Tag Archive: gender


By: Leena Beddawi

America has been expanding its laws surrounding refugees and immigrants crossing its borders for decades, the most drastic set of expansions being created after the attack on September 11, 2001. Throughout these border security and law expansions, one thing that never changed is the law granting asylum for any refugee seeking protection from a country which defines a refugee as a “person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”.

Frankenstein’s creature insists on proving the “truth of my tale” in order to show that there are wildly different perspectives in this world and the means are just as valuable as the ends, how they became who they are, what they overcame to get here, is just as important as their very existence. I could only assume that in giving these letters to Victor, the creature hoped to change his mind about those who he considered being “other”.  One thing we see in many refugee or immigrant story is that they usually perfect models of W. E. B. Du Bois’ double-consciousness.

Double-consciousness is a concept in social philosophy which explains the presence of two apparently unconnected streams of consciousness in one individual, usually having to do with race, ethnicity, or originating country. This is something many refugees go through in order to search for a better life, they learn a whole new language, accustom to another culture, and try to peacefully integrate themselves in a space that is completely foreign to them because this is their only hope.

Safie is a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey, but very much became a citizen of the world in accordance with Felix’s locations. Wherever he went, she wished to follow, and she made that place her home because they were together. I believe the creature’s pride in “learn[ing] from the views of a developed social life, to admire their virtues, and to deprecate the vices of mankind” helped him to empathize with the conquered native Americans and to see himself in the immigrant or refugee status because they each had felt that same sense of double-consciousness (114).

caravan

The president of the United States of America has chosen to demonize, criminalize, and verbally dehumanize the thousands of asylum seekers currently coming towards the border from Central America, most escaping Honduras, which many news organizations call “The World’s Deadliest Country”. Many of these people are young men, women, children, and elderly. Before they enter, they hope to apply as asylum seekers, which should technically aid them in a legal route of asylum. In the U.S., however, the immigration systems are severely out-of-date and meant to delay asylum to refugees for many small reasons, the main of which is just the subjectivity of opinion which goes with who gets asylum and who doesn’t.

I think if we were somehow able to share each individual story from the thousands of asylum seekers and hardworking individuals looking for a better life, searching for any life, we can actually start changing minds of politicians who see them as nothing but invaders. But if the president was presented with individual stories of the humanitarian crisis the refugees have been running from, one would hope that he would welcome those people with open arms, and allow asylum to those who need it.

In Frankenstein, I believe it was best summed up by Safie when describing why she never want to go back to Asia, where she was “allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill-suited to temper her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas and a noble emulation for virtue” (112). This showed not only her desperation to go to another country where she could be herself without constraints, but showed how this alone should be enough to pass through and see if you can make a better life in another country. The very idea of borders exudes a racist, xenophobic ideology which has yet to be updated after many decades of fear mongering anything “other” to us, much like how the creature is treated by everyone they come in contact with, as well. It is no surprise they see themselves in the refugee story since their own double-consciousness must be deafening within themselves.

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“How Can I Move Thee?”

Self identification is a matter in which I have very little authority in. To define oneself as surely based on their emotion is something that eludes me, but which I work harder at everyday in order to understand the Individual. The ways in which Jessica Rae Fisher and Susan Stryker struggle in becoming who they are destined to be demonstrate to me that, despite the animosity thrown their ways from the very communities that should have stood at their sides in camaraderie, inspires within the soul a sense of distress. It must be understood that the use of pronouns and the celebration of using negative terms in resistance plays an important part within the narrative that Fisher tries to make in her blog post “I am Frankenstein’s Monster: An Echo of Susan Stryker’s Call to Action.”

As both Fisher and Stryker find a sense of similarity with Victor Frankenstein’s Creature, it is important to note the use of pronoun that the Creature uses to identify as. Within the novel, there are many instances where the Creature and his creator uses the masculine pronouns he and him to describe the being. There is never an explicit passage within the confines of the novel that say, “And Victor thus created a man in his own imagination” (Despite when Victor describes the features of the Creature on pages 59-60(“His limbs were in proportion […] His yellow skin […] his hair […] his teeth)); it is through the learning that the creature endures soon after his production that he starts to define himself as a man. As Victor chose and picked many of the bones from the charnel-house and gathered many other materials from the dissecting tables and the slaughter-house, there is almost no doubt that the creature could be an amalgamation of many different fleshes from man and woman. When the creature experiences the natural world, he makes discoveries of ecology and society and literature. It is through his understandings that he identifies as man, declaring on page 93 “I ought to be thy Adam” and demanding on page 129 “a creature of another sex” which Victor believes will bear children of a new monstrous race in Africa. The Creature himself shows that he believes to be of a masculine nature, and thus adopts the pronouns that he both has had assigned to him as well as using them to describe himself.

In the case with Fisher using rage to kill with kindness, it is absolutely promoted  that she continue upon the path of most resistance, as she mirrors the plight of the Creature: “If any being felt the emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them an hundred and an hundred fold; for that one creature’s sake, I would make peace with the whole kind” (page 129)! As both of them are on the journey to become accepted for who they truly are and to finally come into acceptance with those that can share their experience, then they must continue to pursue that dream of the day in which they can finally live in peace with the rest of mankind and not be seen as a Monstrous Creature but as a Living Being.

-Alejandro Joseph Serrano

Be Your Trueself

In “My Words To Victor Frankenstein Above The Village Of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage” by Susan Stryker, she describes how she can relate to the creature in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. She goes into depth about her own life and struggles she has faced. Stryker says that terms like dyke, queer, fag or slut should be reclaimed by the people being called these names. Jessica Rae Fisher, a transgender woman writes her response to Stryker’s work in “I am Frankenstein’s Monster: An echo of Susan Stryker’s call to action” and agrees with what Stryker has to say and also feels like the creature. She agrees with reclaiming all the terms Stryker uses and wants to add monster and creature to be reclaimed as well.

Not being able to feel comfortable in one’s own body is a struggle we see from the creature of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. The creature discovers that he does not look the the rest of society, but he knows that deep down inside he is a normal person like anyone else. His appearance does not define who he is. Most transgender people can relate to the creature for this reason because they are also unhappy with the bodies they were born with. Some transgender people are lucky enough that they can afford surgery to make their physical body parts reflect how they truly feel. Society has a hard time accepting people who looked/are different from the “norm”, that is why the creature was isolated most of his life because people were afraid of him and labeled him as a monster. Transgender people have a hard time coming out because it can push the people they care about out of their life because they don’t understand. We see this when Victor abandons the creature when it is brought to life, Victor leaves the creature when he needed him the most. This is the same case with some transgender people when they are transitioning, the people they need the most leave them and don’t support them.

Transgender rage is “when the inability to foreclose the subject occurs through a failure to satisy norms of gendered embodiment” (Stryker, 249). This is not bad thing because we see the creature have rage toward Victor for leaving him and making him face the world by himself. The creature’s rage was logical and he had every right to have this. Not being able to fit into society’s norms can be challenging but once you find yourself and know who you truly are society’s norms do not matter anymore because they are a social construct anyways. Society wants to put us all in a box to act/look the same, when we’re all different, “it isn’t our responsibility to make the villagers understand or accept us, and maybe, in fact, we can’t” (Fisher) . We can’t satisfy everyone, so we might as well just satisfy ourselves and put ourselves first.

-Marycarmen Nieto

 

In the image from the original 1831 Frontispiece to Frankenstein, the image depicts a sense of deep horror from the way that Victor Frankenstein and the creature are portrayed. Both are looking towards the creature’s genital and both resemble concern. In a way we can’t be so certain to assume that this creature even had any body parts although throughout the novel he used pronouns such as “he” and “him” to describe himself. Therefore, the sex of the creature remains unknown because as we can see we can’t determine the sex of the creature since neither body parts are shown in the image. Or maybe he had neither sex organs who knows. That’s where “neopronouns” come into play and thus use these “proposed gender-neutral pronouns made to replace singular they” since we can’t identify the creature as either or.

Moreover, in the novel Frankenstein, we realize that deep down the “creature” is a person whom transgender people relate to. Not only is the creature isolated from everyone else, but he doesn’t feel like he belongs in a world where people won’t listen and acknowledge his presence. In a way the transgender community relates to this creature as well because they understand what it means to be isolated from others and judged by people who choose ignorance as a form to describe their hatred as acceptable. For instance, in the novel, the creature asks, “listen to me; and then, if you can and if you will, destroy the work of your hands” (94). This describes how the creature wants to be acknowledged by his creator and accepted for who he truly is. Along the same lines, Victor can’t really understand his creation and thus isolates him from the world which resembles what transgender people go through. People struggle to comprehend transgender people and judge them based on their lifestyle without getting to know them.

Moreover, Jessica makes a remarkable point in her blog post when she argues that instead of wasting valuable time on those who mock and spread hatred she would just ignore. And instead take the power away from those that spread hatred by turning those words into ones that empower herself. As a transgender woman Jessica, explains how instead of feeling exhausted by those who bully her she can simply eliminate that power from them by empowering herself with their words. In other words, she embraces the term “monster” and defeats the villagers.

 

-Guadalupe Andrade

Throughout history and in modern day people that are queer have been treated as an outcast and have experienced much discrimination. However, for a transgender person it is so much harder to hide their queerness then it is for a gay or lesbian person because their looks often give them away while for lesbians or gays they often have to come out in order for people to know what they are and it’s more of a choice for them. Jessica’s interpretation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley shows how she was able to empathise with the creature and even see herself as a reflection of him. She believes that transgender people should embrace the words “monster, creature, and unnatural.” However, I disagree with her because I don’t think people should give into the stereotypes and believe the insults others tell them. Instead of giving into them, they should refute them and show others how they are human just like them. The creature in Frankenstein felt social exclusion and isolation in his first interaction with humans and as a result of it, he decided to stay away from humans because he accepted the fact that he would face rejection and as a result of it, he lived a miserable life.

If the creature had not given into the belief that he would be rejected by all human beings, he wouldn’t have such hate for them and he would have not spent his whole life trying to get back at Victor. Victor, in this case, was the oppressor and the one causing all of the creatures pain. It is possible that the creature was a reflection of Victor and that Victor hated him so much and rejected him because he was the part of Victor that he wished to suppress. Victor did not want to accept his homosexual desires because he wanted to be a woman and women at that time were treated poorly. He was obsessed over the idea of giving birth, that he went out of his way to create what he believed would be a perfect and beautiful creation. However, when his expectations were not met by the creature, he was disgusted by him and regret ever creating him. After, seeing how society treated the creature, Victor knew he couldn’t reveal his true self because he would be treated just as bad. So instead he just sat back and witnessed the creature hurt many people whom he cared about.

Was Frankenstein transgender?

Jessica Rae Fisher explores the transgender community and establishes a few connections within Mary Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein. Her connections are very important to the audience given that the creation’s gender was never fully established throughout the novel. Though in some parts of the novel he may appear “masculine” which would explain why the pronoun he and him are used to refer to him in the novel, there is no other evidence shown to us that proves he is in fact a male. For this reason, we are able to identify more connections between the creation and transgender people than our first glance at this book after reading Jessica’s essay.  In the novel, Victor is constantly isolated from his loved ones and has to live with the absence of his mother. However, it seems to be that his need of fulfilling his maternal needs leads him to an obsession and reality check at the same time. For instance in the novel, Victor unconsciously has an unpleasant sexual dream with his mother. His dream begins of seeing Elizabeth’s beautiful face and somehow Elizabeth’s face rearranged to look like Caroline, Victor’s mother. Victor’s sexuality can be triggered by this fact given that he was obsessive over beauty and looks, specifically womens. Victor did not love elizabeth as a sister, rather he was in love with her beauty and appearance. In the same way, Victor was also triggered by the fact that as a male he was not able to reproduce and birth life. This indifference lead him to scientifically give life and create his creature through exhausting research and experiments. “Victor demolished his creation of a female creature to give to the male creature because he truly believed that if he were to do so the creatures would crave to have “children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth” (Shelley 144). This quote proves Victor is envious of the fact that women can conceive children and he cannot. Victor’s obsession to conceive a child hints at his wish to become a woman. There are many examples that may or may not lead to the creation’s true gender beliefs, but as readers we may never be sure because we are not given much evidence as to what he might or not be.

 

By Dalia Ulloa

Jocelyn Lemus

We are exposed to wounds that don’t fully heal because the world has picked on them so much. Society has implemented a certain image to our appearances and as “humans” we must follow those expectations. We are all limited to how we should look and act. Even when most people say ‘just be yourself’ it is honestly tough to follow that saying because majority of the time people judge the real you. To specify, I’ve brought in these ideas because in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, she expresses these ideas with the creature’s feelings. Not only do these ideas connect to Frankenstein, but also the ideas of how Susan Stryker’s voice as a writer inspired a transgender woman, Jessica Rae Fisher to expand on the views of transgender rage.

In Styker’s essay, she includes an anecdote about Filisa Vistima, a transsexual women who was picked on for how she identified herself as. This 22-year-old women was not given the chance to be heard, so instead she allowed her voice to vanish by taking her life away. Vistima was not comfortable in her own body that she described herself as “a mutant, Frankenstein’s monster.”  This is important because she uses a reference from Mary Shelley’s novel as a way to view herself. This connects with Frankenstein, because the creature includes, “listen to me; and then, if you can and if you will, destroy the work of your hands” (94). The key here is that listening was the problem that people had. People only chose to hear and not listen, which indeed there is a difference. These two, the creature and Vistima play a role of those who feel like the outcast because they saw themselves the way others didn’t. Society chooses to cut off their ears before people that feel unseen and unwanted open their mouths. As much as one tries to change, they cannot because the way they are keeps them warm, it creates a safe home for them. These points of view align with Jessica Rae Fisher’s ideas because in her blog post she emphasizes, ” if the villagers want to see us as unnatural, that we should embrace that…  I will not shy away from the science that can make me a monster”(Fisher). For her, being a monster, if that is how people saw it, it is something one should not be ashamed of. What is so wrong with being different? or having the ability to stand out? If one were to read Frankenstein, would they ever come into this type of conclusion? would transgender rage cross their minds?

Image result for meaningful pictures

To continue, one never really notices the deep message within an image because they are so focus on what is shown abstractly than secretly. I’m bringing in this topic because there is an image of Frankenstein that has really captured my interpretation to what it means within my own eyes. As one is given the opportunity to analyze different images with their eyes, they are brought in with different feelings captured from what they see. For instance, as I deeply scan the the original image of 1831 Frontispiece to Frankenstein I noticed that there are three people in there. Some may say the skeleton is not identified as a person because it is just a corpse laying down. However, the way I see it is differently. I believe that the corpse symbolizes the need to fit in into societal norms. As one is home they take off the skin they don’t want to be in and only wear to satisfy society. In this image, the creature that Frankenstein has created with his hands, is held in the situation of who to be and how to act. As we analyze the skeleton on its own, it is shown that there is no male or female genitalia. Sometimes it isn’t the way it is shown, but the way we chose to see things. The eyes are these magical pieces within the body that allows people to no only see a something or someone, but to also see through them. There is so much meaning within this image, but as humans we cannot identify all of it.

I think it’s great that transgender people have found a character in literature, such as Frankenstein’s creature, that they can relate to and identify with, not just through appearance but also through the similar struggles they face when interacting with others.

Something I think Jessica could incorporate in her post about issues with gender and sexuality is how others isolate transgender people. In the novel Frankenstein, when the creature asks, “listen to me; and then, if you can and if you will, destroy the work of your hands” (94), he is challenging his creator to accept him for his flaws. Similar to how Victor can’t fully comprehend his creation, people also struggle to understand transgender people. This is especially hard when they know nothing about their lives and judge only on their chosen gender and lifestyle. If people just LISTENED, they would see that we are more alike than we are different. In my opinion this quote can also be applied to people who know someone going through gender change. Having known someone for a while, would you be willing to “destroy the work of your own hands?” To forget all the memories made with someone just because of a small change in their lives? No you shouldn’t. Simply listening can help lessen the burden and rage of feeling like a monster. No one is perfect, everyone is different and just because someone’s exterior is different doesn’t change who they are inside. Likewise those who are “normal” on the outside could be WORSE than monsters on the inside.

Lastly, I think Jessica’s post about reclaiming the words “monster” and “creature” was encouraging and empowering. One thing I noticed was her comparison of the villagers in the novel to regular people of today. When she first mentioned villagers, I thought she meant REAL villagers. I suggest explaining what role villagers played in Frankenstein in order for those who have not read the novel to understand the comparison.

By Galilea Sanchez

Whatever you are..

Rilee Hoch

It is certainly interesting to reflect back on the image found in the front of Frankenstein. In the image both the Creature and Victor seem to be looking directly at where the Creatures genitals should be, and show expressions of deep horror and concern. The Creature at first glance may seem to appear “masculine” which would confirm why the pronoun he and him are used in the novel, but in reality masculinity is just attributed to certain features that society has selected and deemed as “masculine”. The sex of the Creature remains unknown because the body parts that would be used, at least in this day and age, to determine what sex the Creature would be called is not shown. To be completely honest, who are we to say that the creature had any sex organs at all? Or to say that the creature did not have both sex organs? We can’t say, and this creates the idea of using gender-neutral pronouns when referring to the Creature. Neo-pronouns, “are new proposed gender-neutral pronouns made to replace singular they.” according to an online blog I found about gender discussion. They would be appropriate since we as a reader can not truly know how the Creature would identify or what organ or organs he may or may not have.

Image result for whatever just wash your hands

The main argument Jessica makes in her blog post is that as a Transgender person, instead of focusing all her energy on those who mock, and put others down in hatred, wasting valuable time energy, she should ignore all the negative things that people have to say. She goes a step further and says she is called to take the power away from those people by turning those hateful words into ones that empower herself. She puts focus on what Stryker says, “Like that creature, I assert my worth as a monster in spite of the conditions my monstrosity requires me to face, and redefine a life worth living,” (254). Instead of making herself feel exhausted, without changing the minds of those who persecute her, she can simply invoke that rage and take the power away from them. If the words can not hurt you then what use are they? Even more so, if the words make you feel empowered and strong they are doing good for your cause. She says, “It is well worth embracing who we are as monsters. It isn’t our responsibility to make the villagers understand or accept us, and maybe, in fact, we can’t.” In this way she conveys an acceptance of this term “monster” and overcomes it.

Based on your reading of Susan Stryker’s essay, students will write a blog post in response to a published post in the blog site by a trans woman writer, Jessica Rae Fisher (see the link below).  She describes how Stryker’s essay on transgender rage inspired her to come to terms with herself as a marginalized member of society and on how she has learned to appropriate the term “monster” to resist queer- and trans-bashing by bullies who abuse this term.

I am Frankenstein’s Monster: An echo of Susan Stryker’s call to action

For your blog post this Wednesday (10/17), focus on a particular passage or scene in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that can further support Jessica’s reflections on the use of pronouns or “neopronouns.”  How can the novel’s engagement with issues of gender and sexuality enrich and expand Jessica’s views on transgender rage/kindness?  Use her blog post and Stryker’s essay to guide your analysis.  And while we want to inspire Jessica with our moral support and understanding, please refrain from simply showering praise or pity on her condition.  Instead, use the literary criticism you’ve learned in this course to help empower Jessica, and how she can better communicate her thoughts and emotions to an online public through a close reading of Frankenstein. I ask that students please write with due politeness and sensitivity to the personal concerns that Jessica is raising.  To spark some ideas, I’ve included below the original 1831 Frontispiece to Frankenstein.  Do you see anything odd in this image?

Please submit your post by 9:00am next Wednesday, 10/17, and categorize it under “Transgender Rage.”  And please create specific and relevant tags.  Please write your full name.