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The Representation Of Gender And Sexuality English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1533 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Cixous was born in Oran, the French colony of Algeria in 1937. She was also raised with a German-Jewish family. During the 1970’s, Cixous started to develop concern about finding the association between writing and sexuality. During this period of time, “The Laugh of The Medusa (1975)” was composed. [1] Throughout the “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Cixous extends the feminine writing notions by asserting its proximity to voice. “The Laugh of The Medusa” is based on French structuralist feminism. French structuralist feminism merges feminist perspectives with structuralism. It produces a woman’s new imagery is created by woman for a woman. Therefore, men are not who create this new image of woman based on their opinions. [2] Helene Cixous’ feminist work in “The Laugh of the Medusa” is highly intensive in criticizing the French post- structuralism mode. In ” The Laugh of the Medusa,” Cixous represents the role of gender and sexuality by conveying the ideas of “libidinal feminist” writing and by her criticism of the phallocentric tradition. [3] 

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“The Laugh of the Medusa” is written to inspect Freud’s notion of castration anxiety. Freud argues that this unease anxiety comes from fright of female sexual organs. Men subconsciously perceive this idea as a consequence of castration. They subconsciously understand that woman’s body lack a phallus. [4] Freud addresses this psychoanalytic fear by suggesting to read the Mythical story Medusa. Any human being, who starts into medusa, the snake covered head female monster, is to be blinded. In “The Laugh of the Medusa” Cixous challenges this masculine perspective of woman being”lacking.” She conveys that this masculine view provides extensive political and social propositions and demonstrations. Cixous attempts in “The Laugh of The Medusa” to create an exceptional feminine point of view to clarify her interpretations of the West discourse Male character. She also writes this essay as a method of criticizing this discourse.

In “The Laugh of the Medusa”, Helene Cixous asserts the necessity of women writing themselves. The use of the word “women” is a metaphor of women existing as collective female bodies. The writer is concerned about women’s lack of ability to write literature. She highlights that the reason of this is because silence was considered to be one of the essential feminist qualities of a woman. Cixous portrays from Freudian theories that she lives in a society where existing rights, customs, and social systems are dominated by man. The masculine power silences women and oppresses them. She illustrates an existing world of symbolic order. This is shown in

“Men have committed the greatest crimes against women. Insidiously, violently, they have led them to hate women, to be their own enemies, to mobilize their immense strength against themselves, to be the executants of their virile needs.”

Where, man is a symbol of speech and activity. On the other hand, woman is a symbol of passivity and silence. This provides women a position where she is told how to behave and forbid her to use her voice as a way to express herself. Her sex dedicates her to be only a receiver within society and not an active aspect involved within it. Consequently, the phallogocentric tradition is examined. Where, The muscular organ is observed as strong, fulfilled with marvel and clearness . However, the sexual organs of a female are conveyed by society as silenced, hidden and weak. It is clear throughout the essay that Cixous, is irritated and outraged by the promises of the association between writing and gender. She tries to break these unfair promises by suggesting “her project has two aims: to break up and destroy, and to foresee and project.” Therefore, her desire to deconstruct social structure that the phallogocentric system provides as a result of different creation of male and female sexual organs. This “project” finds new solutions and strategies to create a new relation between language and female bodies.

In “The Laugh of The Medusa,” the writer conveys that women are ought to write with their female excessive sexuality. She encourages women to write without feeling ashamed to to express their intuitiveness, their body language and the womb language which was the start of all individuals. This idea is represented in “And why don’t you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven’t written.” The writer also encourages women to establish what provides them sexual pleasure, and declare these longings as legitimate and rightful. This is conveyed when Cixous states that:

“Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst –burst with forms much more beautiful than those which are put up in frames and sold for a stinking fortune.”

Women are ought to own their bodies, and feel comfortable with centering their pleasures. Moreover, they are ought to be inspired by their own bodies and observe deep into themselves. Instead of women being ashamed of their body which symbolizes what society taught women to be, they are ought to embrace the source of where they were born from, which is their mothers’ womb.

Cixous highlights that the reason why women are less permanent than men throughout the Symbolic order. Women and their use of language are more liquefied, more unstable, and more flowing than men. It is essential for the reader to understand that while Cixous writes about women and woman, at times, she means to portray the physical qualities of women which are vaginas and breasts. However, at other parts of the essay, she portrays it as means of a structural position. Cixous illustrates woman’s attachment to her sexual organ for the reason that both of them are locked and restrained in a place, chained by the Phallus.

In addition, Cixous represents gender and sexual roles throughout her essay “The Laugh of the Medusa” by supporting writing with masturbation. Masturbations is theoretically ought to be done secret by women. This is represented in:

“Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great –that is for ‘great men’; and its ‘silly’. Besides, you’ve written a little, but in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way, or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off.”

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It is theoretically silly, shameful and an activity which is not mature enough for an adult. Similar to the clitoral stimulation ought to be abandoned favoring the reproductive vaginal passive adult sexuality, for women being able to write themselves, they should regain their central female sexuality. Cixous illustrates that women must find where their sexual pleasures are placed before they start to write literature.

Moreover, the oppressive dual structures are related the Western culture activities and performances. Mainly, those who are involved with racial differences. The writer provides women the metaphor of “dark continent.” This metaphor demonstrates that women belong to darkness and otherness such as with Africa. This is portrayed in “”As soon as they begin to speak, at the same time as they’re taught their name, they can be taught that their territory is black” And “we are black and we are beautiful.”In contrast, Men belong to lightness, enlightenment and Western civilization.

In conclusion, Helene Cixous’ feminist work in “The Laugh of the Medusa” is highly intensive in criticizing the French post- structuralism mode. In “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Cixous represents the role of gender and sexuality by conveying the ideas of “libidinal feminist” writing and by her criticism of the phallocentric tradition. Therefore, the representation of gender and sexuality were apparent in the writer’s use of masturbation as a support of women’s writing, the symbolic order within the French society during the 1970’s, and the encouragement o women embracing their own body rather than submitting it to men.


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