Gendered Behavior

Gender roles and their expression in society is a prevalent theme in many contemporary writings. In fact, most writers expressed their disapproval or agreement with the prevailing gendered behaviors in the societies they lived in. The use of literature in expressing the many gendered behaviors has been used for a long time and its effectiveness in communicating the feelings of writers is unmatched. Sarah Schulman and Saint Assotto have been efficient in their use of literary prowess to showcase their responses to the issue of gendered behaviors. While both books are related in terms of the themes of HIV/AIDs that they profess, they are equally different in the responses to gendered behaviors in the society. Sarah seems to disagree with the prevailing behaviors while Assotto takes different approaches through the different writers in the poems. Nonetheless, both writers are brave to express their responses however critical and revolutionary they are.

Rat Bohemia is a novel narrated by three men, each of whom has a myriad of problems. The book talks about homosexuals and lesbians in a community within the city of New York in the 1990s. The book is scripted in a way that goes against the societal norms of the time. In fact, the book talks of the three narrators as having fallen from the normal and straight way of life. This is a challenging position taken by the writer at a time when homosexuals were being hated upon and even killed in some places around the world. The book takes a creative approach in painting the homosexuals as rats through an analogy. Essentially, the rats can be killed individually through shooting but even that is an action in futility. The populations of rats multiply at a very fast rate and the population cannot thereby be defeated (Schulman, 1995). This is a daring position pointing out to the fact that even though the homosexuals may be killed individually, they can never be defeated because many more people will join the bandwagon. Eventually, the book challenges the gendered behavior of having relationships between people of opposite sex by portraying homosexuality as a normal habit.

In Wishing for Wings, Assotto employs the literary skills of different poets in coming up with a combination of poems each of which is unique in its own self. Some of the authors in the book are in agreement with the norms of gendered behavior and take little stabs at the prevailing behaviors. However, others are critical of the normal setting and provide instances of the possibility of having opposing viewpoints regarding gendered behaviors. Eventually, the book is a mix of many unique propositions about the gendered behaviors of the society. For instance, Life-Partners is a short poem which incorporates the sexual feel in communicating the relationship that humans have with Earth. The poem encourages people to take each day at a time and face the challenges that the days bring forth with courage. In particular, the poem is an encouragement to people living with HIV/AIDs and in the solitudes of illness.

The rats, as homosexuals are referred to in the book are hated by the society and are occasionally killed in an attempt to rid them off the society. However, these rats have chosen adaptive lives thereby enabling them to live in almost all environments as a group. The rats in this case do not just represent the homosexuals but all people with societal problems. For instance, Dave is suffering from AINS while Rita is killer out to do away with the rats. The problems that continue to face the gay community are represented in the book and can be seen as an attempt to dissuade people from the habit. As a result, the gay people are faced with the danger of contracting HIV/AIDS and are therefore not wanted in the society.

Still in the short poems, the writers oppose the gendered behaviors by pointing homosexuality as cool and a normal occurrence in society. In Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, the author paints an imagery of a man letting another man have oral sex with himself. In fact, the poem is a narration of a man licking another man’s manhood and giving him pleasure in the process (Saint, 1994). In so doing, the poem breaks from the normal gendered behavior of having women lick men’s manhood and therefore pointing out that other men can do the same. The author is brave in the portrayal of homosexuality as an accepted trade in a society that does not recognize the same.

The issue of the family is also represented in Sarah’s novel portraying the rats as one virtual family living together in happiness. However, the same rats lack their real families’ love as they are left alone in solitude and loneliness. Each of the three characters narrating the story is detached from their family thus creating hatred in their hearts. For instance, Dave is very critical of his own family and confesses to having feelings of hatred towards them. Ironically, however, the three characters are very compulsive about the views that their families have on them. Although they all show hatred towards their real families, they feel compelled to have the family love. In fact, each of the three narrators is desperate for the family love that they lack and are very angry for not receiving the love they so much need.  In fact, Dave is very critical in pointing out that there is not enough grief for his grief.

The book is not however about the gay community alone abut a collection of virtual beings each having a distinct problem altogether. All these problems are adequately represented in the novel and all point to the disapproval of the gendered roles by the writer. Other problems facing the residents of rat bohemia include the rejection by their blood families and relatives. In addition, the economic constraints faced by the people present another problem qualifying them to be members of the community. These people are described as living on the outside edge of the economic life of the normal society thus making them odd in the eyes of other society members. For instance, it is expected that men should provide for their families; a fact that is quite common in the book. The incidence of problems seems to face the virtual community as they are also exposed to the problem of HIV/AIDs either directly or indirectly. For instance, Dave is affected directly while the other narrators only feel the effects through their friend.



Schulman, S. (1995). Rat bohemia. New York, NY [u.a.: Dutton.

Saint, A. (1994). Wishing for wings: Poems. New York, NY: Galiens Press.

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