Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Food and Cultural Concerns: An Alephic Reading of Laura Esquivel's like Water for Chocolate

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Food and Cultural Concerns: An Alephic Reading of Laura Esquivel's like Water for Chocolate

Article excerpt

The Quest for Definitions

If sex is seen as a biological dimension that involves anatomy, hormones, and physiology, then gender should have a social coordinate that implies psychological, cultural, and social means. Of course I refer to gender as a routine, methodical, and recurring accomplishment. In other words, these particular pursuits are expressions of masculine and feminine "natures." In this paradigm each of the two genders has a predetermining chapter to fulfill in the society, they are both prepared since early childhood to accomplish their role - although gender studies do not always agree with this terminology, I will gladly adopt and use it only while referring to Laura Esquivel's message, considering that I owe this to the very core of the novel.

By a pretty long usage, the term gender proves not to be that useful as it created a too large semantically covered area: 'gender is no longer an aggregation of static attributes, but is concerned with investigating and displaying the peculiarities of women and interpreting them as genderspecific, or gender-typical attributes so to reveal the asymmetry of the differences between the sexes, to criticize it and to make it politically visible.'1 If for a widely-respected researcher, Goffman, gender is a socially scripted dramatization of the culture's idealization of feminine and masculine natures, I intent to reduce the unpleasant effect of these severe critics.

I decided though to follow the term doing gender, while talking about the feministic side of my research, because it is the most suitable for my approach on this particular novel. I am not in the favor of the theory that segregates men and women, as I cannot consider this dichotomy widely spread into the human society, as long as both these belligerents still manifest a badly need for the other gender in spite of all combats they let themselves into. I do not separate men and women into two worlds, two universes, and two planets because they prove to have two different types of behavior (because they have two different types of education, perception, manifestations, group interaction, expectations, institutional settings, etc.).

The huge disagreement already proved and set as an axiomatic truth is arguable within the same gender as well, when operating with classifications such as social class, education, ethnicity, profession, ideology, religion. On the contrary, men and women seen as a homogenous part of the same society in which every single individual (man or woman), tries to establish a distinctive role to each one of them.

After quite a close and patient look on the latest studies on genderspecific behavior I reached the conclusion that they are not only disagreeing in almost every single aspect, but they are also to a huge extent identifiable to their authors, to that extent that they become not a theoretical approach that can be generalized to any other human experience, but a subjective page in one's contextual diary. Of course the cliché is either strongly present or violently contradicted: women reflect their conservatism, insecurity, solidarity, whereas men are characterized by toughness, competitiveness, sense of hierarchy and control, unable of long term affection, etc. As a suppressed minority, women saw men as creators of a world reflecting their androcentric structures of a wrong patriarchal society that "discriminate, disregard, and incapacitate women."2

A Word or Two on the Alephic Reading

The lack of superlatives would be absolutely sinful for an exalted discourse like mine, although I am aware of the weakening of the meaning. Reading is an intimate process; it requires rituals and a strong subjective relationship with the text. Basically the Alephic act of receiving a literary text is in fact a story about the reader, his or her aesthetic experiences, the relations a reader establishes between his act of reading and previous ones, between his act of reading and movies, music, or any other artistic experience. …

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