The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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In "The Dispossessed," how do women exert power despite institutional limitations, and are these methods problematic from a feminist's position?

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In the book "The Dispossessed" We have seen that the women in Urrasti society are clearly defined as “the Other” socially, politically and economically. Analyze how women have found ways to exert power despite these institutional limitations.

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In stark contrast to Anarres, which was founded by a woman and promotes relative gender equality, Urrasti women are highly objectified and othered. Despite their limited social status, Urrasti women often exert their power through their mode of dress. Shevek is surprised when he meets Vea and other Urrasti women who dress in far more revealing outfits than Takver and the other women on Annares. Throughout the story, it is revealed that Urrasti women use their femininity to exert some form of power over the men who rule their society. Vea is aware that she holds power when men desire her and makes use of this fact through her often flirtatious behavior. Through Vea, Shevek also learns that Urrasti women find great power in the inner spirituality of the planet. While they are politically and scientifically stifled, they are often able to exert more influence in religious and artistic circles. Even in a laboratory setting, one of Shevek's colleagues notes that female employees make a name for themselves through their industriousness and willingness to work for the good of the team. Each of these subtle forms of power is an example of how Urrasti women do their best to thrive under limiting circumstances.

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