Welcome to this blog! I’ve named it “The Left Hand of Feminism” as a way to honor one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin’s pathbreaking novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, recounts the experiences of a heterosexual, male visitor to a planet, Gethen, where people are not locked into rigid gendered selves. Each Gethenian has the potential to become either male or female during a cyclical, estrus-like period of “kemmer.” At all other times the Gethenians live without sexual identities or urges. The visitor’s inability to step outside of his own way of seeing people as men or women first, and human second, causes him to make mistakes that nearly kill him. Towards the end of the book, he sees the truth:
And I saw then again, and for good, what I had always been afraid to see, and had pretended not to see in him: that he was a woman as well as a man. Any need to explain the sources of that fear vanished with the fear; what I was left with was, at last acceptance of him as he was.
In addition to being a powerful anti-war novel, the work is also a great love story. As Le Guin portrays it, love arises not from the affinities and likenesses, but rather from the differences, between people.
Feminism for me is profoundly a movement about love between human beings, love that arises from acceptance and reverence for the differences that make each one of us unique. Feminism asks us to transcend the cultural conditioning that locks us into narrow concepts of femininity and masculinity.
Another passage in The Left Hand of Darkness inspires this blog. The visitor to Gethen, who has come to invite this world into a larger federation of planets, the Ekumen. According to custom, he has come alone. What he has to say to the Gethenians about his mission applies to my own here, in this blog:
I thought it was for your sake that I came alone, so obviously alone, so vulnerable, that I could in myself pose no threat, change no balance: not an invasion, but a mere messenger-boy. But there’s more to it than that. Alone, I cannot change your world. But I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I finally make, if I make one, is not impersonal and not only political: it is individual; it is personal, it is both more and less than political. Not We and They; not I and It; but I and Thou.
I cannot change your world alone but I can be changed by it. I can enter into a relationship with you, the reader of these words now, and listen to you. I do not therefore seek an impersonal or only political relationship with you, but rather a personal one. Le Guin says that this kind of relationship is not pragmatic but mystical, and that beginnings and means are far more important than the end. Let us then proceed, as she says,
by subtle ways, and slow ones, and queer, risky ones
to evolve together.