Things Ursula LeGuin is good at:

Making me cringe about discussions of gender.

In The Left Hand of Darkness, a genderless character from a species that’s biologically hermaphroditic asks a visiting human man what human women are like.  He flounders kind of hilariously through “people think they’re different, and in some ways they’re different, but they’re not actually so different…”  And, I mean, he tries his best, it’s just cringe-inducing for me.  Could anything be less “nothing about us without us” than trying to explain feminism when the nearest woman is seventeen light-years away?

And now I’m re-reading The Disposessed, in which a man from a very gender-egalitarian society, who has only the vaguest intellectual understanding of the concept of sexism, has to try and explain to a man from a very sexist society that yes, he considers women his intellectual equals.  And he’s so innocent, he has no idea what the society he’s being introduced to is like, he doesn’t know how to deal with it.


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