Ursula K. Le Guin: « I am a man »

Inspired by the latest kerfuffle-brouhaha-thingy that doesn’t want to die, but also something that has been lurking on my mind from some time…

The Wave in the Mind, essays by Ursula K. Le Guin (cover)

Ursula K. Le Guin once wrote an essay beginning like this:

I am a man. Now you may think I’ve made some kind of silly mistake about gender, or maybe that I’m trying to fool you, because my first name ends in a, and I own three bras, and I’ve been pregnant five times, and other things like that that you might have noticed, little details. But details don’t matter. If we have anything to learn from politicians it’s that details don’t matter. I am a man, and I want you to believe and accept this fact, just as I did for many years.

You see, when I was growing up at the time of the Wars of the Medes and the Persians and when I went to college just after the Hundred Years War and when I was bringing up my children during the Korean, Cold and Vietnam Wars, there were no women. Women are a very recent invention. I predate the invention of women by decades. Well, if you insist on pedantic accuracy, women have been invented several times in widely varying localities, but the inventors just didn’t know how to sell the product. […] Models like the Austen and the Brontë were too complicated, and people just laughed at the Suffragette, and the Woolf was too far ahead of its time.

So when I was born, there actually were only men. People were men. They all had one pronoun, his pronoun; that’s who I am. I am the generic he, as in, « If anybody needs to have an abortion he will have to go to another state, » or « A writer knows which side his bread is buttered on. » That’s me, the writer, him. I am a man. […]

« Introducing Myself, » © 1992 by U. K. Le Guin, in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004).

And so on.

(Question for the attentive reader: who is « I » in the above quoted text? And is it the same « I » throughout? I’ll leave the unraveling of that one to your sagacity…)

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