Damsel in Distress
One thing that struck me this week while finishing up Delany’s Trouble on Triton was that idea of Bron, after becoming female, still having the belief that women are somehow lesser than men. Last week I talked about how Miriamne could reflect a much too common situation women face, and this week I feel that Bron, in the scene with Brian, represents a very specific type of woman in many ways. This type of woman is what is commonly referred to as the ‘damsel-in-distress’ type, which I’ll explain a little later in my post. (A quick note- as the book uses female pronouns for Bron after the sex change, I will be using she/her for Bron from this point on).
While Bron is now female, she still has this ingrained idea of women being the lesser or weaker sex even if she may not fully admit to it. Brian and Bron discuss this at length, with Bron saying that she “[doesn’t] think any such thing” and Brian saying that she most likely does, but has just thought of it in small ways that she wouldn’t consciously notice (251). Bron denies it again and again, then basically says she wishes things were like the past, when women ‘were’ weaker and relied on men. This idea, that men have to basically support and fend for the ‘weaker’ women is the idea of the ‘damsel-in-distress’.
By this, I mean that in most fairy tales and stories women sit around and wait for a heroic prince to come slay the dragon, rescue them, and carry them off into the sunset, where we can then assume the men have full authority in the relationship. These ‘damsels-in-distress’ then become almost object-like, something that can be won by completing a task. It both plays into the idea of men having to fulfill this role as protector and provider, and women having to be the support of the man, accepting whatever he chooses with little to no voice in matters as they are basically prizes. Very rarely in these stories do we see the woman take initiative to save herself and assert that she is just as equal and capable as any man. We know that as a man, Bron felt strongly that she had to fit a protector role, had to look good by ‘saving’ the women and children. It’s something Bron emphasizes to add points to ‘masculine’ gender roles and boost masculinity. We also know that Bron is now waiting for a man like she used to be to approach her, so she can be this supportive ‘damsel’ figure to for him because she would ‘get’ how a woman should act for this sort of man. Bron then, has been both the ‘heroic prince’ and the ‘damsel’, and wants all people to fill those specific roles so that she can better understand the world as she views it- though as we can see in the novel, her views just don’t seem to fit into such an open society.
The idea of either gender having superiority over the other is luckily something today’s society is more readily rejecting. We see less of the idea of the women waiting for a man to come in and save them in today’s media, and instead see more and more of women saving themselves or even saving the male characters in some cases. As the balance between the genders grows more equal, we see roles like this slipping farther from expectation and a greater move towards people taking healthy and equal roles.
Delany, Samuel R. Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 1996. Print.