3 journalers for this copy...
Written in 1915, Herland is a classic Utopia based upon feminist and socialist ideals by one of the great turn-of-the-century visionaries. Alive with humor and hope, it remains fuel for dreams and for change.
Please note that the cover is different from the one shown here.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Three explorers, male and from the US set off into the unknown to find the land where there are only women. The book starts off well, but once they are settled in Herland, it does drag a bit and in places is just a description of Gilman's utopia thinly disguised as a story. The men represent three types of men as well: Terry the male chauvenistic pig, Jeff who worships women (although treating them as feeble both in body and mind) and our narrator who represents the best kind of man at the time (taking time to listen to women, and respecting them as equals, if a little surprised by what they are capable of).
A tale of utopia it may be, but to be honest, I wouldn't want to live there. The women end up coming across as cold robotic type people - there's no passion, spontinaity and you can't image them having a really good laugh at something (Monty Python would be lost here) or having a sense of surreal. So it has a sterile feel.
It is a product of its time, and although it is called a feminism-socialism utopian, there are aspects, I felt, that are jaded a little by the times it was written in, and aren't perhaps as feminist as we might have imagined today. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was born in the second half of the 1800s and this book was written in 1915, according to the introduction. The utopia is also a world where some actions she would have been condemned for in her own life would have been ok - such as child-rearing being passed over to the experts and mothers having no automatic right to it (Gilman did desert her own child at one point) and people living seperately in their own little houses - something it seems she might have wanted.
Feminism here has not given women a possibility beyond biology. Motherhood is so important to them that every girl aims for it as the ultimate honour, and their entire social structure and even religion revolves around it. Women are still baby making machines.
After their "marriages" to three of the women, the men (Terry in particular) are frustrated that they are not able to consumate their marriage. The attitude in Herland is that sex is for making babies, end of discussion. Of course, with 2000 years of women-only, they have "figured" out how to become pregnant on their own (in some bizarre cloning type way that wasn't convincing). However, this probably goes with the attitude at the time that making babies was the only reason for women to have sex - women enjoying sex simply didn't happen. And for a feminist to follow this line is maybe a bit disappointing although as said, it's a product of it's time.
It also explains some of the coldness in the civilisation. There's no passion, romance or pleasure/love-sex. Because there were no men there to demand it, so over 2000 years it died out. Clearly homosexuality doesn't exist in this Utopia either.
Ok, I am really picking apart this book now! Wicked me. It was interesting to read in that I could see what a feminist of that time was thinking anyway, and what her idea of utopia was. Even if as a work of fiction it could drag a little. It's also interesting that she was relatively well-known in her lifetime, but I think if you mentioned her now, perhaps hardly anyone would know what you're talking about.
I haven't decided what to do with this book next, although I will do something. I don't usually like to keep books that have been registered by someone else. Seems like more fun to pass them on and see what other people think.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Considering going to the BC meet up - first one for me!
It's a straight rather than a satirical utopia, which does mean you have to plough through lots of tedious wonderfulness. But the ideas have been interacting in my head with those from a couple of other books I've read recently: the much darker vision of Naomi Alderman's "The Power," and the much more nuanced utopia of Ursula le Guin's "Always Coming Home." Well worth a read.
WILD RELEASE NOTES: