Ooloi

I don’t really get the ooloi.  I understand that they facilitate the reproductive process, but I really wonder about their nature as a “gender”.  They aren’t, entirely, a gender.  They’re a bridge so that men and women can successfully reproduce.  I wonder then, why are they considered a gender in that society?  What is the importance of them being genderless?  In particular, I feel like Octavia Butler is trying to make some sort of commentary on the nature of a relationship, particularly since the idea of a man and woman touching without the aid of an ooloi is apparently repugnant to all parties involved.

There’s something definitely there.  In a cursory glance at Butler’s library of fiction, I do notice that she pays special attention to issues of sexuality.  I wonder if the nature of an ooloi is a suggestion that a man and a woman need something else to effectively cooperate and create a successful family unit.  Or, perhaps, she is encouraging the importance of cooperation in her work.  Obviously, humanity is seen as an anathema to itself, partially because of an inability to cooperate with one another.  Are the ooloi a function of cooperation that Butler is suggesting the world take in order to survive?  I feel as if there is some accuracy to that assessment.

I still feel like the gender issue is a strange point, however.  Why can’t an ooloi be a man or a woman?  That is to say, what prevents a genetically different man or woman provide the same capacity as an ooloi in the oankali society?  I think that by observing the other characteristics of the ooloi that I might be able to field a guess.  Specifically the idea that the ooloi can take information or genetic material from any other race and make it a part of themselves.  I believe Butler is trying to say that the spirit of cooperation has to be one with racial motivation, gender motivation, or anything else that can ultimately “stain” the nature of cooperation.  I feel that the importance the oankali place on consensus in regards to settling matters also emphasizes the importance of cooperation.

However, something Butler really succeeded with is showing the use of peer pressure to help resolve conflicts in the oankali society.  Ultimately, peer pressure is a form of cooperation and consensus united against a single person.  I don’t think Butler is necessarily espousing or promoting that as an idea; however, it is interesting to see a link between cooperation and peer pressure.  Perhaps, there’s a warning hidden within it that cooperation can still be dangerous — much like the words of warning given about the tyranny of the majority by Tocqueville.

Whatever the case, this is all a sort of rambling to help me understand the ooloi.  If anyone has any ideas into their nature and why they are what they are, please let me know.

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