Ursula Le Guin has alway been a man

That’s one of the surprising revelations from her new book of essays. It caught me by surprise; I’ve seen her speak and I’ve read her books, and she always seemed like a woman, but her point is that she was born in a time when women were subsidiary to men, and the goal was always to be manly, even in ersatz way. It’s a strange twist on a familiar stereotype, and Le Guin goes out of her way to force me to think, which is clearly a very manly thing to do.

I enjoyed her characterization of that manly paragon, Ernest Hemingway, who was everything a writing man should be. She’s really bad at being Hemingway, and she knows it.

I don’t have a gun and I don’t have even one wife and my sentences tend to go on and on and on, with all this syntax in them. Ernest Hemingway would have died rather than have syntax. Or semicolons. I use a whole lot of half-assed semicolons; there was one of them just now; that was a semicolon after “semicolons,” and another one after “now.”

And another thing. Ernest Hemingway would have died rather than get old. And he did. He shot himself. A short sentence. Anything rather than a long sentence, a life sentence. Death sentences are short and very, very manly. Life sentences aren’t. They go on and on, all full of syntax and qualifying clauses and confusing references and getting old. And that brings up the real proof of what a mess I have made of being a man: I am not even young. Just about the time they finally started inventing women, I started getting old. And I went right on doing it. Shamelessly. I have allowed myself to get old and haven’t done one single thing about it, with a gun or anything.

Dammit, that’s my dilemma, too! Just as things are getting really interesting (not necessarily in a good way), I look at myself and see a greying wreck slowly succumbing to entropy.

Here I am, old, when I wrote this I was sixty years old, “a sixty-year-old smiling public man,” as Yeats said, but then, he was a man. And now I am over seventy. And it’s all my own fault. I get born before they invent women, and I live all these decades trying so hard to be a good man that I forget all about staying young, and so I didn’t. And my tenses get all mixed up. I just am young and then all of a sudden I was sixty and maybe eighty, and what next?

Not a whole lot.

I keep thinking there must have been something that a real man could have done about it. Something short of guns, but more effective than Oil of Olay. But I failed. I did nothing. I absolutely failed to stay young. And then I look back on all my strenuous efforts, because I really did try, I tried hard to be a man, to be a good man, and I see how I failed at that. I am at best a bad man. An imitation phony second-rate him with a ten-hair beard and semicolons. And I wonder what was the use. Sometimes I think I might just as well give the whole thing up. Sometimes I think I might just as well exercise my option, stop short in front of the five-barred gate, and let the nazi fall off onto his head. If I’m no good at pretending to be a man and no good at being young, I might just as well start pretending that I am an old woman. I am not sure that anybody has invented old women yet; but it might be worth trying.

That sounds like a good project. We should probably also work on inventing old men — they mainly seem to be querulous relics wavering between hiding in fear of all the things they don’t understand and yelling impotently at all the things they don’t understand.

I’m feeling kind of cranky about Le Guin right now, for example. I read those excerpts and then I had to go buy her book.


  1. says

    If I’m no good at pretending to be a man and no good at being young, I might just as well start pretending that I am an old woman. I am not sure that anybody has invented old women yet; but it might be worth trying.

    Hah! Here’s to old women, *clink*

  2. rq says

    Going to have to put that book on my list, too.
    I love LeGuin’s writing. This is no exception, so far.

  3. aelfric says

    I love Ms. LeGuin and her works (my favorite law school class featured a week-long analysis of “The Dispossessed!”). Also, I get her point, but, I feel I have to stand up for poor old ‘syntax.’ It’s real meaning is a useful one, I swear it!

  4. ledasmom says

    I heard her do this as a speech back when she was guest of honor at Readercon. She is amazing.

  5. biogeo says

    Le Guin’s work on male vs. female language in our culture is fantastic, and she’s been at it for a long time. In college I took a class on oratory and rhetoric, and for it I wrote an essay analyzing her 1983 commencement address at Mills College (in which she explored similar themes) according to classical rhetorical forms and principles. What really struck me as I struggled with my essay was how not only the content, but the very rhetorical structure of her speech subverted the standard language of public discourse (which Le Guin identifies as male, or maybe more specifically “Machoman”). In the end I had to write my essay about how none of the forms we’d been studying all semester really applied to this speech, and that was in a sense the whole point of the speech.

    It’s not a very long speech, but this is one of my favorite bits:

    The war-games world wasn’t made by us or for us; we can’t even breathe the air there without masks. And if you put the mask on you’ll have a hard time getting it off. So how about going on doing things our own way, as to some extent you did here at Mills? Not for men and the male power hierarchy — that’s their game. Not against men, either — that’s still playing by their rules. But with any men who are with us: that’s our game. Why should a free woman with a college education either fight Machoman or serve him? Why should she live her life on his terms?

  6. says

    I’ve loved LeGuin ever since I read The Dispossessed when I was an undergrad. No, I wasn’t a lit major; I was in engineering. Reading sci-fi was what I did when I should have been working problem sets: LeGuin for intelligent, engaging stories and Larry Niven when I felt like some escapist trash.

    And (like the author herself) I will never forgive SyFy for their butchery of A Wizard of Earthsea — one of only two movies I’ve ever just stopped watching in the middle, out of irritation.

  7. biogeo says

    Eamon Knight @9:

    And (like the author herself) I will never forgive SyFy for their butchery of A Wizard of Earthsea — one of only two movies I’ve ever just stopped watching in the middle, out of irritation.

    Oh god yes. They managed to turn one of the most thoughtful, creative, and emotionally complex fantasy stories ever written into a crappy Harry Potter knock-off.

    There was also an animated film version by Studio Ghibli. As promising as that sounds, it fell far short of the source material. It’s not a bad film in and of itself (and quite beautifully animated), but it’s a weak adaptation of the Earthsea books; worth watching only if you can mentally divorce it from Earthsea. Le Guin was apparently quite unhappy with that film as well.

  8. Tigger_the_Wing, asking "Where's the justice?" says

    This thread has just moved “The Dispossessed” to the top of my reading pile. Thank you!

  9. aelfric says

    “The Dispossessed” is probably the best writing on actual (meaning non-pejorative) anarchy since Proudhon. Also a great read! Highly recommended.

  10. Nick Gotts says

    Yet another book I have to read! I haven’t read much of LeGuin’s non-fiction – really, only book reviews. As a writer of any kind of fiction, I’d put her among the greatest of the last century. As a writer of SF as unequalled, ever.

  11. fusilier says

    “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.”

    Read it. Don’t argue with me, just read it.

    SMOF, jg. (ret.)

    James 2:24

  12. aziraphale says

    “An imitation phony second-rate him with a ten-hair beard and semicolons. ”

    Made me laugh hysterically. I’ve loved almost everything she ever wrote – I couldn’t get into Always Coming Home – and shall buy the new book immediately.

  13. alexmcdonald says

    In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find—if it’s a good novel—that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.

    From The Left Hand of Darknesss which i first read the year it was published (1969). It has been my favourite book ever since. Le Guin is at her perfect best when discussing sex, race & colour, and religion. A beautiful book.

  14. Tethys says

    Ursula Le Guin and Madeleine L’Engle have always been two of my favorite SF authors. I have the same issues with run-on sentences and semi-colons and failing to be a man properly. I hope she writes more about this old woman thing, I think I could knock that one out of the park. I’m a little unsure of the meaning of this sentence;

    Sometimes I think I might just as well give the whole thing up. Sometimes I think I might just as well exercise my option, stop short in front of the five-barred gate, and let the nazi fall off onto his head.

    I know what a five barred gate is, but is this a reference to Animal Farm and my beloved Boxer? (meta- I am surprised how simply remembering this film decades after watching it evokes such strong emotions. evil pigs….eeeeeeevvvviiiiiiiiillllllllll )

  15. otrame says

    I also loved the Dispossessed, but I loved the Left Hand of Darkness more. It was a careful crafted exploration of what a bisexual (the other meaning of bisexual) society would be like and all very science fictiony, but for God’s sake, she made me CRY. I mean I sat in a chair and fucking WEPT.

    That had never happened to me before. Oh, sure, Gandalf at Moria, but that was fantasy and English and what do you expect? But at the time, science fiction was almost exclusively written by and for men and boys. Girls were allowed to read, but only if they kept quiet and didn’t let everyone know how unfeminine they were being. It was all very clever and I really mean that, no sarcasm. What it was not was emotional, no more emotional that your average TV hero of the time was allowed to be. All emotions were to be judiciously expressed, never allowed to be overblown. Women and not-manly-at-all-men could get angry and happy and they were allowed to grieve right out loud (though the implication was always there that they were being a little silly about it) but the Hero? Never.

    So yes, I do recommend The Dispossessed. I recommend the Left Hand of Darkness more.

    P.S. I have a hell of a lot more that 10 beard hairs. I wonder if that makes me more of a man or more of a crone. At this time in my life I prefer the crone. We can make our own damned cookies.

  16. mildlymagnificent says

    Have to say I agree with otrame. The Dispossessed was a *spectacular* feat of writing making it seem quite possible to live in such a political system while never overlooking its burdens and problems.

    But The Left hand of Darkness was utterly sublime.

  17. says

    I’m embracing aging and look forward to my cootdom when I’m expected to yell at kids to get off my law, which will be piteous as I don’t have a lawn.

  18. says

    @15: I loved Always Coming Home — the alternation between the plot, the songs and poetry and art, and the ethnographical notes, fills in the rich texture of the invented world. Made me want to go live with the Kesh. I think the only LeGuin I couldn’t get into was the latter Earthsea sequels.

    I recently re-read The Dispossessed, after an interval of many years, and enjoyed it more than ever, I think (Being older? Seeing the world differently? I dunno). I should dig out and re-read everything else I last read 20 years ago.

  19. helenaconstantine says

    Has anyone noticed that Lequin is terribly sexist? She thinks men are some kind of inhuman monsters. I have only read two things of hers. The first was her piece in Ellison’s Dangerous visions. I’ll never forget the line, “He only felt like a man after having sex with a woman or after having killed another man.”

    The other piece was some children’s book in which rats (I think, maybe squirrels) evolved wings. The entire new population of flying rats became the pets of a group of children. They had to be sure never to mention the existence of the rats to any adult men, because, being men, they would instantly destroy the entire population by vivisection. That’s what you’d do, right PZ?

  20. says

    I read the Earthsea trilogy as a teenager and loved them, and have read them innumerable times since. Hated Tehanu, it might have been a different series. I’m just downloading The Other Wind, now I can get it in epub.

    Left Hand of Darkness … maybe I read it too young, but it didn’t do anything for me, I’m afraid. I haven’t read her other work.

    I loved that essay. Yay for semicolons and syntax and long sentences and tongue-in-cheek!

  21. says

    helenaconstantine @27 – men certainly weren’t inhuman monsters in the four books of hers I’ve read. I haven’t read the ones you mention.

  22. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    @2kittehs #29
    Maybe helenaconstantine got lost and is commenting on another author called Lequin, though I must admit I haven’t seen or read anything by them.

  23. Esteleth is Groot says

    I don’t know what you’ve read of LeGuin’s, helenaconstantine, but I’m guessing it isn’t The Disposessed, The Left Hand of Darkness, or “The Matter of Seggri.”

    Or any number of other works.

  24. Tethys says

    Ursula Le Guin has a book series called Catwings. I’ve only ever read the first book, and do not recall any mention of evil male vivisectionists. It is ridiculous to try and cast her as sexist based on one out of context sentence, while acknowledging you haven’t read much of her work, and also completely mangling the spelling of her name.

  25. says

    Has anyone noticed that Lequin is terribly sexist? She thinks men are some kind of inhuman monsters. I have only read two things of hers. The first was her piece in Ellison’s Dangerous visions. I’ll never forget the line, “He only felt like a man after having sex with a woman or after having killed another man.”

    You seem to be referring to Don Davidson in “The Word for World Is Forest” (which I recommended above). He’s one amongst several male characters even in that story/novella alone. He expresses a prominent and harmful worldview, but Le Guin doesn’t suggest it’s an essential characteristic of men. It’s about the ideas that accompany violent systems of oppression – racist, sexist, speciesist – and not any innate characteristics of men or those in any any other dominant category. Quite the contrary.

  26. Rob Grigjanis says

    alexmcdonald, otrame, mildlymagnificent; Yes. The Left Hand of Darkness is the best SF novel I’ve read, and possibly the best novel. A magnificent writer.

  27. says

    Has anyone noticed that Lequin is terribly sexist?…

    I’m fascinated by this. Vague and confused recollections are supposed to substitute for evidence and analysis, the conclusions of which others should have noticed.

  28. M can help you with that. says

    My mother always more or less dismissed SF out of hand (though not fantasy quite so much — she’s been a LotR fan since the 60s) until I loaned her my copy of The Left Hand of Darkness. She refused to give it back — it’s still one of her favorite books. She went on to read and love The Dispossessed and The Lathe of Heaven; I also give Le Guin some credit for helping to encourage my mother to become more actively feminist.

  29. chigau (違う) says

    “The Word for World is Forest” was in Again, Dangerous Visions.
    I read that one and The Dispossesed and The Left Hand of Darkness at least once a year.
    I should get ebooks, ’cause the paperbacks are in tatters.

  30. Tethys says


    referring to Don Davidson in “The Word for World Is Forest”

    Interesting that Helenconstantine seemed to miss that this character was also one of the most vicious slave-masters so it’s hardly surprising that Le Quin also gave him suitably sexist and horrible internal dialog. If we want to discuss sexist or otherwise creepy SF writers, there are several who come to mind. Piers Anthony and his odes to pedophilia? Any number of male authors and their rape fantasies?

  31. says

    Just downloaded Catwings from the Open Library.

    ‘A pigeon came swooping up to join them. It flew along with them, peering at them uneasily from its little, round, red eye. “What kind of birds are you, anyways?” it finally asked.

    ‘”Passenger pigeons,” James said promptly.’

    Love it!

  32. says

    I think I’ve found the part you were talking about, helenaconstantine – it’s in Catwings where Susan and Hank promise not to cage or harm the flying kittens, and not to tell anyone about them. In Hank’s words, ‘”And we’ll never ever tell anyone else,” said Hank, rather fiercely. “Ever! Because – you know how people are. If people saw them – “‘

    That’s not calling men monsters, it’s making the all too true observation of what humans would likely do if they found such animals. Study? Put on show? Captivity of some kind? It doesn’t mention vivisection at all.

  33. Rob Grigjanis says

    chigau @37: Reminds me I haven’t read Dangerous Visions or Again, Dangerous Visions for yonks. Must do something about that.

  34. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    If that bit of Catwings is criticizing any group of people, it’s not men, it’s adults. But there’s no rhetorical game to be won by accusing Le Guin of being anti-grown-up.

  35. chigau (違う) says

    Rob Grigjanis #43
    I’m not even sure where my copies of DV and A,DV are but having just looked at the lists of stories, I really need to find them.

  36. says

    helenaconstantine is a kind of chronic nitwit who has frequently said crap like that, and has twice announced that she’s leaving and never reading pharyngula again. I’ve fixed that for her.

  37. phere says

    She is probably my favorite author, right above Steven Erikson (Malazan series). I read the Earthsea Trilogy when I was a girl of 8 years old. I loved how she just plopped you right into her worlds, no apologies and no condescending explanations. She has confidence in the intelligence of her readers; confidence and respect. Her worlds are rich and her characters richer still. There is no one quite like her. Even though I adore her, the woman is prolific and I am ashamed I have yet to read a good number of h er works.

    On a side note, since this is book related – I wanted to thank the contributors of that long ago post PZ did when HBO’s Game of Thrones first aired – he had said he was done with the series due to the misogyny and violence – and in that thread there were a number of fantasy suggestions – one that kept popping up was the Malazan series. I had never heard of it so a few years later I finally delved into the series- and I will never be the same. Fantasy is all but ruined because nothing will come close to the complexity and beauty of the Malazan world. But it was worth it. Every tear, every laugh, every finger-nail biting moment. So thank you – if anyone from then is still around. Hood’s breath, thank you.

  38. phere says

    I’m surprised I haven’t seen “Changing Planes” mentioned! It was quite surreal – one of her lighter works although it had darker moments.
    From amazon:
    “The misery of waiting for a connecting flight at an airport leads to the accidental discovery of alighting on other planes—not airplanes but planes of existence. Ursula Le Guin’s deadpan premise frames a series of travel accounts by the tourist-narrator who describes bizarre societies and cultures that sometimes mirror our own, and sometimes open puzzling doors into the alien.”

  39. unclefrogy says

    I enjoyed the entire earth sea cycle very much though some required more than one reading to figure out what was happening and my mind would wonder a little but if you have not I would recommend reading them all (6 I think) to the end well worth the effort. I was very pleased to read The Telling some more great winter scenes and an interesting bifurcated world.
    I read The Lathe of Heaven and have seen the Canadian movie a couple of times both good.
    I thought Always Coming Home was a very interesting book and concept created a world and a sketch of a story with bits and pieces of ethnography I wanted more.
    The thing I like about her writing is the conflict is not solved by confrontation. Her approach is most clearly portrayed by Jeb in his use of magic to defend his Island in the first of the Wizards of Earth Sea books
    at some point I plan to take the time, while I do little else, and read and re-read all of her works !
    uncle frogy

  40. rq says

    Ooh, Lathe of Heaven! I have to find it, since I can’t remember if I lent it to someone or simply lost it back in Canada. But yes, I’m joining the Left Hand of Darkness crowd, here – I read The Dispossessed and really liked it, but LHoD made my heart sing and cry and the ending… Anyway, I probably should just read All Teh UKLG Bookes!

    If anyone asked me, though, who is my favourite author, I’d probably have to think for a long time before thinking of her. Probably because all the books I’ve read by her haven’t ever really been the spectacular, loud, ‘memorable’ kind – but they’ve certainly been insidious in their ability to stay with me over the years (and are eminently re-readable, which I can’t say for many a loud, spectacular, ‘memorable’ novel), and that’s what I like best.

  41. says

    “Tehanu” is kinda anti-male. For example, the people who want to cling to life at all costs are all males, and they want to do that because they are males, as opposed to the women who are all part of the Circle of Life thing. This goes against what she wrote in The Farthest Shore, where the fear of death applied to everyone.

    I figure maybe she was making up up for all the sexism she had to put in The Earthsea trilogy to make it acceptable to the conventions of the medievalistic fantasy genre- “Weak as woman’s magic. “Wicked as woman’s magic.” ; women aren’t even allowed to become Wizards. Not to mention making my favorite character,Tenar, basically just an impediment in the escape from the Tombs of Atuan- couldn’t she at least have contributed by dancing the Nameless Ones to sleep?

    Still, that as a long time ago- I’m sure she’d have written it differently now.

  42. says

    Man, I read so many of these books, but mostly about 20 years ago when I was a teenager. I should revisit them. There’s a lot that I didn’t understand at the time. But I know it had a huge effect on my development into an adult and a feminist.

    I shall be going back to revisit some of these.

    I bet some of them would be great as an audiobook. I loves me some audiobooks.

  43. says

    @50: There’s too much Le Guin *to* mention. Yes, Changing Planes and The Telling and Four Ways To Forgiveness and, and, and…..

    @54: The latter Earthsea books, from what I recall, do seem to repent of some of the ideas of the first three: the Kargads aren’t so bad after all; Ged it turns out has been a bit stupid on certain matters.

  44. ledasmom says

    “Dancing to Ganam” – I cannot remember what collection it’s in – fantastic story. Just amazing. I would be more specific, except I doubt everyone here has read it.

  45. David Wilford says

    Ursula Le Guin is a writer who happens to also be a woman. I thought her early works were splendid and so did many fans of SF&F, who awarded her Hugos and Nebulas back in the 1970s. I wasn’t as fond of her work in the 1980s and 90s, but starting with her novel The Telling (2000) I’ve again enjoyed reading her. Her Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995) was very good also.

  46. favog says

    You’re probably right, Sally. “The Dispossessed” was my first LeGuin, I read it in high school because a teacher of mine was talking about me to someone he knew, and that person recommended the teacher recommend it to me despite it being over most high-schoolers’ heads. I did enjoy the book, but I’m pretty some of it actually was over my head and I could benefit from a second read on it. It was certainly the case with “Left Hand of Darkness”.

  47. says

    I thought Hemingway committed suicide after being treated for depression, and electro-shock therapy. I find Le Guin’s comment about it very disturbing.

  48. Nick Gotts says

    Ursula Le Guin is a writer who happens to also be a woman. – David Wilford@61

    Right. So either:
    1) A writer’s life experience makes no difference to their writing.
    2) Gender makes no systematic difference to one’s life experience.

  49. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 64:

    Right. Obviously, gender has been a factor (as well as a subject) for her. But there’s more to Le Guin as a writer than her gender. Ted Sturgeon was a big influence on her as a writer, for instance. So was her father being an anthropologist. It’s not all reducible to gender, is the point.

  50. toska says

    I remember reading and enjoying Catwings as a child, but I never read anything more of hers. I think I’m going to have to fix that… :)

    David Wilford
    I don’t think any male writer’s works would be considered “reducible to gender.” Why would a female writer’s?

  51. David Wilford says

    toska @ 66:

    I’m afraid you’ll have to ask P.Z. about that:

    I enjoyed her characterization of that manly paragon, Ernest Hemingway, who was everything a writing man should be.

    But no, I don’t think Hemingway can be reduced to just gender either.

  52. marcus says

    “The Dispossessed” IMNSHFO The best utopian/dystopian speculative fiction novel ever!
    Literally changed my life by changing the basis of my understanding of politics and the state.
    “The state is responsible only for the general well-being and security of its citizens. ” IIRC

  53. toska says

    David Wilford @67
    Ah, sounds like we agree. I interpreted that part of the OP differently. I took it as poking fun at the idea of Ernest Hemingway as an ideal of a male writer, not that PZ or Le Guin were saying that Hemingway’s works can be reduced to his gender.

    But I really think it’d be difficult to argue that any author’s works can be reduced to gender, unless they are writing only about gender, and even then, not always.

  54. says

    Reminds me that Jane Austen was the ‘first’ female romance writer. Prior to her female writer were men with pseudonyms and women wrote with male pseudonyms. Different era same sad need for stupidity.

    tomorrow’s losses

  55. Tigger_the_Wing, asking "Where's the justice?" says

    Well, I’m currently 2/3 of the way through The Dispossessed and am enjoying it immensely!

    Thank you for the recommendations – I haven’t read any UKL since I read the first few Earthsea books umpty decades ago. I have a lot of fun catching up to do!

  56. scienceavenger says

    Ever since I picked up LHoD at the used bookstore (remember those?) simply because I never heard of it and it won a Pulitzer, its been one of my favorite books, rereading it more than I can count. She was incredibly effective at creating a realistic sci-fi world, where you could spend hours thinking through the conflicts and problems in such a world. Earthsea left me with some stark images, but on the whole didn’t seem as full as LHoD.

    As for this article, like so much literary criticism/analysis, it seems like word salad to me, and I read it 3 times. WTF is she getting on about?

  57. eilish says

    You may not be aware of this, but women have often been described as ‘minor’ writers, not as ‘powerful’ or ‘compelling’ as their male counterparts. LeGuin is talking about her experience of being dismissed as a writer because of her gender.
    Or, you could be trolling. Personally, I think you are a very brave soul to describe anything written by LeGuin as ‘word salad’ given the level of enthusiasm for her writing in this thread alone.

    “anti-male”? RLY?
    ‘Tehanu’ was the first book LeGuin wrote that featured a woman narrator. That’s 3 books where women only feature as side characters. When I first read ‘Tehanu’ I was over-joyed to have a woman’s voice explaining the story, and especially to hear Tenar speak of her active life.
    The men in ‘Tehanu’ are not evil because they are male: they are evil because they do not recognise women as fully human. They are focussed on their own interests. The women are not prancing around doing ‘Circle of Life’ mysticism – they’re cooking and cleaning and running farms. They are doing the work that allows the wizards to sit around admiring how clever and powerful they are.
    Tenar can’t exercise any power over the Nameless Ones: she hasn’t got any. Either they don’t exist, or are completely uninterested in any of her actions. Tenar exists to be the priests’ puppet. She hasn’t even got an identity. That was the point of the book.

    I strongly recommend fans of LeGuin to read her YA series “Gifts”, “Voices” and “Powers”. Absolutely brilliant. She has also written ‘Lavinia’ inspired by her reading of Virgil. The woman is awesome.

  58. Nick Gotts says

    It’s not all reducible to gender, is the point. – David Wilford@65

    Then you expressed yourself very poorly; and of course no-one has suggested it’s “all reducible to gender”, so it was a pretty pointless point?

  59. Nick Gotts says

    “The state is responsible only for the general well-being and security of its citizens. ” IIRC – marcus@68

    That seeems a very odd point to take from a book which moves between an anarchist world (i.e., one with no state), and one where the state combines brutal oppression with dishonest co-optation of the central character. Le Guin being the fine writer she is, it’s not really utopian either, because the anarchist society of Anarres is shown as far from perfect (although far preferable to statist Urras), and certainly not static, as utopias are.