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First, my English major mea culpa: I hadn’t been exposed to Thomas Pynchon until this winter, when I finally took the time to read the Crying of Lot 49—-all 150 pages of it. I found myself completely consumed by Oedipa, Pynchon’s adulterous estate executor turned clandestine postal service detective protagonist. After a little bit of research on the character, I discovered one reason I was so taken by Oedipa: In the Winter 1977 issue of Contemporary Literature, Cathy N. Davidson argues that Oedipa is an androgen:
Androgyny, the perfect union in one person of characteristics conventionally designated as either male or female, can never, in a sexist society, be perfect. Moreover, because our culture has traditionally insisted that women are less capable than men and that their lives are more determined by biology, the female hero must find the road to any approximation of androgyny more difficult and more distant than does her male counterpart.
There, my life’s pursuit rolled out in front of me, like a red carpet on the road to any approximation of androgyny: Androgynous female heroism shall be mine.
So, how am I doing? Let’s rate my androgynous success through the time-tested method of discerning personality: through the gifts others give you for Christmas.
* Money (power)—-Masculine. * Black O.J. Gloves (leather)—-Masculine. * Bike Lights (no-tool mounting)—-Androgynous * Electric Blanket (for the exceptionally cold)—-Feminine. * e.e. cummings collection (paperback)—-lowercase. * Advice from aging male relative on how if I become a lawyer I will gain sympathy because I am a pretty girl who will stumble when I speak in front of a crowd and everyone will feel so sorry for me that they’ll drop all the charges against my client, or something (unsolicited)—-Feminine.
Looks like I have a ways to go.
Photo via No Trams To Lime Street.