Is it inherently negative?
My first reaction to Egalia's Daughters, by Gerd Brantenberg, was something like "WHAT is this". I was immediately very confused, and had no idea what this author was writing about. In fact, I felt as though I opened the book to the middle of a story, and became turned off by the whole experience. It took about three chapters, and someone's help, until I started to read the book understandably, with ease, and began to enjoy the world I was entering. It became very apparent that I would have to detach myself from all that I thought I knew about gender, and simply allow myself to take in the message Brantenberg was trying to convey. As soon as I began to understand what I was reading, I found myself thoroughly engaged by both the story and the sociological aspects of both the Egalian, and my societies social constructions of gender. Although I was aware, to some degree of the socialization of gender in our society, having not taken any feminist or women's studies courses, I was not familiar with how much gender is ingrained in our culture, language, government, identities, etc. This book truly brings forth those ideals by expressing the opposite of what we know in our society to be true concerning the socialization of gender.
Egalia's Daughters explicitly expresses how genderized our culture is by presenting the opposite of what we know to be true. The book reverses all that we know to be socially acceptable and correct for men and women by reversing those gender roles and creating what we know to be masculine as feminine, and what we know to be feminine as masculine. Brantenberg writes about a society where men (she calls them manwim) take on what we consider to be female roles. They stay in the home, take care of the kids, are stereotypically passive, ditsy, subordinate to women, unintelligent, etc. Whereas women in the Egalian society (she calls them wom), make the money, are powerful, dominant, aggressive, authoritarian, etc. Wom are looked up to and considered the more powerful sex, and menwom are considered to be vulnerable and weak.
Brantenberg even reverses what our society deems as feminine beauty, and masculinizes it.
"She had a fine rounded head and short-cropped black hair that always stood straight up. A straight nose, sharply defined features, small, piercing pale blue eyes, a thin determined mouth, straight shoulders and distinctive movements. When she moved, she always did so purposefully and efficiently. Her voice, which was sharp and penetrating, always gave the impression that she knew what she was talking about, even when she didn't. That was how a wom ought to be. " (11).
The way wim dress is also different than what we know to be true in our society.
"Besides, she was always stylishly dressed. A loose brown tunic and baggy trousers. Brown shoes with thick soles."(12).
Men in our society are expected to "wear the pants," (in more ways than one,) in Egalia, men are considered beautiful if they are short, fat, have long beards and a full head of hair, and have very small penises. They are expected to wear flowing skirts and dresses, adorn themselves with jewelry and accessories, and behave in shy and reserved ways.
I was particularly interested in the way Brantenberg shows how incredibly masculinized our society is by reversing all of the gendered words to be feminine. For example, one calls one's last name his or her surname (sirname in England) however, in Egalia, it is called your damename. When a boat is cared for or run, in our society it is "manned," in Egalia, it is "wommed," and "heroes" are called "sheroes." The list goes on and on. By expressing that even our language is gendered, awareness increases to just how our society ingrains masculinity into our culture and thus places men in positions of power.
It was interesting to look at a matriarchal...