Thursday, December 08, 2005

What is the first question one asks about a newborn baby? Closer home this may be rephrased as the first question after the ultrasound scan of the fetus. Is gender the one aspect of our identity that defines us more than anything else? Take the gender away and you are not you. Scary thought, huh !!!

Can gender be wished away? More than a century ago, the Bengali writer and feminist Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain had in her thought experiment Sultana's dreams designed Ladyland, a paradise where women after secluding their menfolk in purdah, made use of society's resources to enrich their own lives. Armed with education, science and technology they worked toward a peaceful world. Gender existed, but Sakhawat Hossein relegated the dominant and aggressor sex into the nether world.

Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness however is another gedanken experiment that approaches the gender issue from a refreshingly new angle. Rather than plan elaborate plots of gender equality Le Guin does away with the concept altogether. Individuals in her dreamland are not men or women but become so only during a small part of the year to reproduce. This switching back and forth is pretty random so that this month's Tom Cruise could be next month's Catherine Zeta-Jones. Or better still, Rock Hudson.

The plot is set in the planet of Winter where Genly Ai, an agent for the federation of Eukemen is on a trip. His assignment on Winter (also called Gethen in the language of its own people) is to convince Gethenians to join Eukemen, a collective federation of many worlds. Two dualities are missing on Winter or Gethen. First, Gethen is a planet of one season, that of extreme perpetual cold. Second these citizens have no defined gender so that they are neither male or female. Except when they need to reproduce.

Gethenian sexual physiology is strange. It works in active and inactive cycles. An individual is inactive or somer for 21 or 22 days. On the 22nd day hormonal changes initiated earlier by the pituitary kick in and the individual enters kemmer or active form. If she or he (let's for convenience sake call it IT) finds a partner also in kemmer, hormonal secretion peaks till a male or female physiology is established. It can now either give birth or be the sperm donating parent.

The fact that everyone between 17 and 35 or so is liable to be tied to childbearing implies that no one is quite throughly tied down here as women elsewhere are likely to be. What does this mean? Since a person can have either sexual role in all the kemmers of its lifetime "nobody is quite so free as a male anywhere"

The pluses are many. Because there are no preassigned genders there are no gender roles. Men don't have to work on being macho and women don't need to practice the delicate eye fluttering manoeuvres. Lack of gender means that there are no defined social roles either. No expectations that women have to be the caregivers and men providers. And since everyone can get to be a "mother", childcare is not the job of one gender. There is no gender oppression or subjugation and everyone is free to develop themselves as individuals. Above all one toilet can serve all. As if this is not enough, Gethenian society has no wars or conflicts. The compromised masculine role makes men (when they are men that is) toothless tigers. But it could be the cold too. A tour guide in Canada once told me that his country has had very few wars. "When you're freezing you tend to talk more sense," he had said.

Now the downside. Everyone needs two wardrobes (er....oops make that three namely male, female and neuter). Atleast until Gethen gets its Chairman Mao equivalent. Add to that cosmetics, lotions and the whole shebang. That is until the metrosexual equivalent arrives and both genders share the same make-up kit.

A thought provoking novel The Left Hand of Darkness covers new ground as it shows how evolutionary and social systems can interact in unique ways. It makes us pause and consider what could have been.


Blogger oakleyses said...

oakley sunglasses, cheap ugg boots outlet, louis vuitton handbags, burberry outlet online, christian louboutin outlet, ray ban sunglasses, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin, jordan shoes, nike outlet, louis vuitton, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren, michael kors outlet online, longchamp handbags, louis vuitton outlet online, michael kors outlet, cheap oakley sunglasses, tiffany and co, ugg australia, nike air max, christian louboutin shoes, longchamp outlet, michael kors handbags, michael kors outlet store, louis vuitton outlet, oakley vault, michael kors outlet online sale, kate spade outlet online, burberry outlet online, nike free, ugg boots clearance, oakley sunglasses, red bottom shoes, louis vuitton outlet, chanel handbags, cheap oakley sunglasses, longchamp outlet online, gucci handbags, ray ban outlet, cheap ugg boots, polo ralph lauren outlet, replica watches

10:52 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

north face pas cher, coach outlet store online, coach purses, ralph lauren uk, true religion outlet, burberry pas cher, north face, hollister uk, longchamp pas cher, coach outlet, mulberry uk, oakley pas cher, nike free, air max, air max pas cher, tn pas cher, kate spade outlet, ralph lauren pas cher, scarpe hogan, nike roshe run, nike free pas cher, nike blazer pas cher, lacoste pas cher, timberland pas cher, nike air max, louboutin, true religion jeans, ray ban uk, nike roshe, converse pas cher, air jordan, ray ban pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, hollister, hermes pas cher, nike air max, nike air force, michael kors uk, michael kors canada, guess pas cher, michael kors, new balance pas cher, coach outlet, longchamp, true religion outlet, true religion, lululemon outlet online, sac vanessa bruno, vans pas cher, michael kors outlet online

10:53 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

north face jackets, hollister clothing store, iphone 6s plus cases, insanity workout, iphone cases, nike air huarache, ghd, north face jackets, valentino shoes, vans outlet, soccer jerseys, birkin bag, wedding dresses, hollister, nike roshe, s6 cases, ralph lauren, abercrombie and fitch, iphone 5s cases, iphone 6 plus cases, oakley, herve leger, louboutin, lululemon outlet, reebok shoes, iphone 6 cases, new balance outlet, iphone 6s cases, jimmy choo shoes, bottega veneta, nike trainers, nfl jerseys, soccer shoes, nike air max, babyliss, timberland boots, mont blanc pens, asics shoes, celine handbags, longchamp, ferragamo shoes, ipad cases, beats headphones, mac cosmetics, baseball bats, p90x workout, instyler ionic styler, giuseppe zanotti, chi flat iron, mcm handbags

10:55 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

hollister canada, wedding dress, barbour, pandora jewelry, gucci, ugg, moncler, converse shoes, thomas sabo uk, montre femme, abercrombie, canada goose outlet, canada goose pas cher, air max, moncler, louis vuitton uk, juicy couture, swarovski jewelry, canada goose outlet, coach outlet, replica watches, supra shoes, louis vuitton pas cher, pandora jewelry, moncler outlet, barbour jackets, moncler, louis vuitton, marc jacobs handbags, moncler outlet, canada goose, ugg soldes, canada goose, canada goose, pandora charms, converse, moncler, canada goose, moncler, vans, pandora uk, sac louis vuitton, swarovski uk, karen millen, ray ban, doke gabbana outlet, canada goose outlet, ugg boots, uggs canada, links of london uk

10:57 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home