“Bloodchild” and the Monstrous Feminine

As we continue our readings and discussions for the semester, I find myself routinely circling back to “Bloodchild” as I attempt to better understand the way Butler’s fiction underscores questions of gendered hierarchies. Although I’ve enjoyed all of the theory we’ve read in class so far, I especially liked reading up on Julia Kristeva’s concept of ‘abjection’ and the own research I’ve done on gendered abjection in psychological horror.

 In her psychoanalytic text Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, Julia Kristeva conceptualizes abjection as the process by which regimes exclude subjects (such as fairies or monsters) to reinforce threatened social boundaries (4). By extension, gender abjection occurs when the female subject (in particular, the female maternal subject) is configured as gross or monstrous to reify the boundaries between the Self and the Other, a state which Barbara Creed calls the “monstrous feminine.” Kristeva argues that defilement rites (including, but not limited to, excrement and menstruation) separate out the boundary between maternal authority and paternal law (70). Creed extends on Kristeva’s theory to argue that “the horror film brings about a confrontation with the abject (the corpse, bodily waste, the monstrous-feminine) in order, finally, to eject the abject and re-draw the boundaries between the human and non-human (53).

The definitions and conceptual framework of Kristeva and Creed helped me to better understand the way Butler evokes the monstrous feminine and then undercuts it in “Bloodchild.” Most critically, she undermines Creed’s framework of the maternal abject by centering her story on the gruesome conception of Tilc offspring by Lomas, a Terran male. In a sense, Lomas can perhaps best be understood as a “Monstrous Other,” as his identity as a man reinterprets the paradigm of a maternal body in pain. Further, the grubs T’gatoi eats as they crawl out and try to eat Lomas’ convulsing body force the reader to confront the issue of waste.  These subjects (or, depending on your framework, abjects) emerge out of the human body: “paler worms oozed visibility in Lomas’s flesh” (16). Here, she blurs the line between what is ‘external’ or ‘internal’ about the human body by personifying human waste as a parasitic slug.

During the delivery, Gan remarks, “I knew birth was painful and bloody, no matter what. But this was something else, something worse” (16-17). Gan’s phrasing here hints at the abject of the unknown; he suggests that the pain and horror of the event he just witnessed cannot be articulated through language.  If, as Creed argues, the male horror film abjects a maternal body to re-draw the boundaries of what is ‘human,’ Butler’s “Bloodchild” only further blurs these lines between her human and non-human subjects.  Her work pushes me to my own boundaries in questioning the parameters of humanity as I can understand it.

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