Reading Gaiman – Mel talks about Gender Portrayal

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neverwhere neil gaimanAround twice a year, I read one of Neil Gaiman’s works. Usually, I get them as a gift for Xmas and my birthday, because they have amazing artwork and it’s really worth it having them as hardcover or paperback.

One of the things I really like about Gaiman’s stories is the portrayal of gender and gender roles—or to be more precise the lack thereof. I have two kind of ambivalent thoughts concerning this. On the one hand, I think that gender doesn’t matter at all in the stories, because each character could be female or male or neither. Not only is there no focus on the characters’ gender, it’s more as if it wasn’t there, as if anything were possible.

For a moment, upon waking, he had no idea at all who he was. It was a tremendously liberating feeling, as if he were free to be whatever he wanted to be: he could be anyone at all – able to try on any identity; he could be a man or a woman, a rat or a bird, a monster or a god.

— Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

the sleeper and the spindle neil gaimanOn the other hand, Gaiman allows both women and men to be something more than society often still has in mind for us. Women get to be heroes, bodyguards, traitors, and men can be something else than heroes or antiheroes. They may cry, they may be losers or nobodies. But, and I want to stress that, so you don’t get the wrong impression here, all characters are written in a way that is liberating and empowering. Men aren’t made less so women can be more. In Gaiman’s stories we are equal. We have choices and opportunities.

There are choices, she thought, when she had sat long enough. There are always choices.
She made one.
They walked to the east, all four of them, away from the sunset and the lands they knew, and into the night.

— Neil Gaiman, The Sleeper and the Spindle

Reading Gaiman’s books makes me happy, because I can partake in something that is beyond what I know and what was infused in my thoughts over the years. It is liberating and empowering for me, because it shows me how I am or how I could be without the limitations that society and I myself put on me. That is to say, I highly recommend checking out his work. I’d daresay there is something for everyone.


“Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman, born Neil Richard Gaiman, 10 November 1960) is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008). In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.” (Wikipedia)

Please have a look at his website to find out more about his biography…

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3 thoughts on “Reading Gaiman – Mel talks about Gender Portrayal

  1. Neil Gaiman is one of those authors I’ve meant to read but haven’t – partly because I don’t know where to begin. What’s a good entry point for a romance / fantasy reader?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Cleo 🙂

      A good entry point… I’d suggest STARDUST. It’s an illustrated book with romance and fantasy/fairytale.
      Otherwise, I really loved THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE. It’s short-ish, fantasy, brilliant story telling.
      THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE is a fairytale retelling/twist and basically the most beautiful book I own. It’s a short story.
      NEVERWHERE is the latest book I read and it’s also a good starting point, I think.

      Oh, and if you love to read comics, the SANDMAN series rocks. It’s also kinda dark.

      Other people totally dig GOOD OMENS, and while it has the best beginning to a book ever, I have still to finish it, lol. AMERICAN GODS is also well loved and is the next I will read.

      Hope you’ll find something.

      Liked by 1 person

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