Sunday, May 25, 2003

Well, I finished Dune Messiah within two days; these books aren't easy to put down. I am now most of the way through Children of Dune. They're good books, and I enjoy them. Maybe that's why I had to go through three of them to realize that something about them bugs me: they're sexist.

In Children of Dune, the Atreides twins are notable for the fact that they were born with the memories of all their ancestors intact. Each twin is a composite of personalities, which they can refer to and commune with when necessary. Why is it then, that the girl, Ghani, seems influenced only by her female predecessors? She knows all about 'female things'- sex, childbirth, etc, in addition to the history of the world dating back to the beginning of time as they knew it. Never once does she remember anything from a male relative!! And the same goes for the male twin, Leto: he remembers emporers and kings, his forefathers of old; but no women counsel him. In fact, he and his sister have to get together in a sort of mind meld to enable the father and mother to communicate through them. This is nonsense! Certainly every individual is a mosaic of countless other people, both male and female. But I guess it would present too many interesting questions for the male twin to have experienced childbirth in a former life, or for the girl to have fathered a child. After all, this might present some sexual identity problems.

This seems to be exactly what happens with the twin's aunt, Alia. She is the only character born with the genetic memory who connects with an ancestor of the opposite sex, and it proves disastrous for her. Her grandfather, the evil Baron Harkonnen, takes over her mind. The changes are noticeable as Alia develops a power hungry personality and other decidedly unfeminine traits. The Baron was attracted to men, so he satiates himself through Alia's conquests (instigated by the Baron). Alia becomes 'posessed' and a villian to rival old Grandpa himself.

This brings me to another thread: homosexuality is mentioned a few times, and is *only* portrayed in the bad guys. There is also a species of hermaphrodites, male or female at will, but these also are shown in a sinister light. I am trying to think if I have ever read a book where a hero or leading figure was something other than straight.... There is The Well of Loneliness but that book paints such a bleak, unhappy portrait that it wouldn't really qualify. There is Georgia O'Keeffe, but many books gloss over her bisexuality, concentrating instead on her marriage to Alfred Steiglitz. The Color Purple, but aren't there any *happy* stories?

I don't know why I'm letting this get to me- guess it is just that I can't stand generalizations and stereotypes. Why is there such a strong tendency to polarize, to search out an enemy or a threat somewhere- 'us' against 'them'? Is it a form of misplaced nostalgia? That we feel better with that which is familiar to us? Are our minds so puny and narrow that we cannot think past anything different from what we usually encounter? Why are some new concepts or trends 'novel' to us, while others are too threatening to even be examined with an open mind? Perhaps the bottom line is that so long as we hone in on someone else's perceived faults, we can feel ourselves to be superior, and remain blind to our own imperfections.

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