Academic journal article et Cetera

Toward an "Other" Dimension: An Essay on Transcendence of Gender and Sexuality

Academic journal article et Cetera

Toward an "Other" Dimension: An Essay on Transcendence of Gender and Sexuality

Article excerpt

Imagine a distant universe, where humans are provided cognitive data packages at birth. These cognitive data packages contain interconnected networks of socially constructed attitudes, roles, beliefs, traits, and appearances. Wired into the individual's brain, they affect every human process. However, this universe deems certain data packages as superior. It hegemonically favors humans with the perceived superior data packages and marginalizes the "Others." This distant universe is not too distant. Rather, it is the world we live in, and these cognitive data packages are gender and sexuality.

Gender and sexuality provide a set of acceptable attributes and behaviors, masculine and feminine, heterosexual and homosexual, for men and women. However, cultural institutions have placed gender and sexuality in a hierarchy, favoring masculinity over femininity and heterosexuality over homosexuality (Hollander, Renfrow, and Howard, 2011). This marginalizes those with feminine or homosexual attributes, labeling them as the Other, while rewarding masculine and heterosexual traits as normative (Bryerly, 2007).

As culturally signified terms, gender and sexuality are continuously being defined and redefined. Science fiction texts, which include books, films, and television series, provide platforms for debate and redefinition of our gendered society. Through these realms, we can ask the crucial subsequent questions: can we imagine a society devoid of these stringent and stereotypical gender and sexuality roles, and if so what would this society look like, and how do we create futures that give voices to the Other? This essay examines these questions through science fiction and futuretypes.

Examination of futuretypes present in current science fiction provides predictions about gender and sexuality in our future society. The purpose of this essay is to examine how science fiction texts serve as pertinent platforms to question cultural gender and sexuality norms that marginalize the Other. Therefore, this essay will explore (1) the unique facets of science fiction texts in regard to debating gender and sexuality, (2) brief examples of gender and sexuality futuretypes embedded in these texts, and (3) how science fiction can be used to create a less marginalized future.

Science Fiction Texts: Platforms for Debate

Science fiction includes facets that make it a desirable space for gender and sexuality debate. Two of these qualities are extrapolation and defamiliarization. Extrapolation involves "speculating from what exists to what might exist" (Roberts, 1999, p. 2). Defamiliarization takes the familiar and makes it unfamiliar or strange (Roberts, 1999). Both of these textual qualities have been applied to current gender and sexuality issues in our society. For example, extrapolating from our gendered society to a future society where men and women live in separate cultures. An example of defamiliarization could be going from the familiar of men seeking women based on appearance to women seeking men solely on appearance (Merrick, 2003). Both extrapolation and defamiliarization highlight specific cultural beliefs and encourage the audience to reflect on these beliefs in a new light. These qualities are crucial for debating the hegemonic gender and sexuality societal beliefs that often go unnoticed. Overall, these facets allow science fiction to have a unique ability in exploring gender issues.

Science Fiction in Culture and Gender and Sexuality Futuretypes

Although science fiction can shine a light on gender issues in society through its textual features, we must remember that these texts are embedded and created for audiences in this same society. In other words, mediated texts are products of their time and can be shaped by the cultural biases and beliefs of that time (Hall, 1975). For example, our culture has deemed science and technology as masculine spheres, which can affect how women are portrayed in science fiction in relation to science and technology. …

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