In this excerpt of “The Matter of Seggri,” a nonnative female is recounting her experience assimilating into Seggri culture. Seggri society is highly segregated as well as unbalanced, as females outnumber males 16 to 1. This ensures that the females in the society have the power, however the males are spoiled from birth, and thus have the privilege. In the excerpt, Le Guin uses sentence structure, details, and connotation to show the gender roles of the males in Seggri, as seen from the perspective of an alien woman.
Le Guin first uses the word “miserable” to describe the lives the men lead. Miserable, having a connotation evoking pity, shows that although the males are privileged, their lives are devoid both of happiness and of freedom. Furthermore, Le Guin’s use of short sentences mirrors this restriction. The use of the word “nothing” highlights the all-encompassing nature of their restriction, while the repetition of “no” continues to drive the point home, as a hammer drives a nail into a wall. Le Guin uses repetition of “compete” in order to show that the males continually are striving to overtake one another in their hierarchical ranks. Le Guin uses the details of the “games” and the “fuckeries” to expand on the different arenas they compete in.
Le Guin next uses a list of details to expand on the multitude of reasons why men should be “sheltered” from learning. In Seggri society, the men are not allowed to study or attend universities. The connotation “sheltered” shows that the society does not block them from colleges to keep them subservient, but in order to protect them. Le Guin expands on this by using listed details, siting the weakening of a man’s muscles, honor, and masculinity if the mind is strengthened. Furthermore, Le Guin sites the “testicles” as where these weaknesses come from. This detail is used because in humans, all fetuses are at first female. If undisturbed, the default pathway of a physiologically female fetus will continue. However, if a Y chromosome is present, during the sixteenth week of gestation genes on the Y chromosome cause testicles to form, and it is from their formation and their subsequent production of the hormone testosterone that causes the fetus to become physiologically male. Therefore, it is the testicles that we associate with masculinity. Le Guin uses these details to highlight the societal norm of excluding men from learning, and further develop the restriction present in their lives.