Feminism | Posted by Shanmin D on 08/19/2010
Not Two Separate Species
I’m taking a creative writing class this summer at the local community college. One day, a man brought in a story he’d written? I won’t get into what it was about, but when he finished reading it to the class, a girl spoke up and politely disagreed with him. The man was not offended, received the comment graciously, and all was well and good. However, I was distraught when another guy spoke up and suggested that the girl didn’t “get” the story because it was written “for a man, by a man.”
It reminded me of another incident that took place in my English class last year. The teacher asked if any of us had seen How to Train Your Dragon over the weekend. Another girl and I both raised our hands. He asked us if we’d liked it. We had.
Then he said, “I was wondering what the girls thought of it? it’s a pretty masculine movie, isn’t it?”
What?! After some consideration, I concluded, that, yes, How to Train Your Dragon was rather “masculine.” A male protagonist, Vikings, dragons, and rousing action scenes. But I could not, and still cannot, see anything about the movie that would lead anyone to believe that girls would not enjoy it.
So these two episodes got me thinking: It seems to me that gender is THE most important part of a person’s identity, whether in fiction or real life. A writer might get away with creating a character without describing his/her physical appearance, or age, or social class, or nationality, but there is something about gender-ambiguity that enrages and confuses the mind. It’s not so much a dividing line as a yawning chasm.
You can imagine my distress. Do people really think that they can’t identify with protagonists of a different gender? Do they think that we’re too different from each other to relate? Is there such an unbridgeable gulf between “male” and “female” that we cannot fully understand and connect with a person of the opposite sex?
I really do not believe this is true. When I read a book with a main character who is male? say, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? there is a part of my soul that feels like I am Tom. I can relate. I have male friends who I do understand, and I am close to them.
Perhaps I am female and you are male, but we are both humans. We share common human experiences. We are not two separate species.
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