Tag Archive: the other

The Other Gender: Monster

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By ~ Amber Loper

Monster: That’s what many transgendered individuals are deemed, meant to be degrading. However, like many slurs throughout history, the group of people on the receiving side want to twist it into a declaration of otherness. Susan Stryker, writes an emotional yet empowering essay entitled, “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix”, in which she details why she embraces the title of “monster” through her affinity with Frankenstein’s Monster. Like the Monster, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Stryker sees herself as one in the same with the monster through their unnatural anatomical “mutation’s”. She says, “I who have dwelt in a form unmatched with my desire, I whose flesh has become an assemblage of incongruous anatomical parts, I who achieve the similitude of a natural body only through an unnatural process, I offer you this warning: the Nature you bedevil me with is a lie”(p.240). Here, Stryker uses imagery to describe her body in a very similar fashion as Victor Frankenstein speaks about his creation. She finishes this statement by calling out society. The norms set in place by society are falsehoods that cut out many other sects of humanity, trying to make a cookie cutter world where things must fit or they don’t belong. Her being transgender is one of those things outside the cookie cutter walls. She acknowledges the steps necessary to transition her body into what she really is. Which she later says “I am often invisible as a transsexual, a woman, and a lesbian”(p.246) because she is not quite a female, and no longer a male, but rather something in-between, something unknown, something “other”. Much like the monster is an “other”. In both physical body distortion and societal norms, Stryker (as well as others in the transgender/queer community) and the Creature, are Monsters because they cannot be categorized. They are broken up body parts stitched together into something very much “unnatural”. It’s a dark analogy for a person just trying to be their best self. That in order to find their happiness they must become a “monster”. However, Frankenstein’s Monster is deemed a monster, not only for his physical attributes, but also because he murders innocents. These actions could have been avoided from the beginning if he had been accepted. But acceptance seems to elude those who don’t fit into a neat little box.

Stryker isn’t the only one who finds themselves relating to the Monster. Jessica Rae Fisher writes a response to Stryker’s essay in a blog, “I am Frankenstein’s Monster: An echo of Susan Stryker’s call to action”. Both decide that “monster” needs to be reclaimed by the transgender community and not to shy away from their rage. In fact, rage needs to be embraced instead of brushed away. Fischer says, and I couldn’t agree more, “So often we’re told that anger isn’t productive, that rage isn’t productive. One of the blessings for me of being into heavy metal and punk rock is having an outlet for all of my negative emotions.”(FISHER). Anger and rage are complicated emotions that are just as valid as any other emotion. Left unchecked, that rage can build up into an eruption of self destruction. Frankenstein’s Monster had no outlet for his rage, and everyone knows how that ended. Having a proper outlet for anger is key to any healthy psyche.

This anger becomes a little more manageable when a word, even something seemingly unimportant,  like “monster” is reclaimed as a title of strength. “I want to lay claim to the dark power of my monstrous identity without using it as a weapon against others or being wounded by it myself. I will say this as bluntly as I know how: I am a transsexual, and therefore I am a monster”(STRYKER p.240).

Being different from societal norms has been an obstacle throughout history for anyone trying to break the mold. Different is scary, it’s unknown, it’s monstrous. But what if it wasn’t? What if change was welcomed? I wish it could be. But people are going to think what they want to think, regardless of who they are hurting. Fear of the unknown will make a person do unspeakable things. Which is why those classified in the “other”, must rally against the hate. “I think that if the villagers want to see us as unnatural, that we should embrace that.”(FISHER). Many things in this world are unnatural, man-made, monstrous creations. Unnatural isn’t bad. Vaccines are unnatural, yet have saved trillions of lives throughout the century against plague and disease. Organ transplants are unnatural, yet have also done a lot of good. Cars are unnatural. Cities are unnatural. Many technological advancements are unnatural, but are good for the sake of humanities safety, health and happiness. Yes, embrace being “other. Embrace being unnatural. Embrace being a monster, as odd as it seems. Because no matter what people say, their words do not determine who you are.

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Longing for Humanity

In Frankenstein, the creature represents all of us and embodies our ultimate longing for humanity and acceptance. Because the creature can’t truly be depicted and his existence is shrouded in mystery through filtered narratives and descriptions, we come to sympathize with him. This sympathy, which is truly indicative of the sublime, thus makes sense when we confer our sense of awe and heap all our passions onto this creature. The creature was not originally bent on exacting revenge but only became a monster because of the dehumanization that he was subjected to by his creator Victor Frankenstein. The monster lies within us as the alienation and isolation that he experiences causes him to revolt and wreak havoc, so that others can understand his pain and misery. A simple creator-creation dynamic and capitalist-marxist dialectic fails to imbibe the essence of Frankenstein because it ignores the crucial betrayal of Justine, who represents justice and moral precision. While Justine typified neither capitalism nor Marxism, her betrayal by both Victor and the creature signifies the death of humanity. The monster becomes a caveat of what can happen to us when we lose our humanity, attempt to overpower nature, and fail to understand “the other” in our midst, whatever that may connote. The monstrosity that lurks within humanity is always there, but only becomes dangerous and revolutionary when we feel that humanity is incapable of understanding our thoughts, whims, and desires. Only when we become “the other” and are deemed to be abhorrent does the revolutionary aspect of this monster unleash itself. It attempts to undo the wrongs that have been perpetrated on it but ultimately induces terror and fear, sublime emotions. If the creature could be solidified or depicted, if its every thought could be ascertained and its role completely clarified, it would lose the universal sympathy aroused by our humanity. The logic of Marxism thus fails to explicate the meaning of the text, as the inversion of power between the proletariat and the capitalist, man and nature, and knowledge and ignorance doesn’t result in liberation of humanity, but utter destruction. Even though Warren Montag’s argument was perhaps presumptive in applying Marxist criticism, it was correct in stating that it would be foolish to assume that the novel had no contextual significance. The Romantic and Gothic genres both evoke the large landscapes, sense of vastness, and powerful mysticism inherent in Frankenstein. The Romantic and Gothic genres fuse with Shelley’s sociopolitical circumstances of the day to produce a work of art, which has a sense of organic unity that synthesizes elements of both the beautiful and the sublime. Hollywood’s greatest injustice then, may have been to transform such a complex and meaningful novel into a rather sensational science fiction thriller.