Small Women Are Still REAL Women!

As is not common in much of contemporary American society media and entertainment, Phousita in the “Bohr Maker” by Linda Nagata is a representation of what is not expected of typical gender roles regarding woman. Phousita is a former sex slave whose body has not only been used to bear children but also where the biggest technological machine everyone is searching for is encased in. This is significant not only because she is a female but because she is a woman of color. Throughout several times in the book it has been hinted that Phousita does not speak English. After the Bohr Maker has entered her body all of a sudden she has powers that she is not even aware that she had, for example not only with being able to speak English, but also in being able to heal people who are in pain.

This takes an interesting twist that a woman of color is being given this almost superhuman goddess like role. She has become idealized, especially in the scene where she heals all the sick children in her clan who are suffering from stomach pains. A whole crowd has gathered outside of her “hut” or place where she normally sleeps and rests just to see this superhuman ideal figure. Nagata has transformed Phousita from a sex slave worker into something of a figure like ‘Jesus Christ’ who all of a sudden can perform miracles.

Through the character of Phousita, Nagata  also presents the sexist misogyny that is encrypted in how the ideal woman is represented.

“..Phousita was tiny. She stood no taller than a petite child of seven or eight, though she was nearly twenty five years old. Despite her size, her body was that of a woman, slender and beautifully proportioned, endowed with ample breasts and rounded hips, but on a scale that seemed unnaturally small. With her pretty round face, her dark eyes, and her thick black hair carefully coiled at the nape of her neck, she might have been a diminutive spirit out of some forgotten mythology. Her unusual appearance had once attracted many clients after hours in the business district.” (Nagata 8)


First of all, Nagata is replicating the sexual fetishization of small woman. In the certain context of the above paragraph, Phousita is merely objectified as a sex worker who brings in clients because of her small size. This is not only in a way dehumanizing Phousita as a sex toy and an object, but giving a dangerous message regarding women of color who are small. The ideal White Supremacist beauty standard requires the desired female to be at least over five feet, slender, fair skinned and thin. If they do not match this standard, they become a societal abomination, or as in Nagata’s words, a “forgotten mythology.” (I suppose this makes us five feet women startling mythical creatures then.. ??! ) In other words, it is suggesting that small women are not just inappropriately fetishized, but not looked at as REAL women. It is interesting also to note that in this book Phousita’s character was purposely programmed to be small so she could be a former sex worker.

So not only is the description of Phousita and her role in the book exemplifying the fetishization of small women of color, but also infantilization. It is enticing that Phousita was given one of the dominant roles in becoming this all powerful women, yet there is a lot of controversy in the messages that are given about small women of color in this book.


1 thought on “Small Women Are Still REAL Women!

  • I really enjoyed reading your analysis of Phousita! Many of the points you identify about her stature and how she is represented is true. How do you think who Phousita is ( a sex worker, a woman of color…) impacts how the commonwealth hunts for her? Do you think they underestimate her?

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