Theme Of Gender And Feminism In Parable Of The Sower, The Edge Of Time And Binti
Feminism has been changing the way people think about gender since the 1960’s, and this change can be seen in the writers of different novels. Feminism and gender roles are portrayed in the characters in Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, and Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.
In the present world in Woman on the Edge of Time all of the women are weak and must rely on men because they are in positions of power. The reader sees traditional gender roles throughout the novel, such as when Dolly is a prostitute who relies heavily on Geraldo even though he beats her, but not in Luciente’s future Utopia.
In Parable of the Sower, American society in 2024 has returned to stereotypical gender roles and is described through how Lauren experiences her world. Women are seen as objects to men rather than human beings throughout the novel.
The Arabic word “Binti,” in the novella Binti, translates to ‘daughter of’, and it is clear to the reader that she is more than just that. She represents a smart and powerful woman who becomes the sole representative of the human species, and she is enough to stop the destruction of the population of Oomza Uni. Each of these novels show the hardships and true realities that women face every day but each character tries to break though the typical gender-based stereotypes in their societies.
Piercy focuses on female issues with the two main characters, Connie, who represents a feminist distopia, and Luciente, who represents a feminist utopia. In Connie’s world women are only supposed to cook, clean and please their husband, which are known as “traditional roles” for women today. Connie grew up poor and Mexican, and the only thing her mother told her was that she will have a life as a wife and a mother and nothing else, but Connie wanted to escape her mother’s fate by attending college.
After leaving the psych institution for beating her daughter, Connie became a poor woman living off welfare, which according to Tilmon is a women’s issue. The man is compared to the welfare system as the one who controls your money, “You trade a man a man for the man. But you can’t divorce him if he treats you bad. He can divorce you, of course, cut you off anytime he wants”; this relates to the relationship of Dolly and Geraldo (Tillman 2). Connie begs Dolly to leave him cause he beats her but Dolly needs to rely on him, and she knows she can’t leave him because she will have nothing. The men in Connie’s world ruin everything.
The future with Luciente represents the ideal feminist environment where both men and women are equal in almost every way. The language changes and “he” and “she” pronouns have been replaced with “person” and “his” and “hers” are replaced by the possessive pronoun “per”. This has placed emphasis on the feminist ideal of gender separations being eliminated in favor to recognize common humanity. Women in this future are independent from the things that they once were in Connie’s world and they even don’t have to give birth. Men here share the burden of mothering fully and machines have also taken over almost all the women’s tasks. When Connie found out the babies in the future were born in tubes and machines, she became mad and disagreed believing that a mother and her child should have a connection with each other.
Luciente explained to Connie, “It was part of women’s long revolution. When we were breaking all the old hierarchies. Finally there was that one thing we had to give up too, the only power we ever had, in return for no more power for anyone”; women had to give up birth if they want to be equals (Piercy 110). Women giving up birth meant they had to break that bond between gender and equality in order to all be equal. To many feminists, motherhood was sacred, and they would not do anything to would change that, even to have equality. In Piercy’s utopia she frees women in the future of the burdens of children and family, and many feminists would not consider those to be burdens.
Butler’s dystopian novel describes how America’s future society has broken down but retains traditional gender roles with women staying inside the community and men going beyond the walls. Lauren has the gift of hyper empathy and can feel everything others feel, and through her experiences the exploitation of women is expressed multiple times. When returning home to her destroyed neighborhood Lauren says, “Bodies passed under my eyes: Jeremy Balter, one of Robin’s brothers, Philip Moss, George Hsu, his wife and his oldest son, Juana Montoya, Rubin Quintanilla, Lidia Cruz….. Lidia was only eight years old. She had been raped, too” (Butler 163).
Lauren sees all of these corpses and realizes that the women and children were raped before they were killed; this shows how women and even children were used by men as objects rather than humans. Lauren also realizes the difference between men and women and the stereotypes that are connected amongst both. The women were supposed to care for the family while the men were supposed to go out to protect and provide for them. When discussing her life with Bianca Montoya, Lauren says, “But it is pretty much what the neighborhood expects of me—of anyone at my age. Grow up a little more, get married, have babies” she was the only one that refused to conform to these roles (Butler 87). Women and girls knew their role and how their life would be because their only purpose was to cook, clean and have babies while relying on their husbands to work, which was something that Lauren did not believe in.
She was shooting guns and crossed gender boundaries by dressing up like a man to cross the wall in order to hide her exterior femininity and look strong. But when disguising herself as a male, she was never completely masculine because it was her hyper empathy that made her continuously feminized.
The women in Butler’s world were not able to survive outside of the walls because they had negative qualities that had no survivor skills when compared to the men and their survivor skills, this demonstrates how weak women are. Lauren can be defined as a womanist, Walkers definition says “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female” (Collins 2). Outside of the community she made sure she could help anyone regardless of race and gender in order to survive together.
Binti is a poor black Himba woman who decided to board a ship and leave behind her home planet to attended Omza University for her mathematical skills. She wanted to grow and change in order to make something for herself and not just be known as the “daughter of” her father. While on the ship, the Meduse had killed everyone, and she became the only survivor left of the human species. She knew she had to survive and she ended up offering her gift of harmony in order to save the other humans at Oomza University.
Binti represents black girl magic here because of her courage and strength to do what she believed was right. It is typical standard for women not to have a voice that would be heard and cause a revolution. She was a young woman who was known to save Oomza University and was honored. Binti had to give up who she was in order to change into the person she became, which made her grow from her experience. She accomplished her goal overall by standing out and being strong which is what a feminist believes in.
Overall, feminism utopias provide a different world that puts men and women at equal levels. Feminist themes engage more in Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy, Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler rather than Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. The dystopia in Woman on the Edge of Time shows all the women weak and must relying on men because they are in positions of power, while the futuristic utopia is all about equality. The future of America’s society in Parable of the Sower shows Lauren standing up to traditional gender roles and changing the way society should view women.
Binti proves herself by being recognized by not only being a “daughter of” but by saving the human species at Oomza University. Feminism in these novels shows how strong and powerful a character can be.
The discrimination women faced is reflected in the Redstockings Manifest 1969 which says, “We are exploited as sex objects, breeders, domestic servants, and cheap labor. We are considered inferior beings, whose only purpose is to enhance men’s lives. Our humanity is denied. Our prescribed behavior is enforced by the threat of physical violence” (Redstockings 1). The female authors of these novels brought feminists ideas together to make a change for the better.
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