Impenetrable Swamps, Loyal Dogs, Short Women
Consider how odd it would be if all we knew about elephants had been written by elephants. Would we recognise one? What elephant author would describe or perhaps even perceive the features which are common to all elephants? We would find ourselves detecting these from indirect clues; for instance, elephant-naturalists would surely tell us that all other animals suffer from noselessness, which obliges them to use their paws in an unnatural way. [...] So when the human male describes his world he maps its distances from his unspoken natural center of reference, himself. He calls a swamp "impenetrable," a dog "loyal" and a woman "short."
The only animal who can observe man from the outside is of course the human female: we women who live in his house, in his shadow, on his planet. And it is important that we do this. This incompletely known animal conditions every aspect of our individual lives and holds the destruction of Earth in his hands.
(James Tiptree Jr)
From an unpublished work by Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree Jr). It's here on the website by the generous courtesy of Jeff Smith and Julie Phillips.
Copyright © 2006 by Ursula K. Le Guin