So like, to amplify what I’ve said before about Breq and gender and Strong Female Characters, consider the ways in which Breq is not Wonder Woman.
1. Breq and Diana are both from societies that don’t have internal gender divisions, but the context and implications are different in each case.
— Diana’s island of Themyscira is a community of women, defined in contrast to a wider culture where men exist and so does sexism. Themyscira is a safe place for women, a place where women support each other against outside forces that harm women.
— The Radch is a society that has no concept of gender and is also the biggest, most powerful society in its sphere. Its culture is completely unrelated to those around it that do have the concept of gender, and the Radch interacts with those societies’ ideas of gender mainly by ignoring them and/or imposing its own during colonization. The Radch doesn’t have to define itself in rebellion against or in flight from sexism, regardless of the extent to which the societies around it are sexist, because it has hugely disproportionate power over them. The Radch is not a small or close-knit community and the shared (non) gender of the Radchaai doesn’t create any particularly strong bond between them.
2. Breq and Diana are both soldiers sometimes/in some ways, who fight on behalf of their people, and they are both leaders sometimes/in some ways, who have authority to make decisions about how and when to fight.
— Diana is I think literally a princess? She’s near the very top of the leadership of Themyscira and has a say in making decisions for her whole society. She is respected and valued by her society, and her fighting abilities are part of what makes her respected.
— Breq is an abomination of mad science created to do her society’s dirty work. She was created to be controllable and disposable. She is considered less than human and can only hold authority by keeping her nature secret. Getttng to know Breq as a person, and then finding out that she’s technically not one, makes people deeply uncomfortable even if they don’t totally reject her on finding out. The abilities that make her useful are also considered ugly, unsettling and demeaning.
This doesn’t really fit into the format I’ve created, but the other thing I want to talk about besides societal belonging is BODIES. People’s bodies don’t always relate to their genders in a straightforward way, but people’s bodies are a big deal to them, and often at least somewhat a gender-related big deal, regardless.
A woman who has experienced sexism in her life, you would expect, probably has some sexism-related feelings about her body– its beauty or ugliness, its strength or weakness, its bigness or smallness, its fertility or lack thereof– pretty much any characteristic her body has can be made to seem like a bad thing by a sexist society.
You would expect a group that is resisting sexism to make a specific effort to repair these feelings, to encourage women to feel more comfortable with their bodies.
A society that is very distant from sexism wouldn’t have to put such deliberate emphasis on body-acceptance ideas. Without sexist messages about their bodies, people would be less likely to feel insecure about their appearances without having to spend any extra thought on it.
Breq is the absolute fucking opposite of comfortable in her body. It’s literally not her body. It’s not even the sort of body she would have chosen for herself if she had a choice. She believes that the process that put her in it is morally abhorrent, but she also has no way to survive other than in a body stolen from someone else. She values her body for what it can do, but she’s very ambivalent about viewing it as anything other than an important piece of equipment. In some ways, she still relates to her body as if it’s just one among thousands of bodies and computer cores. She resists considering either her own enjoyment or her own pain as important.
Breq is alllll about alienation and not-belonging and conditional-belonging in her body and in her society and even in humanity. She is not an Amazon. Her society is not a place of belonging and protection for her. Describing the Radch (or the main cast of the books) as all-female obscures that.