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Ursula Le Guin would make a terrible despot, because she really doesn't think power is a good thing. We're not talking electricity (we're pretty sure she's a fan…), we're talking about the ability to influence or control other people.
According to Le Guin, power is a corrupting, negative, male, influence, and she's sick and tired of it. Or, at the very least, our society would be much improved if there were an opposing force that could help balance it out.
So in "A Left-Handed Commencement," she advocates that none of them go on to hold power over anyone else, but that they are also able to resist being victims of power themselves.
Power in and of itself is a harmful force because it oppresses other people.
Power is mostly about personal greed and jealousy. Those who have it want more, and those who don't, wouldn't be obsessed with it if they had it.
Le Guin was one of the more outspoken feminists at the time she was asked to give what would become "A Left-Handed Commencement," so it's no surprise that her address would touch on the topics of femininity and the role of women in society. In fact, that's probably why they asked her, what with Mills being a women's college and all.
But what is surprising is how little things have changed since 1983. Many of her thoughts on inequality and injustice towards the "fairer sex" (we have a feeling she'd resent that term) still resonate with women today, which is why her address is still considered one of the greatest graduation speeches in American history.
Women should just go create their own society. No Men Allowed. It'll be way better.
Le Guin isn't proposing to start a war between the genders; she's actually advocating a silent, peaceful uprising.
It wouldn't be a commencement address without some mention of the hopes and dreams the speaker has for the recent graduates. Well, okay, it could be…but it'd be pretty dismal.
So Le Guin framed "A Left-Handed Commencement" around the fact that she hopes women will learn to embrace their roles, whatever suits them best, rather than try to compete against men in a man's world. She hopes they'll find their way to lives that are fulfilling, and that they'll find strength in the adversity they've faced already simply because of their gender.
It's a pretty empowering dream, actually.
Le Guin doesn't care what the graduates do with their diplomas. She just hopes they all have babies. Lots and lots of babies.
According to our intrepid wordsmith, "Hope lies in the earth," so archeology must be the science of the future. (We are supposed to take that literally, right?)
Although Le Guin didn't set out to attack men, she doesn't have a ton of nice things to say about men in general.
It's her belief that many of society's ills can be blamed on the aggressive, competitive nature of men, and their homogenous leadership of the world. She doesn't do this to be mean or derogatory. At least, we don't think so. (After all, women can be aggressive and competitive, too.)
In "A Left-Handed Commencement," she's just trying to point out the struggles that women have had to fight against to have their perspectives heard and valued in a society that has traditionally marginalized its female members.
Based on her choice of the word "Machoman" to describe the common man, we can only assume Le Guin was a huge Village People fan.
Le Guin feels like men have purposefully oppressed women throughout history, and it's time to put an end to it.
Ursula Le Guin is a master wordsmith, so its not surprising that much of "A Left-Handed Commencement" focuses on the differences between the language of men and women. Not literally, of course, because it's still American English, but in terms of subject matter and word choice.
And she uses this theory to expound upon her main point: that women are not men, and it's about time they figured out how to do things their own way in a predominantly male-centered society. Her "rare chance" to give an address in the "language of women" was a great place to start.
Le Guin wants to speak in the language of women, but she's still mimicking male tradition by giving a commencement address.
The men in the audience were flummoxed. "What is this language she's speaking in?" they asked themselves. Without a clue as to how to interpret her words, they spent the rest of their time in confused silence.