Bender is the Greatest! (At Being a Fembot)


Hello, all! Lux, here, writing my first legitimate post for Queereka! (Insert Akin joke here.) Since I’m jumping the gun a bit and posting before being formally introduced, allow me to fill you with information. Having been recently married, I changed my entire name. You may be more familiar with me as “Elly”, which you are still allowed to call me. I’m an aspiring metalsmith with an inclination for skepticism and abstract art stuff. (Look for an upcoming guest post on the Mad Art Lab.) Crazy by definition and totally random, when not caught in the throes of depression I’m an absolute spazz. Moving on!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post on Teen Skepchick about the differences between gender and sex which was cross-posted here. Expanding on that idea, we’re going to look at Bender Bending Rodriguez, the lovable rascal from Futurama who illustrates very well the difference between gender identity and gender expression. (I’m going to talk about this show as if you’ve all seen it, so you might want to read the basics since I won’t be discussing them.)

In an incredibly old episode from 2003 called Bend Her, the Futurama gang attend the Olympics. Bender feels inadequate as a bending robot when he sees all the macho manbots bending unbendable girders. However, watching the fembots barely managing to reshape hangers gives him the idea to pose as a fembot to win in their league. He throws on a dress, a head scarf and some bloomers, then enters the Olympics as Coilette, Grand Duchy of Robonia. His plot succeeds and he wins five gold medals.

Everything seems to be going according to plan, until (dun dun dun!) all robots have to report for an engine oil sex check. Not wanting to lose his gold medals, Bender has the professor perform an on-the-spot sex change. His Testosteroil is replaced with Femmzoil, his body hammered into a lovely, feminine shape. He passes the sex check and gets to keep his medals.

Afterward, Bender decides to remain as Coilette for a while longer to relish in the fame and–seemingly–to hold on to his femininity for a little while. Fry says that he’s not really a girl–right? Coilette agrees that it’s just for fun and that she plans to return to her manbot body as soon as she’s done soaking up the attention. For the rest of the episode, the surrounding characters use feminine pronouns and nouns when talking about Coilette, and so does she.

More shenanigans ensue, and all the while Coilette seems to be acting more and more like a lady. I’m guessing that Femmzoil does a hell of a lot more for a robot’s behaviour than estrogen does for a human’s. Despite getting engaged, wearing pantsuits, globbing on lipstick, and wearing bras (because robots made of various metals need that extra support), Coilette insists that she will be returning to her normal manbot self.

At the end of the episode, we do get our lovable Bender back. He seems to miss his ex-fiancé and might be permanently altered by having the Femmzoil in his system for so long, but he’s definitely Bender.

So throughout that whole time, despite dressing like a fembot, speaking like a fembot, and putting coasters under cups, Bender retains his identity as a manbot. It’s almost as if his hormones and physique didn’t have any impact whatsoever on Bender’s gender identity! Who’da thunk?

Several times, I’ve heard people on the internet talking about a trans person they know who ‘still’ engages in the activities typically associated with their former sex/gender. Unlike the oil in a pretend-robot’s body, human hormones don’t dictate our behaviour or interests. Cis women can be way into sports and cis men can thoroughly enjoy fashion and makeup. A trans man may still enjoy painting his toenails while a trans woman likes working on cars. A trans woman attracted to men is a straight woman and not a confused gay guy.

We have to get this idea out of our heads that identity and behaviour are intrinsically tied to one another. The definitions for what is masculine and what is feminine change over time, like how the color pink used to be a boys’ color. How a person feels about themselves and how they act are two separate things, and all of it should be respected. An individual is an individual, regardless of where we think they fall on/in/around the binary.

Bender as Coilette is an excellent example of expression versus identity. Aside from the horrifying part where he got a sex change to win Olympic medals and then conned a celebrity into giving him stuff, Bender is a great role model!


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