Posts Tagged ‘journal 6’

Journal #6: Female Favoritism in Octavia Butler’s Work

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

In our rapidly changing society there has always been a few issue that we have remained problematic for our culture as a group, and one of those issues is gender equality and the issues associated with it as a whole. Like many other genres of literature Science Fiction is no different in that it still deals with the issue of gender and sexuality. A writers own personal conceptions and biases can often shadow their work and Octavia Butler is a perfect example of this.

I am currently in Dr. Tweedy’s Octavia Butler Senior Seminar and, besides being an excellent pairing with this course, it has also afforded me the opportunity to become completely immersed in Butler and her interesting creative mind.

Recently we read one of  her three books that have been compiled into the Lilith’s Brood series called Dawn. In this novel, select members of the human race have been harvested and stored to be taken back to and woken at a much later time. A select human, Lilith is chosen to be the first of the humans to be woken by her alien captures, the Oankali. Lilith must me taught not to fear them at first and is then trained on how to relate to her captures. She is then seated with the huge responsibility of waking all of her fellow humans and helping them to acclimate to their new surroundings. Though Lilith is very unsure of how her fellow humans will take the shock of their interesting and scary situation, she decides that it will be best for her to wake only women first. She claims that women will be more receptive to the change and less violent towards the Oankali.

Though Lilith is only a mear character in a single work of Butler’s, this sexist undertone is also mirrored in a few of her other works. For instance, Butler seems to always choose strong female characters to play the role of the protagonist, such as the strong childlike fifty-something year-old half human, half Ina, Shori, in her vampire novel, Fledgling. Another prime example of Butler’s favoritism towards women is the strong black women, Dena who learns that she is a sort of time traveler in her hit novel Kindred. Through my various readings of Butler’s work I conclude that her strong attraction to independent empowered female protagonist could mirror her own personal desire for strong women.

Journal 6 – Dealing with the feminist question.

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

This is mostly stuff I posted about last time, but clearly, it would’ve been more relevant here. I’ll just keep it a little more brief.

I think the science fiction we’ve read has done a mixed job dealing with women’s equality. The Dispossessed, for instance, I think did a great job. It set up disparate societies that all held different beliefs, and the culture clash between different citizens was really fascinating–especially in the beginning when Shevek and the other doctor (it’s been a while; can’t remember his name) are talking about working with women and they engage in a philosophical discussion about the issue. They each challenge the other’s beliefs–“Surely you can’t believe that…”–and it’s really interesting to read. It comes down to the age-old discussion of whether or not women are equal on a physical level rather than just a social level, and I thought that Le Guin did a great job writing it.

On the other hand, I thought that Sawyer did an exceptionally poor job in Hominids. He introduces a character by having her get raped without any justification of her presence in the story, forever branding her in the reader’s mind as nothing more than “the one who got raped.” He has the men on the human side all functioning as either rapists or chauvinists, all judging Louise for her “incredibly sexy accent” or her beautiful body, and even Louise spends an entire paragraph simply thinking in her head about her bra and lacy panties and how they’re all about to get wet. And on the Neanderthal side, the women all live in a separate city so that they can all have their menstrual cycles at the same time and the men don’t have to deal with it. Adikor thinks he’s in the clear because he can’t smell period blood in the air, and hopes that all the women being on their period at once won’t affect his trial. Honestly, it’s all pretty disgusting. If Sawyer really is a feminist as Professor Rochelle mentioned, he did a pretty poor job expressing his views.

I don’t really remember most of the other stories dealing with equality of women. I guess you could argue that Cold Equations doesn’t do women justice either by treating a 17 or 18-year-old woman like a little girl, but that’s about it.

Journal 6

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Science fiction has a way of pointing out the social issues in our society. In many of the stories and novels we have read, feminism is one of those issues. Or more really the role that women have in society and how it needs to change. In two of the short stories that we read “Helen O’Loy” and “Cold Equations” the main issue was not a feminist one, but points out how in the time that these stories were written there were definite gender issues. The role that the robotic Helen O’Loy is built to fill is a very gendered role where all she does is cook and clean and wait for her man to come home. Yet, she is considered to be just like real women. Gender definitely plays a role in “Cold Equations” where the young stowaway is a girl, which in the mind of the pilot completely seems to change the issue of him tossing her off the ship. He even thinks of how the situation would be different if she was a man, how much easier it would be to eject her into space.

The stereotypical role of a woman as weaker and homemaker is something that women have been fighting to break away from. In both Homonids and The Dispossessed utopias are presented where women are thought of as equals. A utopia’s main point is to present the issues that the society reading faces, the flaws in that society are put into sharper relief when compared to the utopian. Le Guin very much points out how women are thought of us lesser than men through the juxtaposition of Anarres and Urras. Anarres is a utopian society where women and men have the same roles, even in regards to parenting. Whereas with Urras, a planet much like our own, women are thought of as not wanting or needing an education or important jobs. Sawyer’s novel Homonids also presents a utopian society where women and men are separate but still are thought of as equals.

Journal 6: “Separation Anxiety,” Liberal Prejudice, and Cultural Stagnation

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Evie Shockley’s story “Separation Anxiety” makes a social commentary on racism  by portraying a dystopian society where whites and African-Americans are almost completely separated from one another. The story takes place at the beginning of the 22nd century, about a hundred years in the future, to show what might happen if liberal prejudice continues to run unchecked.

In “Separation Anxiety” most African-Americans/blacks live in heavily guarded and restricted neighborhoods, or “ghettos.” White people are only allowed in by permission. The reason for separating blacks into ghettos was to prevent white racist hegemony and preserve black culture. This reasoning is an extreme example of liberal prejudice that Samuel Delaney mentions in his essay “Racism and Science Fiction.” The reasoning  in “Separation Anxiety” is prejudiced because it implies that African-American and white culture are inherently different and irreconcilable. Delaney faced a similar issue when the editor of Analog magazine, John W. Campbell, refused to publish one of his novels in a serial (or was it a story?) because he thought that Analog‘s mostly white audience would not be able to relate to a black main character even though he personally enjoyed Delaney’s work.

“Separation Anxiety” focuses on a group of dancers living in one of the ghettos. Various aspects of their lives, including “reproductive patterns,” dietary habits, and entertainment choices, are monitored by the “department of ethnic and cultural conservation.” Every week everyone who lives in the ghetto must put all of their waste in different color coded bins, so the government can closely observe their culture. This is another example of prejudice because it implies that black people cannot be trusted with their own culture.

One of the most interesting parts of the story is when main character, peaches, complains about how traditional dances they perform cannot be changed even by one step according to decc mandate. This shows that separation of African-American culture from white culture and emphasis on “preserving” African-American culture leads to cultural stagnation. For cultures to thrive and progress they must interact and trade cultural elements with other cultures. If African-Americans had been completely separated from whites in United States history we would not have the blues, jazz, or their many derivative forms today.

-Paul