The space crone

Essay by Ursula Le Guin

In this essay, first published in The CoEvolution Quarterly (Summer 1976), science-fiction writer Ursula Le Guin explores the special position of post-menopausal women in society. Le Guin claims that they have gained special knowledge and wisdom through their experiences of sexuality, childbearing, and the end of the reproductive period. She argues that this makes them the most telling representatives of the human race, because they know so much of what it means to be human. Because of this, Le Guin suggests that the crone should be nominated for the space venture to the planet of Altair in order to help the Altairians to ‘learn from an exemplary person the nature of the race.’

She writes: ‘The trouble is, she will be very reluctant to volunteer. “What would an old woman like me do on Altair?” she’ll say. “You ought to send one of those scientist men, they can talk to these funny-looking green people. Maybe Dr. Kissinger should go. What about sending the Shaman?” It will be very hard to explain to her that we want her to go because only a person who has experienced, accepted, and acted the entire human condition—the essential quality of which is Change—can fairly represent humanity. “Me?” she’ll say, just a trifle slyly. “But I never did anything.”’

Pearsall, Marilyn (ed.) (1997) The Other Within Us: Feminist Explorations Of Women And Aging. New York: Routledge, pp. 249-252

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