A Critique of Lilith’s Parenting

What is striking to me is a conversation between Lilith and Jodahs in Butler’s Imago. After reading Linda’s post, I came to the realization that Butler strategically placed an incident where the reader sees Lilith’s own humanity through the parental lens. In the second chapter, “Exile,” it is evident that Jodahs has come to accept himself and his changing body. Contrary to Nikanj’s perception of the situation (accepting Jodahs for how it sees itself), it appears that Lilith does not accept Jodahs’ changing appearances:

“What are you doing?” my human mother asked. “Letting your body do whatever it wants to?”

Her voice and posture expressed stiff disapproval.

“A long as I don’t develop an illness,” I said.

She frowned. “I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. Deformity is as bad as illness.”

I walked away from her. I had never done that before. (591)

When I read this passage, I found myself re-reading these four lines just to make sure that I read the dialogue correctly. In this one moment, Lilith proves to be part of the humanity that Linda mentions: where some parents reject their own child’s self-identity. Lilith is concerned with the realm of the visual in accordance to human perception. What she sees is deformity and for humanity, deformity is not pleasing to the eye. This makes me realize that Lilith has a weakness. Her weakness is embodied in her own children, particularly Jodahs. Jodahs has no problem letting his “deformities” express themselves. It also knows that these changes will not have any negative impact on its own health and this is what Lilith ignores.  Rather than being comforted by the fact that her child is  safe, it appears that she is solely troubled with how her child visually appears to people. It becomes clear that Jodahs is hurt by this. As it hears this disapproval come directly out of its mother’s mouth, there is this overwhelming feeling of disappointment. Butler purposefully has Lilith not accept her child’s changing appearance in order to propose a critique for the way some human parents reject their own child’s personal identity.

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