Raoule’s character and evolving identity are fascinating, but I’m struggling with what she is in the context of women’s liberation and the liberation of women’s artistic/creative production. After scanning Rachilde’s wikipedia page, I get the feeling that Raoule is a kind of blueprint or exploration of an alternative woman, possibly one that Rachilde identified with to a certain extent. She has all the resources, confidence, privacy, and creative force of will that Woolf wanted women to achieve for themselves, and was even raised primarily by a female figure. I think the first clue that Raoule is not Woolf’s or Walker’s heroine is that the female figure that passes on her wealth and knowledge is largely impotent and ignorant, detached from the reality of Raoule’s lifestyle.
On another level, Raoule seems to be grappling with the role of women in the world she lives in, and what it means for her to transcend that. For her, this means taking on the role of a man; at least, she uses maleness and male identifiers in order to communicate her feeling of power. Perhaps this gender fluidity is symptomatic of a flaw in the dichotomy between male and female? That she must become masculine in order to understand her power relationship with Jacques would indicate something to that effect, unless we take her gender expression as a question of identity rather than metaphor. This conflict calls to mind several things: DeBeavoir’s admonition of women who renounce their femininity to gain validation from the male world, the illustration that was posted on the blog earlier of women smoking and drinking in a bar, and the theme of sexual power relationships used as metaphors in other areas (ie. the rape of Africa). I guess I am wondering what implications these perspectives have for the character that Rachilde is portraying, and for Rachilde’s project, whatever that may be.
Is this the sumptuousness and luxury that Woolf positioned as so important to female agency and production? Can we understand sexuality and indulgence of desire as a part of that excess? And is Raoule merely taking on the male role and transforming it, a la Judith Butler’s drag, or is she transcending gender/unmasking the power relationships that it actually represents?