Again fighting with the fact that on Gethen there are no males or females, I still feel not only that Estroven reminds me of women, but that Le Guin also wants me to think this way. For simple starters there is no getting around the fact that his name, Estraven, closely compares to another word, estrogen. Hmmmmmmm. There are many times in the story where not only did I think Estraven appeared feminine, but Genly would also make reference to this idea.
“He ordered me to go lie down. - I was galled by his patronizing. He was a head shorter than I, and built more like a woman than a man. - He had not meant to patronize. He thought me sick. – He, after all, has no standards of manliness, of virility, to complicate his pride (218).”
Though it is stereotypical, when I think caregiver, I think of my mother. Whenever I was sick, both parents took to caring for me but in different ways. My father’s affection is just as strong, but more discrete, whereas my mother is overly affectionate. Also, working in an assisted living facility for years, I have only once worked alongside a male. So I am not trying to stereotype, but I am just going off personal experience. With that being said, this passage instantly gave me not only a physical female shape to Estraven, but a more feminine mindset as well. I think this is one of the times during the story where Genly starts to shy away from seeing Estraven as a male like himself. I however, was still struggling with this.
I have to admit, I was somewhat ashamed and embarrassed of myself for having such a difficult time seeing him as man and woman. While talking recently with my partner about this book she started to laugh while I was explaining the story. I told her I knew the book sounded weird but to just shut up. She was still laughing…a lot… and finally said, “OMG, I think were aliens!” My partner dresses manly, has a very masculine dominated career, but is the most emotional affection needing person I have ever met. I on the other hand, am super girly, needing hours to get ready, me time with my nails and face masks, don’t get too emotional, but can relate more to men and have always been a tomboy when it comes to activities. I had that perfect “ah ha” moment and suddenly Estraven became real. Though we are one sex, it was so much easier to read after this connection, and I stopped trying to pick one sex over the other for Estraven. I now see how the two can be one.