All Ms. Heilbrun really means by androgyny is psychological wholeness -- she doesn't concern herself with sex in the...

READ REVIEW

TOWARD A RECOGNITION OF ANDROGYNY

All Ms. Heilbrun really means by androgyny is psychological wholeness -- she doesn't concern herself with sex in the concrete or even much with roles -- and it's only an issue if you or someone close to you seriously believes that such traits are sex-factored. The author does and doesn't. Or rather, she reifies: the conventional gender types are retained as male and female principles, independent of biology, and their contest for dominance is projected on to history. It's a curious tactic with a built-in feminist bias, and it can yield strange results. Here it allows any and every breaching of stereotypes to qualify as ""androgyny"" (courtly love was androgynous, socially speaking, because those ladies had power); and further, it gives Heilbrun grounds to conclude that the Western tradition has always secretly viewed androgyny as an ideal. There's some supportive evidence in Plato and Aristophanes and the Bloomsbury group (her own ideal) all of whom she cites. But they were rather more explicit about what they meant. Heilbrun's definition is so broad that we occasionally wonder if it's really anything more than the old, overt western ideals of unity and balance. Not that her theories are necessarily invalid -- applied to literature (Lawrence or the Oedipus plays) they can be startlingly interesting; but at the core they are confused and disproportionate. The relevance of androgyny to world peace, for example, seemb dubious.

Pub Date: March 21, 1973

ISBN: 0393310620

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1973