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Arguments for and against Elemental Gender Exclusivity


Max_Nui
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I've heard alot of community members talk about how they wish Bionicle would have allowed matoran of different elements to have varied genders. As a kid, I never really thought to much about the subject, and I thought the gender exclusivity made the matoran population unique. How do you feel about it? What are your arguments for or against the Great Being's decision to keep certain elements specific genders?

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I personally have always considered it canon (if only just for me) that Matoran of all genders make up every elemental group! 

I think just about every Bionicle fan I've spoken to learned lessons about being unique and accepting + being proud of themselves from their time enjoying the theme, but unfortunately the gender balance of the Matoran Universe characters was something that was really lacking in that regard. Bionicle is best when everyone feels at home and can see themselves represented in the story we love.

I'd like to think that in a Bionicle G3, characters of all genders would be present in most factions.

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This one falls deep into tangent-land for me if I ponder "my" Bionicle canon (I mean, everyone has one, right? That's not just me?)

On the one hand, I took it for granted as a kid, that Bionicles could HAVE gender. As an adult, I'm not so sure that gender makes sense for bio-mechanical beings as anything other than grammar that has been misapplied in translation to beings that should really be closer to "it" or a neutral "them." Do I blame the Agori? Putative translators? The Great Beings? Those are all excellent world-building questions.

On the other hand, my problem as a kid was never that Bionicles had gender--or that specific elements used a specific one. It was the imbalance. Why five-of-one/one-of-the-other? Shouldn't it be three-and-three?

You probably won't sell toys as much if the robots aren't "people"--i.e. "boys and girls," so I can't say I imagine a more obviously non-gendered Gen3, but that's where my headcanon leads.

In general.

Except... Hewkii and Macku. 

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5 hours ago, Hau1 said:

On the other hand, my problem as a kid was never that Bionicles had gender--or that specific elements used a specific one. It was the imbalance. Why five-of-one/one-of-the-other? Shouldn't it be three-and-three?

Now that you mention it, this has got me thinking about which elements would've had which gender if there had been such a more even balance.

If I had to choose among the original six elements which three should be male and which three should be female, I think Fire, Earth, and Stone would be male, while Water, Air, and Ice would be female.

I understand the subject of this topic is a little more complicated than that, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on a what if question I had just suddenly come up with.

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15 hours ago, Chronicler06 said:

Now that you mention it, this has got me thinking about which elements would've had which gender if there had been such a more even balance.

If I had to choose among the original six elements which three should be male and which three should be female, I think Fire, Earth, and Stone would be male, while Water, Air, and Ice would be female.

I understand the subject of this topic is a little more complicated than that, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on a what if question I had just suddenly come up with.

On the other hand, maybe this would finally explain the Stone/Earth difference.

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20 hours ago, Chronicler06 said:

Now that you mention it, this has got me thinking about which elements would've had which gender if there had been such a more even balance.

If I had to choose among the original six elements which three should be male and which three should be female, I think Fire, Earth, and Stone would be male, while Water, Air, and Ice would be female.

I understand the subject of this topic is a little more complicated than that, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on a what if question I had just suddenly come up with.

I like the idea of three-three. However I feel as if ice and water should be different as both technically control water so have one foreach gender and have earth and stone also have separate ones. Fire and air can also do the same. So for me I would be interested in seeing, Water, air, and earth-female and ice, stone, and fire as male. Give both side a earth and water "bender" in a sense.

 

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1 hour ago, Onvermel said:

I like the idea of three-three. However I feel as if ice and water should be different as both technically control water so have one foreach gender and have earth and stone also have separate ones. Fire and air can also do the same. So for me I would be interested in seeing, Water, air, and earth-female and ice, stone, and fire as male. Give both side a earth and water "bender" in a sense.

 

Onvermel

That might unintentionally create gender dynamic issues. We have all the "hard solid" physical elements as male with that definition, and the "soft" elements as female. 

And yes, i think earth was defined as a soft element because Greg's answer to what is the difference between earth and stone was basically throw a rock at someone now throw a clump of dirt. One is hard, one is soft.

 

Edit: personally id vote against gender exclusive elements to begin with, always found that weird in canon, but itd be interesting to have mixed personalities, not just peppy girly lewa, calm onua, and gali. So girl kopaka or girl tahu would be cool

Edited by jchavoya
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On 7/23/2021 at 7:26 AM, Hau1 said:

This one falls deep into tangent-land for me if I ponder "my" Bionicle canon (I mean, everyone has one, right? That's not just me?)

On the one hand, I took it for granted as a kid, that Bionicles could HAVE gender. As an adult, I'm not so sure that gender makes sense for bio-mechanical beings as anything other than grammar that has been misapplied in translation to beings that should really be closer to "it" or a neutral "them." Do I blame the Agori? Putative translators? The Great Beings? Those are all excellent world-building questions.

On the other hand, my problem as a kid was never that Bionicles had gender--or that specific elements used a specific one. It was the imbalance. Why five-of-one/one-of-the-other? Shouldn't it be three-and-three?

You probably won't sell toys as much if the robots aren't "people"--i.e. "boys and girls," so I can't say I imagine a more obviously non-gendered Gen3, but that's where my headcanon leads.

In general.

Except... Hewkii and Macku. 

I think it's entirely possible for all Matorans and Toa to have genders in the performative sense. We can look at a Matoran and identify characteristics we would associate with being feminine while looking at another one and say that is masculine because of its traits.

In a hypothetical G3, I would love to see each element have genders.

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Bionicle characters don't have actual gender. Ga-Matoran simply happen to have features that we, a gendered species, associate with females.

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12 hours ago, Lorentz said:

Bionicle characters don't have actual gender. Ga-Matoran simply happen to have features that we, a gendered species, associate with females.

I'm pretty sure it was stated multiple times that they do have genders, and most elements are gender locked. The most direct reference to this that i remember is Orde in the Yesterday Quest, that confirmed all toa of psionics are female, except for Orde himself, who happens to be the only male toa of psionics.

 

The only element where we actually saw matoran or toa of both genders (apologies for the binary assumption here) was the light element, where we saw matoran of light in both.

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4 hours ago, jchavoya said:

I'm pretty sure it was stated multiple times that they do have genders, and most elements are gender locked. The most direct reference to this that i remember is Orde in the Yesterday Quest, that confirmed all toa of psionics are female, except for Orde himself, who happens to be the only male toa of psionics.

 

The only element where we actually saw matoran or toa of both genders (apologies for the binary assumption here) was the light element, where we saw matoran of light in both.

I concur, the Great Beings created the Matoran, etc with the Agori and Glatorians in mind, so they designed them purposefully to have genders (like jchavoya mentioned about the Psionic type.) So any features they have pertaining to male or female were put there purposefully. :)

That being said, I'd totally be okay with the various elements having both genders in them, I didn't mind the way it was in the story personally, but it would add much needed variety with some of the characters.

 

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I remember reading that the great beings created the first toa of psionics male. said toa then went crazy, after which the great beings decided to make all other psionics toa female. perhaps something similar happened with the Ga-Matoran?

I mostly follow the main head cannon of that there are females in every tribe, but the only named female characters are Ga-Matoran.

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Lego should really remove the gender-lock. I see some people are complaining about the gender-lock. I have a theory where when the Great Beings are trapped in Bara Magna and Bota Magna when they were broken from each other during the Shattering long ago, they may have made members of the Matoran Universe species with opposite genders in their hiding places, like female Ta-Matoran and male Toa of Water.

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On 7/23/2021 at 7:43 PM, jchavoya said:

That might unintentionally create gender dynamic issues. We have all the "hard solid" physical elements as male with that definition, and the "soft" elements as female.

Wouldn't that be kind of feminist, though, since Chinese philosophy says that the soft overcomes the hard?

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On 7/30/2021 at 7:42 PM, Fyndegil said:

Wouldn't that be kind of feminist, though

Not really

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21 hours ago, Fyndegil said:

Why not?

Feminism isn't about being superior or crushing men. It's about being treated as equal. Arguably, the most feminist approach in this case would be to totally get rid of exclusive genders, and have all genders represented in each element.

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On 7/28/2021 at 7:28 PM, jchavoya said:

The only element where we actually saw matoran or toa of both genders (apologies for the binary assumption here) was the light element, where we saw matoran of light in both.

Yes it's mentioned in the books that Gavla was a Av-Matoran but somehow she became too dependent on her new shadow powers. She acted like she didn't want to be cured

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At first I thought that the Ga-matoran were just a matriarchy. After I learned that everyone in Ga-koro was female, I still would see some characters as their opposite gender or just aesexual. Every matoran with a Kaukau looks female to me, while characters like Kai the sailor I picture as male. Not sure why. I do like how Onepu refers to Hahli and the others as "water maidens", tying into the ocean myths of sirens and mermaids.

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15 hours ago, Fyndegil said:

Not exactly what I meant in my post

Well what did you mean by "soft overcomes the hard?"

First, you're equating femininity to soft and masculinity to hard, which is automatically questionable, and second you used the word "overcome" which means being superior, conquering, or surpassing in some way.

Also, Air is the softest element around but it's still male, and as for Lightning, I'd definitely classify it as hard, because it's just Fire on drugs.

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On 9/13/2021 at 10:21 AM, Lorentz said:

Well what did you mean by "soft overcomes the hard?"

I was thinking more along the lines of a kind of soft power. Like in a way that's not conspicuous, so "being superior" would be a bad way to describe it. It might make more sense if you take "overcomes" to mean "to surmount," "to spread over," "to resist," or "to overflow," although this is a pretty metaphorical discussion so you probably don't want to get too retentive with definitions. And "crushing" just wouldn't make sense for what something soft does to something hard.

On 9/13/2021 at 10:21 AM, Lorentz said:

First, you're equating femininity to soft and masculinity to hard, which is automatically questionable

I wasn't, I'm just discussing the gender-element correspondences that Chronicler06 proposed. And you're claiming that elements can be gendered, which sounds like it would be questionable, by your own standards.

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Well, taking Orde's backstory as a basis for the Great Beings' thoughts on "male" and "female," balance between personality and destructiveness seems to be a consideration...although this line of thought is questionable because Toa are supposed to be powerful, and Psionics are uniquely affected by the user's personality. The assumption is that female Toa are naturally calmer, but whether for narrative or other reasons, canon shows element is a better predictor of personality than gender (and still not perfectly reliable) - and this is disregarding members of other species.

This said, it reads like a bit of quirky character information that wasn't meant to be read into too deeply. Regardless, I think it's a bit of a cop-out - while attributing male or female aspects to elements has a long history, any element can be presented in such a way that it appears more masculine or feminine. Surely it would have been better to program all future Ce-Matoran to be naturally gentle, no? The fact that the Great Beings' sweeping assumption isn't particularly true can lead to the conclusion that the Great Beings are space-sexist, which, while humorous, isn't particularly helpful.

Gender being tied to element is another obfuscating factor - what difference would a female Ta-matoran make, given elemental tendencies? The Av-Matoran are the one exception to the rule, but again, element rather than gender seems to be the most important factor. Likewise, while Toa of Psionics are an example of explicit intervention by the Great Beings, the two examples of Toa of Lightning we have seem to have more in common with Toa of Fire or Air than Water, personality-wise. 

Another consideration is that unlike humans, Matoran were created with specific functions in mind. Looking at it like that, it might make more sense to treat each element like its own discrete "gender," but frankly I don't find this to be an appealing approach.

Of course, the whole thing depends on gender being a meaningful category for Matoran/Toa/Turaga. It could be that gender is an simply an arbitrary category the Matoran accept, like hair color, since it doesn't seem to have an impact on their lives otherwise - at least not in any way that can be separated from their elemental affinity. Ultimately, I don't think there's really a good way to go about it using any in-universe logic; from a Doylist perspective, the element/gender ratio exists as a variation on the "5-man band plus girl" trope because of real-world considerations...but that's not as interesting.

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On 9/18/2021 at 2:59 PM, Fyndegil said:

You're claiming that elements can be gendered,

In Bionicle, elements are gendered. Let's just drop this or now.

Edited by Lorentz

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22 hours ago, tinpact said:

Of course, the whole thing depends on gender being a meaningful category for Matoran/Toa/Turaga. It could be that gender is an simply an arbitrary category the Matoran accept, like hair color, since it doesn't seem to have an impact on their lives otherwise - at least not in any way that can be separated from their elemental affinity. Ultimately, I don't think there's really a good way to go about it using any in-universe logic; from a Doylist perspective, the element/gender ratio exists as a variation on the "5-man band plus girl" trope because of real-world considerations...but that's not as interesting.

I wanted to say that they just put gender in Bionicle because it's a meaningful concept to the audience, not necessarily that it has any significance to the characters themselves. As far as I know, it certainly doesn't have any, erm, biological significance. Then I realized that if, in-universe, gender was only a social concept it would actually be consistent with the literal definition of gender, according to the sex/gender distinction.

22 hours ago, tinpact said:

This said, it reads like a bit of quirky character information that wasn't meant to be read into too deeply.

I think you're definitely on to something there. Did Lego have any idea that anyone would still be debating it 20 years later?

19 hours ago, Lorentz said:

In Bionicle, elements are gendered. Let's just drop this or now.

Ok but I wasn't talking about the actual gender distributions in Bionicle so forgive me for misunderstanding.

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