Sexism as Genetic Discrimination
The movie Gattaca shows an extreme version of genetic discrimination, where the opportunities available to someone are almost exclusively determined by their DNA. After reading Rare Bird, I argue that sexism is a form of genetic discrimination in its own way. Sarah Ann has limited opportunities available to her just because her lack of a Y chromosome, which was predetermined before her birth. Just as Vincent feigns an identity in order to break through the barriers set in place for him due to his genetics in Gattaca, Sarah Ann has to sneak around the prejudice before her. For example, when she writes a letter to Linnaeus she signs it S. A Billop, “meaning by this not to deceive the famous scholar but simply to keep him from dismissing her offhand,” (79). She also has to work much harder just to become educated, as many people during this time believed that women shouldn’t be educated. Sarah Ann was lucky that her father educated her and her brother “as if they were brothers,” (72). This metaphor indicates that it wasn’t typical for women to be educated at this time. The idea that women shouldn’t be educated and shouldn’t be heard based on their predetermined gender represents a less extreme, yet still problematic, version of genetic discrimination.
This idea is important because it shows the human desire to create hierarchy based on predetermined factors. Another similar example would be race, as certain races have attempted to dominate others throughout human history. Some examples, such as slavery, are extreme manifestations of this deliberate subordination. This human tendency makes the idea of genetic testing and genetic engineering incredibly frightening, because it would allow for many other different factors to become a basis for discrimination.
A fictional example of this comes from Huxley’s Brave New World, where people are born into certain classes without flexibility. The dystopia depicted in this novel is frighteningly real, as seen by the discrimination based on predetermined factors that already exists and has existed in our world. Vincent and Sarah Ann represent characters who are able to overcome their obstacles, but perhaps society is moving towards a system so accurate and extreme that it can’t be beat.