victims?” or “Can’t girls use magic too in your universe? If not, why not?”

    Funny how the equal inclusion of women (and other underrepresented groups) in a fantasy or SF is seen by some as stemming from a sociopolitical agenda, but the disproportionate of white, straight men is not seen in the same light.

  41. Considering there’s a 0.72 male to female ratio (i.e there are more than 4 females for every 3 males) in the US at age 70 (i.e. the age when people are selected for being soldiers in the OMW universe), it’s not surprising that the ratio of soldiers is even. In fact, one should assume there’d be more females than males, all else being equal.

    It’s been a while since I’ve read them so I can’t remember if there were psychological/sociological reasons for more men to join than women.

  42. CJ Cherryh is my favorite SF author and I started reading her when making those first, serious forays into the genre. That must be why the thought never hit me. She has strong female characters who even in a supporting role are often serving as a spine for what are commonly flakey male characters.

    Welcome to the world we live in (and have for some time). Got a problem with it? Stay in your room, watch old B war movies from the 40s and 50s, and read Hemingway.

  43. Go see the Lego movie, it’s very funny, and there are several female characters (that is to say, animated characters voiced by females, then again, Bart Simpson was voiced by a female, so there could be some uncertainty there)

    I enjoyed CJ Cherryh’s books, as well as Andre Norton’s, so much that I didn’t even even inquire about their genders before deciding that I liked their works. Does that make me ignorant, or open-minded? Either way, it allows me to read whatever catches me attention.

  44. “Considering there’s a 0.72 male to female ratio (i.e there are more than 4 females for every 3 males) in the US at age 70 (i.e. the age when people are selected for being soldiers in the OMW universe), ”

    I wondered about that as well. Why are men so overrepresented in the ages of the elderly? There doesn’t seem to be an in-universe reason to justify it. Anyone who has been in a nursing home will know exactly how stark the imbalance is.

  45. As for the male:female ratio, two major reasons that men currently don’t live as long are that men do more dangerous jobs (mining and driving, for example) and more dangerous recreational activities (like drinking and smoking), and that men are less likely to access healthcare. In past eras, women had shorter lifespans because of the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth. This is still the case in some countries. If Scalzi’s future society has removed these problems, it’s likely that the sex ratio of elderly people will be more even. Or, of course, it could be the residual effect of a cultural preference for boys leading to infanticide two generations earlier or sex-linked disease or something similar.

  46. I read this last night and the discussion is just as good now as it was then. With what I think is a bit more clarity of mind, I have a question about the grammar of the post title. So, I may get malleted, but for the writers here: why isn’t the title “woman characters…”? If I turn it around it makes perfect sense to me to say, “characters that are women”. So those words agree (women plural, characters plural). When I go through the same gedankenexperiment with the word “male” it is just much less obviously weird to my ear. So, while “males characters” is just totally goofy, “characters that are male” and “characters that are males” both seem more legit, with the nod, for me, going with the first construction and its singular/plural mix. I know this is quite silly, and by now almost certainly contradicts my greater clarity in the morning premise.

  47. Glenn, try the gedankenexperiment with “men” in place of “women.” “Male/s” would be the term to use if he has said “female” instead of “women.”

  48. This actually seems like a pretty mainstream practice to me. I’m always floored when people fail to do it (when I notice, which I’m not really very good about) or actually object. I did this even as a childish “post-feminist.” (by which I mean that when I was young I was naive enough to think that feminism had achieved all of its important goals and wasn’t really needed anymore.)

    The culturally standard practice of “characters are male unless I can think of a reason for them not to be” is lazy and offensive.

    That said, clustering is normal in random selections, particularly small ones. It might be “inauthentic” to have a story where most characters are one gender or the other, but it’s absolutely *realistic*. You shouldn’t really end up with a completely representative character set every time with respect to every demographic factor, and if you do it can actually harm the story.

  49. Ann Leckie does this great thing in “Ancillary Justice”, which is first person viewpoint from a character whose language does not have gendered pronouns. Every character is referred to as “she” regardless of gender. This leaves the reader unable to determine the gender of most of the characters in the book, including both the protagonist and the primary antagonist.

  50. Erik Harrison, read Zoe’s Tale. You may think, at first, that you’re reading the same story as The Last Colony from a slightly different point of view, but in fact you’ll be reading an entirely different story set against the same “historical” background, with many of the same characters, but with a lead who is very much female. And an utterly engaging, smart, brave, but real and self-doubting character (that is, it is not Mary Sue’s Tale). She achieves victories that will make you want to cheer, and suffers losses that will break your heart.

    ucblockhead, in Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, the narrator comes from a culture (minor spoiler) that uses she/her/her as the general personal pronoun for all people of any gender or none, and he/him/his for persons to whom the speaker is sexually attracted (again regardless of gender). Oh, and “women” means sentient beings generally, human or not.

  51. Did I notice? No.
    Do I care? No.
    If an author brags about such am I more likely to read the book, HELL no. The opposite actually.
    I don’t care IF an author has an agenda they want to push in their writing, I care when the political agenda becomes more important than the story. Bragging on an author’s tour or in publicity material about such issues is a definite turn off.

    Thankfully, JS is not guilty of this.

  52. Xopher, about Zoe’s Tale, I agree. It took me a long time to read it, precisely because I had been under the impression the stories were too closely tied. That ended up not being the case at all, and was very interesting to view this timeline from that angle.

  53. Well, I noticed when one of the female characters was stereotypically so. That’s ok, as stereotypes exist in real life. In general, I thought the female characters were just as two dimensional as the male characters. Oh, the plot device in the second story was scientifically inaccurate. the natural noise level from background sources is much too high to make that even close to possible (it can, maybe, be done, but with a major additional idea: think Bessel and Henderson). It reads as though it’s written by someone who has just discovered the wonders of a particular type of radiation source (hope this isn’t a spoiler, but there’s no way to criticize it fairly and be more discrete, that I can think of anyway). I waited for this in paperback, and am glad I did (haven’t finished it yet after about 3-4 weeks). It’s a minor Scalzi, at best, and will be mostly remembered for the clever marketing scheme, and probably not a lot else. Hey, it happens, doesn’t make JS a must-to-avoid or even close. As I’m overly fond of saying about education: everything works, nothing works for everybody.

  54. I didn’t notice, mostly because it’s not generally something I check for while I’m enjoying a story (I kind of suck at being an ally sometimes, sorry), so all I can say is that THD was written well and engagingly enough that the gender ratio didn’t strike me as at all odd.

    The fact that ‘almost equal parity between male and female characters’ got equated to “how come you have so many women in there?” says more about the mindset of the guy that complained than the nature of the book.

  55. I noticed and it’s one of the reason why I love this book so much.
    Even as a woman I tend to think “male” with SciFi whenever there is a character introduced with a gender neutral name/only a last name, so I was delighted to notice that I was forced to abandon this habit rather quickly.

  56. Having been a fan since 1966, I’ve long been comfortable with women as Generals, Ambassadors, Starship Captains, Admirals, Doctors, whatever… Consider who’s captaining the ships in ‘Starship Troopers’, just for one of many instances.

    And was anybody paying attention a few years ago when the shuttle, captained by a woman, docked with the space station, which was at that time commanded by a woman?

    Reality is there already, shouldn’t speculative fiction be caught up, if not actually ahead of the curve?

  57. A couple of thoughts. “Our culture has such skewed perceptions” (Laura Lis Scott). Is there any cross-cultural data on this? I don’t see any reason to assume that the US is more sexist than India, Latin America, Imperial China, or Europe. I’m certainly big on criticizing my own culture, but I don’t assume it’s uniquely flawed.

    A couple of people said that they cut Tolkien slack for his sex imbalance because he was writing so long ago. That would be the mid-twentieth century. Were there far fewer women in those bygone days? I suppose the idea is that sexism was more pervasive then, and hence taken for granted, so it didn’t/doesn’t count. I’d cut Tolkien slack because what he was writing were basically boys’ books, so sex imbalance goes with the genre. But that doesn’t mean it’s benign.

    I see the same syndrome when people minimize racism, like it was no big deal that Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt were white supremacists, because they didn’t know any better: it hadn’t been discovered that black people were human yet. But I feel certain that black people had already discovered it. Just as women had already discovered that women were human, as one can tell simply by reading writings by women in the 19th and 20th centuries. Boys’ books were often a more or less conscious attempt to imagine an escape from girl cooties. Which doesn’t mean we can’t read them now, or have to hate them; we just have to be aware of what’s going on in them.

  58. I haven’t read The Human Division yet, but this bit of info does move it higher up on my list. I recently read a book that was absolutely wonderful, but about halfway through I realized the few women characters were never going to be anything but plot devices to spur the growth of the men. I did finish it, and enjoyed, but can’t recommend.

  59. Continuing the _Ancillary Justice_ digression… it’s partly true that the reader can’t determine the gender of the protagonist or the primary antagonist, but only partly. In the case of those two characters specifically, I claim the reader learns enough to know that neither one has a gender in any sense resembling what we’re used to. We learn within the first few pages, after all, that the narrator sees herself as a tiny remnant of a much larger and clearly ungendered entity.

  60. dana: Consider who’s captaining the ships in ‘Starship Troopers’, just for one of many instances.

    Ugh. Starship Troopers is rife with sexism.

    At one point in the book combat pilot Yvette Deladrier saved the lives of Johnny and many others with her courage under fire and they refer to her a “mistress” and tell her she’s “hot”.

  61. I wouldn’t assume to answer for our host, but I’m pretty sure the answer is that he doesn’t believe he is. I think John’s point was more as follows:

    1) Someone finally noticed the gender parity in THD, considered it ‘unusual’ and commented about it

    2) It took them a long time, which makes me happy that it took that long, if it had to happen, because that means it is becoming less of thing, generally

    3) The question-asker incorrectly viewed the gender parity as being outsized with the actual balance, because some people are still calibrated wrong (possibly due to privilege or long-standing SF work not featuring parity).

    John has specifically discussed issues with sexism and recognizing his own privilege. Writing his fiction to better feature gender representation is a conscious choice because he recognizes it and tries not to do things which will reinforce it going forward.

  62. Sorry, editing at the first part of my post…that was a reply in specific to wormwood’s question.

  63. I vividly recall more than a decade ago reading an Amazon review of David Weber’s Honor of the Queen (back when I still had the patience for his exposition) in which the reviewer was livid at Weber for placing women in leading roles when, in the troglodyte’s opinion, they should be barefoot in the kitchen making him a sandwich. I remember wondering why on earth this loser was reading science fiction, the genre of tossing preconceptions out the window.

  64. I recognized this when I read it, and I greatly appreciated it. I come from a bit of a strange perspective: I’m a woman who has worked in technical IT roles for the better part of a decade whose undergrad work was in English and linguistics. When I read novels, I still have the literary critic module running in the background, noticing all manner of things upon which I could write a paper. And (somewhat amusingly) this module also runs in the background during my day-to-day activities. Over the last few months, I’ve found myself in quite a few IT meetings in which I’ve found my IT-worker self thinking, “Hey, it’s mostly women in this room! How cool!” And then the critic makes me actually take a head count. Only twice has the meeting in question actually had more that 30% women, and more than once, representation was just shy of 20%. Damn cultural programming!

    One of the things I loved most about the Human Division (and the OMW universe in general) is that there are women in a wide variety of roles, and the fact that they’re women isn’t a plot device. It’s hard to describe the effect this has on me as a reader–it’s almost as though I feel more comfortable slipping into the universe Scalzi’s creates because of this feature. It’s a place where I could exist with all of my crafty, mouthy, book-loving, mothering, geeky parts intact. And I suspect it’s that accessibility that makes me eager to come back for more of anything set in this world. Well, that and the mere existence of space elevators.

  65. @Lila

    Getting tired of the definition of “combat capability” as “upper body strength”. Because you totally have to be able to bench press 350 to pilot a drone.

    Drone piloting is not the only military skill of the 21st century.

    Currently in Afghanistan, weight carried is presenting a problem, due in part to an increased load of body armor.

    http://www.armytimes.com/article/20110214/NEWS/102140308/Report-Combat-soldiers-carry-too-much-weight

    In the world of OMW, it’s already established that the soldiers have a broad spectrum of physical enhancements, including those which would make them better drone pilots as well as better light infantry. They can even photosynthesize (though that probably isn’t a very useful mod). The CDF soldiers are designed with the possible need of taking on aliens with a cheese grater if the need arises.

    @Richard

    @Mike, have you read “The Female of the Species” by Rudyard Kipling? That was 19th to early 20th Century, and disagreed with you then!

    The Kippling poem appears to me to be more about behavior than capability.

    However I am more than willing to allow John’s idea of sex-parity here, when so many other things have also been solved – small things like: traveling faster than light, transference of souls by machine, etc.

    The CDF isn’t being presented with a problem of sex parity to be solved, the CDF is presented with the problem of fighting aliens whose natural bodies seem to be better for war-fighting than human beings.

    I suppose the CDF could “solve” sex parity by using different mods for the male and female bodies, but parity isn’t their objective, fighting aliens is their objective.

    @MrManny

    However, for things like bone density, muscle mass, joint durability, these are bodies that are designed from the ground up to be combat machines. They aren’t just taking the attributes of the previous body and multiplying them by some ratio. Their frame and build is a completely new system, only superficially resembling the previous one.

    As I recall, the male CDF soldiers look like human men and the female CDF soldiers look like human women. There is a scene where the recruits, finding themselves newly young, celebrate in a marathon of sex.

    I take that to mean that the skeletons of the male and female CDF soldiers have more or less the same shapes as the skeletons of men & women, though I would suppose that the CDF bodies don’t have the same variations in height and build that natural humans have.

    That, is, in and of itself, a design decision that will affect the capabilities of CDF soldiers.

    A good in-story reason for that could be that the recruits are given a body which feels much like the one they are used to driving.

    A good outside-reason is that it makes the characters more relatable to human readers.

    If the CDF could remake the soldiers into anything at all with no restrictions, would it really come up with idealized-human beings?

  66. Re: @bloodygranuaile’s comment – I’m reminded of a study I read about last year that looked at female participation in university classes that had a quote in the abstract that floored me. “When women talk, the tendency is to measure them not against men who talk but against silent women.” So it seemed like women were talking *so much* when it was actually something like 60-40 men-women speaking because the benchmark people subconsciously used as normal was women not talking at all.
    Also reminded of Junot Diaz’s now-ubiquitous comment about having characters speak Spanish in his books – that one line causes takeover comments in spite of the fact that these same readers barely notice Elvish-speaking characters in other books.

    It always surprises me just how much having certain kinds of privilege can get to feel so normal you require checks and balances to accurately perceive reality. You really aren’t allowed to consider yourself rational or your opinions evidence-driven when there is a whole area of life where you draw conclusions on data without taking such a simple step as counting.

  67. “If the CDF could remake the soldiers into anything at all with no restrictions, would it really come up with idealized-human beings?”

    It’s been a few years since I read the books, but I think they addressed this. There was a wide range of humanity, from soldiers who looked nearly human but were completely unfazed by massive injuries(like losing a limb), because they knew that everything would grow back. Others looked like asteroids and lived their entire lives floating unprotected in the vacuum of space. And I vaguely remember someone hinting that there were even more extreme alterations to come.

    To me it isn’t surprising that most of the soldiers still looked human, even if they didn’t need too. They aren’t machines, they’re part of the population. And everyone feels better when soldiers and civilians can identify with each other.

  68. Sorry for the double post – I forgot to add this before I posted:

    The parity didn’t jump out at me, but it did make the stories feel very believable. Just seeing a mixture of gendered pronouns in the text made the fictional world feel more like mine. The real life stories I hear are full of hes and shes and they’re all doing interesting things. It was nice to see that in a science fiction story.

  69. After twenty years in a public library I didn’t even notice. Well over half my immediate supervisors have been women over that time.

  70. @Sign Ahead

    To me it isn’t surprising that most of the soldiers still looked human, even if they didn’t need too. They aren’t machines, they’re part of the population. And everyone feels better when soldiers and civilians can identify with each other.

    That might also be a reason for most CDF to look human.

    I also haven’t read OMW in quite some time, if there were more extreme designs mentioned, I’ve mostly forgotten. Now that you mention it, it sounds vaguely familiar, but that could be the suggestibility of memory.

  71. @Gulliver:

    It’s worth noting that Science Fiction is also, especially when written by Americans, often a literature of power trips. (Borrowed from the old joke about the difference between British SF and American SF.) As a result, you’ve got the people who like fucking up people they don’t like and the people who like imagining an alien society all mixed up in the same bucket.

  72. @Mike, there were the Gamerans, which were basically space turtles, able to exist indefinitely in space yet still from human DNA in whole or part. I think there may have also been a shuttle or ship pilot. I distinctly remember a character who had been in the regular CDF who volunteered to be part of the, hah, pilot program as the first cyborg? or just the first transfer into this very different body. He talked about how it messed him up psychologically to be unable to pee even though he didn’t actually need to pee anyway, and so future versions were Special Forces who had been born/grown into the new body from the ground up rather than having human-body experience first.

    Come to think of it that doesn’t sound all that distinct as a memory. I also don’t remember which book it was in; I’m kind of inclined to think Ghost Brigades.

  73. Drone piloting is not the only military skill of the 21st century.

    No, it’s not. But it is one. And sheer weight carrying ability is also not the only military skill of the 21st century. So your reply was really a non-sequitur.

  74. @DAVID

    The implication if the original statement about drones was that in a modern, push-button world, there is no need to consider size, strength, endurance, etc. to be useful attributes for military personal. The load-carrying item is a counterexample.

    The whole thing is a bit of a digression from the discussion of the design of CDF soldiers in OMW, since the text already establishes that many features of the CDF body design are for combat situations that are considerably less detached from the sharp end than drone warfare.

  75. The implication if the original statement about drones was that in a modern, push-button world, there is no need to consider size, strength, endurance, etc. to be useful attributes for military personal.

    No, the implication of the original statement was that size was not the only militarily useful attribute, and that there were military jobs where size was irrelevant. Your comment was non-responsive to that implication.

  76. @david

    I never claimed that size was the only militarily useful attribute.

    Size in and of itself is a trade-off. Larger size suggests a larger target silhouette and longer nerve signal propagation to the extremities, though it does offer some other advantages. I’m not sure if we learn whether male & female CDF soldiers are the same size or not.

    Yes there are military roles where physical prowess isn’t very important, at least until things go wrong.

    I started out be questioning whether it makes sense that genetic engineering implies parity for CDF soldiers. I thought that parity was meant to imply that in any given CDF specialty, there is no reason to prefer one sex or the other for that role. The existence of military roles where physical prowess is important is the obvious place to start when considering whether parity is likely.

    I took the drone comment to be saying “stop bothering with this antiquated physical stuff; it’s not relevant anymore”.

    There may be other reasons to question parity. I really don’t know if men or women make better drone pilots, or if there is a difference. If there is, it’s hard to say whether that difference would be reflected in CDF soldiers or not.

  77. @ Greg,
    Your post is a great example of someone looking so hard to be offended that he misses the point entirely.

    Chapter 11 of “Starship Troopers” the offending words are part of a paragraph of context “After that masterful (or should it be mistressfull?) retrieval rendezvous without a programmed ballistic, the platoon’s metalsmith…. made a metal model of the Rodger Young…engraved with our signatures on the base plate ‘To Hot Pilot Yvette Deladrier, with thanks for Raczak’s Roughnecks’ ”

    The “mistressful” comment is a play on words, the captain of a ship is also referred to as the “master” , showing mastery of one’s craft might be called “masterful” and in the case of a female captain, might the term “mistressful” be used? then again, maybe masteful could be used in her case, then again, masterful has a male connotation, oh how bothersome words can be!

    As for “hot” as in “Hot Pilot” when read in context, especially if you’ve been able to remember everytime the narrator mentions Captain Deladrier’s mastery (darn, that word again, maybe mistery, no?, mistrssry?) of piloting her craft to pick up soldiers in a combat environment (what is often called a “hot LZ”) it’s obvious that she is being complimented by her gratefully rescued soldiers, not being cat called.

    Good thing Heinlein didn’t use the term “niggardly” or he’d be a racist, too.

  78. @Rob G: Yes, RAH was a sexist. So are we all. I LOVE his books, *because* of his female characters. I’m old enough to remember when Podkayne of Mars was the only adolescent female SF heroine, period. Full stop. I reread The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress annually. He was the first author I ever read who took tattooed women seriously. He wrote a novel about a transgender MTF! Who did that in 1965? Nobody. No, he wasn’t Pope Science Fiction, Perfect and Infallible in All Ways, but he was pretty damned progressive for his time, and still is, if one lives in Mississippi (as my parents do.).

  79. In re the above, my applause for Rob’s comment was deleted by apparently f’ed up interpretive dance ghost html. I don’t even know.

  80. I never claimed that size was the only militarily useful attribute.

    Well, then, why were you disagreeing with the original commenter? You two are saying the same thing.

    Yes there are military roles where physical prowess isn’t very important, at least until things go wrong.

    “My God, my drone has crashed! Luckily, I have extremely good upper body strength, so I’ll able to lift myself out of this comfy chair more easily. Whew!”

    “Oh dear, that enemy fighter plane has got a missile lock! Luckily, I have extremely good upper body strength, so I’ll be able to reach out and catch it with my hand.”

    Yeah, no. There are military roles where physical prowess simply is not important, no caveats.

  81. You do realize that pointing to what is essentially a press release does not even remotely resemble an argument for your point, right? I understand your views, and don’t disagree with them at all. But it wasn’t until Laura Lis Scott posted a reference to the Bechdel test that any sort of real argument for your position was mounted.

  82. Rob: (mis-explanation of Starship Troopers sexism)

    Uh. No.

    mintwitch: RAH was a sexist. So are we all.

    I know some folks love to invoke the “we are all sexist” trope. But we are not all equally sexist. And my point is that Starship Troopers is rife with sexism.

    DAVID: There are military roles where physical prowess simply is not important, no caveats.

    ???? That’s not the problem. The problem is the best way to get promoted to the highest ranks of the military is to have combat experience. And if women aren’t allowed to get combat training/experience, they don’t get promoted beyond a certain level.

    The commanding general us army forces commnad, (i.e. 4 star general) served as a combat infantryman and master parachutist in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

    The current commadant of the marine corps flew F4 phantom’s in the 70’s and later flew F18’s. The chief of staff of the air force flew A10’s and F16’s,

    It doesn’t matter if there are “military roles where physical prowess simply is not important”. Women can be cooks in the military today. The issue is whether or not there are combat roles where physical strength is not important. If you can’t get into a combat role, then you’re chance of becoming commadant of the marine corps is zero.

  83. And off Greg goes, having a completely different conversation.

    But, sure, there are combat roles in which physical prowess is simply not important, like fighter pilot (in fact, there’s a fair amount of evidence that women can withstand g-forces for longer before blacking out, which would make them superior fighter pilots).

    Physical prowess aside, there are combat roles that have been open to women for quite a while in all the services (MP in the Army and Marines, fighter pilot in the Air Force, ship crew in the Navy) and women in all of those roles have, in fact, been in combat (perhaps not the Navy). It’s going to take them some time to rise up the ranks, but they’re coming.

  84. @david

    “Oh dear, that enemy fighter plane has got a missile lock! Luckily, I have extremely good upper body strength, so I’ll be able to reach out and catch it with my hand.”

    Fighter pilots do require a fair degree of fitness to perform anti-G straining maneuvers. Nothing has to go wrong in the sense that I mentioned previously, if the aerial combat turns into a dogfight that requires use of the full performance envelope of the aircraft, fitness comes in handy.

    “My God, my drone has crashed! Luckily, I have extremely good upper body strength, so I’ll able to lift myself out of this comfy chair more easily. Whew!”

    Until the enemy penetrates the perimeter of the base where the controller is stationed or the ship where the controller is stationed gets hit.

    Yeah, no. There are military roles where physical prowess simply is not important, no caveats.

    That may be true for many roles outside of a war zone; inside of a war zone, there are caveats.

  85. Mike: I took the drone comment to be saying “stop bothering with this antiquated physical stuff; it’s not relevant anymore”.

    That’s how it landed over here.

    DAVID: “My God, my drone has crashed! Luckily, I have extremely good upper body strength, so I’ll able to lift myself out of this comfy chair more easily. Whew!”

    Right.

    DAVID But, sure, there are combat roles in which physical prowess is simply not important, like fighter pilot

    http://defensetech.org/2012/08/16/study-evaluates-soldier-load-weights/

    the typical soldier load [in Afghanistan] that averaged more than 100 pounds

  86. Fighter pilots do require a fair degree of fitness to perform anti-G straining maneuvers.

    Sure: the fitness needed is not the kind where men have a built in advantage, however. There is, in fact, a fair amount of evidence that women withstand G-forces better than men do. That would make them *better* at being fighter pilots.

    Until the enemy penetrates the perimeter of the base where the controller is stationed

    Most of the controllers for drones are stationed in Nevada. If the enemy penetrates there, we have other problems than whether they are met with surprised male drone pilots or surprised female drone pilots.

    But, sure, I’ll concede that you can come up with scenarios where every military occupation could gain an advantage from greater upper body strength. You could, if you felt like it, come up with similar scenarios for civilian occupations, but we’re not going to restrict women from being bankers because bank robbers. I’m also happy to come up with combat specialties where the smaller size of women is a positive advantage (tank crew, for example. Fighter pilots (again) for another. Submarine crew).

    The point I’m making, however, is that in terms of the requirements of the Military Occupational Specialty, there are an wide variety of combat roles for which male physical superiority is simply not an advantage.

    the typical soldier load [in Afghanistan] that averaged more than 100 pounds

    Not all combat roles are infantry.

  87. the typical soldier load [in Afghanistan] that averaged more than 100 pounds

    DAVID: Not all combat roles are infantry.

    But if a large portion of combat roles are ground-pounder roles then you’ll never be able to achieve gender parity. And it seemed that parity was the emphasis here. The word appears 6 times in the original post and 35 times total in the thread.

    I don’t have a problem with women in combat. I think its a needless restriction. (A woman friend of mine is a military pilot.) But if you expect that lifting that restriction will achieve parity, I think you’re failing to understand the military from a systemic level. Certainly there are combat positions where physical strength isn’t the priority. But a large swath of combat positions are ground pounders who are lugging around 100+ pounds of gear.

    Unless you get genetic engineering to change this picture,

    you’re not going to see total gender parity

  88. But if a large portion of combat roles are ground-pounder roles then you’ll never be able to achieve gender parity

    The military absolutely could manage gender parity, if it felt like it. There are many fewer higher officers than there are lower level ones, and many fewer command slots where combat experience gives such a substantial advantage (combat experience doesn’t help medical officers to the general level, for example, or logistics officers) The result is that there are many more people with combat experience (both men and women) than there are command slots. It would be quite possible to manage gender parity at the admiral/general level by drawing on combat veterans of both sexes. It would require parity to be a goal of the military, but that’s surely a possibility.

    But, in any case…

    But if you expect that lifting that restriction will achieve parity

    Greg, was there somewhere that I said I was expecting parity, as opposed to saying to Mike that there are combat roles that don’t require physical advantages?

  89. DAVID: The military absolutely could manage gender parity, if it felt like it. It would be quite possible to manage gender parity at the admiral/general level

    http://www.statisticbrain.com/demographics-of-active-duty-u-s-military/

    Gender distribution of the US military shows that the number of female enlisted and officers are currently per branch range from about 6% (marines) to about 20% (air force).

    So, you want a military that averages about 15% women in its total population to have 50% of its generals be women??? And you think the only reason they don’t have gender parity at the admiral/general level is because they don’t “feel like it”???

    (combat experience doesn’t help medical officers to the general level, for example, or logistics officers)

    Well, you’ll be happy to hear that problem’s already been solved: The surgeon general of the US Army is a woman.

    there are many more people with combat experience (both men and women) than there are command slots.

    a limited number of combat roles were opened up to women only about a year ago. I’m not sure where you are getting that there “are many more [women] with combat experience” at this point in time.

    Also, speaking of upper body strength and the military:

    http://www.npr.org/2013/12/27/257363943/marines-most-female-recruits-dont-meet-new-pullup-standard

    The marines have a requirement that you be able to do at least 3 chinups by the end of bootcamp. 55% of women marines were failing that test. 1% of male marines were failing that test. So the marines delayed the requirement for women.

    Again, I think the military should drop the restriction against women in combat. But I do not expect the end result of dropping that restriction to be a 50/50 split of women/men in combat roles. There isn’t even a 50/50 gender split in the entire military population. It’s more like 15%/85%.

    And if a population is split 15/85, I don’t see how anyone can suggest that the leadership roles would reasonably be expected to be split 50/50.

  90. Sure: the fitness needed is not the kind where men have a built in advantage, however. There is, in fact, a fair amount of evidence that women withstand G-forces better than men do. That would make them *better* at being fighter pilots.

    I have seen statements to that effect. I’ve also seen statements that women tend to have difficulty building the muscle that helps with anti-G straining maneuver, I don’t know how it shakes out.

    There is also some reason to believe that women better handle rush of information that besieges modern tactical pilots.

    In the context of OMW, presumably the female CDF body has no problem having sufficient muscle since that is a restriction that is designed away, and since there is some speculation that it is the shape and center of gravity of female bodies that contributes tot he G tolerance it’s entirely possible that if manned fighters exist in OMW, one should expect them to be mostly piloted by women.

    Most of the controllers for drones are stationed in Nevada. If the enemy penetrates there, we have other problems than whether they are met with surprised male drone pilots or surprised female drone pilots.

    Yes for drone pilots, but there are many military roles where one does not require physical prowess but which are much more likely to suddenly very exciting on a modern battlefield.

    You could, if you felt like it, come up with similar scenarios for civilian occupations, but we’re not going to restrict women from being bankers because bank robbers. I’m also happy to come up with combat specialties where the smaller size of women is a positive advantage (tank crew, for example. Fighter pilots (again) for another. Submarine crew).

    It’s a fair point about bank robbers, and there are military roles where one simply lives with the risk of bank robbers.

    With naval vessels, the bank robbers can be a problem. If the ship gets hit and crew memebers get pulled into damage control activities, it’s probably a good idea to have a considerable fraction be male.

    I’m uncertain about tank crews. I suspect most people able to serve as loaders are male. I was also under the impression that some of the maintenance performed by tank crews involved significant strength. On the other hand, one probably build a more survivable tank if it were designed for smaller crew.

    In the context of OMW, I would expect that either male or female CDF soldiers could meet the physical requirements of tank crews and dealing with most shipboard emergencies.

  91. So, you want a military that averages about 15% women in its total population to have 50% of its generals be women??? And you think the only reason they don’t have gender parity at the admiral/general level is because they don’t “feel like it”???

    Greg, I’ll ask you again who you’re having this argument with, because it ain’t me. I wasn’t advocating for gender parity at the general officer level, I was pointing out that the military could manage it if it wanted to. Please read what I’m saying and not what you’ve decided I’m saying.

    a limited number of combat roles were opened up to women only about a year ago. I’m not sure where you are getting that there “are many more [women] with combat experience” at this point in time.

    Women have been fighter pilots for twenty years. Women have been military police since the 1980s. Women have been on ships since 1978. All of those have exposed women to combat (to a greater or lesser degree). There was a female MP Captain (Linda Bray) in Grenada in 1989 who led her unit in a firefight. Sgt. Leigh Hester won the Silver Star in 2005 for her actions in combat in Iraq. A lot of women have been in combat by now.

    So, yes, possible to manage gender parity at the general officer level if the military wanted to. I don’t know whether that would be a good idea, so I’m not advocating for it, but it would be possible.

    So, yes, also, lots of combat specialties where male physical advantages are not at all useful.

  92. DAVID: I wasn’t advocating for gender parity at the general officer level, I was pointing out that the military could manage it if it wanted to.

    It “could if it wanted to” but you don’t explain how 15% of the military population would have 50% of the leadership roles. And it could “if it felt like it”, carries the implication that feelings are the only reason the military doesn’t have gender parity in its leadership roles already.

    Greg: I’m not sure where you are getting that there “are many more [women] with combat experience” at this point in time.

    DAVID: Women have been fighter pilots for twenty years.

    Yeah, but its still about numbers. There are only something like 600 women pilots and only 60 women combat pilots in the air force right now. Contrast that to 13,000 pilots total in the air force. That’s less than 5%. You still don’t explain how 5% of the military population is going to fill 50% of its leadership roles. You say its “possible”, but only by handwaving away how it would actually work without breaking the entire organization.

    The point is that “there are many more people with combat experience (both men and women) than there are command slots” comes with a lot of smoke and mirror.

    Mike: I’m uncertain about tank crews. I suspect most people able to serve as loaders are male.

    Tank shells are heavy man. 40 to 50 pounds a piece. And the Abrams doesn’t have an autoloader.

  93. 40 or 50 lbs? So, basically the same weight as the bags of manure my female neighbors and I have been slinging around for the past month. Oh, the humanity! Maybe we should have called in the Army to take care of that for us, since we’re obviously lacking the strength.
    Maybe my wife is equally unsuited to her job, which requires being able to carry a 100 lb dog, and stock 50 lb bags of feed.
    Funny how female strength always comes up as somehow inadequate in military contexts, but is taken for granted and invisible in the civilian and domestic spheres…

  94. Greg, you’re having one of those foamy conversations where you’re not actually paying attention to comments of other people. You have problems with women, and you’re not going to resolve them in an Internet thread. I should have known better than to get involved in it, but, well, oops.

    Sometimes it seems like you two just enjoy poking each other in the eye

    Sometimes I talk to the crazy people on the Metro, too.

  95. There are countries where the average male height is about the same as the average female height in the US (Sri Lanka and Vietnam are two examples). I guess those guys just don’t bother having armies…

  96. mintwitch: he same weight as the bags of manure my female neighbors and I have been slinging around for the past month. Oh, the humanity! Maybe we should have called in the Army

    And I’m the one having the “foamy conversation”?

    Well, I see your drama and raise you one news report from NPR this January:

    http://www.npr.org/2013/12/27/257363943/marines-most-female-recruits-dont-meet-new-pullup-standard

    Starting Jan. 1, every woman in the Marines Corps was supposed to meet a new physical standard by performing three pullups. But that has been put off. … Fifty-five percent of female recruits tested at the end of boot camp were doing fewer than three pullups; only 1 percent of male recruits failed the test. The three pullups is already the minimum required for all male Marines.

    maybe you should call the Marines and tell them about your bag-of-manure workout program.

    I don’t think the military should exclude women from combat roles because of their gender. But I do think that if you want to take on a combat role that 3 chinups is probably not too extreme a measure to ask people to meet.

    Either way, if women currently compose 15% of the military population, then even if you opened up every single MOS (which I don’t have a problem with if you meet the physical requirements of the job), I don’t think that’s enough to raise the percentages to achieve complete 50/50 gender parity.

    DAVID: You have problems with women

    Psych evals now?

    I’m all for equality. Equality is about treating people the same, not about pretending everyone is identical. Men and women have differences. Basic physical differences that show here:

    Those differences don’t make any difference in a cubicle or in most day to day interactions, but if you’re lugging a 100 pound artillery shell, then yeah, it might skew the numbers towards men, because men, statistically speaking, have more muscle mass.

    78% of NBA players are black because there are differences in racial demographics of heights.

    If some sort of systemic discriminatory practice caused the working population to be all white or all men, then I’m in favor of affirmative action to make sure that qualified minorities are protected from discrimination and get the jobs they deserve.

    But that doesn’t erase the job requirements. I think 3 chinups is a fair minimum job requirement for the marines. I think being tall is a fair requirement for playing basketball. That’s not the same as having a “poll tax” to vote or instituting some other kind of arbitrary requirements behind which to hide racism and sexism.

    Either we acknowledge the existence of differences between demographics and treat people equally based on their performance regardless of their gender, race, orientation, or we pretend people are completely and totally identical and ignore any demographic differences and try to handwave numbers that make no sense. Like thinking 15% of a population could hold 50% of the leadership roles, just because, and if it isn’t 50%, its because someone doesn’t “feel” like it.

  97. @Greg: So, there’s a certain exercise, in which one bends over and lifts a weight, that women can perform 100% of the time and men can’t perform period. I learned this is in my Anatomy 101 class in college, fyi, and it was pretty awesome to see demonstrated. By that measure, if it were required by the Marines, there would be no male recruits.

    Pull-ups are difficult for women because of the way our bodies are built. Are pull-ups a reasonable measure of overall fitness? You are arguing that they are, apparently, the only measure. I disagree. Being able to load a torpedo, bent over, in cramped quarters, without blowing out your back is probably a reasonable measure, which us chicksa’s can do, no huhu. For the gents, this is a problem that lands you in the ER.

    So yeah, men and women are different. The average woman’s thighs are twice as powerful as the average man’s, yet men have stronger biceps. We have a different center of gravity. Our muscles and tendons attach at different places, and are structured to handle loads differently. Women tend to have greater endurance, while men have short term power. Studies show that women have a higher pain threshold than men, which any tattoo artist will cheerfully back up.

    Your arguments are silly and sexist, based on measures that aren’t necessarily relevant to actual, real life scenarios. Women have been herding sheep–which includes carrying a damn sheep for miles–, building homes and barns, farming, mining, and defending ourselves and our homes, etc., for thousands of years before the Victorian idea of the fragile female came into being. Your notion of feminine weakness is modern and silly and completely ahistorical.

  98. @Angharad: Two relevant movie quotes:

    John Winger: We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re ten and one!

    Otto: Shut up. We didn’t lose Vietnam. It was a tie!
    Archie: [going into a cowboy-like drawl] I’m tellin’ ya baby, they kicked your little ass there. Boy, they whooped yer hide REAL GOOD.

    Also, ball turret gunners.

    @lilacsigil et al: I haven’t read THD yet (recently read OMW, Ghost Brigade and The Last Colony), but I was also wondering while reading this post about why there wouldn’t be MORE women then men in the CDF, given that you have to live to be at least 70 on Earth before you are eligible to join up. I don’t think women live longer merely due to men engaging in riskier behaviors when they are young. I don’t have any evidence or studies to support this though. Plus heart disease (and I think several other major killers) are sex-linked, though better prevention and treatment might make this no longer true in the OMW universe. I don’t remember it being addressed in the books.

  99. mintwitch: Are pull-ups a reasonable measure of overall fitness? You are arguing that they are, apparently, the only measure.

    Apparently you like to make groundless assertions and then hide them behind “apparently”. Standard physical fitness test for the marines is as many chinups as you can do without stopping, as many situps as you can do in two minutes, and the time it takes you to run 3 miles. So, no, not the only measure. Also, climbing a rope, scaling a wall, pulling yourself over a fence? All useful, skills in combat.

    Your arguments are silly and sexist, based on measures that aren’t necessarily relevant to actual, real life scenarios.

    My measures are based on facts like 55% of women failing the PFT. My measures are based on the Marine PFT being scaled differently for women:

    http://www.military.com/military-fitness/marine-corps-fitness-requirements/usmc-physical-fitness-test

    male marines have to run 3 miles in a minimum of 28 minutes just to pass. Female marines have to run it in 31 minutes to pass. Please explain to me how charging the enemy line at a full run will be different for women than men, because, you know, running isn’t “relevant to actual, real life” combat.

    Women have been herding sheep

    herding sheep you say? Yes, yes, and I’m the one basing my arguments off of measures that aren’t relevant to actual real life scenarios.

    Your notion of feminine weakness is modern and silly and completely ahistorical.

    Percent of miltary that is female by country:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_military_by_country

    15% America
    7% Denmark
    15% France
    ? Germany (no number but described as small apparently because the Nazis used women as combatants towards the end of ww2)
    5% Ireland
    10% Russia
    9% United Kingdom

    Here’s a good one: Sweden.

    Since 1989 there are no gender restrictions in the Swedish military on access to military training or positions. They are allowed to serve in all parts of the military and in all positions, including combat.[35] Female personnel currently make up around 5% of the army.

    Zero gender restrictions in Sweden, including allowing women in all combat positions, for the last 25 years. Total number of women in the Swedish military: 5%.

    That is what my arguments are based off of. You know, annoying things called facts. Demographics. Population statistics. And you want to tell me about sheep herders??? And slinging bags of manure??? Give me a break.

    The point being there is currently no demographic data to support the notion that removing gender restrictions from the military will achieve gender parity in the military. I fully support the idea of dropping restrictions against women not being allowed in combat roles. They should be allowed to if they can pass the physical requirements of the job. They should be allowed the experience needed so they’re eligible for the same promotions that men can get. But I don’t see any data whatsoever (sheepherding stories and anecdotes about spreading manure are not data) that says dropping those restrictions will result in gender parity (50/50 gender split for all jobs) in the military.

    But, by all means, keep telling me your wonderful anecdotes of sheepherding and bags of manure, keep ignoring the demographics I”m pointing to, and keep telling me I am the one basing my arguments off of “measures” that aren’t “relevant to actual, real life scenarios”.

    DAVID kept saying it is “possible” for the military to achieve gender parity, but he ignores all the real world data and his point comes across as little more than magical thinking. You? You’ve got anecdotes and bags of manure that support your notion that the military should be totally equal while ignoring massive amounts of real world data from many countries.

    The gender-based restrictions should be removed from the military. But there is no data to support that lifting those restrictions will achieve gender parity in the military.

    I didn’t say “foamy”. That was a guy. Which only further demonstrates your sexism.

    yes, because giving a shout out to DAVID’s silly descriptor of me, on a thread where DAVID and I were just going back and forth, is totally a sexist thing. Not sure how you have a conversation in a group setting, but sometimes it isn’t entirely about you.

  100. Xopher and katepreach, from waaay up in the thread talking about “Redshirts;” I just relistened to the book in the last couple of days, and the gender imbalance bothered me a lot this time. Am I mistaken, or are 100% of the crewmembers who are the “starring cast” or whatnot, male? Even 1960s Star Trek wasn’t that bad, let alone SPOILERS a show meant to be set in 2012.

  101. I have a terribly important sociological question about The Human Division. Is the “Greetings, Earthlings!” in reference to Midnight Madness?

  102. Sure, that’s a good thing. Take care, though. Even in a society where men and women are totally equal in their opportunities, there won’t necessarily be a 50/50 split in every profession. Some simply are more appealing for males, some for females. If you insisted on having everything split in half, it might actually be a bit detrimental.

  103. Greg: Can women be effective soldiers? If not, is it only because they are slightly weaker than men?

    Women can be effective soldiers, in counter-terrorism there is the idea of shoot the women first because they tend to be better trained, with quicker reactions and are more vicious than their male counterparts. Sorry, I couldn’t find a cite except a book by the same name. Apparently counter-terrorism tactics aren’t talked about, go figure.

    “My measures are based on facts like 55% of women failing the PFT. My measures are based on the Marine PFT being scaled differently for women.”

    That failure is the failure of the military not of women. I know women can do three chinups, go visit any cross-fit gym or scan the comments of the link you posted. The military people there who trained women are incredulous at the training regimen not the women. And are you arguing a 10% difference in physicality is the end-all be-all of combat? In which case, we don’t need training or promotions, just test them physically and can know which men will be the best soldiers by their PFT.

    “Zero gender restrictions in Sweden, including allowing women in all combat positions, for the last 25 years. Total number of women in the Swedish military: 5%.”

    You’re using old facts if you’re using wikipedia, that cite was in 2002. All males were conscripted until 2010 while all women were completely voluntary. Most recent numbers I could find were either 11 or 14% with expecting 20% within a short time frame.

    This bit isn’t about the military, but bugged the crap out of me.

    “78% of NBA players are black because there are differences in racial demographics of heights.”

    The tallest countries in the world are the Scandinavian or the Slavic ones depending on the study you’re looking at. Also, there is more desire to be an NBA player from black communities because they idolize the basketball culture. To quote Biggie Smalls, “Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” You can go watch Through the Fire, which chronicles Sebastian Telfair’s journey to the NBA to see what making it to the NBA meant for his entire community.

    You seem to be having a premise and hiding behind numbers to appear objective. Oddly enough those “objective” numbers are only affecting women and once they are poked at become really squishy.

  104. Some nerd numbers…

    I happened to read this post a mere two days before reading The Human Division for the first time. And I happen to like making lists. Soooo, I made some lists. I was probably not entirely fastidious, because I got caught up in the stories and probably failed to note a few things here and there, but this is accurate with maybe a 15% margin of error?

    XX Human Characters: 35
    – 4 Ambassadors (including Deputy Ambassador)
    – 4 Doctors
    – 2 Captains
    – 2 Executive Officers
    – 2 Lieutenants
    – 1 Secretary
    – 1 Colonel
    – 1 Shipmaster
    – 1 Teacher
    – 1 Consul
    – 1 unnamed courier

    XX Last Names: Abumwe, Bair, Balla, Basta, Coloma, Corvalho, Drolet, Egan, Everston, Ganas, Galeano, Gollock, Grant, Ivanovich, Juntasa, Kueltzo, Lee, Lowen, Mulray, Nascimento, Rodabaugh, Sarles, Schmidt, Smart, Stone, Tomek, Valenta, Waverly, Yuan, Zala

    XY Human characters: 51
    – 2 Lieutenants
    – 2 Captains
    – 1 Undersecretary
    – 1 Chief Engineer
    – 1 Colonel
    – 1 Chief Officer
    – 1 Helmsman
    – 1 Doctor
    – 1 Private
    – 1 Fleet Commander
    – 1 unnamed nerd

    XY Last Names: Ahmed, Alamazar, Arrohead, Augustyn, Basquez, Berger, Birnbaum, Bourkou, Brode, Cong, Damanis, Davi, DiNovo, el-Masri, Evans, Fucci, Gahzini, Givens, Hearst, Ivanovich, Jefferson, Khosa, Kring, Kueltzo, Kwok, Maciejewski, Meyer, Morales, Murwani, Prescott, Qalat, Rigney, Roberts, Roman, Schmidt, Spurlea, Talford, Tiege, Vinicius, Washington, Wilson, Winters, Zarrani

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