Rachel's Reviews > The Left Hand of Darkness

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
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May 05, 2008

really liked it
Read in May, 2008

I read this first in high school, and re-read a few days ago. Still, an interesting read. Parts were difficult for me to get into - lots of science fiction terms and words (Gethen), etc.

I checked out the 25th anniversary edition, which had an afterword by Ursula Le Guin. She mentioned that this book was on a list for the top 39 articles of anti-feminism. I can’t understand that at all. She did defend the use of “he” as the pronoun, in 1967, she meant for it (he) to be used for both men and women, like it. She explains that the pronoun “it” would have given a totally different impression. She writes: “This neuter may be used for an animal but cannot be used for a human being (except occasionally for a baby, by people who do not like babies).”

She also included a new version of some of the chapters with new pronouns, e and es, queen or sovreign instead of king - personally, I found them too much of a strain to get through.

So. I liked all the commentary about the nature of being male or female in our culture and society. Genly says (p. 223 of my copy) ” I suppose the most important thing, the heaviest single factor in one’s life, is whether one is born male or female. In most societies it determines one’s expectations, activities, outlook..” “…..even food. Women….women tend to eat less…It’s extremely hard to separate the innate differences from the learned ones.”

What I can’t understand is why a novel, in 1967, that is discussing what it means to be male or female, to have been born male or female could be anti-feminist.

I don’t think that she’s saying that we should be more like Gethenians (the incest thing is incredibly hard to get my mind around) but that imagining a world without gender - with both genders. It’s an amazing perspective and a very interesting question - how much of what we are is innate, how much is learned.
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Outis What's become "one of the Thirty Nine Articles of Antifeminism" according to UKL is not the book but the "pleasant and convenient belief" acccording to which "the masculine pronoun in English was genuinely generic, including both male and female referents."
As to those 39 articles, I guess it's just a fanciful reference to these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty-N...


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