A couple of things confused me when I first started reading The Female Man. The most obvious thing is the fragmented narrative structure that only alludes to the identity of the speaker. How does this relate to the subject matter? Perhaps it has something to do with the many different notions of femininity. Many modern women are in conflict with themselves over the different notions of femininity that exist today. Section VI suggests that these parallel female worlds can all coexist due to the infinite number of possible universes that do not necessarily cancel each other out (6-7).
I also wondered why Jeannine lived in a world “that never saw the end of the Great Depression” (so says the back of the book). Jeannine is the female character with the most archaic and stereotypical notions of womanhood. She’s always worrying about her appearance, as in this day dream:
If I had the money, if I could get my hair done…She casts her eyes down, rich in feminine power. Had my nails done today. And these are good clothes, they have taste, my own individuality, my beauty (16).
What is the connection between her notions of gender and The Great Depression? I think it has something to do her overall lack of money and her desire for a strong, capable man who can support her. This is why she is so disparaging of Cal, her reporter boyfriend who she describes as always saying, “I’ll make it some day, baby” (3). With all four female protagonists, the environment in which these women shape their individual notions of gender.
I also found it interesting that Jeannine’s character was narrated in the third person while Janet and Joanna both spoke in first person. I think this has something to do with the fact that Jeannine’s self-image isn’t strong enough for her to be able to claim her voice.