Tag Archives: 1900s

[Historical Line]: Heteronormativity and Science Fiction

Historical Line

1. Sultana’s Dream (1908)
Reversing the gender norms perpetuates the same forms of oppression that we see in the 1900s.
Seems to critique or criticize these stereotypes, but at the same time view them with a form of permanency.

2. There Will Come Soft Rain (1950)
The entwinement of the home and female gender norms is perpetuated here, dictating an interrelatedness that even after an apocalypse persists.

3. Aye and Gomorrah (1967)
Gender norms change slightly with female characters being sexually aggressive and pursuing sexuality, differing from works like The Space Merchants, where sexuality by female characters was seen with a negative light and as a commodity to be used by men for gains.

4. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
Attempts to transcend gender norms altogether, however still has occasional moments in the minds of the reader where this fails, hearkening back to heteronormativity

Thread: How perceptions of gender norms evolved and changed in the works we had read.

Interestingly, the works we have read have progressed largely throughout the years in terms of how gender norms and heteronormativity is viewed and accepted in a hypothetical society. Starting with “Sultana’s Dream,” the traditional gender norms are reversed, allowing a keen insight as to the perceptions of how one ought to view the status quo. Despite claims that a world where men are locked away in their homes is a utopia, there are still signs of oppression which both serves to criticize the oppressive state of the 1900s, but simultaneously contends that regardless of gender, social norms hold a pervasive level of permanency. This permanency is continued further through “There Will Come Soft Rain,” where even after a nuclear holocaust, the fact that the robotic house still is largely defining itself based on a desire to serve its former female owner plays to the idea that the home is a woman’s domain. The steadfastness of this is made symbolic by the fact that everything else in society was destroyed, however these gender norms were still around and held true. Next, in “Aye and Gomorrah,” we do start to see some divergence, pointing to the idea that women can be sexually promiscuous on their own right, confronting the social norms entrenched throughout works like The Space Merchants, and recognizing that women’s sexuality is not a commodity, but rather a desire, much like any other. Finally, in The Left Hand of Darkness, we see real attempts at breaking down social mores, rather than having any conception of gender at all, we are introduced to aliens who have no gender in their society at all. While a noble attempt by LeGuin, she too falls for the plight of one who lives in a society governed by gender norms, and subconsciously includes parts of her work which point to the characters having genders or gendered traits, despite actively attempting to avoid this. As we read through these works, we notice a marked progression, reflecting the idea that as society becomes more and more accepting of things like feminism and breaking down gender and sexual definitions so too does the literature.