The other day I watched eXistenZ. Afterword, I reached into the box of old Mondo 2000s that Bill Whitcomb recently gave me, and pulled out an issue at random. It just happened to have an interview with David Cronenberg (an excerpt from Cronenberg on Cronenberg, which I was also flipping through). Here’s an interesting bit where he talks about gender:
William Burroughs doesn’t just say that men and women are different species, he says they’re different species with different wills and purposes. That’s where you arrive at the struggle between the sexes. I think Burroughs really touches a nerve there. the attempt to make men and women not different – to pretend that little girls and boys are exactly the same and it’s only social pressure, influence, and environmental factors that make them go separate ways – just doesn’t work. Anyone who has kids knows that. There is a femaleness and a maleness. We each partake of both in different proportions. But Burroughs is talking about something else: will and purpose.
If we inhabited different planets, we would see the female planet go entirely one way and the male another. Maybe that’s why we’re on the same planet, because either extremes might be worse. I think Burroughs’s comments are illuminating. Maybe they’re a bit too cosmic to deal with in daily life, but hear it reflected in all the hideous cliches of songs: “You can’t live with ’em, and you’ve can’t live without ’em.”
Burroughs was fascinated when I told him about a species of butterfly. They couldn’t find the male of one species and the female of another. One was huge and brightly colored, and the other was tiny and black. It took forty years before lepidopterists realized were the same species. When Burroughs talks about men and women being different species, it does have some resonance in other forms of life. But there are also hermaphrodite version of this same butterfly. they are totally bizarre. One half is huge and bright and the other halve – split right down the middle of the body – is small and dark. I can’t imagine it being able to fly. there’s no balance whatsoever.
(See also my article on Breyer P-Orridge).