Once upon a time, like 100 gazillion years ago (okay, 18) I was getting my Ph.D. in the sociology of American Jews (more useless than a degree in English, Theatre or Journalism). I read a book that has stuck with me for this many years. It was a book about American Jewish women who chose (usually through marriage) to join the Orthodox Jewish community. The reason most of these women gave about why they were willing to ‘give up’ some of their marital rights (I would argue that Jewish women have always have more rights than most Christian/Catholic women, but we’ll ignore that for now) was that they were tired. It was the early 90s that these women would have been answering survey questions, but they were tired of fights about whose job it was to unpack the dishwasher, who should stay home with the children, who should do X, or Y or Z. They found it comforting to go ‘back’ to a world where there was no question–it just WAS. They would stay home, they would cook, they would unpack the dishwasher, they would do X, Y or Z whilst their husbands did A, B or C. They didn’t feel ‘lesser’ for these choices, they just felt relieved to end the fighting.
So, sometimes when I read the Outlander books–especially the later ones–I think about that article and that survey, and wonder how much of what we like in these books come from that same place. The idea that men were men. Men defended, men hunted and men were, well, men. Yet at the same time we all live in the 20th-21st century and don’t WANT to feel those things. We want to feel liberated and free from typical gender roles. So we love Jamie because he is A Man. But we love Claire because she challenges that. It allows us to feel both things at once.