Ursula K Le Guin’s novel, The Telling is a fascinating criticism of society.  The novel takes us on the journey of a woman named Sutty that observes other cultures.  Through her we learn of these people that are hiding and living outside of societal norms by telling their stories and teaching the way things used to be; not what The Corporation has implemented.  The Corporation moved into these societies and put in place and entirely new culture, making it illegal to even tell of the past.

The Corporation is a representation of “The Man.”  “They believe that their beliefs should prevail absolutely, that no other way of thinking should exist.” (Le Guin, 200)  Le Guin set them up to represent the force that has commercialized everything and is taking away the innate meanings of things.  One of the main themes connected to this idea is the value of religion.  From reading this novel I would guess that Le Guin is an atheist because she portrays The Corporation who prays and are believers in such a negative light and she portrays the people from Okzat-Ozkat in such a more positive light and they don’t pray or believe in god as a creator or even singular figure.  On Page 109 Sully comments on how she has come to realize that there is no connection between morality and religion and being that The Corporation creates the religion it’s a direct hit on the corruption of society.  The idea that the people in Okzat-Ozkat don’t pray, but instead wish, is really interesting to me.  She describes praying as begging someone else to fix something for you.  While some people do pray to help others, there are a lot of superficial things that go along with it (like asking to win the lottery etc.) instead of just wishing and hoping for something.  Praying is also something that people do as a ritual and therefore the almost become desensitized to what it really should be.

With the world moving as fast as it does, we seem to do this not only with religion but with almost every aspect of our lives.  There is a quote that sums up everything I took away from the book and what I believe was Le Guin’s main point.  “The difference, Sutty told her, was between somebody sitting thinking after a meal and somebody running furiously to catch the bus.” ( Le Guin 111) People have gotten so caught up in what’s coming next that they don’t appreciate what they have now.  We’re throwing out all our old way of doing things for technology and superficial things and leaving behind a certain quality of life.

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The idea of perfection through science is a pretty common theme in feminist science fiction.  In my opinion, it’s the authors (which are all women) critiquing the pressure put on society, by society, to achieve an unrealistic eugenic-like form.  This is no exception to Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods. The idea of genetically altering yourself to look more like a twelve year old because that’s what someone wants, may seem a bit exaggerated, but it’s honestly not that far out of the park.  The idea of attaining this pinnacle state of what’s wanted of you and being somewhat of a ‘god’ is unrealistic and unattainable yet we strive to perfect ourselves and our species.  I think that “back in the day” when science fiction like this was written is was more so because it wasn’t really something that people could see happening, but I think that because Winterson wrote it only a few years ago it’s almost a wakeup call in that we are closer than we ever imagined we would be.  There was one quote in the book that particularly struck me as very real and very blunt.  “Humans have given all their power to a ‘they’” (Winterson 65) We absolutely do.  Aside from any gene altering topic, we absolutely give society the power to decide how we should be.  The picture in my article is from an extremely controversial Ralph Lauren ad where they altered their photo so much that the model looks alien in her shape.  People look at these ads and as much as you can say that you know it’s not realistic, subconsciously you assimilate it to that pinnacle you’re striving for.  The idea that we are no longer personally in control of what our image is as a society is extremely scary.  The power is all in the media to construct our reality and the idea of the average person is portrayed as this alien model…as this stone god.

This link provides some really interesting information on body image and how it plays a role in society and the media.  http://body-image.suite101.com/article.cfm/body_image_and_the_media

This is also a link that talks about the pictures featured in the post. http://shine.yahoo.com/event/fallbeauty/image-of-ultra-thin-ralph-lauren-model-sparks-outrage-521480/

In my reading of Dawn by Octavia I picked up on a lot of the evolutionary references.  This huge war on Earth leads to the extinction of the human race.  The science fiction part comes in to play in that the humans that do survive are not what they were before, but more evolved because of artificial selection by the Oankali.  History shows that after every extinction on Earth there was a new explosion of life, each time seeming to produce creatures more advanced than the last.  The theory of extinction is that organisms die out because they are not fit enough to in their environment, which Jdahya points out.  He says that humans would never have survived because of our two flaws, intelligence and our hierarchy system.  He goes on to talk about genetic engineering and how it enables them to “survive as an evolving species instead of specializing ourselvess into extinction or stagnation.”  They are ever evolving, and they are working towards making the race on earth the same way through what seems to be eugenics (he tells Lillith that he can make sure her offspring has a good viable gene mix).  The main idea of evolution is that it has no goal, it just is what it is and works within natural selection.  Here, it is suggested that this medusa-like species is the driving force behind it.

Within the story there is also another level of hierarchy.  Lillith is told that her people will end up being a mix of humans and Oankali, making them more fit to the new environment (meaning more fit than humans).  The Oankali say that they have no hierarchy, however the entire basis of evolution is on a hierarchy.  The Oankali are the most fit because they have the ability to adapt themselves to whatever environment they are in, these new humans are next because the Oankali are sharing their genetic advancements with them, and then you have humans who destroyed themselves and aren’t fit at all.  The other downfall that humans have according to Jdahya is intelligence, however in my reading; I would consider the Oankali extremely intelligent in how they ‘perceive’ everything and have been able to systematically genetically enhance themselves and others.  There is a tendency for hypocrisy with people on the top of the hierarchy in that they often don’t see that what they are doing is exactly what they are trying to fix.   Is this maybe Butler pointing out the ignorance of whoever is on top of the hierarchy?

In thinking about the section Female Man by Joanna Russ that I found to be the funniest, I really enjoyed the section where we are introduced to the “WHAT TO DO IN EVERY SITUATION” book.  The references on pages 45-48 of these “books” that work as social rules are quite hilarious, however in the sense that language creates reality; Russ presents the reality in a very real sense.

“Do not get glum when you are no longer understood, little book.  Do not curse your fate.  Do not reach up from readers’ laps and punch the readers’ noses.

Rejoice, little book! For on that day, we will be free.” (Russ 214)

You have to ask here, free from what?  In keeping with the theme that language creates reality, I think Joanna Russ is trying to recreate it.  Even in the very beginning when Janet compares the little blue and pink books saying that “They do fit together so well” she is told to “Throw them both away.”  By throwing away the little books that are telling them what to do, say, and act, you then have the ability to create your own way of living.  In writing The Female Man, Russ borders on breaking the fourth wall with her last statement.  Her book The Female Man is one of multiple possibilities that isn’t necessarily classified.  At the beginning of VI, opens with a statement about tying ones shoes and that you either do it or you don’t…but then you can do it slowly, quickly, etc.  Her book is the liberated one of endless possibilities, of new language.

I also was thinking that perhaps when she was referring to the pink and blue books fitting together, she could be referring to the male and female.  Being that pink and blue tend to be the traditional colors for each sex, it would make sense to say that they “fit together” especially in a sexual sense.  By Russ having her character say to get rid of both, she could be referring to getting rid of two genders/sexes separated by how they are supposed to act.  The world that she creates with the novel and the women in it support this.

Liberation: The act or process of trying to achieve equal rights and status.  The ideal of liberation is at the center of every feminist’s heart and the goal that we strive for.  Whether it’s freeing yourself within the jungle, attaining the right to hunt, or the liberation of the mind when you realize how much more there is, liberation is often what it takes to induce change.

In Karen Joy Fowlers’ short story “What I Didn’t See”, the female protagonist is missing a huge piece in her view of the world.  I don’t think that this is a story so much meant to be about the oppression of women, but the oppression of the self.  It’s a very accurate portrayal of women, and humans for that matter.  We have a tendency to get so wrapped up in our cause that we end up consumed by ourselves and we stop seeing other options.  We are creatures of purpose and I think that once we have a goal, we strive to attain only it, which is unfortunate in the sense that our one track minds don’t always allow us to keep our perspectives as wide as they could be.

“I’ve learned some things in the years since, so there’s a strong temptation now to pretend that I felt the things I should have felt, knew the things I might have known.” (Fowler)  This piece of science fiction reminded me of our discussion in class about inclusiveness.  The idea of the middle class white woman protesting, and then realizing the disabled woman and the black woman are also being discriminated against in the same way.  When she finds the family of gorillas she remarks how she is surprised by how human they are.  She also tells us that she would free the woman and child gorilla.  Her realization that the lives of the gorillas are more important than just game reveals her previous perception of them when she did not regard them as anything close to equals (she was morally superior and therefore has every right to shoot them).

The situation with Beverly and how it is left up to interpretation that she ‘liberated’ herself and went to live in the jungle shows the narrow perception of the narrator.  When her husband reveals everything that happened after she left, she has an ‘aha’ moment where she realized she never considered that a woman might do that.  Her sense of regret and her hindsight looking back on the situation and everything she may have taken for granted is Fowler telling us to realize exactly what we are doing.  The narrator missed everything about the mission in the jungle, except for the mission.  She missed the compassion of the people, and even the compassion of her husband.

**The definition of liberation was found at the following link:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liberation

In reading Octavia Butlers, “The Evening and then Morning and the Night”, (I found myself taken aback by the very blunt and extreme nature of her writing.  Just to praise the author, I loved the way that it was written because with such a topic as suicide, she went about it with a smoothness that I hadn’t seen before.  In reading the short but salient story, I didn’t see the message of biology or nature to be as poignant as the message of mental health.  This story shows the contradiction of control, communication and the fight within the self to either submit to the way things are or fight against the grain.

In 1980 Borderline Personality Disorder was officially named as a disorder that could be diagnosed and treated.  A huge part of BPD is that you logically may know something is one way, but your behavior and reaction is entirely separated from that.  In the story, DGD shares a lot of the same characteristics as BPD in that is often results in self destructive behaviors, involves a feeling of being trapped within yourself and has levels of anxiety and paranoia.  I think that it’s quite possible that Butler could very easily have gotten a lot of her ideas from BPD (which would make sense because it wasn’t until the late 80’s that it became more prevalent in society and the story was written in 1987).

In analysis of the characters, you can easily see their behaviors and characterize them as having something similar to BPD.  The issue of control here is the author‘s biggest statement.  There are two main levels of control in life; the control of the self and the control of everyone else.  The way that the DGD’s participate in self mutilation is described as them scratching and tearing away at themselves as if trying to relieve themselves from their own bodies.  They are trapped within their own persona which is then trapped by the reality of everyone else (society, Beatrice, Lynn, the wards etc.).  Their depressive switch of when they drift is a very bi-polar trait that often associates with BPD in that they switch from seeing things logically enough to do things such as having children or even just work on a clay project, to committing murder and suicide.  The lives of these people are compared to the lives of bees.  Alan has issues with being controlled by the queen and being turned into nothing but a drone so he chooses to fight it.  In turn, this may lead to his detrimental depressive episode which like many other DGD’s leads to suicide.  When they find out that Dilg is a place where, while people aren’t self mutilating, they are being controlled without their knowledge.  The idea that he isn’t actually choosing to be calm, but rather that by Lynn personally interacting with him he is calmed and more at peace than ever, shows that we are never really in control of ourselves because we are not the only ones in our lives.  Butler is making the statement that living within ourselves is what leads to our detriment.  Being trapped within ourselves whether it’s coming out as being homosexual, having paranoia and mental health issues, or just not being understood by everyone else is what drives us crazy.  They never say why the DGD’s commit suicide and murder, but we do know that they are looked at differently and misunderstood.  One could guess that the reason that they only live to a young age is because they aren’t understood and are living only within themselves.  The reason that people in Dilg are stable is because they feel like can relate to someone like Beatrice or as revealed, Lynn.  The title correlates with the whole idea of this as well.  The self is the only thing that is there in the evening, the morning and the night; it is the only thing that is always there and never leaves unless the body leaves it in death.

Additional information outside of my knowledge was obtained at the following website:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder

Between this class, and another class, I have recently come into an understanding of the importance of communication. In Piercy’s novel, Woman On The Edge Of Time,communication (or the lack there of) contributes to a major theme in the novel. The default of the population is a white, heterosexual male. In the novel, the main character Connie is a Hispanic woman with possible mental issues making her almost opposite of the default. When she is checked into the ward at the beginning of the novel doctors (which at that time were mostly white males) completely discard all of her perspective about the incident.  Ironically enough, doctors are supposed to be some of the most perceptive people, they are trained in the novel to not listen to the patients which is increasingly making them more close minded and less able to handle patient situations in a proper manner. You see the breakdown in communication again when Connie learns that Luciente and the people in her world talk to cats saying “Either you’re putting me on or you’re crazier than I am.” In this situation you could see Connie as the default because technically, this new society sprung from her people (people of her time).  Her views on everything in this new world are similar to those of the default in her society.  To Connie, everything in this world is strange, especially in the way that they raise children. Everyone in this future has such great communication with themselves and everything involving their environment where in Connie’s world, it is overly exaggerated that she has no connection to her world. She’s not only in isolation in the ward, but in life she has no connection to anyone. Her husband, her daughter, Dolly, the pimps and everyone else she refers to had either left her, or she alienated them.  When she is taken into this future world that she is taken into, she is so appalled by anything that is not of her norm.

It’s a reoccurring cycle that the default sees everything as ridiculous except for what is the default in their own world.  Communication is such a barrier in Connie’s situation as it is in most situations where there is conflict.  The doctors are so uncertain about what to do with the “crazy” that they ignore any possibility of crazy not necessarily meaning bad.  Connie does the same with those of the future. The level of uncertainty between relationships is creating such a wall that nobody seems willing to break down. Piercy is making a huge statement about relationships in this novel. She outwardly points out the judgmental attitude of society and shows us reason to open our minds. Connie is an example of what happens because of that judgment and Luciente and her world is an example of what it would be like without that wall of uncertainty.

I found the story “Wives” by Lisa Tuttle to be a perfect example of the myth of continuity.  I immediately thought of consumerism and how all of the things that these wives are being made to wear (make up, clothing, skin tights etc.) are all items that are given to them to make them fit a specific looking genre of woman.  As a girl, I never really thought about why I wore make up or did things to “doll” myself up.  I suppose myself, and other women do it because it’s what has always been done; it’s what our mothers do, and what their mothers did.  It’s the myth of continuity.  All the women that we see on posters or in magazines set the standards so that companies can produce goods that we will use to make ourselves as close in comparison to those standards as possible.  The story is a perfect example of this considering that these wives (they’re not even women) are given things and told things by the men of earth to make them look like women.  They have things to make it look like they can attain the “proper double-breasted effect.”  When Doris and Susie are together in their “holy place” it is stated that “they forgot that they had ever been creatures known as wives.”  I think that this is a bold statement on Tuttle’s part in saying that women have completely forgotten what it is to just be person in humanity rather than this gender differentiated role.  We have developed into the standards of society where we continue to be what we’re “meant” to be when in actuality, we’ve fallen behind the curtain and we watch the men perform in the lives that we could have.

Acceptance of anything outside the social norm wasn’t really on a high point in this era.  Women were all pressured to look the same, act the same and be the same.  This applied to every group that was a minority and being controlled by society’s creation of culture.  At one point, Tuttle critiques this fear of deviation and tells the reader that natural is what you feel and nothing else.  “They both felt it was a holy place, and it seemed right to mate there.”  Relating it to the time it was written I would say that it is more about acceptance and that in a world of equality it wouldn’t matter if two women were together.  Relating it to now, I thought of the current debates over gay marriage.  I think that it’s purposeful that the author called the place holy.  I think that it says that, the part of love that is holy is not that it’s between a man and a woman, but that it’s there and pure.

Did you know that pantyhose were invented by a man?

http://inventors.about.com/od/qstartinventions/a/pantyhose.htm

Since “Created He Them” by Alice Eleanor Jones, was told from the woman’s perspective it shows you the inner angst that women had towards suppressive men during the uprising of feminism.  I went back and forth with my emotions towards Ann Crothers and her situation.  The way that Ann goes as far as to know exactly what pitch her voice needs to be in, in order for her ‘husband’ to come down for breakfast with the least amount of hassle possible evokes a lot of sympathy for Ann from the reader.  The relationship she has with her husband is so emotionally and even physically abusive when she mentions that she’s worried he might hit her after he demands for sex at the end.  The fact that she has only 3 cigarettes rationed for her daily, and that her neighborhood is so poor, including her living without sufficient electricity and the like makes you pity her.  At first I felt enraged with the behavior of the husband, however, you have to consider the role of Ann as well. It is her fault that she didn’t get the hell out of that situation like she expressed so much how she wanted to.  I believe that this is the author commenting on how people tend to stay in relationships where they feel trapped.  Here they are both trapped by role in society, but Jones is also showing the cycle of an abusive relationship.

1)       The submission of women to men because they are ‘more powerful and the leaders of the house.’

2)       “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” –JFK

I found myself concentrating on two main points in the short story; both are illustrated above.  The first I follow through most of the story up until Ann bursts out at her husband exclaiming how the bonus that they will get from her pregnancy should not go into stocks, but instead to the welfare of the family.  “Don’t talk to me about the future, Henry Crothers! I want my future now.” (74 Larbalestier). There was quite a bit of empowerment in that little speech and the reply of her husband telling her that she almost looks pretty when she’s angry is ridiculously frustrating and reminded me of every situation I have been in with someone that pessimistic and egotistical.  Her threat to kill him because she is bigger, his return of a laugh, and her remark about how handsome he was when he laughed, led to her final submission of the story where she would soon find herself in bed with her husband.  Being that this couple is one of the few that can reproduce ‘normal’ children, the government has put them together for the purpose of procreation (my second point).  Her submission in the end, and remarks about why she cannot wish either of them dead because they have to live, is a politically driven message critiquing the extent people should stretch themselves for the benefit of others.  Ann, and her husband for that matter, is living in a hostile environment, unhappy and discontent with their lives and their future (or lack thereof).  The worry of the husband (simulating the government?) has a main focus of money and building for the future.  What about now?  What about happiness in the moment?  Why can’t someone shake the Earth a little and branch away from the path they are expected to take?  Maybe this is Jones asking women, how long do we have to live within ourselves before we’re able to break into the world as people that can live for the sake of living in happiness instead of living for the sake of what others think we should be.  In the story, it is made clear that the woman cannot drive, are bound to the kitchen and are good for little more than sex.

Hello!  I will be writing this blog for an english literature class I’m taking at OSU.  The topic is women in science fiction so I’ll be giving my opinions on the texts and concepts of the class 🙂