Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (3.5/5)

This book was actually pretty fun to read, but also very odd and strangely enough narrated with a male voice. Was this to add some sort of authority to the very feminist opinions that book presents? Was it a narrative choice or a subconscious choice? I do not know but I suppose from an outsiders views, a male perspective of an all female society would be shocking for the era in which the book was written. It offers a lot of the core feminist views that made up the first and second wave of feminism. It may irk third-wave feminists though … Which may be a good thing!

If you want a book about a female utopia that somehow exists hidden from the people of the world where problems are not problems because there are no men … then this is the book for you. The most interesting aspect of the world is the women are parthenogenic and when they come of a certain age bear a child, with no father and all of whom are the decedents of a small number of women.

The book is ahead of its time in so many other ways as well, written in 1915, the problems of over population, ecological consciousness, social safety nets, community child rearing and so many other concepts were not common in literature or even in daily life, but they are present and well in this novel. For that reason this novel travels well across time and is still relevant even today. It is an interesting read, especially for someone who wants to better understand the origins of feminist thought.

There is not a ton more to say about the book but it is very quotable! So here are some quotes:

Why — why in trying to get close to it in our minds we personify the idea, naturally; but we certainly do not assume a Big Woman somewhere, who is God. What we call God is a Pervading Power, you know, an Indwelling Spirit, something inside of us that we want more of. Is your God a Big Man?

 

This led me very promptly to the conviction that those “feminine charms” we are so fond of are not feminine at all, but mere reflected masculinity — developed to please us because they had to please us, and in no way essential to the real fulfillment of their great process.

 

In all our discussions and speculations we had always unconciously assumed that the women, whatever else they might be, would be young. Most men do think that way, I fancy.

“Woman” in the abstract is young, and, we assume, charming. As they get older they pass off the stage, somehow, into private ownership mostly, or out of it altogether. But these good ladies were very much on the stage, and yet any one of them might have been a grandmother.

Up Next: Room – Emma Donoghue

 

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