Sunday, September 12, 2010

Oppression, Categorization and the Feminine Emergence

“Woman are but children of a larger growth… A man of sense only trifles with them, plays with them, humours and flatters them…” (214) Society plays a huge role in the defining of who we are as people and how we look at ourselves as a part of society. In this quote taken from Lord Chesterfield, who, as this quote shows, may be a bit of womanizer, (note my subtlety in the accusation) has a higher social role than most. His interpretation, which may be along the lines of many men of this period, is that women are inferior. The social norms of the time revolve around the idea that men are the dominant figures of society and women are the keepers of the home and bearers of children. Becky Francis states in her article, “Engendering debate: how to formulate a political account of the divide between genetic bodies and discursive gender?”, inequalities, such as these, between assigned male and female behaviors and expressions have constituted the basis for feminist analysis.
Even though there is a huge gap between the date of publication for Orlando, 1928 and the date of publication for the Francis article, 2007, the prospect of categorization of gender and the feminist emergence lingers during the time frames of each piece’s production. During the period in which Orlando was written, women were categorized, as Lord Chesterfield stated, “children of a larger growth”. Looking through the lens from the opposite side, men would be categorized as the parents of those children, who merely “play” with the children. The actions that followed this quote by Chesterfield state that Orlando “plopped” sugar into Chesterfield’s tea before exiting outside to the garden to be alone. The simplicity of plopping sugar and walking outside was a major action for that time period. Woman of the time were subject to such treatment and usually dealt with it but Orlando, who is far from usual, did not allow the normative, oppressive words and beliefs of Chesterfield bring her down.
Throughout the novel there is an array of actions that deal with feminism and its emergence. Woolf illustrates her main character changing sexes and then manipulating the idea of sex altogether by constantly changing from male to female by a change of clothes. There is no doubt that there was comedy in Orlando, but the feminine stand against the categorization and social norm oozes through the words of Woolf and the actions of Orlando.

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