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skumar's picture


A major thread throughout Middlesex is identity experimentation and intersexism. This fact makes me question why such a novel is read in a feminist studies course. (I thought we would be reading something like “The Yellow Wallpaper,” discussing the unearned privileges of a man and undeserved harm of a woman). I always considered and still consider feminism an issue pertaining to women; when I think of feminist studies I think of women’s studies. By women, I mean to say ‘living organisms’ that biologically and socially identify as women. I do not understand how a trans-man (one who stopped being a woman) or trans-woman (one who joined the realm of womanhood) can be distinguished as a feminist or coincide with issues of feminism. I am not quite sure how Middlesex makes way for discussion of feminism and I express such hesitation because of the way Cal straddles the line between male and female:

“It was unquestionably a male face, but the feelings inside that boy were still a girl’s (445).”

“Now and then I fell out of character. Felling something stuck to the bottom of my show, I kicked up my heel and looked back over my shoulder to see what it was, rather than crossing my leg in front of me and twisting up my shoe (449).”

“I picked out a man’s wallet, too. At the register, I couldn’t look at the cashier in the face, as embarrassed as if I were buying condoms (451).”

“I squeeze my legs together, the girlish fears still operating me (475).”


In my opinion, a feminist is someone who celebrates having the body of a woman or in the words of Cal: “… [Understanding] difficulties and frailties, its glories and pleasures [of a female body] (452).” I think Callie was the most comfortable being a woman (it seems like he is forcing himself to be a man), but fascinated by the idea of becoming a man. Cal even says that he is “fascinated and horrified by penises (452),” just as a girl would be. I think the experience of reading her medical file, realizing that she was biologically an “XY” chromosome, led her to the psychologically transformation from Callie to Cal. I think Callie interpreted the file as: Callie is a woman morphing out of what should originally be a man’s body. We see that Cal runs away from home, leaving behind her family and a concerned Luce just to start a new life as a new person, regenerate herself in unfamiliar environment. In other words, Cal attempts to separate herself from the “Monster” identity. Cal was irriatated that she was a biological test case, a subject for intense analysis, but it is Cal herself who continues on the route of self experimentation. In San Fran, I was frustrated that Bob Presto initially assumed Cal was either gay or a transvestite. Later, Cal gets tagged as a freak. Clearly, the “monster” identity clouds over Cal regardless of his geographic location. I understand that such a transformation is not an easy one to make, yet Cal made the mistake of not fully deciding between a man and a woman. I do not sympathize with Cal’s distress; I think that he led to his own demise.

As we continue our discussion of feminism and of Middlesex, I look forward to discussion on the way others explain how feminimsm corresponds with Cal’s biological and psychological transformation from woman to man. Additionally, I would be curious to know whether others make a distinction between women’s studies and gender & sexuality studies.


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