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snowflake challenge 2017: day 2

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Day 2

In your own space, share a book/song/movie/tv show/fanwork/etc that changed your life. Something that impacted on your consciousness in a way that left its mark on your soul. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it. Include a link to your post if you feel comfortable doing so.

Ok, but Ethan of Athos. I’ve gone on at length before on how much I love Lois McMaster Bujold’s work; it’s fun, funny, snarky, evocative, occasionally painful, and always thought-provoking. Ethan of Athos is technically part of her Vorkosigan series, but only very loosely: it doesn’t feature the titular Miles except by off-hand mention of a pseudonym. It’s been something of a forgotten novel, which isn’t too surprising - it’s of its time, and out of step with current conceptions of sexuality and gender. I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend it, and definitely not over Bujold’s other books. But it was really important to me at a complicated point in my life, because it was step one of “confronting your socialized concepts of gender roles and sexuality.” There have been many, many sci-fi books on that topic, and I’m not saying that this was the best one overall, but this was the first one to get through to me.

The protagonist is Ethan, a bio-scientist from the all-male planet of Athos. The planet maintains its population by in-vitro fertilization of cloned ova, supplemented by very limited immigration (the fact that this should result in in-breeding is explained away via “gene cleaning.” just go with it.) But, many centuries after the establishment of Athos, the cloned ova are breaking down, and Ethan is told to go track down the promised shipments of additional ova. Shenanigans ensue.
The story is good, as expected of Bujold, if not great. From another author it would be a good book, but from Bujold, when I know her more recent work is so excellent, it’s a bit disappointing. But for teen!Jess Ethan’s point of view was bizarre and alien and a revelation, because he’s completely confused, and initially very horrified, by women. His first reaction, upon seeing a woman with a baby, is to want to take the baby away from her. His reaction to the thought of heterosexual sex is slightly disgusted confusion.

That sounds weird, written down, and misogynistic in the worst way, but it’s clearly not a point of view the reader is meant to espouse. Ethan (quickly!) learns otherwise, makes friends (with the girl), gets a love interest (the - bisexual! - boy), gets his ova, and goes home, having now absorbed Gender and Sexuality In Culture 101.

I don’t know that I can fully explain just how eye-opening this was to me. I’d grown up so steeped in the principles of Feminism 2.0 that it was really hard for me to see where I’d internalized some really toxic ideas, but Ethan of Athos was my first step on the way to untangling some of them.

This post is not perfect, but I'd rather get something awkward up than nothing :/
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