The Slave Breakers
(Link to the fic's index post)
Right. So. The first thing I keep coming back to is that I can't tell - and I've read Bran, Jesse, Lee, the Yves miniseries, and I'm working on the one-shots - whether "slave" in these stories is interchangeable with "sex slave", which it seems to be fairly often, or if there are non-sex slaves and they just don't come into the picture. The trouble with the first one is that it makes no sense to me economically or logically, and the trouble with the second is why doesn't it come into the picture? I mean, there's nothing wrong with Holden and Alix specializing, but it's never even mentioned that maybe a slave would be better suited to cook training or something.
Anyway, that one could probably be solved by asking the author, which I might do at some point.
Now, I'm not reopening the "is slash misogynist?" debate, and I'm not saying Maculategiraffe is misogynist, either - I think she really does like her female characters, they just aren't central to the story, and that is fine with me politically. However, some of it annoys me as a reader. Alix and Holden's relationship is a complete cipher to me, Greta magically transitioned from "brat" to competent and strong woman, Valor is like Rachel Berry in that she has experiences that ought to make her change but she doesn't. Like I said, I think it's not that she dislikes the characters, it's just that she finds them less interesting than Holden and Bran's epic mutual adoration. I probably wouldn't have noticed or remarked on it if it weren't for the fact that they do all belong to the same gender group.
There is one thing that did strike me as ... well, problematic in terms of sexism. Technically, multiple things, but they all fall together under the heading of "very minor or unseen female characters being shitty in ways male characters don't ever". 1) Women are jealous and underhanded: Kurayev's first wife sold Holden as soon as Kurayev was away, and Holden (in a one-shot) decided not to sell to a couple because the man's wife looked "thin-lipped" and he was worried she'd abuse her husband's slave. 2) Women are humorless: both of the doctors (the one in Bran and the one in Lee) were female and had no patience at all with Holden's ... not even jokes, just sort of light-hearted comments. 3) Women abuse power: Bran mentioned that a female slave at Oreskovitch's was the favorite and if the others didn't do exactly what she said she'd get them in trouble. And then there's Valor's continuous screwing-up as a slave owner, and Robin's EVERYTHING. And this just isn't balanced out with male characters - Argounev and Duraev sucked majorly, but in an antagonist way. There aren't really the same mentions of male characters being that kind of bad. It just bothers me, especially Robin and Valor's lack of getting it. And what sort of plays into that is that I'd expect to see free women and female slaves have a sort of different attitude to slavery than men, unless society is radically less sexist. Not that I'm going "all women are just like slaves," but there's that fear/worry/nervousness about men, you know? The knowledge that any guy could probably hurt you if he wanted. To some degree similar to the way the slaves know their master could randomly hurt them if they wanted, except that you can defend yourself when attacked or try to prevent yourself from being drugged, and the slaves don't have that right. It's not that I think all the female characters should be abolitionists, but I'd kind of expect more sympathetic female characters.