Female Transformers! Why?
One question that has always bothered me is what exactly is a female transformer? How can a mechanical life form that reproduces by being infused with life by either Vector Sigma or The Matrix possibly have ‘males' or ‘females'?
The purpose of gender is purely as a means of reproduction. What possible use can there be in a female transformer? More importantly what defines a female (or male) transformer?
The cartoon and the comic give a contradictory view of female transformers. In the cartoon series female transformers seem to the norm appearing right back at the beginning of the transformers race such as A3's friend in the season 3 episode Forever is a Long Time Coming. Another examples of an early female transformer is Arial who is later rebuilt into Elita-1 the ‘girlfriend' of Optimus Prime.
Female transformers continue to make appearances in the cartoon series, the most famous of course being Arcee who debuted in The Movie.
By contrast the only female transformer to appear in the comic is Arcee. In the US continuity she only appears in the Movie adaptation and no explanation for her is given. In the UK continuity however she makes several appearances.
Perhaps the most significant of these is in the story Prime's Rib. Here it is implied that Prime ordered the construction of a ‘female' Autobot in order to appeal to human feminists (who in the end didn't like her pink colouring). This is perhaps a more sensible view of female transformers who, as I have said above, have no need of sexual reproduction.
This UK comic view point makes reconciling the idea of female transformers easier (but less fun). So instead let us take the cartoon version of events and look at what role a female transformer has is transformer society and indeed what makes any particular transformer ‘male' or ‘female'.
Firstly what makes a transformer ‘female'. On the evidence of the cartoon it appears to be a higher pitched voice and a more curved torso (with a somewhat enlarged chest section).
In other words a female transformer conforms to a stereotypical (and somewhat sexist) view of what makes a female, a female. That is, a child producing body! All female transformers that appeared in the series conform to this mould.
There is a very definite shape to female transformers. Any transformer that does not conform to this shape is automatically designated a ‘male'. Male transformers can be any shape that takes their fancy. The only really consistent aspect to being male is the deeper, huskier voice.
So a female transformer is it would seem defined purely by her appearance and the pitch of her voice. What then is the purpose of female transformers in the cartoon universe? There are a number of episodes, notably The Search For Alpha Trion that imply a certain romantic attachment between male and female transformers. This is spelt out even more clearly in War Dawn when Orion Pax tells the Aerialbots that Arial is his “girlfriend” and then receives a kiss on the cheek from her.
Beast Wars/Machines has even more blatant romantic undercurrents with the romance between Silverbolt and Blackarachnia being a major plot point. There is a sexual tension in Beast Wars that is lacking in Generation One.
This raises the question, what do transformer couples do in private? This is not something that I mean to dwell on (it would probably get my submission refused if nothing else). However transformers do seem to get some kind of pleasure from kissing and physical contact.
Transformers are a highly intelligent species and this may give some clue as to why female transformers exist. In human society male/female relationships are not purely based on reproduction (well most of the time). Being a part of a couple is as much a spiritual thing as physical.
Why should the highly intelligent transformers race have any less of a need for spiritual companionship than the human race? By attaining sentience the transformers all gained the need for love and companionship, which I would argue is just as importance a measurement of sentience as self-awareness.
The universe as portrayed in the cartoon is alive with many species of humanoid. It is I think probable therefore that the early transformers came into contact with these species and were aware of male/female relationships and were equally aware of the missing part of themselves.
Is it not probable that they introduced a gender element into their design process. The Quintessons were hardly likely to be involved in the construction process of new transformers as anything more than slave masters and also don't seem to have any romantic side themselves so this could have slipped through the production lines.
It is even possible that the first female transformers were created ‘underground' as the downtrodden slaves began to exert their independence.
Whatever the origin of the female transformer it seems clear that the civil war decimated them. Presumably winning the war/conquering the universe took priority over ‘home comforts' and female transformers were simply not created. I will leave a discussion of what that says about the transformers view of ‘female warriors' for a different article.