Gender Androgyny in "The Whale Rider"

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Jane Kim
February 16, 2010
Gender Androgyny Through the Eyes of Pai
What does it mean to be androgynous? According to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, it is “[…] the theory that the union of man and woman makes for the greatest satisfaction, the most complete happiness”(Woolf 37). An androgynous mind is when the male and female work in harmony and co-operate spiritually. She states that “[…] a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties” (Woolf 37). Orlando¸ by Virginia Woolf unfolds the story of Orlando who experiences both sexes throughout her life. She illustrates the definition of being “woman-manly” or “man-womanly”. Her androgynous identity embodies Woolf’s theory that “there [could be] two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body”(Woolf 37). Throughout out the movie Whale Rider, the androgynous mind is also illustrated through the character of Pai. Woolf states “it is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly” (Woolf 39). Pai is a strong and determined young girl who displays and defines what it means to be “woman-manly”. Whale Rider tells the story of Pai, who faces the subtle resentment of her grandfather Koro as he attempts to re-establish the old traditions of their ancestors. This movie unfolds the history of the Maori Tribe that by tradition the new chief would be the first born son directly descended from their ancient ancestor Paikea. Koro attempts to discover their new leader through a cultural reform school solely for the first-born sons of every family. However, Koro fails to notice that Pai, although an eleven year old girl, is destined to be the new leader. The validity of Woolf’s claims is seen through Pai’s actions and outlooks where her androgynous mind and “woman-manly” characteristic allows for the full spectrum of being human; having both male...
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