Paradoxa 21 (2008): 166-83.
In a 1987 essay Ursula K. Le Guin wrote, “Our curse is alienation, the separation of yin from yang (and the moralisation of yang as good and yin as bad)” (16). In “The Matter of Seggri” (1994), Le Guin continues to oppose the separation and hierarchisation of the sexes. She advocates a rejection of the masculine warrior identity that necessitates separatism and calls for a reconciliation of the sexes.
Like many feminist SF texts of the 70s and 80s, “The Matter of Seggri” presents a separatist society to expose destructive masculine traits that are commonly idealised in Western society. Le Guin reveals, however, that in an alternative social framework these traditional signs of a perceived male superiority – physical strength, aggression, competitiveness, and sexual potency – can be made to signify social inferiority. The narrative also exposes contradictions and anxieties underlying the warrior identity in order to demonstrate that men have much to gain from rejecting the warrior ideal and working towards reconciliation.
Le Guin indicates that reconciliation can only occur, however, if individual men commit to change. “Seggri” shows that individual men’s rejection of the warrior identity can lead to change on a social and structural level. Changes to the legal and educational systems are crucial components of the journey towards reconciliation.
Le Guin acknowledges that change is difficult. Her characters struggle against ingrained attitudes, social pressure to conform, the restrictions imposed by social structures, and fear of the unknown and loss of power and privilege. Nevertheless, “Seggri” indicates that a slow, ongoing process of change will gradually overcome. Change begins with awareness of social inequities and the destructiveness of the masculine warrior identity. This awareness can inspire the imagination of alternative modes of existence. Le Guin’s “Seggri” celebrates awareness as the basis of a gradual movement in society towards reconciliation of the genders.
Le Guin, Ursula K. “Is Gender Necessary? Redux.” Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1989. 7-16.