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“The Women”

Fluid oppositions are a part of several recurring themes that seem to permeate Hilton Als’ White Girls. This is especially true in intentionally gray and multi-layered juxtapositions of gender. In “The Women,” these contrasts  are heavily based in what attitudes, specifically the attitudes expressed through authorial voice, are ascribed to singularly women and singularly men. As Als outwardly depicts him, Truman Capote embodies a woman physically through a certain sex appeal, but also mentally in an emotionally driven approach to writing. However, as Als narrates Capote’s explorations and supposed evolutions through these ambiguous gender ideals, he cleverly implicates an overriding masculinity in Capote’s journey to finding an authorial identity.

The Capote depicted in “The Women”–arguably, much like Als himself–seems to be on a quest for identity in his creation of art. He does this by constantly inciting rivalry and letting attitudes of comparison drive his actions. This drive toward competition in the spirit of gaining popular literary favor, which is basically equated to power in terms of the community in which he exists, is a trait generally associated with the stereotypically masculine attitude. This play on gendered attitudes seems to contrast with Capote’s desire to fit in with the biologically female authors that become his peers. Als communicates this idea best when he writes, “Capote also wanted to usurp male authority,” which fits for both a specific anecdotal situation and for Capote’s approach to rivalry and writing overall (100). This contrast of stereotypically male attitudes as they apply to rivalry-driven relationships with female writers strongly illustrates the general ambiguity and give and take within one’s gender identity or assumed gendered role that Als strives to convey.

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