On page 57 of Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson describes the problem that the Black Sun staff has understanding Juanita's work as "sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists." To some degree, it seems that he may be, intentionally or not, describing himself.
Hiro Protagonist is defined from the second page as someone who kicks ass:
"Since then the Deliverator has kept the gun in the glove compartment of his and relied, instead, on a matched set of samurai swords, which have always been his weapon of choice anyhow. The punks in Gila Highlands weren't afraid of the gun, so the Deliverator was forced to use it. But swords require no demonstrations" (2)
I think the use of the female pronoun for everyone except the person to whom you are attracted is an effective way of referring to people. It may be ambiguous in some situations, but I think that it sufficiently describes the actual interaction between gender and sexuality, in a way that more concrete terminology does not. Why should our language enforce an emphasis on physical sex when describing attraction?
First off, I really enjoyed reading this book; in my opinion it does a far better job of presenting an alternative view of gender than Left Hand of Darkness did. I don't know that I'd necessarily want our civilization to evolve in this direction gender-wise, but clearly Oankali society functions quite smoothly even with a lack of duality. The message is that this kind of functioning is possible for us. Lilith's Brood is a feminist work in the best sense because it promotes and presents a model of true gender equality.
...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.
(This started out as a reply to two separate posts, but got rather long and wandered off a bit on its own argument, so I'm posting it independently, but referencing the posts that inspired parts of it where applicable.)
In reply to CZ and his assertion that the Oankali are definitely alien in his comment to roseblack's post --I'm not going to argue that there is a direct correlation between every aspect of the Oankali and humans. Lacking my own tentacled ooloi, I'd be a bit hard pressed. I will, however, argue that there are many parallels to be drawn between them and us, particularly pertaining to gender. That is, if I can be trusted to not be apparently inherently manipulative self.
As CZ stated in own blog, the Oankali are not in the moral right they wish to see themselves inhabiting (a self-delusion to which humans themselves are prone).
So there's a comic book series called "Y - The Last Man" that's actually pretty related to the topics we've been discussing lately. But unlike Left Hand of Darkness, which shows us a world where the two sexes as we know them have been sort of combined, this series shows us a world where one sex just ceases to exist.
There is a fascinating interplay between light and dark, and the role of shadows in "The Left Hand of Darkness." Perhaps most interesting is the concept of shifgrethor, a code of honor amongst the Karhidians, which "comes from an old word for shadow" (247). There is also, among the Handdarata, a focus on the "un"--that which seems to be the opposite of what is. In many respects, the Karhidians seem to be defined more by what they are not, by what is unseen, and by what traditionally is thought to obscure.
While my experience with this may not be universal, I found myself somewhat alienated by Genly Ai's perspective on the events he related. I was much more drawn in to the narrative on those occasions when it was related by Estraven. The factor that drew me out of Genly Ai's perspective was consistently his insistence on applying his particular conceptions of gender to the Gethenians he encountered. Estraven, unfettered by the need to place his world into inapplicable terms, is better able to focus in on the more flowing parts of hte story.
I'm still interested in what happens in this novel in terms of race, and the representation of racial issues in the future. We might of tried to touch on it in class, but the overwhelming struggle over the meaning and the philosophy of gender in society was definitely something that took over. It clearly has for almost all readers of the novel, down to the feminist writers who proclaimed that Le Guin's use of the male pronoun was the number one most anti-feminist act of all time.