...This was meant to be a response to the long thread of comments on the entry titled, "The extension of human masculinity," but it became this:
It's interesting to watch people get so riled up about gender in class. I understand that some people believe it's a social construct and that stereotypes are evil, etc. etc., but I think that this belief in gender and the stereotypes attached to each one is so deeply ingrained, that there's no point in arguing aimlessly about it.
I'm maybe not going to make any sense when I try to explain this, but I'm going to try... So in my Lit Theory class today (or yesterday, technically speaking), we were discussing Nietsche's and Frost's ideas on metaphors. Metaphors are so common in our everyday language that we don't even notice them anymore (ie. "She's a warm person." Life as a journey can be extended to the statement "I'm lost."). Ultimately, metaphors stabilize and give meaning to our perceptions by helping us understand things in relation to other ones.
In the Left Hand of Darkness and Lilith's Brood, the metaphors are the references to gender that the authors make. Here's one to refresh your memory: "Estraven's performance had been womanly, all charm and tact and lack of substance, specious and adroit"(LeGuin 12)
While I do not doubt that authors like Butler and LeGuin may be trying to provoke us with these gendered non-gender beings, maybe they're also just providing supposedly male, or supposedly female attributes, so that WE, as readers, can engage in and better understand (and maybe even empathize with?) these aliens.