Sexism on Darkover

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Title: Sexism on Darkover
Date(s): 1978-
Medium: print
Fandom: Darkover
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Sexism on Darkover is a multi-part series of Darkover essays printed over many years in the zine series Jumeaux.

"The article stirred up more controversy than any other before or since."—from the zine editor in Definitive Issue 5.

One of its main subjects was the Marion Zimmer Bradley's book Darkover Landfall.

The articles were written by a succession of three authors.

The Authors

The first two parts are by Adrienne Fein, and reprinted many times.

The series was continued by Linda Frankel, and reprinted many times.

The last part was written by Nina Boal and was printed only once.

Comments by the zine's editor in Jumeaux Definitive Issue 4 was published in May 1981:

The original SEXISM ON DARKOVER part II was written by Adrienne Fein. When I asked Linda Frankel to rewrite it, I expected an article that followed the outlines of Adrienne's. Instead Linda wrote an article covering the same novels but taking a completely different tack. I was particularly struck by her analysis of SWORD OF ALDONES. It will be interesting to re-read this after SHARRA'S EXILE comes out. Her comments on Sybil-Mhari Aillard are certainly different—sort of empathy gone wrong which could explain why so many Ridenows are so rotten and do things that would suggest they never heard of empathy, much less Empathy.

The Parts

Some are original, some are reprints. It is difficult to sort out anything past February 1981 due to the complicated publishing history of this zine series regarding dates.

  • Part I by Adrienne Fein (December 1978, Original Issue 5)
  • Parts 2A and 2B by Adrienne Fein (May 1979, Original Issue 6)
  • Part IV by Linda Frankel (November 1980, Original Issue 9)
  • Part V by Linda Frankel (February 1981, Original Issue 10)
  • Part 1, "a look at "Darkover Landfall" by Adrienne Fein with a postscript by Linda Frankel" (August 1982, Definitive Issue 3)
  • Part II: The Early Novels by Linda Frankel (25) (loosely based on an article by Adrienne Fein. The editor comments at great length about some related topics in the editorial, touching upon such subjects as pregnancy, abortion, birth control, the number of children women have... "Normally I write comments on all the articles of the previous issue. This time Adrienne and Linda's article took all the space, mainly because I, too, was annoyed by Darkover Landfall though for different reasons than Adrienne and Linda. One thing that really annoyed me was the idea that disliking children is the result of crowding....") (May 1981, Definitive Issue 4)
  • Part III by Linda Frankel (March 1983, Definitive Issue 5)
  • Part IV by Linda Frankel (January 1984, Definitive Issue 6)
  • Part V by Linda Frankel (October 1984, Definitive Issue 7)
  • part VI by Linda Frankel: In Definitive Issue 8 (the 1982 edition), the editor wrote that she misplaced the final pages of Linda Frankel's 'Sexism' article, so it is missing, and will appear as a double feature in the next issue. It does, however, appear in Definitive Issue 8, the August 1985 edition)
  • Part VII by Linda Frankel (August 1983, Definitive Issue 9)
  • Part VIII by Nina Boal: The editor of the zine wrote in the editorial: "When Linda Frankel moved to San Francisco, she seemed to have left her fannish interests behind in New York. At least she did not seem interested in contributing to JUMEAUX. Therefore I asked Nina Boal, another feminist, to take over the Sexism on Darkover series. Linda Frankel may return next issue, however since she has since shown an interest in returning to Darkover fandom. I hope she does as I always find her views interesting even when I don't agree with her." (June 1985, Definitive Issue 10)

Fan Comments


SEXISM ON DARKOVER, part 1: the beginnings of controversy. My fingers already tremble at the thought of stepping upon this battleground of opinions/views. It being quite some time since last I read this article, I thought it best to sit down and refresh my memory. Now I re member why I didn't bother to make some kind of comment on this before. In many ways, I agree with Adrienne on the subject of Camilla's problem. .. "She feared to lose her position, he sense of usefulness and purpose chosen by herself whether she had children or not. . . " ". . .but she also seemed to fear that her pregnancy would immediately and magically cause all her skills and intelligence to vanish! She had no idea of anything at all good about giving birth and raising children. " That's the whole problem right there—not the wailing and whimperings over her being forced to keep that child she was already carrying, nor the real need to have more children for the sake of the colony's survival, it was the simple fact that she just couldn't handle the shattering of her self-image. Adrienne also made one comment that at first made me chuckle, then made me stop and think on its implications... "(No agreement for men to sign?)". I know, put like this the strength of its implications aren't very clear. Let's try it this way: (Portion of Ewen s statement Camilla in LANDFALL: "You surely know that women volunteers aren't even accepted for Earth Expeditionary unless they're childbearing age and sign an agreement to have children?"

Adrienne's comment "(No agreement for men to sign?)"

At first I chuckled my head off while thinking "What for? Do men need something binding them to the act of making babies"? After a moment, I got to thinking about those men who just wouldn't wish to participate in such an activity. It did make me wonder whether or not they (the males who wished to go to the colonies) did or did not have to make the same/similar agreement to give their all for the sake of many. ((I doubt they had to sign anything. Population growth is dependent upon the number of fertile females of childbearing age—not the males provided there are some fertile males. And what of Father Valentine? For that matter what would have happened if there had been a couple of nuns along?)) [1]

[MZB herself has a lengthy letter taking issue with some points in the controversial series of essays by Frankel regarding sexism. MZB writes in length about gender and and sexism in Darkover:] '"Some lesbians want to be men; I have known them. Some just want to be women in their own way. I have known them too. Some women want to be men without being lesbians, and that's okay too. And some women want to be women without having their hair curled or wearing nylons, and that ought to be okay but in our society it isn't, and mores the the pity!... I write about sexism because that is the world I know. In a way I find it flattering that people find my world so real that they criticize its ethics with real animosity, as if I had created something wicked and worthy of reform. In another, it makes me somewhat angry; they assume that because I write flatly, of the world I know, I therefore approve it. I write about it, because it is THERE. Darkover is a sexist world because I grew up in a sexist world. Do you honestly thing that if I 'reformed' it to conform with all you prejudices, that would alter the outer world?Yes, you probably say, but MZB should make it clear that she disapproves of all these sexist things on Darkover as on USA 1980. Why? I write to raise questions in your mind, not to provide you with answers about how to get from here to there. I don't want Darkover to be the 'there' paradise to which you all escape." [2]

"Sexism on Darkover Part IV," by Linda Frankel, is the best and longest piece. I know only a few fans who are strongly aware of the issues of feminism, who don't glibly stereotype feminists and feminism, so it's truly a delight to encounter a fan writer sensitive enough to deal with the issues. Frankel's skilfully-written analysis of love, marriage, jealousy, rape, and homosexuality, using The Spell Sword and The Forbidden Tower as its base, pulls no punches. I just wish I had read the first three articles, although —if this one is typical—each seems to be self-contained. At one point, Frankel mentions feminist Susan Brownmiller's theory of rape, and this is the only time Frankel's point of view is unclear. I agree with Brownmiller that our culture encourages violence toward women, which manifests itself in rape. Frankel, a rape victim, says her attacker wasn't "foaming at the mouth and didn't appear crazed in any obvious way." I'm not sure if she agrees or disagrees (or neither) with Brownmiller. She seems to imply that violence necessarily demonstrates itself blatantly, and that rape/violence is abnormal. Yet if so, I think Brownmiller's vision is more accurate: a society that has certain negative values about women will make rape a "normal" (that is, common, inevitable) consequence in that society, as opposed to one with a more enlightened view toward women.[3]

[comments by a male fan]: One of the advantages of typing up portions of JUMEAUX (I'm a better and faster typist than Lynne is) is that I get to read the articles before anyone else. I usually find myself with more to say about Linda's sexism articles than anything else. So if she wants feedback and disagreement...

First, I must admit that I was quite taken with Linda's analysis of SWORD OF ALDONES. It gave me some new perspectives on Darkover and strengthened my contention that tower-training, for a male, gives him a romantic tendency in his nature. (I am not totally a determinist, so will admit that this manifests itself in different ways depending upon the individual.) Romantic love on Terra arose out of the Cult of the Virgin. This was the feminine ideal; the woman who was to be adored but never desired. This became transferred to mortal women who were unobtainable by the individual male for a large variety of reasons. The woman was worshipped and adored but this passion was never consumated. This did not stop the man from having sexual relations with other women who were available. The idea of dying for love stems more from the 19th century Romantic movement, rather than from the medieval idea of courtly love. Now two tower-trained Darkovan males are shown to have been in love with a Keeper—Damon Ridenow (with Leonie) and Lew Alton (with Janna Lindir)(see page 209). In BLOODY SUN every one seems to adore Elorie. The archetype of Woman as Goddess who is to be adored but not touched is very present on Darkover. However Darkovans are much too practical to be content with worshipping from afar. They marry and raise children, finding substitute love. How much of the passion that Taniquel satisfies, is sublimated love of Elorie? Fellow tower-workers are closer than blood kin. So in some ways, the new regime under which Lew trained is crueler than the old Way of Arilinn. How does the Keeper adjust to being a wife three years out of six, to being ritually chaste after knowing sexual fulfillment?

Just to show I can agree with Linda, I, too, found Neyrissa's arousal by the kill very offputting. I have known women who were masochists, but never those who took pleasure in pain. (There were some who were concentration camp guards or secret police interogators but they are rare ~ much rarer than sadists are among men.) [4]


I can't take it any longer! I just have to make a comment on about Linda Frankel's SEXISM ON DARKOVER!

I have to agree with Nancy dell' Aquila 100%. I have only had the opportunity to read one part of SEXISM ON BARKOVER, but it was one part too many. It seems to me that anything I have ever read by Linda is exactly what she seems to be crusading against.,.sexism. (Try reading "The Border Country" by Linda in JUMEAUX #1 which is not about sexism at all but about the natiire of reality.) Linda should realize that she is being just as sexist in her views as she feels MZB is being in the Darkover series. She comes across as a cut and dried man-hater, and I'm sure she has her reasons, but frankly most people are sick and tired of that attitude. Maybe if she tones it down some it would be readable and partly enjoyable.

I don't question Linda's reasons for this attitude of hers. I know she must have very good reasons for it and whether she is gay or straight, she has her reasons and people should respect her rights. But what I do object to is the image she puts forth that could be harmful to those organizations and peoples who are genuinely trying to put a stop to sexism. It's my guess that Linda is a feminist. That's fine. I'm not, but I certainly agree with the principle. I feel very secure in be ing a woman and I feel I can do anything I want to if I put my mind to it without offending others, without putting down men, without screaming "SEXISMlll" As Nancy said, I was given the impression that the feminist movement was, in theory, an out let for people...and I say PEOPLE, not just women, to be themselves regardless of sex, creed, color etc.

And this brings me to another point.... Linda's attitude is starting to affect those who really like Darkover, in a negative way. People join Darkover Councils, take Darkovan names, and quite a few of the women take Free Amazon names because they like the concept of an organization that will let a woman be what her heart and mind dictates. But there are a lot of us who feel that Linda's only turning the Free Amazons into a haven for lesbians, and that I object to because it is misrepresentative and a misuse of MZB's concept. It's supposed to be an a alternative for Darkovan women, not just, and sadly misrepresented as, a haven for gays. Lesbianism was the exception in the Free Amazons, not the rule, even if the Comyn sometimes think otherwise. MZB dispells that. ((In the latest Darkover Newsletter, MZB discusses the whole question of lesbianism and the Free Amazons in explaining why she never finished or published TRENDARA HOUSE. No, the majority of Free Amazons are not lesbian but a sizable minority is though most Darkovan lesbians are married, though unhappily, because they lack the courage to break with tradition. Now that TEENDARA HOUSE will be published sometime next year, we can read MZB's words on the subject. However one explanation for the prevalance of male homosexuality is sup posedly the presense of chieri genes. Wouldn't this produce roughly an equal nimber of lesbians?))

The only other thing that gets me is why Darkover is being analysed to death until it's a headache instead of a pleasure? Most people don't have a degree in Anthro pology, Sociology or Psychology. How can one enjoy it that way? I just want to enjoy Darkover and some of its insights, not overkill it. I do, however, enjoy the articles by Pat Duncan....I don't think he's overanalysing or is being too biased in his opinion, so it makes it interesting. ((Pat's degrees are in mathematics and physics so he's an amateur with psychology and anthropology. Actually I try to in clude a rmkxture of articles so almost everyone will find something to like.)) I do hope Pat Duncan will do a character sketch of Lew Alton. It really is something needs to be done, and I know he'd be good at it. Has he done a character sketch of Damon Ridenow? You probably have guessed that Damon is my favorite of the male characters, and guess what...I'm also one of those who preferred Ellemir to Callista. I thought I was the only one. ((Ingrid Maack has been trying to get Pat to do a character sketch of Lew Alton for ages hut he doesn't want to do one because he's not all that fond of Lew. He's even less fond of Damon Ridenow which is the reason he hasn't done one of him either. He doesn't want to be lynched. Damon Ridenow is also Linda Frankel's favorite male character by the way.)) [5]

As a new reader of both the Darkover series and of JUMEAUX, I am thoroughly enjoying going through both. I particularly like the series SEXISM ON DARKOVER and the character sketches but practically everything is interesting. So I was rather amazed to read Nancy dell' Aquila's letter. I don't always agree with Linda Frankel either. Quite the contrary. But I always find her ideas interesting. And Nancy, I agree with you that Darilyn and Menella don't seem to be a "male/female" pair, but I did think they were lesbian lovers since "freemate" is a form of marriage and in FORBIDDEN TOWER it states that freemate marriage is not valid unless consummated. Regis rather nasty to Melora. There might be extenuating circumstances, but I sure wished Melora would tell him off. But then I don't like Regis much and I read about him in the order HERITAGE OF HASTUR, SHARRA'S EXILE, WORLD WRECKERS. He seems to want to use women to avoid something nasty like marriage. This is sensitivity??!! Phooey.

Maybe part of the reason I like the series is that I am being subjected to sexism You see, I want to be a research chemist or a medical researcher. Fine. But my

parents don't see it that way. If my brother George had that ambition, they'd cheer, but me.... They think I should be interested in boys, clothes, sewing, babies and homemaking instead of science. My relatives think I'm weird and unless I'm mistaken as to the meaning of a certain Arabic word, they also think I'll end up gay if I pursue my dreams. I like boys (well some of them), but I don't want to give up my dreams and ambitions for them or to get married and have babies. So I like seeing how Darkovans or anyone copes with this problem. And I also like Linda's pointing up a lot of the problems even when I disagree with her. I wish I could be like Nancy dell' Aquila and say I've never felt discriminated against because I'm female, but it wouldn't be the truth and I'm not even out of high school yet.[6]


  1. ^ comments from Definitive Issue 4 (May 1981) , with additional commentary in double parens by the editor of the zine.
  2. ^ from Original Issue 10 (February 1981)
  3. ^ from Universal Translator #23 (April/May 1981)
  4. ^ letter by Pat Duncan in Definitive Issue #4 (May 1981)
  5. ^ from a letter by Sylvia Bump in Definitive Issue 8 (August 1982)
  6. ^ from a letter in Definitive Issue 8 (August 1982)