Friday, February 17, 2012

Gender Through "Bloodchild"

In “Bloodchild,” Octavia Butler explores societal gender roles in a number of ways by placing ‘man’ in ‘woman’s’ position. Gan is a young male terran (human) who is destined to carry the children of T’Gatoi, a female centipede-like alien whose species is known as the Tlic. As such, Gan assumes the role of ‘woman’ in society, while T’Gatoi does so for ‘man.’ By doing this, Butler is able to force men and women to see though the eyes of the opposite sex in regards to the gender roles they assume. Just like women are biologically destined to bear children for the survival of the human race, Terrans, who are physically and politically weaker than the Tlics, are destined to carry the latter’s eggs. Tlics need hosts in order to survive. From here, Butler explores the intangibles associated with this relationship; specifically ones that outline the unequal status women have in our society, a status that in this case reflects them as ‘hosts.’ Until recently, women were literally viewed as men’s property. As ‘property’ their primary roles in society were to cook, clean, bear and raise children. Laws even allowed men to legally beat and rape their wives. Today, at least in our culture, things have obviously changed. However, as Bulter reveals, there are still remnants/similarities between the way women were treated then and the way they are now. For example, childbirth is very dangerous. Until recently in human history (and still today in certain underdeveloped parts of the world), it was very ommon for both a woman and her child to die during childbirth. Despite modern medical advances, such a procedure is still dangerous. Furthermore, even if everything goes well, a woman still has to deal with severe mental and emotional changes, not to mention the pain associated with carrying and delivering a child. Society however doesn’t focus on those things. Instead, it focuses on the ‘beauty’ of childbirth; the joy of buying baby clothes, furniture, and other accessories; the happiness tied with adding another member to the family; etc. Though society acknowledges the risks associated with childbirth, it does not focus on them nearly to the same extent as the benefits. Considering our society is still predominately paternalistic, I do not think this a coincidence. The result is that most women grow up believing it is their duty to society (to some extent, again depending on where you live), their families, and themselves to bear children, as opposed to being provided with ‘other’ information that could help them make more of an informed decision. I guess the question is then, “If the risks of childbirth are presented just as the benefits, would less women in our society choose to bear children?”

Friday, February 10, 2012

Reflection OR Style

The first images that came to mind when I used to think of Sci-Fi were those from Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Gallactica. Until this class I always associated Sci-Fi with that type outer space unrealism that characterizes the settings, plots, and conflicts of those shows. However, “Liar,” “Frankenstein,” “The Algorithms for Love,” “Second Variety,” Take Your Choice,” “Flowers of Algernon,” and “Burning Chrome” changed my perspective. With that said, my former perspective certainly wasn’t limited to the “Star Wars/Star Trek” notion, but it also wasn’t as expansive as it is now. By “expansive” I mean the realism of the stories we’ve read so far. For example, all of the stories we’ve read, except for one, (“Second Variety”) didn’t contain any violent battles for survival like the shows and films of above. On the contrary, they dealt with realistic emotional issues in realistic sort of ways. In “Liar” readers are introduced to four primary characters, one of them being a robot. The story focuses on the emotional/mental conflicts of the three human characters. The robot, though important, is secondary to these conflicts. Furthermore, the conflicts themselves are realistic in that they involve love, jealousy, and fear.

 “Frankenstein” was probably the last story (of the ones we’ve read) that I would associate with Sci-Fi. I think I would attribute this to the time period it was written in. My thoughts, notions, and preconceptions of the 18th century are anything but “scientific.” In other words, they are the complete opposite of the preconceived notions of Sci-Fi I had before this class. However, I now see “Frankenstein” as incredibly scientific for its time, so I guess I now see it as a “Sci-Fi/Horror” genre, as opposed to just horror.

Even though I enjoyed all of the stories (except for “Burning Chrome”), I still prefer the one (“Second Variety”) that most closely conforms with my preconceived notions of the Sci-Fi genre. What reading is to the average English professor, video games, war movies, and heavy metal is to me. In other words, I like action, and intensity in general. I read a lot, but mostly only about non-fiction topics such as current national and international events, sports, and military history. I’m not much of a fiction reader (unless it’s Star Wars), so stories with a lot of intense action are more likely to keep my attention than those without it. It allows me to interact with the story more, even more so than ones that are more emotionally realistic. I don’t mind stories of the latter; it just comes down to personal preference; nothing more, nothing less. In other words, I think my personal preferences play a significant the way I view Sci-Fi. I’m glad that this class has not only challenged my perspective, but challenged it with stories I enjoyed reading despite a lack of action (again, this does not apply to “Burning Chrome”).