Sunday, February 5, 2012

AH HA!!!

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. 


  1. Awesome post! I really like how you connect what LeGuin's doing with gender with how we all negotiate our own gender roles and rarely completely conform to the stereotypes of man or woman. So what if we didn't have to go through that process of carving out our gendered space and instead just were ourselves? We'd be Gethians!

  2. I completely agree with you about Estroven looking more like a women in my head. But when I first started reading the book I pictured Estroven as a man. Even when Genly would refer to the idea of him having women features I still couldn’t stop myself from picturing him as a man. It was not until Estroven went to rescue Genly from the concentration camp that I started looking at him more as a women. I really don’t know what sentence or chapter changed the image I had in my head of him. On a side and really really really random note I realized about half way through the book that in my head the way I was pronouncing Estrovens name was like Estavan from the Sweet life of Zach and Cody of the Disney channel. Now that I think about it this is probably why I viewed Estroven as a male throughout most of the book because that character is a male in the show.
    I agree with you again when you say “I was somewhat ashamed and embarrassed of myself for having such a difficult time seeing him as man and woman.” I had such a hard time with this myself. Every time I caught myself thinking of him as either a he or a she I tried to stop myself. Then I would try to picture him in my head as one sex I just got really confused and frustrated because I couldn’t. My mind always led me to choose one sex or the other. Unlike you I never got the “ah ha” moment while reading the book and still can’t picture a person as one sex. I hope one day if I ever read this book again I can learn to see Estroven as a male and female.