Cassandra Clare answers

I share a lot of things on my  tumblr page, mostly about Cassandra Clare's books and the Divergent movie but these answers are kind of interesting so I thought I would share it, in case you haven't encountered my tumblr yet.

Hey Cassandra,

I noticed that you’re very outspoken about misogyny in the publishing world and beyond - and that’s great! Inherent, subtle misogyny is rife in our society and I love seeing authors and other public figures speak out against it.

However, one of the things you talk about is how misogyny includes pitting woman against woman. I really agree with this, and I think the media, and fiction, is very guilty of this. So I was wondering, with this in mind and your obviously very strong views on the subject, how do you justify the outward hostility your female characters have towards one another? I’m thinking especially about Clary’s first interactions with Isabelle, and Tessa’s with Jessamine. I never understood on what basis the main characters disliked the other female leads, other than the fact that they were girls. Maybe at a stretch because they were feminine girls - but being feminine isn’t a bad thing. I just wanted to hear why this portrayal of women interacting with women fits in with your feminist ideals.

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Hi Stella!
A writer’s personal beliefs always play out to some extent in that writer’s fiction, but not usually through perfect characters who always behave perfectly. 
Clary and Isabelle’s relationship is a deconstructionof the way that  girls are trained to view their peers as rivals. It investigates the trope that different kinds of girls as suspect because there can only be one kind of “good” girl—they’re both girls who have had primarily male friends, who are initially wary of each other and who come to love and be loyal to each other. By the time City of Glass comes around, Clary is “comforting Isabelle like a sister”, by the time City of Fallen Angels comes around, it isn’t Jace Clary calls on when she’s in danger and needs someone to save her life: it’s Izzy. There is no well-worn trope of “girls who initially dislike and then come to love each other through working together and mutual empathy”—that’s a plotline given almost exclusively in most cases to boys, or sometimes to a girl and a boy. 
I’m interested in writing books, not tracts, but I hope you can see how two girls who originally disliked one another learning to love and be loyal to one another is a deconstruction, not an example, of the “women pitted against one another” trope. And I hope that doesn’t make either of them Unlikeable Female Protagonists to you.
As for Tessa — after a bumpy intro she gets along fine with Jessamine  and it’s only later their relationship unravels because Jessamine is a terribly damaged person with PTSD who is not stable enough for a friendship with anyone. She is, however, always more hostile to the boys that to Tessa. Meanwhile it’s a bit odd to focus on Tessa’s relationship with Jessamine but not her relationships with any other women …? Tessa’s close female friendships  are with Sophie and Charlotte. She loves and respects Charlotte. She adores Sophie and their mutually supportive relationship crosses class barriers and lasts their entire lives. There’s a range of female relationships in TiD — Sophie’s total loyalty to Charlotte, Charlotte’s frustrated mother-love and eventual betrayed harshness to Jessamine — not just one, and Jessie, while important, is less, not more, of a lead character than Sophie or Charlotte.
 Thinking an uncharitable thought about another girl or not liking her when you first meet can be the result of a lot of things — from rubbing one another the wrong way to the internalized misogyny which makes us judge one another by different standards than we judge guys. But to write about that is to engage with it and write about all of it — the evolution of relationships, of working through the baggage we have as women and girls, and figuring out the people beyond the assumptions. Above all, characters should be people: that means female characters should be strong and weak, clever and thoughtless, selfless and selfish, brave and cowardly, giving and resentful. They should be everything, just like guys get to be everything. 
 I love writing female relationships (Emma and Cristina have an intense sromance, Lucie and Cordelia are parabatai) — the whole range of them. There is a massive world of complicated, often immoral, sometimes unlikeable male characters out there, with complex, layered, intense, fraught relationships with each other — when we talk about the way internalized misogyny judges the same kind of relationships when portrayed between women, we’re not saying we want more tension-free female relationships; we’re saying we want to see more female relationships written with the depth, contradictions, and indeed tension that exists in fictive relationships between men and we want people not to look at those relationships and judge the participants as good women or bad women depending on their temporary and evolving thoughts about each other. Not everyone is going to be friends with everyone, nor should they be: writing with your feminist ideals in mind doesn’t mean writing only one kind of female character, or being unwilling to show women and girls as sometimes flawed or not at their best. 

Jem/Tid questions

Hello! I absolutely love your books. I doubt you’ll see this or read it but if by any chance you do I would like to ask you a question. I recently seen the drawing of Tessa and Will introducing their son James to Jem and Jem appears to be crying? If so are these tears of joy or sadness? In of the Bane Chronicle books Magnus meets James and there is a scene where Magnus is at the institute Tessa and Will are running. When Jem comes into the scene James calls Jem Uncle Jem. I’m aware that they brought James up to think of Jem as an uncle but how does Jem feel about all this? Im sorry if im asking questions that cannot be answered but curiosity is killing me. :) — tiffany-tmi-tid
Well, I can only tell you what I think. I think Jem was crying out of a mixture of joy and sadness. Joy because he’s happy for Will and Tessa — obviously they’re thrilled to have a baby. (Not that you have to have kids to be happy, but they wanted them, so.) And he’s incredibly touched that they named the baby after him. (Jem=short for James.) So is crying because of that.
I am sure there is some part of Jem that is sad because he is cut off from the cycles of life: from birth, death, marriages, engagements, friendships, small human gestures and larger ones. I think he is not despairing. I think Jem is patient and believes in a better future, however long it may take that future to come. Brother Zachariah talks a little in City of Heavenly Fire about what it’s like to be a Silent Brother and how they don’t quite feel things like human beings do.
I do think Midnight Heir gives some insight in the manner in which Will and Tessa keep that part of Brother Zachariah that is Jem something to be anchored to, and Last Hours will give more. But I also think it’s okay for stories to have some open parts in which you’re free to intuit what you think. How doyou think Jem feels? The fondness he has for Will and Tessa, and they for him, and the happiness they all bring each other; even the fondness he has for his “niece and nephew”, Lucie and James, is there in Midnight Heir: it’s not from his point of view, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read into Magnus’ observations of him to suss out his feelings. 
This may seem like an odd question, but quite a few of my friends and I on tumblr were wondering what Jem and Tessa’s relationship was like during the couple months before CP2 began (like during that blank space between CP and CP2). A lot of us like to imagine what they are like in modern day (something I hope to see!) but we never really got to know too much about their relationship during the majority of their engagement. Strange question, I know, and you don’t have to answer! Some of us were just very curious :) — mrscarstairs
I would say that just like in Midnight Heir you can do some interpreting of Jem’s feelings through Magnus’ observations of him, you can do some back-engineering of Jem and Tessa’s relationship between CP and CP2 by the things we know about them in CP2.
We know they are happy with each other, but that both of them also have things that are making them unhappy — the threat of Mortmain hangs over them both: Tessa carries the burden of knowing about Will’s feelings, and Jem carries the burden of knowing he’s dying faster than he’s letting on.
We know Tessa is learning Mandarin for Jem, which is a pretty strong sign of commitment, learning a language for someone when they don’t even require it. We know Jem is writing music for Tessa. We know they don’t fight, since the fight they have in CP2 is their first.
I think I get a lot of these questions about Jem because there’s a sense that since we rarely get his POV we don’t know what goes on in his head. But we do know a lot! We know characters through their actions and their dialogue as much as we ever know them from seeing their thoughts (think how well we know Gatsby, when we never get his thoughts at all and he’s not the POV narrator.) For instance, Jem on how his interactions with Tessa between CP and CP2 have been informed by his determination that she not know the truth about his health:
In the beginning, when I first realized I loved Tessa, I did think that perhaps love was making me well. I had not had an attack in so long. And when I asked her to marry me, I told her that. That love was healing me. So the first time I was—the first time it happened again, after that, I could not bear to tell her, lest she think it meant a lessening of my love for her. I took more of the drug, to fend off another illness. Already by that time it was taking more of the drug to simply keep me on my feet than it used to take to keep me going for a week. I don’t have years, Will. I might not even have months. And I don’t want Tessa to know. Please don’t tell her
Kind of like we know exactly how Jem feels about Will taking drugs in CP, despite not being in his head, from his punching Will and subsequent speechifying. :)
One note about engagements in the Victorian era: Jem and Tessa would not have been given free reign to do a lot of physical stuff with each other. They could hold hands, take walks together, maybe kiss. They would be separated at nightfall and certainly no visiting of each other’s bedrooms would be all right (though Shadowhunters are always popping in and out of each other’s bedrooms, but J&T would be more watched after the engagement, not less.) This is why their making out in the music room in CP2 is a big deal and results in Jem being like “We must be married RIGHT NOW.”
Otherwise, there are certainly open spaces in between CP and CP2 in which one might imagine how Jem and Tessa’s specific interactions might have gone — but that’s okay! Sometimes it is fun to have space to let your imagination roam.

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