That’s what she said. It was in a comment thread online, after a friend of mine had shared a Robert A Heinlein quote. I looked at it, shook my head, and wondered when the man who was accused of being too pro-women in the era he wrote in, had become a woman-hater. It’s not true of course, but people will just say things with nothing to back them up, and unless you question them, observers have no way of knowing they are flat-out lying.
“Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, “equality” is a disaster.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
RAH wrote women who were strong, competent, and happy being women. I have admired Star from Glory Road for her fierceness and dedication to her duty. I put to you Hazel Stone, who is no man’s – nor woman’s! – weakling. Wyoming Knott, in Moon is a Harsh Mistress for goodness sakes. How can you read Heinlein’s work and then dismiss these women as another person in that thread did as ‘oversexed secretaries’ unless you are deliberately being obtuse and lying?
When I asked that question in a group of people who actually enjoy Heinlein’s work, I was reminded to go look at Spider Robinson’s essay on Heinlein. It had been a while since I’d read it, and even in 1980 when it was written, the accusations were being thrown about his work.
I am particularly fond of that last line. Clearly those who are still flinging mud have slipped dreamlessly into a delusion so deep they might never be able to get back out again. When the woman who had first made the titular accusation was questioned by multiple voices in startlement, she finally admitted that she knew it to be so, because she had read it in Asimov’s biography. Wait a minute, was my reply, you mean that man that Eric Leif Davin in his recent book Partners in Wonder wrote this about? ” Isaac Asimov is on record for stating that male fans didn’t want females invading their space. According to the letter columns of the time, it seems that the only fan who held that opinion was… Isaac Asimov. A number of males fans welcomed their female counterparts. As did the editors, something Davin goes to great lengths to document.” (You can read more on the women that other women ignore here at Keith West’s blog) So this woman has taken a known misogynist’s claim that another man is a misogynist without questioning and swallowed it whole.
This, boys and girls, is why we do our research and do not take a single point of data as truth, just because it fits what we want to see. The final point I will address is one brought up in the thread, albeit with a misspelled name, so I am not quoting it. Heinlein wrote of Gillian from Stranger in a Strange Land that she was a nurse, and made a hobby of men. I’m not sure if the objection was to ‘nurse’ which was a solidly female profession in the time Heinlein was alive and writing, and a very respected one, as well. I suspect the objection was the making a hobby of men. Frankly, my dear, if you have not yet met a woman whose hobby is men, then your life has been a very sheltered and innocent one. Pick up any celebrity rag in the supermarket checkout line and you can look into the airbrushed eyes of a half-dozen of them. Is this misogyny on my part? No. Like Heinlein, I am very interested in people. People are not always nice, and perfect, and noble. Heinlein’s trenchant observations of human nature are a big part of why I enjoy reading his work so much. His characters are real, vivid, fully formed… which means that they are not always conformable to the ideals. Just like real people.
Heinlein had, as is evident from his work, a very high regard for women. But he did not perch them on so high a pedestal as to not see that some women are not perfect. Just like the woman who threw out the accusation against him of being a gold-plated misogynist isn’t perfect. Blinded by her ideals, she seeks to topple a man who helped write some of her freedoms into existence. But he’s a mere old white man, and conveniently, dead, so he cannot defend himself. So I will take up a little of that defense in honor of a man I never met, and further, his beloved wife who by all accounts was a wonderful woman who doesn’t deserve to be backhanded along with her husband.