Thursday, July 30, 2009

Assigning Gender

I just finished watching a collection of Pixar short films, and then a commentary on the films.  When they showed their lamp film at a computer graphics show in 1986, a famous computer scientist came up to the animator and asked, 'Is the parent lamp a mother or a father?'  They viewed this as a sign of success, that they were creating characters people could relate to.

I immediately thought that this was a ludicrous question.  It never occurred to me to assign a gender to the 'parent' lamp.  I understood the parent-child relationship, and I did anthropomorphize them both, but I had no psychic need to categorize the parent as 'mother' or 'father'.  It was just 'parent'.

Maybe this was just me.  Maybe my knowledge of the wide variety of reproduction types in biology led me to subconsciously assume an asexual amoeba-type fission.  But I think that most people of my generation would feel less impulse to assign gender to the parent lamp.  Our culture makes us much more comfortable with flexible gender roles than an old computer scientist in the 1980's, and so we would feel less need to place everything in a specific role.

No comments: