Sánchez-Pardo González, Esther. "'What Phantasmagoria the Mind Is”: Reading Virginia Woolf's Parody of Gender." Atlantis: Revista de la Asociación Española de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos 26.2 (2004): 75-86.
This article is another example of deconstructive criticism. It intends to take apart the traditional gender binary. Sanchez believes Orlando is a parody of Victorian gender stereotypes the novel was meant to be protest. She thinks Woolf creates a “genderless being” to support her desires for a utopian society with complete gender neutrality. (75). Virginia and many critics did not view Orlando as important. The book sold many copies but she was never completely happy with it. Sanchez thinks the commentary on gender and sexuality in the book pushed the envelope at that time. Quentin Bell called it Virginia’s most sexual novel.
Esther believes the serious thought behind the androgynous identity in the novel undermines some of the whimsy Woolf intended. She questions whether Orlando’s androgyny is a perfect unity of the genders, whereby they neutralize each other, or whether one of the two is dominant. She decides that one is always dominate. She believes that Orlando’s genitalia does not change so she must have been a woman or at least a womanly man to start with. Esther believes the text suggest that Orlando has been masquerading all along. She is questions which gender is the disguise. Is the androgen structure in Orlando just a point of departure for exploration of the subject in other novels? This could have been triggered by “Vita’s two- faceted masculine image” (78) Believe clothing can conceal gender, attributes the idea of masquerade being inherent to femininity to Freud. She believes this reflects the world of Elizabethan theater when men disguised themselves to play women.
She also implies that otherness in Orlando is more than just gender, it is a matter of nation and race as well. When it’s the captain’s treatment of Orlando that causes her to think about the implications of her new sex Esther believe this is an example of men defining femininity. Although the crinoline is oppressive it is a sexual symbol, we see this when the crinoline is depicted in the novel as blushing at Orlando’s husband. Love becomes androgynous with descriptions of gender shifts of Sasha and Harriet. This enigma might be a way to avoid censorship of homosexual eroticism. Woolf wants to transcend gender difference as well as mock constructions of femininity. Orlando’s eventual adherence shows it’s impossible to transcend. Androgyny does not mean just one thing its meanings are many and constantly shifting. Gender in the book is a “cultural process that must be learned.” Womanhood cannot be accurately represented as they have been excluded from discourse. Metaphor that the place of women as always been occupied by men. She suggests Woolf might mask homosexuality to represent how it has had to disguise itself through history.