Lovecraft and feminism

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SporgyTheReader

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Contrary to popular belief, Lovecraft wasn't a misogynist and actually advocated for the rise of women in fields that were male-dominated at the time, he even wrote a letter to Clark Ashton Smith expressing his stance on feminism. Which in letter, his main points that was the idea of a woman being inferior to a man is merely a social construct and not linked to biology and people like nazis and fascist that try to push this notion are wrong.


To the reason why there's not a lot of female characters that serve a major role in Lovecraft's stories, the answer is not very but I'd say it's not a big issue as almost -if not all- of major characters in Lovecraft's stories has either died gruesomely or suffered a fate worse than death.

If you're wondering that Asenath Waite from The Thing on the Doorstep is a sign of Lovecraft's misogyny, well you're wrong, it's implied that the real Asenath died years ago in her father's body and the Asenath that was present in the story was actually her father or "Kagmog" controlling her body. So it's a Freaky Friday scenario.
 

Cthulhu.Science

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There are so many letter anthologies. Where would I find a copy of the letter to Clark Ashton Smith?
 

SporgyTheReader

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There are so many letter anthologies. Where would I find a copy of the letter to Clark Ashton Smith?

”On the other hand, I do not regard the rise of woman as a bad sign. Rather do I fancy that her traditional subordination was itself an artificial & undesirable condition based on Oriental influences. Our virile Teutonic ancestors did not think their wives unworthy to follow them into battle, or scorn to dream of winged Valkyries bearing them to Valhalla. The feminine mind does not cover the same territory as the masculine, but is probably little if any inferior in total quality. To expect it to remain perpetually in the background in a realistic state of society is futile—despite the most feverish efforts of Nazis and Fascisti. However—it will be some time before women are sufficiently freed from past influences to form an active factor in national life. By the time they do gain influence, they will have lost many of the emotional characteristics which now impair their powers of judgment. Many qualities commonly regarded as innate—in races, classes, & sexes alike—are in reality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”*

-H.P Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, October 28, 1934
eality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”
 

Ningauble

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There are so many letter anthologies. Where would I find a copy of the letter to Clark Ashton Smith?

There are several. Arkham House published Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith. Hippocampus Press has done CAS's letters to George Sterling, Samuel Loveman and August Derleth, with the letters to (and from) the Wandrei Brothers and R. H. Barlow forthcoming.

Lovecraft's letters to Clark Ashton Smith was published by Hippocampus Press.
 

StilLearning

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”On the other hand... ...in reality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”*

-H.P Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, October 28, 1934
eality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”
That's quite an interesting new view of HPL for me. There's certainly some recognition there of the role social pressures and conditioning play in pre-setting the roles of a woman in society.
 

Ravensquawk

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People pick on HPL when most space operas and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were sausage-fests?
 

KGeo777

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”On the other hand, I do not regard the rise of woman as a bad sign. Rather do I fancy that her traditional subordination was itself an artificial & undesirable condition based on Oriental influences. Our virile Teutonic ancestors did not think their wives unworthy to follow them into battle, or scorn to dream of winged Valkyries bearing them to Valhalla.
Was Lovecraft aware of Hanna Reitsch? I assume not.
I didn't know that Hitler's star aviator was a woman until I watched Operation: Crossbow.

Lovecraft is eluding to the pre-Christian state of affairs.
Someone from Sweden was telling me that gender equality existed there before Christianity was introduced.
It makes sense--you can't have isolated independent societies with gender antagonism within the population. Totally impractical--it would have to be introduced from the outside, and the Bible is oriental. David and Goliath and Aladdin are also oriental and you can see how much that dominates modern media culture themes--almost every heroic character relies on technology or magic as opposed to natural strength (like Beowulf).
 

Christine Wheelwright

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Hardly a resounding vindication (my additions in bold):

”On the other hand, I do not regard the rise of woman as a bad sign [Very Generous of him]. Rather do I fancy that her traditional subordination was itself an artificial & undesirable condition based on Oriental influences [Uh?]. Our virile Teutonic ancestors [Is he getting turned on here?] did not think their wives unworthy to follow them into battle, or scorn to dream of winged Valkyries bearing them to Valhalla [Yes, definitely turned on!]. The feminine mind does not cover the same territory as the masculine, but is probably little if any inferior in total quality. To expect it to remain perpetually in the background in a realistic state of society is futile—despite the most feverish efforts of Nazis and Fascisti. However—it will be some time before women are sufficiently freed from past influences to form an active factor in national life. By the time they do gain influence, they will have lost many of the emotional characteristics which now impair their powers of judgment [Oh dear!] . Many qualities commonly regarded as innate—in races, classes, & sexes alike—are in reality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”*

-H.P Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, October 28, 1934
 

SporgyTheReader

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Hardly a resounding vindication (my additions in bold):

”On the other hand, I do not regard the rise of woman as a bad sign [Very Generous of him]. Rather do I fancy that her traditional subordination was itself an artificial & undesirable condition based on Oriental influences [Uh?]. Our virile Teutonic ancestors [Is he getting turned on here?] did not think their wives unworthy to follow them into battle, or scorn to dream of winged Valkyries bearing them to Valhalla [Yes, definitely turned on!]. The feminine mind does not cover the same territory as the masculine, but is probably little if any inferior in total quality. To expect it to remain perpetually in the background in a realistic state of society is futile—despite the most feverish efforts of Nazis and Fascisti. However—it will be some time before women are sufficiently freed from past influences to form an active factor in national life. By the time they do gain influence, they will have lost many of the emotional characteristics which now impair their powers of judgment [Oh dear!] . Many qualities commonly regarded as innate—in races, classes, & sexes alike—are in reality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”*

-H.P Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, October 28, 1934
Ok, what's your point?
 

StilLearning

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Hardly a resounding vindication (my additions in bold):

”On the other hand, I do not regard the rise of woman as a bad sign [Very Generous of him]. Rather do I fancy that her traditional subordination was itself an artificial & undesirable condition based on Oriental influences [Uh?]. Our virile Teutonic ancestors [Is he getting turned on here?] did not think their wives unworthy to follow them into battle, or scorn to dream of winged Valkyries bearing them to Valhalla [Yes, definitely turned on!]. The feminine mind does not cover the same territory as the masculine, but is probably little if any inferior in total quality. To expect it to remain perpetually in the background in a realistic state of society is futile—despite the most feverish efforts of Nazis and Fascisti. However—it will be some time before women are sufficiently freed from past influences to form an active factor in national life. By the time they do gain influence, they will have lost many of the emotional characteristics which now impair their powers of judgment [Oh dear!] . Many qualities commonly regarded as innate—in races, classes, & sexes alike—are in reality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”*

-H.P Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, October 28, 1934
Certainly not a vindication of the man - there's plenty to be accurately attributed to him that is far less laudable. But this is softer in tone than some of his other 'opinions', and suggests that perhaps there was still some room for change and growth in HPL's (by many accounts quite ill) mind at the time of writing.
I often see HPL as a bit of a personal boogeyman WRT my assumptions about people whose abilities and work I admire but don't know personally: An example of how what I see as positive qualities - imagination, writing ability (he is not Dickens but his later stories, especially, show a growing competence), dogged production of prose and imagery that I cannot deny fire my own imagination - can be found in people I would likely find morally abhorrent. To me the above is a reminder that HPL was a human and, as such, even his views probably had at least some nuance, and perhaps room for positive change. This is useful to me, as it helps keep me out of the trap of simply pigeonholing similar human beings as cardboard-cut-out villains.
 

SporgyTheReader

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Hardly a resounding vindication (my additions in bold):

”On the other hand, I do not regard the rise of woman as a bad sign [Very Generous of him]. Rather do I fancy that her traditional subordination was itself an artificial & undesirable condition based on Oriental influences [Uh?]. Our virile Teutonic ancestors [Is he getting turned on here?] did not think their wives unworthy to follow them into battle, or scorn to dream of winged Valkyries bearing them to Valhalla [Yes, definitely turned on!]. The feminine mind does not cover the same territory as the masculine, but is probably little if any inferior in total quality. To expect it to remain perpetually in the background in a realistic state of society is futile—despite the most feverish efforts of Nazis and Fascisti. However—it will be some time before women are sufficiently freed from past influences to form an active factor in national life. By the time they do gain influence, they will have lost many of the emotional characteristics which now impair their powers of judgment [Oh dear!] . Many qualities commonly regarded as innate—in races, classes, & sexes alike—are in reality results of habitual & imperceptible conditioning.”*

-H.P Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith, October 28, 1934

Oh about the "oriental" bit of that quote possibly criticizing eastern gender roles for being more strict and how it may have affected the west, I'm Chinese and I agree that gender roles from the household I grew up in is very strict and is often pressuring towards girls, in fact my maternal grandma even said she doesn't want any daughters and she was willing to sell any daughters she had, fortunately my grandpa was there to stop her and convinced her to not do that. Even now, my paternal grandpa told my sister not to sit the way she likes because "it's not lady like", when my dad said that when I get married and have kids, the first should be a son because he is stronger. Or when my mom said the woman should work at home and the man should work outside.

My point is that I somewhat agree with Lovecraft's criticism of eastern gender roles from my experience growing up and living in a mostly traditional Chinese family, even though what he actually means could be different.
 
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Le Panda du Mal

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Anecdotes about a Chinese family are neither here nor there. “Oriental” for Lovecraft more likely means “near East”- Iranian, Semitic, Mesopotamian, etc. Can we agree that the suggestion that Europeans became misogynistic because of “oriental” influence is just stupid? Like one of the biggest takeaways of the Iliad is that liking women too much leads to destruction.

To Lovecraft’s credit in one of his later letters he expresses embarrassment over his prior bigoted opinions (he doesn’t quite specify) and expresses sympathy for socialism. His later works ATMoM and the Shadow Out of Time could be read as a turn away from xenophobia.
 

SporgyTheReader

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Anecdotes about a Chinese family are neither here nor there. “Oriental” for Lovecraft more likely means “near East”- Iranian, Semitic, Mesopotamian, etc. Can we agree that the suggestion that Europeans became misogynistic because of “oriental” influence is just stupid? Like one of the biggest takeaways of the Iliad is that liking women too much leads to destruction.

To Lovecraft’s credit in one of his later letters he expresses embarrassment over his prior bigoted opinions (he doesn’t quite specify) and expresses sympathy for socialism. His later works ATMoM and the Shadow Out of Time could be read as a turn away from xenophobia.
Wow you have such fancy vocabulary, too bad I don't understand what you mean(and it's my family).

Considering the Mesopotamian society would allow a man to drown his wife if she is disobedient, I can see were Lovecraft is coming from and if you think that Mesopotamian society didn't influence European culture, well technically it did via culture diffusion, even a tiny bit. But I have to admit fault for thinking that I thought Lovecraft was referring to East Asian culture, mainly because my vocabulary isn't archaic or refined as you anglos, since English wasn't my first language.
 

Le Panda du Mal

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Wow you have such fancy vocabulary, too bad I don't understand what you mean(and it's my family).

Considering the Mesopotamian society would allow a man to drown his wife if she is disobedient, I can see were Lovecraft is coming from and if you think that Mesopotamian society didn't influence European culture, well technically it did via culture diffusion, even a tiny bit. But I have to admit fault for thinking that I thought Lovecraft was referring to East Asian culture, mainly because my vocabulary isn't archaic or refined as you anglos, since English wasn't my first language.

If you think I use too many fancy words you’re gonna love the guy this thread is about.

(PS my family’s Chinese too but whatever)
 
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