Saturday, June 30, 2018

Why Yaoi: Freeing Up Discourse

In a prior post, I remark that taking gender roles/identification off the table can help free up the writer and reader to think through the relationship problem.

For instance, in the case of one member of a couple asking another member to give up his/her career, I state the following:
Here's where yaoi becomes useful. When I asked myself, "How do I solve this relationship's problem?" I didn't have to worry about two specifically gendered arguments (that I have heard throughout my life):

(1) "A good wife would stay with her husband and support his career; after all, if he cheated while she was away or because she refused to go with him, it would be her own darn fault. He comes first!"

(2) "A wife should never settle for being 'barefoot in the kitchen.' Any good husband would understand and support her decision to find a great job; otherwise, he would be a domineering, controlling, and possibly abusive jerk."
I  lately came across a series in which some men can give birth. I have mixed feelings about the series, especially regarding some of the police procedurals that run the narrative (hey, at least there's a story!). But the underlying trope does raise the problem of pregnancy v. gender. As Camille Paglia continually points out, women have a biological narrative enclosed in their very systems: Have babies! On the other hand, she credits modern systems for producing methods which free women from their biological fate. But she isn't too pleased with young women who don't take their biological coding seriously as something that must be honestly faced and considered, even if rejected.

And it is currently very hard to imagine a future world where the fact that women give birth isn't a force in imagining or re-imagining gender roles.

And this would be true, no matter who was giving birth.

At least, this is the proposition of the above mentioned series. Men who give birth--omegas--have to contend not only with stigmas due to their sex and sexual orientation (men still do the  impregnating) but also, historically, with stigmas due to their supposed weakness and supposed susceptibility. They have suffered legal restraints (e.g., women in the past had to give up teaching positions when they got pregnant). They have suffered criticism when they haven't been able to produce children. They have had to fight to enter professions that include possible violence and been judged for placing themselves and a potential child in danger.

This is not, by the way, a male writer trying to claim all the hardship of pregnancy. The women in the novels, including the ones who get pregnant, discuss many of the same issues.

And it raises an interesting possibility: how much is biology, rather than so-called patriarchal systems, responsible for women being siphoned into roles as "caregivers" and "homemakers" and "the weaker sex." How much does protection of the species dictate those perceived gender roles?

Like Paglia, I think women (people) should question gender roles. Also, like Paglia, I think the questioning should take us back further than blaming a particular system. How embedded are people's assumptions? What exactly must be challenged?