Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Woman's World: what it takes to be a woman

During my reading of Graham Rawle's Woman's World, one very specific idea kept coming to mind: is this really how he views women? While the character of Norma is more outgoing than her male counter-part Roy, both of them are easily interchangeable. Rawle over-simplifies the life of a woman to simply revolve around cleaning and looking fabulous. He seems to suggest that with the right amount of makeup and a pretty dress, any man can become a woman and have it be completely convincing. Now, this may just be a disillusion of Norma's, but the method of Rawle's construction of the novel itself seems to suggest otherwise. To fully convey the "woman's world," Rawle collected woman-specific magazines and compiled a novel based on pop-culture and advertising of the time. His view of women only covers surface-level characteristics. Yes, women tend to take care of the home and wear makeup, but by completely ignoring any deeper levels, the story comes off as semi-chauvinistic. Early in the story, as Norma is narrating, she says, "It's normally so unlike a man to know about such things" (23). While she is commenting on knowledge about shoes, she might have well been commenting on a man's knowledge of the multi-faceted world of a woman. Graham Rawle's superficiality wanes on borderline offensiveness. 


  1. To me, it seemed like Roy could have been attracted (although not necessarily in a conscious sense) to the idea of being Norma because of this superficiality that you brought up. In other words, because being a woman is portrayed as revolving around this sort of superficiality and domesticity through the media, etc. that surrounds him, it appears to be an almost perfect escape from the responsibility, etc, that the same society tells him is inherent in a masculine identity. However, if this is in any way accurate, then I think Rawle is not being offensive, but, through how difficult things end up being for Norma, perhaps revealing the flaws within these strictly enforced gender roles within Roy/Norma's world. He seems to show how glaringly inaccurate both gender stereotypes are.

  2. I agree, Cat - I saw a critique of SOCIETY, not of women in particular, through Rawle's novel. Rawle's presentation of the story entirely through the "mouth"/words of the 1950's-60's prevents him from working in any of his own critiques or messages. All he has are the words of the era, so THEIR mindsets and messages (and prejudices!) are what comes through. He merely chooses the arrangement of the words, and I think in this he succeeds in bringing out his satirizing of the era.

    In short, then, I see Rawle as actually making fun/satirizing this "housewife" mindset, not taking its side. His creation in the first place of the Norma/Roy character shows that he's trying to break down these strict gender roles, not perpetuate their stereotypes.