In response to Nikita’s informative and very useful post, The Power of Pronouns, I have to say that I too struggled with the “non-gendering” of the ooloi species in the novels we have read so far in Lilith’s Brood. Ooloi in both Dawn and Adulthood Rites seem to display both very human and almost gendering characteristics, so it was hard not to give in to my “hierarchial tendencies” and label them as such. I also have to admit to myself that I have read the ooloi in both novels, similarly to the way I think Nikita read Gan in Bloodchild, within the context of the transgender community (as well as other marginalized groups, for reasons which I will touch upon later). I was extremely put off by Butler’s choice of the pronoun “it” in reference to the non-gender (or genderless) ooloi. I think that this is because we normally place this pronoun for something that is non-sentient and therefore not worthy of traditionally “human” pronouns. Although this alien species is exactly such, alien, “it” feels vaguely discriminatory to describe something that could almost be simply called “a third gender”. Something that is simply different from our “normal” understanding of gender; which would be within the traditional binary gender system. It seems to point again to our “heirarchial tendencies”, in which something other than human is stripped of its sentience and worth by dubbing it “it”.
During class last Friday, we talked about our emotional reactions to the end of Mind of My Mind. Admist the trauma of Doro’s and Emma’s death, as well as Mary’s victory, I found myself mourning for the 154 Patternists lost during the concluding battle. It seemed to be something akin to genocide, the senseless killings of civilians who are usually the innocent consequences of war. In World War Two alone, the ratio of civilian deaths to solider deaths was 2:1 (I know we weren’t supposed to place outside sources in this blog post, but I just wanted to build some perspective). These civilians were usually just like us; ordinary people with no strong political or military affiliations. Most may be even against the war that they are involved in, or at least somewhat ignorant of it. In the same way these Patternists were ignorant of the war that was going on around them (and that they were involved in). According to the book, most of the more recent Patternists didn’t even know what Doro looked like, or anything beyond his place as the “creator of the creator” of the Pattern. They wouldn’t be able to understand the risk that they were taking when they were roped into Mary’s strength taking.
Theodora’s reaction to Shori when she asks her to live with her: pg 91: “You are a vampire”, she said. “Although, according to what I read, you’re supposed to be a tall, handsome, fully grown, white man. Just my luck.”
Her reaction seems to indicate more than a comment on traditional vampire lore. Rather, she seems to comment on their sexual relationship. It is clear and obvious that Shori is attracted to Theodora, and evidently vice versa. I wonder then, if this initial reaction to what Shori is is Theodora stepping back from what she seems to perceive as unexpected. In their sexual relationship, Shori’s dominance over her (something else I would like to talk about later in this post) seems to be typical of the masculine quality of a heterosexual relationship. Her aggressiveness is unexpected, her control over Theodora ‘should’ only come from a man. From Theodora’s comments on her family, it seems that she had lived her life up to that point as heterosexual. She has children, I believe her husband died. However, this is again presumptuous and my assumption reeks of the societal acceptance of heteronormativity as “expected”, rather than the tolerance of all types of sexual and non-sexual relationships (asexuality) that encompass the scope of intimacy. Nevertheless, this reaction to Shori’s advances seems to point towards the atypicality of homosexual relationships. The inclusion that Shori should be a “white man” also points toward her atypicality of her race, another comment on society’s unacceptance of “unexpected” relationships, this time interracial ones. This is despite the growing rights both groups have achieved. Studies like Project Implicit, a Harvard study that tests for implicit racism come to mind when I think about how far we are from full acceptance of race and sexual orientation. Futher, it seems that Butler has indeed used vampirism as a way to talk about the “unexpected”: issues of race, family, birthright, and sexuality, something I thought was missing from the novel. I understood that Shori’s blackness and memory loss were metaphors for talking about complicated issues, but I was so used to writers of vampire lore to use the alien-ness of vampirism as a metaphor for other things that are “foreign” to the majority; in the same way a Black woman would be viewed as “foreign” or “non-human” to prejudiced whites through colonialism and post-colonialism, a Black Ina would also be seen as “foreign” and “non-Ina” to prejudiced vampires.