Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Towards a Sex-Positive Utopia

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  • kowhai montgomery,

    Definitely going to reread _The Dispossessed_ again, it has been a while. I do seem to only get into rereading things rather than trying something new though...

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Pete,

    Whoever wrote The Chocolate Manifesto - I would buy them a drink anytime - excellent work

    Since Apr 2008 • 90 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Pete,

    Whoever wrote The Chocolate Manifesto - I would buy them a drink anytime - excellent work

    That would be Max, who, as it turns out, is not averse to the odd drink. Nor the even ones...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to BenWilson,

    “yes, there’s some good and bad things about utopias, aren’t there?”.

    Yes.
    The thing about Utopias is the lack of wriggle room. As we are all different and have individual ideals one persons fish is another persons cabbage as it were. This also applies to the level of desire, it varies from one to another and in some beliefs, the lack of desire is perceived as an attribute of enlightenment, another utopia.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4947 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    How completely awesome is this, as an explanatory tool? A schematic diagram of non-monogamy. Venn-porn.

    ETA: Also, Comic Sans.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2136 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Deborah,

    The social control in The Dispossesed is extraordinary.

    Yes, one of the characters makes a stage play which violates their strongest taboo, the mingling of people from the two planets, in which an Urrasti comes to Anarres and behaves like a "propertarian", even trying to procure sex for money (which the Anarresti don't use). The audience is not amused and tear shreds off him in a big village meeting, so bitterly that he ends up killing himself.

    A lot of the book is devoted to showing how it is that people would be able to feel such a strong sense of social responsibility in the absence of any official compulsion. The ideas of their society are drilled in from the very youngest of ages, one scene has Shevek being lectured before he can even walk, because he gets angry at another baby crowding into a sunny patch he is sitting in. In another, he spontaneously, at a very young age, solves a very difficult puzzle in physics, and is berated for explaining this to a group in his classroom because it is showing off that he has knowledge that others don't, and is thus being immature. Which is a poignant foreshadowing of his whole life, how his extremely unusual talent, which in Urrasti society would have made him respected and famous, led in Annaresti society to him feeling isolated and being treated with contempt and fear.

    One character (I can't recall his name, I'm sorry) puts in for a job reassignment, and the only one that is offered is some position doing manual work for which he is completely unsuited, and yet he takes it, because no one ever refuses a job allocation.

    This happens to Shevek constantly. He is a "good Anarresti", ironically, has so totally internalized their morals that he never shirks on tilling the fields or other menial tasks, despite the fact that he's clearly meant to be the Einstein of their planetary system. But I think LeGuin intended for it to be clear that his acceptance of his societies mores is a big part of what enables his deepest creativity too, that in some way it led to a freedom in his mind that had constrained all of the foreign physicists, that his struggles to study and develop his highly abstract and apparently (to his society) useless physics flowed from his own interpretation of anarchism and the right to self determination that transcended, everyone, even including his own transcendent society. I was instantly reminded of LeGuin when I first discovered Paul Feyerabend's "Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge". Did one inspire the other? If so, which?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8675 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to BenWilson,

    Ursula Le Guin is, for me, THE BEST anthropological scientific fantasy/fiction writer EVAH-
    really...
    She had fascinating parents - but, much as I loved their works (and I have, since I was a teenager) she has surpassed them...
    "Dispossessed" one thing; "The Left hand of Darkness" = quite another.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Gee,

    one persons fish is another persons cabbage

    t-shirt?

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Islander,

    I tried The Left Hand of Darkness first and didn't care for it, but I re-read it after reading The Dispossessed and enjoyed it much more. I found it hard to perceive Winter as an androgynous society, with people only becoming one sex or the other for a few days every month, I think because for me, "he" signifies male, rather than signaling the possibility of someone being of either gender. Le Guin really needed to use a gender neutral pronoun.

    One of the things I enjoy about Le Guin's Hainish books is that she imagines a whole range of possible societies, and then looks at how gender plays out in each one. And class. The people in each society are infinitely varied, no matter how "good" or how "bad" each society is.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1328 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Deborah,

    Le Guin really needed to use a gender neutral pronoun.

    Yes. It was after reading TLHOD, and realising I was more than a bit androgynous, that I invented a gender-neutral set of pronouns. In English, 'it' doesnt work, and 'she' and 'he' are way too loaded.

    It's interesting too, because through her anthropologist parents, Le Guin had access to societies that *did* have gender-neutral pronouns (not necessarily for humans though...)

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Gee, in reply to Islander,

    I feel like this might have been linked to already, but I can't seem to find it.....
    The Swedes have a new gender neutral pronoun

    Canada, eh • Since May 2011 • 75 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Gee,

    Interesting…my coinings were/are ve/ver/vis… first published in tbp, 1984-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    The most commonly-used versions I've seen from people who are Really Concerned about this stuff are zhe/zhir. But catching on more generally? Using "they" as a singular. Which is obviously hugely problematic and confusing in a whole new way, but the soluation is going to come from useage, not from imposition, because it's language.

    I'm working on re-introducing a second-person plural. Or at least making it more acceptable to use the one we already have - yous.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    I've heard "se" suggested, which seems to me an acceptable and simple compromise. I've always found "they" a bit clumsy-feeling in the singular.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    grr.... somehow managed to be not logged in anymore when I hit post. Try again...

    Singular they actually has a much longer, more illustrious pedigree than the prescriptivists would have us believe. Which is not to argue against coining new words, just to remind us that on this and quite a few other points we have been misled by loudmouths who have decided their pet peeves are going to be inviolable rules of English grammar, when no such rules have ever existed.

    As for "re-introducing a second-person plural", we never lost it. It's the 2nd person singular 'thou' that we dropped. I can't figure out why, it was very useful, and French, German and Russian managed to keep its cognates 'tu', 'du' and 'ты'.

    This is one advantage of Chinese - 他、她、它 are the equivalents of 'he', 'she' and 'it', but are all pronounced 'tā' in Mandarin, so a gender-neutral pronoun for people is irrelevant. But in writing, when gender-neutrality is desirable, you can just type 'ta' and leave it to readers to decide which character is appropriate.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2168 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Emma Hart,

    yous

    noice

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Lilith __,

    I've always found "they" a bit clumsy-feeling in the singular

    Really? Never struck me that way - unless the person using it feels like they shouldn't be, perhaps.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    As for "re-introducing a second-person plural", we never lost it. It's the 2nd person singular 'thou' that we dropped.

    Yes, but then we shifted 'you' to do double duty. And as a result, people find 'thou' really formal, when it was the __in__formal. Language is basically awesome.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Emma Hart,

    people find ‘thou’ really formal

    I blame the churches and their use of 'thou' to refer to God. Seems somehow odd to be referring to the Deity so informally when said Deity can smite at any given moment...

    Language is basically awesome.

    No argument from me there.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2168 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Is there much correlation between languages that don't have sex-based grammatical categories, and sexism? I don't think so. Anyway, it could be worse -- Hebrew verbs are conjugated by gender as well as number and person.

    You lot might enjoy this Wikipedia article.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2972 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    Agreed, and I had been pondering the example of French this morning. Only two genders in 3rd person, masculine and feminine, and that's both grammatical gender and sex. So all nouns are either masculine or feminine. Does it stop sexism in France? Never been there myself, but I suspect not. After all, in 3rd person plural when you have a mixed group of people, you use the masculine - and as my high school French teacher said, that applies even if the group is one man and twenty women.

    On the plus side, as one of my university French lecturers pointed out, it's really easy to remember the gender of 'problem' - all men are problems, therefore it's '**le** problème'.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2168 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh,

    It occurs to me that I was a bit hasty in that last comment. It may be worth pointing out that there is no real connection between grammatical gender and natural gender. Therefore I think it safe to say there's no connection between grammatical gender and either gendered language or sexism.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2168 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Gender-inflected nouns are one thing*, but isn't non-inclusive language a different issue? Mankind, chairman, etc etc....

    *actually, they are many things! Unfortunately I'm too tired to write a better sentence.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Sorry for the Emma bait derail, but hey bitches! Gordon McLauchlan is really disappointed with you -

    Women are a disappointment, although he admired them in 1976 "and still do, particularly older women. I was a great fan of the feminist movement."

    Feminism was in full swing in 1976, but now he observes that the feminists' determination not to be seen as sex objects has been betrayed by their own children, with women sexualised as never before in magazines and television produced and run by women. And liberation has meant for many women "that men owe them nothing and especially don't even need to offer the perverse kind of loyalty they once would concede. Some women seem lost in shallow and sneering hedonism. "I do feel a bit let down by young women."

    Patronising much, Gordy?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Lilith __,

    Well, yes, and that's where the boundaries can get a bit confusing. Grammatical gender is no more guilty of gendered language, exclusionary language, or sexism than the conjugation of verbs or declension of nouns. It's just grammar. But it is a part of the system used to create gendered, exclusionary, and otherwise prejudicial language. Still, it's about as guilty as a getaway car is guilty of aiding armed robbery - i.e. the problem is the people, not the tools they use.

    But a perusal of Stephen Judd's wikipedia article above is interesting, in that it shows the wildly different approaches different languages take to removing sexist language, some having to invent more gendered terms in order to include, rather than exclude, because of how grammatical gender functions in different languages.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 2168 posts Report Reply

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