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?”

1 comment:

  1. Good! Is it a simple role-reversal, or is Gan's/T'Gatoi's gender more complicated than just a straightforward swap?

    I think you're absolutely right about the way in which downplaying the dangers of pregnancy benefits a patriarchal society. I think there may be also some narrative like "why scare someone unnecessarily," but if knowledge is power, withholding is a way of oppressing.