The Wild West and the Feminine Role

So Western106 is winding down. The sun is setting as we ride out to the range one last time. I sat on my front porch and watched the cattle be driven by my door but didn’t help in the round up of the herd.

The West should have been a great topic to have fun with. It has great visual images, readily identifiable characters and has had great staying power as a genre, plus all that lovely language! Yeller belly, the Code of the West, hog tied, a lick and a promise, stop yer bellyaching, fit as a fiddle and reach for the sky to name a few. There are tons of websites out there to help you get the language right.

But as many have noted, it really is a man’s genre. This is not to say there haven’t been some strong women interspersed here and there throughout the genre, but we’re like vanilla extract added to a chocolate cake. It enhances the flavour, but it is so subtle that you don’t notice it.

If you’re a woman, you’ve noticed it I am sure. It’s like women in history generally. If you’re not a queen, filthy rich, a poisoner or great beauty, well you’re just part of the great unwashed. (Unless you’re a witch. Men fear witches. Burned a lot for 400 years+. But that is another story.) Women are like wallpaper in history. Just part of the background. In the Western, it is the man, his battle with the elements or other men that is the focus. It’s a war movie, but instead of fighting for king and country, it is more individual because you are fighting over your cattle, your land and your gold. And your women. We’re just another type of reward for the conquering male hero in the Western.

So I feel limited as a creator in this genre, more than any other I have participated in in DS106. Horror, fantasy, film noir, gothic, mysteries would allow me to be a strong female protagonist but I feel that in this genre it means that my role could only be a violent one (or a wilting flower). And I just didn’t feel like strapping on the gun. Or analysing the genre. Perhaps because I just didn’t want to see that society and the gender roles within North American society haven’t changed that much since the Western started rolling out 200 years ago.

I appreciate, as always, the DS106 communities support of my level of participation and the opportunity to express my views.

Riding off into the sunset….