Well Just Get Rid of Them Then

Posted February 13, 2010 by loved82press
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“Don’t you want men to return to Whileaway, Miss Evanson?”

“JE: Why?” (Russ, 10)

No Men Allowed!!!

Joanna Russ’s 1975 novel The Female Man explores alternate universes through the eyes of four women with the same DNA yet existing in different times.  Sound confusing?  You should try sorting through this novel with the shifting perspectives and points of view.  So let us try and sort through this together…  First there is Janet from the manless futuristic world called Whileaway.  Jennine who lives in a world in which the Great Depression was never corrected. Joanna who lives in a time most closely related to present time with a 70ish feel (at least it was present day when the book was written).  Finally, Jael who also lives in a future-like environment except everything seems to have gone all topsy turvy.

These phenomenons are explained in the novel as co-existing worlds created by fluctuating decisions which in turn spawned alternate universes that seem to occur simultaneously.  The novel describes it in this manner “Every displacement of every molecule, every change in orbit of every electron, every quantum of light that strikes here and not there – each of these must somewhere have its alternative.  It’s possible, too, that there is no such thing as one clear line or strand of probability, and that we live on a sort of twisted braid, blurring from one to the other without even knowing it…”(7).

I love the fact that one of the strands of reality eliminates all men and can find no valid use for them.  In all honesty, past and present day Feminists would be outraged at the idea of a patriarchally influenced text that even suggested the elimination of all women, even if it were for the betterment of society.  I truly believe that many of the female issues addressed are overly simplified and weighted heavily on the decisions of men.  True indeed, throughout history men have been the deciders, law makers, head of house hold, political everything, and so on and so fourth.  But in our present day (the real one) I find it valid and necessary to consider all contributing factors.  I am sure that there are quite a few men who understand the social complaints of women.  Just as there are quite a few Caucasian Americans that understand the social issues of African Americans.

My point being, although it may be fun to consider eliminating the oppressor, it does not eliminate the problem.  A utopian world with all women is hard for me to imagine because I have a sister.  Maybe that means I am bias, maybe it means I’m realistic; who knows?  This novel explores alternate realities based on alternate decisions.  An interesting alternate universe to consider would be one in which people listened to the concerns of one another, and treated others the way they want to be treated.  Hmmmm, imagine that.


Let’s Hear it from the Narrator

Posted February 6, 2010 by loved82press
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Is it just me or does Karen Joy Fowler’s 2002 science fiction short story, “What I Didn’t See” have an invisible narrator.  Interestingly, the narrator points out the discriminatory acts the men collectively bestowed upon she and Beverly while in the jungle, but fails to mention her own name while introducing the cast of characters.  Which allows the reader the uninterrupted privilege of affectionately remembering her as, Eddie’s old, pre-menipausal, wife who just happens to outlive them all.  Her story begins where the life of the last male character ends.

Image found at-http://www.pointsincase.com/columns/nick-moose/gorilla-suits-me-fine

Fowler is careful to point out to the reader, obvious sexist thoughts and behaviors.  Yet, she chose to leave the narrator unnamed.  Her involvement, words, and even her free time were all dictated by men while in jungle.  I would argue that the author left her nameless to further illustrate the ignoring of her significance by her male counterparts.

Both women were asked to participate in an anti-gorilla killing campaign.  A campaign which ironically involved one of the two women killing a gorilla.  The insightful men on this excursion believed, that a photograph of a woman completing the act of murder upon a male gorilla, would leave a “shooting gorillas is for girls” taste in the mouths of would-be gorilla hunting males.  Unfortunately, the men who thought up this brilliant scheme killed so many gorillas before launching the anti-gorilla killing campaign, that their utopia inspired dreams never came to fruition.

Still in all of this excitement….  We never got the narrator’s name.  She was rushed back to camp for her safety.  While playing cards, the men lost track of Beverly, so they had better send the other woman back before they begin to beat on their chests.  It is not until all the men are dead that the poor women gives her version of the story.  Which unfortunately is limited due to what she was unable to see, for her own protection of course.  She sure was lucky to have all of those smart men protecting her, for without them she may have interjected a useable opinion, suggestion, or even a method of reasoning to further their cause.  But even without her they managed with only a mild case of life long traumatization, but they are men and they can handle it.  They had Eddie’s wife’s best interest at heart even if they did not respect her opinion or know her name.

Internal Restraint

Posted January 30, 2010 by loved82press
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“If the pheromone were something only men had, you would do it”  (Butler, 268)

Octavia Butler’s 1987 short story “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” explores the boundaries of restraint and control within one’s self.  The focus is a  minority group within a realistic fictional society affected by a disease known as Duryea-Gode Disease (DGD). Image found @: fragilex.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/not-again/DGD is the side affect of a cancer curing drug called Hedeonco, referred to as the “magic bullet”.  What made this treatment magic is the fact that it is responsible for curing much of the worlds cancer and a few viral diseases.  The down side to the cure, and possibly the reason it’s called a bullet, is that the off springs of those treated with Hedeonco will have a 100% chance of contracting DGD.  Lynn Mortimer the tragic heroine in the story is the product of two DGD parents and simultaneously a rare gift of sorts to the grievous DGD community.

Lynn inadvertently yet naturally operates in her gifts but like most others living with DGD feels, trapped, alienated, and hopeless.  From the tender age of 15 Lynn was made well aware of the vicious nature of DGD.  Those that began to “drift”, or loose touch the rest of the world, were sent to madhouses where they began horrid rituals of screaming and self mutilation sometimes unto death.  I could not help but wonder what Butler was likening the disease to.  I suppose it could be an extreme case of anything.  Anything we are born into and unable to escape.  Anything that makes one feel trapped.  However, Butler presents an escape although it does not seem to be one initially, choice.

When Lynn and Alan go to see Naomi, Beatrice presents them with a healthy alternative to the bleak and destructive end of self mutilation.  She presents them with the choice of living a life in which their natural gifts are put to good use.  Lynn’s gift is that of assisting, comforting, and encouraging others affected by DGD.  Her rare duel heredity of the disease gives her a scent that is somewhat controlling.  This type of control enrages Alan because he is already leading a life with so many limitations.  “It’s something you can do.  Play queen bee in a retreat full of workers.  I’ve never had any ambitions to be a drone.” (Butler, 283), he states after being propositioned to assist in Beatrice’s mission.

This story is powerful because life is full of issues beyond the control of man/womankind.  We cannot choose our parents.  We cannot choose our race.  We a cannot choose our nationality.  We cannot choose the reason others will discriminate against us  or what diseases will affect us.   What we can choose is how we will deal with these inevitabilities.  Will we destroy ourselves or choose to be productive inspite of our limitations?

“Male” Mannerisms

Posted January 26, 2010 by loved82press
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"Burning dinner is not incompetence but war." -Marge Piercy

Marge Piercy’s 1976 novel Women on the Edge of Time explores life outside of an oppressive box.  She creates a fantastical world in which people are recognized by their strengths and interests as opposed to their gender or race.  She takes her readers on a mind expanding journey that challenges what most have accepted as a social Truth, and then removes the boundaries containing such truths through the eyes of the story’s main character Consuelo Ramos.

Consuelo, also called Connie in the story, is a woman who has had her version of reality beaten into her.  As a child and a blank slate she could see the faults in the society in which she was a part of.  She was angered at the unfair treatment of women in her own home.  She noticed that her mother treated her older sibling Luis, a male child different and better then she.  Connie also noticed that her mother lived a thankless life and vowed never to be like her.  “I’ll never grow up to be like you, Mama!   To suffer and serve” (38).  To which her mother responded; “You’ll do what women do.  You’ll pay your debt to your family for your blood. “(38)  Connie’s mother knew something that young Connie would not be aware of until she had a man of own, children of her own,  discrimination all her own.

However, all of these assumed truths come to an abrupt halt once Connie encounters Luciente, the woman who moves like a man.  Connie’s expectations of the manner in which a woman should look, act, and move were so ingrained that she did not recognize a woman outside of her projected expectations.  “Lucient spoke, she moved with that air of brisk unselfconscious authority Connie associated with men.  Luciente sat down, taking up more space than women ever did.  She squatted, she sprawled, she strolled, never thinking about how her body was displayed” (59).

Without even noticing Connie had become her mother.  She stopped seeing what she saw as a child, which was what women deserve as opposed to what was tossed to them.  Like her mother she had given up on the idea that she could live her own life… until Luciente.  As I traveled through the journey of the pages of this book, I had the pleasure and the opportunity of digging a little deeper in order to see what “truths” the little girl in me had given up on.  What unnoticed thoughts have crept into my mind and caused me to become a coconspirator in my own oppression?  Luciente, a most appropriate name for one who enlightens both inside and outside of the story.

Love and Marriage, Duty or Comfort?

Posted January 17, 2010 by loved82press
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Picture used is from the CarriageWorks website

James Tiptree and Alice Eleanor Jones used their imaginations to create societies with drastically different ideologies on sex and relationships.   Tiptree’s 1972 story “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side”, entertained the idea of intimate relationships between aliens and humans.  Jones’s story “Created He Them” was written seventeen years prior to Tiptree’s and allowes the reader to peak into the lives of an unhappy married couple with certain responsibilities and an uncertain future.  Both texts specified the reason for sex and relationship within each social order.  However, this is precisely where the commonality between sex and intimate relationships ends for these two texts.

Tiptree used the voice of the mysterious stranger to express some major concerns humans on earth faced.  One of which he grazed over early in the story and mounted to an enlightening climax towards the end.  As the reporter probes the stranger for more and more information regarding foreign life outside of earth, the stranger states “Go home….  Go home and make babies.  While you still can.”  (161)  The stranger does not specify why this matters initially, but by page 166 the problem is clear.  “I’d trade – correction, I have traded – everything Earth offered me for just that chance.  To see them.  To speak to them.  Once in a while to touch one.  Once in a great while to find one low enough, perverted enough to want to touch me.” 

This mysterious stranger was afforded the luxury of choice.  He could choose to live on earth or outside of its realm.  He could choose to date humans or another race of beings.  This made me wonder; what would Ann from Jones’s story do with such choices?  Her world was absent of any worthwhile choice.  Ann says, “I cannot kill you, Henry, or myself.  I cannot even wish us dead.  In this desolate, dying, bombed-out world,… with its limping economy and its arrogant Center in the country that takes our children – children like ours; the others it destroys – we have to live, and we have to live together….  we are among the tiny percentage of the people in this world who can have normal children.  We hate each other, but we breed true.”  (75)

Ann’s story has a concept of relationship and responsibility drastically different from that related in Tiptree’s story.  The mysterious stranger became so obsessed and engrossed in alien culture that he was unaware of the rate of human reproduction on earth.  He even had the pleasure of taking an alien wife, no wait, she wasn’t an alien but she was dressed like one; right?  Either way he had options that were out of this world, literally.  The sad truth is neither character seems satisfied with their lives, but at least the stranger gets to choose what type of life that is.  What’s more, he chose his companion based on the mutual desires they had for one another, in his words  “We give each other … comfort” (167), what Ann wouldn’t do for that sort of comfort.  We can only imagine.

Why Henry, why? A blog in response to question #2

Posted January 9, 2010 by loved82press
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     The story Created He Them by Alice Eleanor Jones, has a looming “that’s just the way it is” theme.  The world as we know it, is no more.  The world of this time was described as a  “desolate, dying, bombed-out world” (Jones 75), full of wastelands and irregular seasons and even more irregular treatment of children.  It seems as though the poor had been reduced to two categories; breeders and non-breeders.  The breeders were given the daunting task of repopulating the world, without the priviledge of enjoying their children or even watching them grow.

     Would the story be told any different from Henry’s point of view?  Absolutely!  His existence is one devoid  human attachment or even compassion.  His role in the family structure does not compel him to interact with his children or even respect his wife.  Therefore, his understanding of his wife’s emotional outburst in response to the thought of rearing another child only to give it away after three years, is nonexistent.  This society was constructed such that Henry’s only concerns are to work and impregnate Ann.

     One might argue that he has simply accepted the way things are.  If this is in fact Henry’s reasoning for his behavior, it would be pointless to bond with his children and painful to consider the concerns of his wife.  While others may suggest that he is just an a– hole.  Where do you stand?  Is Henry simply a product of his environment, who has accepted “the way things are”?  Or is he an a– hole? 

     I suppose if one considers all of the issues beyond the control of the members of this society, there may be some justification for Henry’s inconsiderate behavior.  Yet all issues considered, I find no explanation for the ungrateful and disrespectful  manner in which he addresses Ann.  despite their social obligations there is no excuse for his cruelty.  Despite their inability to change the social atmosphere and the inevitable rites of passage of every healthy three year old child, Henry had the ablity to change the atmosphere in his home and chose not to.  He disregarded the severe emotional trauma his wife and children endured and only  considered the trivial issues that plagued him throughout each day. 

     So to answer the question, yes.  Had the story been written from Henry’s perspective it would have been drastically different.  It would have omitted the serious woes of his wife and society as a whole and discussed the temperature of his coffee and breakfast.