1) In her essay "The Five Sexes," Fausto-Sternling (1993) argues that there are multiple intersexes that exist between male and female. As opposed to the Western idea of having only two sexes, there are different groups inbetween; hermaphroditic and intersexual people exist and must be acknowledged. In the case of Levi Suydam, an intersexual man who wished to vote in 1843; since he was considered a woman, he was initially barred from voting, since women could not vote at that time.
Fausto-Sternling's primary argument is that there are many biological instances of the intersexual body that exist in the world. There are three different types of hermaphrodites in the world; there are male and female pseudohermaphrodites, who merely have varying parts of male and female genitalia in various proportions, as well as true hermaphrodites who have definite sexual organs of both genders. Since, to the author, "sex is a vast, infinitely malleable continuum that defies the constraints of even five categories", this strict division between two genders must stop in favor of a recognition of the hermaphroditic genders in between (p. 21).
Fausto-Sternling's research brings up a study performed by John Money on congenital sexual-organ defects as evidence - according to that study, almost 4% of human beings are born with some sort of intersexuality. While this is far from a majority, it is far too many people to simply ignore or leave their rights or identification completely ignored. Other evidence includes the work of Hugh H. Young, who studied hermaphrodites in a very open-minded and objective manner. He merely called the phenomenon an 'accident of birth,' and refrained from judgingg them. Conversely, the book The Intersexual Disorders by Dewhurst and Gordon claims that intersexuality dooms a child to a life of abnormality and shame.
The assumption made clear by the order of language and Western society is that heterosexuality and the duality of sexes is the norm, and everything else is some sort of abnormality that should be ignored or relatively discounted; this is an attitude the author feels needs to change. Fausto-Sternling calls for change and an abandonment of the security blanket that constitutes bipower, thereby marginalizing those who do not fit squarely into those categories. New categories must be made for them to identify with, or else they will simply be a second class of people, barely considered human since they do not fit into these gender archetypes.
2) In The Handmaid's Tale, there are many different social groups within Gilead, all of which have varying degrees of power. The Commanders of the Faithful are the ruling class of Gilead, and are allowed a Wife and a Handmaid, among others. It is their solemn duty to procreate in order to continue the ruling class, and they reached that level of power because of their responsibility to maintain the power structure of Gilead. The Angels are the officers in the Gilead military; they are given the most honorable duty of fighting in wars with the intent of protecting and expanding the borders of Gilead. Given their honorable duty, they are allowed to get married.
Wives are the highest social class permitted to women, and that is reached when they marry a Commander of the Faithful. Handmaids are the assistants of Wives, and are intended to bear their children for them. Whenever fertile women have broken the law, they are reassigned and reeducated to become Handmaids; they are not as important as Wives, and are essentially used to bear children so that Wives do not sacrifice their figure. Aunts are older women who have not married; their duties are primarily to discipline other women, as well as act as midwives to those who are having children. As they have not been married and have passed their fertile age, they are no longer of use except as menial servants.
The world of The Handmaid's Tale can be likened to another near-futre dystopian novel, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. In both works, reproductive rights become a major issue, with the Handmaid Class and the permanent population cap of 2 billion being important background details for the novel. Also, class distinctions becoming distinct, concrete castes is a feature present in both novels - the Alphas, like the ruling class of Handmaid's Tale, are concretely placed above the Betas or lower classes in prominence and importance; in fact, physical deformities are forced on Betas and lower classes to suppress them physically as well as mentally. One distinction is the approach to sex; while Huxley's Brave New World welcomes recreational sex, but abstinence except for procreation is present in The Handmaid's Tale. "My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not say making love, because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for" (p. 94).
3) Thich Naht Hanh is a Buddhist monk and poet who is widely considered to be an important portal for Westerners into Buddhism. His primary body of work in the realm of pacifism has been during the Vietnam War, where he assisted other Buddhist monks in attempting to bring about peace through nonviolence. In an infamous letter to Martin Luther King, Jr., Hanh wrote, "I believe with all my heart that the monks who burned themselves did not aim at the death of the oppressors but only at a change in their policy. Their enemies are not man. They are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred and discrimination which lie within the heart of man" (1965). In this way, Hanh worked toward complete and utter tolerance and enlightenment of each other; the way to peace, for Hanh, was and continues to be to see through ignorance and teach those who are evil to come to the light.
Jesus of Nazareth taught a very similar philosophy; his approach was to greet all evil that has been levied against another with peace and pacifism. In fact, openly giving and providing for others is a very important and vital part of being a good Christian, as well as a vital element in the vanquishing of evil. "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 3:43-44). By loving one's enemies, one is bringing them toward God; love is the true currency of man. The primary difference between the two philosophies of Hanh and Jesus is that, while Hanh believed that no man is their enemy (just the concepts of hatred and ignorance), Jesus recognized men as enemies of other men. That being said, they could cease to become enemies if they followed Christ.
In my opinion, I much more readily prefer Hanh's particular perspective on who/what our enemies are. According to his philosophy, we would be fighting ideas instead of people; while Jesus also says not to harm others, that outlook comes from the perspective of having an enemy in the first place and just not fighting him. With Hanh's approach, one takes an active approach in fighting ignorance and fostering education and enlightenment, and that can lead to greater harmony with a greater number of men and women.
4) Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk, who at first was an oppressive ruler; however, with the influence of Enkidu, he learns to soften his rule and instead go with Enkidu on various adventures to anger the gods. Eventually, Enkidu dies, and Gilgamesh, in his grief, seeks the secret of immortality. When he finally reaches his goal, he is told: "The life that you are seeking you will never find. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping" (Epic of Gilgamesh, p. 101). The thing most important to Gilgamesh was immortality, and the escape from the death that eventually happens to every human.
Socrates was an orator and philosopher whose primary interests were logic, ethics and epistemology. Socrates was always fascinated with the solving of questions, both big and small; his approach was to use the Socratic method of inquiry, wherein he would break the problem down into several questions, and then systematically find the answers to each question in order to find the larger answer. It was a methodical, thorough and practical approach to knowledge that showcased his eternal quest for understanding. He says, "I only know that I know nothing"; this is indicative of his unending search for more and more knowledge (Plato, 21d).
Jesus Christ's primary concern was with the salvation of his people; coming to Earth as the Son of God, he realized his destiny as the Messiah and led a nation of people to follow him and worship him. He taught very basic, fundamental principles of kindness, brotherhood, fidelity and family that was meant to help stave off a coming apocalypse of mankind; he sought to save as many people as possible by saving their souls and forgiving their sins, ostensibly through his own death.
Each of these three figures contribute significant outlooks to what it means to be an individual. Gilgamesh represents the eternal search for immortality in each person, as they seek to avoid death; they also eventually must come to accept their fate, something that Gilgamesh also exemplifies. Socrates' continuing search for knowledge is meant to be a model for all men to follow, as no one man should stop learning, teaching and searching. Jesus taught men to be kind to one another, and to search for their own salvation as part of a greater whole (the kingdom of God).
Atwood, Margaret. The handmaid's tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print.
Fausto-Sternling, Anne. "The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough." The Sciences 4 (1993): 20-24. Print.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. ""In Search of the Enemy of Man (addressed to (the Rev.) Martin Luther King)." Dialogue. Saigon: La Boi, 1965. 11-20. Print.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave new world,. New York: Harper & Bros., 1946. Print.
Plato. Apology. Champaign Il: Project Gutenberg, 199. Print.
Sandars, N. K.. The epic of Gilgamesh;. Rev. ed. London: Penguin Books, 1973. Print.