Study Guide

The Female Man The Red, Red Rose on Laura's Jeans

By Joanna Russ

The Red, Red Rose on Laura's Jeans

"My love is like a red, red rose," writes the eighteenth-century poet Robert Burns, and Laura Rose Wilding knows exactly what he means. Flowers have been artistic symbols of femininity and female sexuality for centuries. Want an example? Why not take a look at the painting Black Iris by Georgia O'Keeffe and tell us what you see.

Another of the novel's many examples of symbolic clothing, the red, red rose embroidered on the crotch of Laura's jeans isn't just a symbol of femininity and female sexuality in general. Rose is Laura's middle name, so it has a particularly intimate meaning for her. Laura's love affair with Janet gives her an opportunity to explore her sexuality on her own terms for the first time in her life. Those strategically embroidered petals testify that Laura has claimed her body and her sexuality for herself in a world that's been telling her to give them to men.