Tag Archives: Gender

[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.

Republic,Kingdom, and Gender Roles

The TvTrope that most interested me was the “Shown Their Work” trope. Writers should write about what they have learned in their novels by incorporating their ideas, philosophies, and criticisms within characters, governments, and plot. I agree that there is a point where the writer may take away from the plot by trying to teach the reader something the author has learned through her/his research. Ursula K. Le Guin is interested in Taoism which enters her novel “The Left Hand of Darkness” in a variety of ways. In the case of her novel I found that she didn’t spend enough time expressing her ideas on Taoism enough and how they relate and contradict to Duality.

For instance you have a culture of Gethenian’s who are androgynous, they find harmony as a whole. The criticism is that as humans we are naturally separated and thus find peace when we are together, Le Guin speaks of extremes in separation in the introduction of The Left Hand of Darkness,“almost anything carried to its logical extreme becomes depressing, if not carcinogenic. Le Guin argues that men and women, when non-androgynous, can be unhealthy and cancerous. We see this also in the governments that rule winter; both have their problems when separate. Could they be fixed when combined? Is Le Guinn attaching gender roles, and sexuality to various forms of government? I wanted more from Le Guin in terms of her ideas. I feel as though Le Guin was trying to make a larger argument on government and Taoism but didn’t want to ruin the plot by focusing too long on drawing out these ideas. I feel as though it hurt the novel. My favorite books seem to have plot lines and characters that work harmoniously with the drawing out of an idea, to see something in a similar way as the author.

[The Left Hand of Darkness]: Gender and Voices

“Though I had been nearly two years on Winter I was still far from being able to see the people of the planet through their own eyes.  I tried to, but my efforts took the form of self-consciously seeing a Gethenian first as a male, then as a woman, forcing him into those categories so irrelevant to his nature and so essential to my own” (Le Guin 12).

I think that one of the most essential aspects to Ursula Le Guin’s writing in The Left Hand of Darkness, is how despite it following multiple narrations, a benefit towards impartiality, it simultaneously expresses implicit cultural biases which turn Ai among others from being objective into subjective perspectives.  In this instance, the use of gendered nouns, like “male” and “female” play to the latent human biases that we as a society have, placing great emphasis on gender as a tool determinant to how we see others.  Now, this ambiguity from the norm for the reader, places someone reading the text (as a human) in the same confusion Ai feels, and makes the reader feel as though they are unraveling the same questions and learning along with Ai.  Further, the fact that Genly admits to even having problems differentiating after “two years,” further ingrains the dichotomy of gender in our minds as the reader, and makes us wonder about what how Gethenians function without something that society has dictated to being so important and how the solution they have must be so complicated and different from the norms to which the reader and Ai are used.

Le Guin,  Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace Books, 1976. Print.