social role

Gem Class Analysis: Pearls

Prior to the recent Steven Bomb, some of the most divisive fan theory characterisations have been for Blue and Yellow Pearl. Theories would range from their having a close and intimate relationship with the Diamonds, to their being physically abused, to it sometimes being a mix of both.

And we can understand the source of what seems like a contradiction. That these Pearls, in particular, are serving the Diamonds directly puts them in a very privileged position, not exactly in the modern sense of the word.

That Pearls are in such close contact with the ruling elite makes them privy to the goings on of upper Homeworld that other gem classes would remain ignorant to. At the same time, they’re also living objects, dehumanised and treated as utilities rather than individuals.

It’s a unique position of power and powerlessness and, unconsciously, we as fans pick up on that; hence, the muddled characterisations of what their relationship with their Diamonds would have been like.

In the latest Steven Bomb, we got to see more of all of these characters and we know now that their relationship isn’t one or the other but somewhere in between.

“Oh no. It was very serious. When I still served Homeworld, I saw it myself.”

In that regard, I want to talk about how Diamonds and their Pearls relate to each another, and look at the implications this has for our very own Pearl, who admits she served Homeworld at one point.

1. The function of the Pearl class

To get this out of the way as early as possible, Pearls are being dehumanised. It’s not right to limit an entire class of gems to objects and prevent them from having individual inclinations, when other gems can manage some level of individuality. Pearls are individuals with their own capabilities, thoughts, and feelings.

Even before we knew about the Diamonds, the way other gems like Peridot initially treated our own Pearl showed us that Pearls are one of the lowest classes on Homeworld.

Words like “owner,” “stand there,” and “hold your stuff” were being thrown around. Not much was expected from them.

In light of all the new information received, a consolidated understanding of what Pearls were expected to do on Homeworld would help in the succeeding discussions. And what we know is that Pearls were gems created specifically to serve particular individuals. This service did not entail doing a job like other gem classes.

Other gems serve a specific function in servicing gem society as a whole. Like builders, soldiers, technicians, and leaders.

This public- or collective-oriented approach to organising gem society makes a lot of sense considering the way the gem life cycle is perpetuated.

The reason we don’t have gem classes specifically for private affairs, like the home life, is because their concept of “home” is much different from ours. Gems are born as full adults; they don’t need to eat or sustain themselves physically. That means a lot of our human necessities don’t apply to them.

That in turn puts the service sector of Gem society, where Pearls are, as something extraneous to functioning. 

It’s much the same for social constructs. Would the Ruby Squad consider themselves a “family?” Probably, but not in the way we understand the word. Instead of families, gems are groups into classes. And in these classes they socialise each other on what it means to be the gem they are.

The best example of this would be the soldier gems, who train each other and depend on each other in missions.

Leggy, the newbie “just born yesterday,” according to Rebecca Sugar’s early sketches of the Rubies, was being oriented by her more senior teammates.

Even though we felt threatened by the Ruby Squad, and Eyeball in particular, Leggy had absolutely no fears hiding behind the latter and it’s more than clear their shared experiences made them more cohesive as a unit.

In that way, gems don’t seem to spend a lot of time with gems outside their class.

The very “function” of Pearls is very different from that of other gems. Their work is relegated inward into the private sphere. They attend to very specific individuals. They are always with gems who aren’t like them.

And the key to this is the value system on Homeworld.

I talk about the utilitarian nature of Homeworld a lot of the time. So in a society in which utility is one of the key aspects, having work that is visible, like the creation of buildings or the colonisation of planets, puts a high premium on certain types of gems.

Service is invisible.

It’s not as easy to measure the impact of telling people they’re great everyday has on the rest of their lives. But this is the work Pearls do. Their work makes Pearls appear like they’re of even less use, which in turn puts them lower down in the eyes of individuals.

It’s very similar to how the work of medical nurses wasn’t recognised as legitimate until very late on in the history of medicine. Nurses comforted patients, checked on them daily, and attended to them, while doctors stepped in for a diagnosis and prescribed the treatment plan.

Because one involved something tangible and the other involved the daily grind of caring for another human being, the “usefulness” of latter was taken for granted.

It was (and in many places still is) very difficult to quantify the effects of their contribution and they were viewed lowly.

2. Servicing the Diamonds

Now to the specific question: What exactly do Pearls do?

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ashleythejohnson: Oh hello my beautiful women! Today is International Women’s Day and I’m celebrating ALL OF YOU! There are so many women who have impacted my life and shaped me into the woman I am today.
My kin, my tribe, my bests, my fam. We are strong, spectacular, unique, fearless, silly and phenomenal.
This T-Shirt was inspired by Maya Angelou and supports seven incredible women’s organizations. Go ahead and pop over to omaze.com/woman or click on the link in my bio. XO. #InternationalWomansDay

the term cis like makes sense as a social locator like there are a whole bunch of contexts in which it’s coherent & useful but as soon as people start acting like it should dictate what you are & are not allowed to feel or articulate re: your personal experience of gender I’m 👀 like being cis does not have to mean that gender is.. comfortable for you…. I could have the exact same feelings and experiences and reactions to things that I have now & call myself something else (& I have in the past) & what would it change…….. precious little….. you can’t assume what kind of relationship I have w/ my body & w/ whatever social roles I’m forced into like you don’t kno me like that… anyway this isn’t new but it’s been on my mind again these past couple of weeks

We need to talk about the fact that autistic men can get away with being “rude” and having aggressive outwards reactions to a much bigger degree than autistic women because while men are allowed to be loud and rude and take up space, autistic women are being socialized to be quiet and polite and take up as little space as possible. Autistic women are being forced and penalized into conforming to the sexist, neurotypical norms for how a women is supposed to act and as soon as we manage to conform, we are being told that we can’t be autistic because we don’t act exactly like autistic men. Sexism and socialization plays a major role in why women still aren’t being diagnosed with autism at the same rate as men and we need to talk about that.

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Female childhood experiences:

  • getting pushed around, shoved, bullied, hair pulled and things stolen by boys and being told to not react because “boys will be boys” and “that only means they like you” or “you’re only encouraging them to do more if you respond” and “they’re only trying to get a reaction”
  • being repeatedly scolded, called out, and punished for not acting enough lady-like, for getting dirty in the mud or getting your knee bloodied, boys of course don’t get punished for this because “it’s only expected of them”
  • being fitted into uncomfortable, limiting clothes that makes it hard to play
  • having boys lift up your skirt and laugh at you to embarrass you
  • not realizing what is so embarrassing about it but feeling ashamed
  • having to wait to go outside to play because first your hair has to be braided/styled and you have to look respectable at all times
  • gangs of boys laughing at you for being a girl and thus somehow beneath them
  • getting shoved out of “boy’s clubs” and chased out for being a girl
  • having “you’re a girl!” shouted at you as if it was an insult
  • demanding same respect and freedom boys have and getting told that you are somehow different and pushing you to focus on clothes and makeup instead
  • getting your ideas, suggestions and voice yelled over by loud boys 
  • not getting a say in anything
  • feeling self conscious about your body and very early trying to locate where you are on the spectrum of “sexy” to determine your social value
  • figuring you were really low on the spectrum and either giving up on it or panicking and trying to increase your value somehow
  • figuring boys will hate you unless you can get their attention with your looks but even if they like you for a bit, as soon as they get what they wanted from you they will turn against you and join other boys in humiliating you again
  • hating boys
  • feeling like you don’t have a voice and you don’t matter
  • feeling like your interests don’t matter and being actively discouraged to developing any except for stereotypical feminine ones
  • seeing only celebrated adult women are those which are high on the “sexy” spectrum and thrive on getting men’s attention but you don’t really want to do that and you feel like you have nothing to strive for
  • realizing older men are staring at you in a weird way and not understanding why
  • feeling like your parents are ashamed of you and not understanding why
  • having thousand chores that are undervalued and not appreciated when you do them, it’s considered the least you can do as you’re a girl and need to apparently work to make up for it
  • feeling that you’ll end up having to get married and helpless with the issue
  • being told that you’ll “never get a husband” with your kind of behaviour whenever you act like yourself
  • being repeatedly taught that being unwanted is the worst thing you can possibly be

My dear trans boys, 

You’re allowed to be “stereotypically male”. 

You’re allowed to have interests or hobbies that are considered stereotypically male. 

You’re allowed to dress or present yourself in a way that is considered stereotypically male.

You’re not “overdoing it”. You’re not “reinforcing outdated gender roles”. It’s not necessarily “toxic masculinity”. 

You don’t need to be proof that trans boys can be soft or pink or cute. Your life is not a political essay on social gender roles. It’s about what makes you feel happy and comfortable with yourself - and if that’s things that are “stereotypical”, then nobody gets to judge you for that. 

That applies no matter if you’ve identified as a trans man for years or are only just starting to discover your gender identity (or starting to question if you might be a trans boy!). 

 With all my love, 

Your Tumblr Mom 

as a girl growing up, i was taught that it was inevitable for me to have children one day. i would go through pregnancy, probably more than once, and raise the children that resulted from them. this was reinforced through thousands of small reactions for as long as i can remember. i was given dolls to play with and heard that women just have a “maternal instinct.” my mother would take me and not my brothers to baby showers. when family friends came over with their children, it fell to me to babysit. through all of this, i learned two things: that i loved children but that i never wanted my own. and yet, from a lifetime of programming (aka female socialization) i still had the belief that i would be a mother one day.

i am so relieved, today at 23, to know that isn’t true. i will never be a mother. i will never experience pregnancy. and it is such a relieving thought.

of course, i’m still told i will change my mind. even those who know i’m a lesbian treat future motherhood as an inevitability for me. my own opinions and words are belittled. i have a maternal instinct, after all. it will show itself one day.

i wish i could tell all little girls they don’t have to become mothers. they never, ever have to have a baby of their own. i wish motherhood was a conscious choice instead of a role we are groomed for. i wish little girls knew, just as little boys know, that their body belongs to them and they can decide for themselves what to do with it.

we are not born future mothers. it is not inevitable. female socialization tells us lies.

Submission: As a queer, nonbinary person and an animal educator, I’ve thought a lot about the issues recently being discussed on this blog and I wanted to share some of that here. I’ve tried to be as calm and clear as possible, but this is an emotional issue for me so it might be a bit emphatic.

Serveral people in this discussion have mentioned already the problems with questioning the existence of bi/pan/trans/ace/aro animals, but not questioning the existance of straight, cis animals. You’ve made passing mentions to this, but I think it’s actually really important to step back and reframe the entire discussion in this context, if you want to be fair and accurate both to the animals and to the people emotionally affected by this issue.

In particular, this passage: “However, the animal science world uses gendered pronouns to denote physical sex in an animal, because that is how efficient and accurate communication about the animal is ensured” raises some massive red flags for me. Yes, it’s important to clearly communicate with your vet about the body parts an animal does and doesn’t have, for ease of treatment. However, pronouns are far from the only way to do this, and definitely not the most efficient. The pronoun “she” doesn’t tell you if a dog is unaltered, spayed, in heat, pregnant, or menopausal - information your vet definitely needs to know.
It’s the work of half a moment to state “my dog is a spayed female” at the start of an appointment, regardless of what pronouns you use after that. In fact, many trans* people have already learned to talk with their doctors in specific terms about their hormone levels and organs they do or don’t have, and cis people need to catch up. Part of the reason this is such an emotional issue for trans people is that the argument, “your doctor needs to know the gender you were assigned at birth! Therefore everyone you meet needs to know, and it should be on your ID, in case you get in an accident and we have to tell the doctor!” is often invoked. (I wish that was an exaggeration. It’s not. This is in spite of the fact that, as a trans* person, knowing the gender you were assigned at birth is more likely to lead to false assumptions about your health and biology than true ones.) So yes, your doctor needs to know about your biology and your vet needs to know about your pet’s, but gender pronouns really aren’t the way to do it.

Outside the vet’s office, insisting on cisgender-equivalent pronouns for your pet leads to a world of problems. I volunteer at an animal shelter, and I see people misinterpret animal’s actions through their percieved, anthropomorphic gender roles constantly. They’re more eager to read aggression from a male animal and affection from a female, which has the potential to lead to massive problems, since both of those behaviors can be dangerous to misinterpret. I would personally argue for the stance that people would be more able to accurately interpret the behavior of animals if we refered to all non-human animals with gender-neutral pronouns, to more accurately reflect the fact that animals do not have gender. Even in social animals that do have sex-differentied social roles, those are completely different from human gender roles and should not be confused with them by the use of human gendered pronouns. If the biological sex of an animal matters in a particular context, you can mention it in that context, rather than applying it all the time as though it was part of their identity.

I do understand that some people find it reassuring to observe that the social roles of biologically male or female animals are different from those of humans, and that they too can be as nurturing as a male penguin or as fierce as a female hyena. So I understand that sometimes people will want to refer to those animals as male or female, in the same way that I want to refer to a cuttlefish as genderfluid because it makes me feel happy and validated. I just want cis people to understand that those interpretations are exactly equivalent.

As for how this perspective affects the emotions of humans impacted by this issue: claiming that gendered pronouns are a form of scientific terminology that accurately reflects the biological sex of an animal is, intentionally or not, supporting the idea that there are biologically and scientifically two genders. It gives fuel to people who try to force that mindset onto humans, and believe me, they use it. I’ve met many people who become enraged if I use the wrong pronouns for their dog, but refuse to respect my identity and pronouns. The attatchment of gendered pronouns to biological sex in non-humans is absolutely reflected back into humans by most of the public, whether that is your intention as an educator or not.

Using gender pronouns as scientific terminology also muddies issues significantly as soon as you leave the field of mammals, where it quickly becomes clear that a male/female dichotomy is far from absolute. Do I use female pronouns for the hermaphroditic flatworm who lost the penis-fencing match and is now carrying eggs? Will those pronouns still apply after the eggs have hatched? What if they win the penis-fencing match next time and contribute sperm instead?
How about a worker bee, who is genetically female but has not developed reproductive organs and plays no reproductive role?
Do I use male pronouns for a fish who was born genetically male, but isn’t able to engage in sexual behavior and fulfill the male sexual role until mating is initiated by the supermale? How about for the supermale, who is genetically female and used to be reproductively female but has since morphed to be reproductively male due to being the largest fish in the school? Is it even accurate to say “genetically female” of a species where both major reproductive roles are carried out by the same genetic category of animals, and those born “biologically” male only reproduce at all by swimming into the middle of the mating dance, ejaculating, and hoping for the best?

A similar issue exists with the assumption that animals are straight. I’ve seen some cringe-worthy anthropomorphization of male/female pairs of animals, including calling them “married,” referring to them as being “in love,” and a lot of analogies to human married-couple behavior, but I’ve never seen this criticized or significantly discussed as an issue of anthropomorphization. But every time I see a post about lesbian birds or trans fish, this issue comes up. I don’t think that animal educators are doing this on purpose, but I do think it is an indicator that many animal educators have not sufficiently deeply challenged the cultural narrative that straight and cis are “normal” but queer and trans* are “debatable” and should be challenged and argued about. 

Science is an ever-changing field, and scientific terminology becomes outdated and is changed as we realize that it reflects our social assumptions more accurately than in reflects reality. The terms we use to discuss sex, gender, pair-bonding, and mating behavior are all deeply intertwined with human social assumptions of cisgender, heterosexual, monogamous life-time bonds that are simultaneously romantic/affectionate and sexual in nature. Scientific communication would be improved by dropping those assumptions and the terminology that comes with them.

I don’t think I have much to add to this - it’s really well thought out and well said - so I’m going to boost it as is as part of the continued discussion. 

Scientific communication would absolutely be improved by changing the terminology to something more accurate. I don’t know if it’s something that would currently be feasible - because of a myriad of things that make attempting that type of change across so many cultures and languages and historical/social contexts difficult - but I definitely support the idea.