Tag Archive: male


The Issue With Fixed Genders

Image result for transgender pain

By Mahealani LaRosa

Reading Jessica Rae Fisher’s I Am Frankenstein’s Monster: An Echo of Susan Stryker’s Call to Action as a female, as a victim of bullying, and as a survivor of sexual, mental, and verbal abuse was very difficult. I could never fathom the idea that I understand the pain that transgender people go through, but I DO understand the pain of the experiences I went through listed above. Although I found it difficult to read, I actually was interested in a lot of the points Fisher and Stryker made. Jessica pushes forward the idea of taking back words like “monster and creature” to describe transgender people. Stryker further emphasizes this idea by going into depth about the real definitions of these words and how people should even be proud to be called these things, even going as far to say “words like ‘creature,’ ‘monster,’ and ‘unnatural’ need to be reclaimed by the transgendered. By embracing and accepting them, even piling one on top of another, we may dispel their ability to harm us” (240). I feel like this is a very crucial idea, especially in modern society. People still use words like “gay” as a negative thing, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done in regards to reclaiming words that were originally slurs and insults and making them positive and affirming instead. Susan Stryker neatly explains this in her essay My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix, saying that “transsexuality more than any other transgender practice or identity represents the prospect of destabilizing the foundational presupposition of fixed genders upon which a politics of personal identity depends” (238). This relates to Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein because one of the most important characters, the creature, is seemingly genderless. Although repeatedly referred to as a man, it seems to have feminine features, and honestly doesn’t’ need to conform to the these “fixed genders”.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, Victor Frankenstein does not want to create a female mate for the creature because they would want “children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth” (144). We can assume that in order for the creature to mate and have children with this female creature means that he is a man, and he has male genitalia. However, in modern society, having a penis does not make you a man. This is mostly apparent in cases of transgender people. Women born in a man’s body constantly have to go through people not understanding who they are, mostly based on their genitalia. Genitals do not define gender. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says gender is “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)” which in my opinion is completely incorrect. Sex is the state of being male or female. Gender is a spectrum, and I honestly believe it is TRULY an individual choice. Gender is whatever you as a singular person want it to be. What Stryker and Fisher are saying is that being a ‘monster’ or ‘creature’ is sort of like a kind of gender, but it also represents being transgender. The LGBTQ+ community is just like any other community, it excludes anything that is found to be ‘too’ different. In this case, it is transgender people. In Frankenstein, it is the creature. In this way, the creature and transgender people are linked. They are a type of gender that is misunderstood and discriminated against. The thing is, the creature does not have to commit to being the man. He is restrained by societies constructed ideas of sex and gender being these strict ideas of only male and female. Stryker says she “want[s] to lay claim to the dark power of [her] monstrous identity without using it as a weapon against others or being wounded by it [herself]”(240), so she is basically explaining how she is going to turn the hate and pain people give her into power and strength. Overall, this is what we should all do. Pain will always be something we internalize, but if we simultaneously reflect inwardly while also speaking out against the inflictor, we create a power that no one can stop.

In regards to the original cover of Frankenstein, I think it has a lot to do with the sexual organs of the creature. The creature is looking downwards at their genitals, as if they are surprised or shocked by what they see. It leaves the viewer questioning gender and sex already. It is also interesting to see the creature hovering over a skeleton while Frankenstein is running away. It is similar to all that we have been talking about. Victor is running from the reanimated life he created while also running from the shroud of death that will follow him for the remainder of his life. He is running from his mother and the creature he made to try to symbolize her. However, in terms of this blog post, it is most important to focus on the part where the creature looks at their genitals in such a stunned way. I wonder what made the creature so surprised…

 

 

 

 

A Subaltern Perspective

As the monster learns language, he believes that he is simultaneously getting a brief on the major history of the world. However, the perspective that he is receiving is diluted by multiple factors. First of all, the book of instruction is ‘Ruins of Empires’ written by Constantin Francois Chasseboeuf, comte de Volney, a French philosopher and historian. It is obvious just from the description that Volney is biased in favor of his cultivated Western forebears such as “the stupendous genius and mental activity of the Grecians; of the wars and wonderful virtue of the early Romans” (108). He is simultaneously biased against those that do not fit this mold, such as the “slothful Asiatics” (108) and the “hapless orginal inhabitants” (109) of the American hemisphere. A second level of dilution is exemplified by the fact that the book’s “declmatory style was framed in imitation of the eastern authors” (108). Volney is attempting to transpose a distinct style that is not truly his own: whatever the characteristics of eastern authors are, they must be different from Volney’s if he is trying to imitate them instead of writing naturally. Yet another level of dilution lies not only in the the fact that Felix had “given very minute explanations” (108) of what he was reading, but that he tailored these explanations to Safie, someone who had limited intelligence on the subjects. Felix probably filtered in some of his own viewpoints during his explanations, perhaps bolstering the reputation of those western cultures he deemed worthy while depreciating those that very not up to his standards, and emphasizing parts of the book that he thought important while maybe skipping the parts that he did not deem relevant, based on personal opinion and values.

All of these filters serve to reinforce the idea of the subaltern and the dominance of western/male/colonial cultures over the female/colnized. In this passage, there is no signifier that the monster has accepted anything other than what is being dictated. He remains passively in his hovel, swayed as Safie is swayed, to appreciate only what he is being exposed to. This submissive quality is characteristic among the subaltern, female figures, and colonized peoples. Felix, as the dominant male character in the scene, delivers the lines of the book and thus controls and asserts his dominance over the situation, symbolizing one with control over the subaltern, female figures, and colonized peoples. The multiple levels of perspective so dilute the truth that the monster has no choice but to take the submissive role:

1) Volney’s venertion towards these advanced Western cultures, and the monster’s identification with them both reinforce the idea that the monster is representative of the subaltern. Both place these cultures on a pedestal to be emulated, automatically lowering the way that the monster feels about his own status and allowing him to accept a position of subordination.

2) Volney’s attempt to imitate eastern authors, and the parallel desire of the monster to imitate the de Laceys, are both representative of the attempt of the colonized to imitate the colonizers. The colonized people, and the monster, both accept their ways of life as insignificant and reinforce their position as the lower and controlled subaltern as they attempt to rid themselves of their “unworthy” culture.

3) Felix’s unintentional insertion of his own values and tailoring of information to accomodate Safie’s deficits are both characteristics of the dominant male western colonizer. Both Safie and the womanly monster accept his views without question, bolstering his position and affirming their status as below his.

On a side note, the tiered viewpoint recieved by the monster also mirrors the frame narrative from which Margaret Saville receives the story of Frankenstein and his monstrous creation. Margaret could not be given a straightforward recounting of events, because she is a woman, and is thus inferior and unfit to know the manly version of events. It is not enough that Margaret and the monster receive an indirect telling of events; they receive this recount dispersed multiple times so that there are many chances for changes and interpretations. However, it does not matter that they don’t know the immediate truth, because they are merely the female colonized subaltern subjects of a male-dominant colonial society.