Finds books under furniture
147 times in 132 posts
I had trouble picturing the gender neutrality the Gethens are said to have when not in kemmer. When I read a book, I (unintentionally, possibly) recreate in my imagination what the author is describing in words (everyone does this but I have an overactive imagination and certain spacial peculiarities so I consider it to be a bit different). It's hard to imagine a human without defining it a gender -- everyone tends to look like men, but with no "bulge." It is also hard to grasp the total neutrality because le Guin uses the pronoun "he," regardless of the supposed neutrality, and regardless of the speaker -- all pronouns are "he" or "him" or "his".
I'm pretty positive that le Guin would not impose a specifically gendered pronoun on a supposed neutral gendered race of humans by accident, but I'm not 100% sure what she's trying to say by doing this. To look at it from a feminist perspective, this could be saying that females are unnecessary unless they are raising a child (which is, indeed, the only time a female form is seen or mentioned, and the Gethen who acts as the male in creating the child does not have much to do with raising it -- sound familiar?), and that even as a gender neutral the Gethens are closer to males than we would like to think.
It is also interesting that Ai's perception of Estraven changes once he realizes that Estraven is a woman when Ai sees him(her?) begin to go into kemmer. Ai's first reaction is almost akin to horror when he realizes that Estraven is a woman. Does this suggest that he trusts E. less because of this? Because he feels threatened now that, after so long without having to think about it, sexuality is being called to question before him? I can only assume that if Estraven had gone into kemmer as a man, Ai would have been more able to ignore him, because it is assumed that Ai is not a homosexual.
I think when Estraven enters kemmer, Ai can no longer look at E. as though he were just a "buddy." The entrance of femaleness creates a tension that afterward shapes his perception of events to come. Obviously he would feel for Estraven at the end no matter what because of what they had been through, but I think it is intensified by Estraven's female kemmer stasis. Whether or not he shares Estraven's feelings, he may feel the need to be protective, having been raised on a planet with male-female relationships similar to ours. Either way, after knowing that Estraven has been female, Ai sees E. differently, even more affectionately.