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The Female Man

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  4,131 Ratings  ·  400 Reviews
Living in an altered past that never saw the end of the Great Depression, Jeannine, a librarian, is waiting to be married. Joanna lives in a different version of reality: she's a 1970s feminist trying to succeed in a man's world. Janet is from Whileaway, a utopian earth where only women exist. And Jael is a warrior with steel teeth and catlike retractable claws, from an ea ...more
Paperback, SF Masterworks, 207 pages
Published November 11th 2010 by Gollancz (first published 1975)
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Sara
May 09, 2012 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've seen people argue, both here and elsewhere, that this book is outdated and no longer topical.

I'm really confused what rose-colored glasses they're wearing, because as far as I can tell, the majority of this book is still far too true. I've been in these places far, far too often to write off the circumstances in this book as some so flippantly have.

"Give us a good-bye kiss," said the host, who might have been attractive under other circumstances, a giant marine, so to speak. I pushed him a
...more
Christy
This book is a complex and fascinating examination of gender roles and ideology. In it, Russ contrasts and intertwines the stories of Joanna (a 1970s feminist of a world much like, if not identical to, our own), Jeannine (a young, fairly stereotypical woman of an alternate timeline in which the Depression never ended), and Janet (a woman from the distant utopian future of Whileaway, a world with no men and only women), showing multiple variations on the issue or problem of sex difference alongsi ...more
Elizabeth
Apr 02, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've ever read. Uncomfortable, frenetic, literary, and GODDAMNED MAGNIFICENT.
Marie
Dec 31, 2007 Marie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
UGH.

This book had promise - and about 10% of it is good science fiction. The other 90% is unnecessary polemic, thankfully out-of-date (at least I hope so!) I don't object to her feminism so much to the way she doesn't go anywhere with it. "The Left Hand of Darkness" did a much better job of using science fiction to explore gender roles and identities.

That said, there are two, yes, two, awesome scenes, and for them alone I kept reading. The first is an interview of the Woman from the Planet of th
...more
Nate D
Mar 06, 2014 Nate D rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humans
Recommended to Nate D by: Four parallel worlds of equal insistance
Messily inventive, exuberantly expansive in design despite (or because of) its passionately angry core, vital and urgent and brilliant. This is 70s post-modern feminist science fiction, so basically hits most of what I want to be reading all in one go. It overextends, perhaps, but in ways that suit its ambition and force of intent.

Of course, this was written in the 70s: since then everything has changed.
Of course, this was written in the 70s: since then nothing has changed.

Russ has many point
...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 Althea Ann rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book won a Nebula Award, and is considered to be a classic of feminist science fiction.

I remembered that long ago I had read a short story collection by Russ (Extra(ordinary) People) and really disliked it. I also read her novel ‘We who Are About To' and was seriously unimpressed. But I didn't think I'd read The Female Man, so I was willing to give it a go due to its classic status and all... Reading it, I realized that I had actually started reading it long ago - but I think I QUIT part wa
...more
Wanda
May 04, 2012 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: NPR list of classic science fiction and fantasy
Feminism has evolved and changed over the decades and this book was written during the Second Wave of Feminism (often referred to as Women’s Lib) during the 1960s-1970s. I know that it is difficult for young women born in the 1980s and later to believe some of these things, but there was a time when your career options as a woman were very limited—you could be a nurse, teacher, secretary, or a housewife. When I was in high school in the 70s and making high academic marks, I was strongly discoura ...more
Nikki
I think people are wrong when they say this book is out of date. Many of the feminist issues Russ engaged with are still with us today, the double-standards women are held to and the things men expect of them. That part of the book seemed perfectly reasonable to me: a little out-dated, perhaps, as all of this sort of thing will become in just a few decades, but not irrelevant.

The story, however... I found it incomprehensible, buried under the weight of the feminist concerns and issues raised. I
...more
Rachel (Kalanadi)
May 30, 2015 Rachel (Kalanadi) rated it really liked it
Suddenly I want to count how many women are in my life. Is my doctor a woman? Yes! Is my dentist a woman? Yes! Were any of my professors women? Yes! Have I ever seen a female janitor or cop? Yes!

Thank GOD a few things have changed since 1976, but still... too much of this felt exactly like the awful things women are still told to accept as their role in the world: Sacrifice yourself for men, who will tell you who you are. When are you getting married so you can be a Real Woman? *barf* People sti
...more
Kaitlin
Feb 09, 2017 Kaitlin rated it liked it
Shelves: sffmistressworks
This book is an angry book. It's a story of four women from very, very different lives. Each woman's name starts with the letter 'J' but they don't know each other until the story begins. As the book explores the lives of these women it's fractured, broken up and disjointed. It's not an easy 'story' but the themes of the book are evident throughout.

I don't think that this is a typical narrative. We get some very short, short chapters, and some much longer. We have different narrators, and yet th
...more
Alexa
Sep 18, 2011 Alexa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-re-read, fab-16
This is quite an unusual piece of writing. For those who turn to it expecting a science fiction novel, as I initially did, it may be quite a disappointment. There is indeed a rough outline of a science fiction plot hiding in there, but mostly it is an extremely ironic set of musings on the state of women in society, very pointed and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. So it might be more fitting to consider this as a work of philosophy, or social satire, or social analysis. At times it can be thoro ...more
Lit Bug
New addition to the old review:

I'd wished to prove myself wrong in less than a year by declaring that I was in love with this book. Sadly, I'm even more indignant. The issue is topical. It isn't that it is outdated nearly 40 years after its publication. The issue is that the same ideas have been depicted in a far more interesting way in fiction since it was written.

It was radical at that time - Russ was one of those few female writers writing hard SF good enough to take credit for inspiring Gibs
...more
Amaha
Dec 16, 2007 Amaha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of feminist science fiction, fans of early experimental fiction
Brilliant, important, and (for me) highly enjoyable book, if not an unqualified success. One of the defining works of science fiction (particularly the 1970's 2nd-wave feminist variety) as well as an early pioneer of "postmodern"/ narratively experimental fiction.

The experimentation, which brings to mind Pynchon, Samuel Delany and Kathy Acker, is both the most interesting aspect of the book and what can make it hardest to enjoy as a good read. The story revolves around several female characters
...more
Daniel Roy
If I taught SF literature in high school, I'd make this book mandatory reading, knowing my students would hate me for it. it's not an easy book by any means; its structure is complex and obfuscated on purpose, and its subject matter is uncomfortable and necessary. But really, this is why SF exists in the first place.

The book has been heralded as the quintessential feminist SF, and it saddens me to know that this automatically reduces its reach. It's true that the book is singularly concerned wit
...more
Liz Janet
Mar 20, 2015 Liz Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-buy, favourites
What it means to be a woman in four different parallel worlds, told from the perspective of four women crossing over to each other's worlds and discovering different views on gender and gender-roles. MIND BLOWN!
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Come for the catharsis ; stay for the fiction.
John
Jan 29, 2010 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy, 2009
I rarely read books these days where it feels like the author actually *needed* to write their book. I sometimes finish a book and think "that was clever" or "that was well-written" or "that was exciting," but rarely do I think "holy shit, that was so fucking necessary!" The Female Man is one of those rare necessary books. Reading it, I got the sense that these words were burning a hole in the author's stomach lining, so desperate were they to escape.

Which is not to say that I didn't feel offend
...more
M.
Oct 21, 2007 M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you
This book is written in blood.
Is it written entirely in blood?
No, some of it is written in tears.
Are the blood and tears all mine?
Yes, they have been in the past. But the future is a different matter. As the bear swore in Pogo after having endured a pot shoved on her head, being turned upside down while still in the pot, a discussion about her edibility, the lawnmowering of her behind, and a fistful of ground pepper in the snoot, she then swore a mighty oath on the ashes of her mothers (i.e., he
...more
Lashawn
Feb 20, 2013 Lashawn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm still trying to decide if I liked this book.

Being a meta lover, I dug Russ's writing style. It had this wonderful stream of consciousness that reminded me of Virginia Woolf, particularly during Jeannine's parts. I also kind of liked the whole breaking the fourth wall aspect, though it made for difficult reading. I remember when it came to me like a jolt that all three characters were the same person. And I felt proud for recognizing that.

But aside from the writing style, I grew bored with th
...more
El
This book has been on my radar for many years. For a long time I had borrowed it from my brother, but never got around to reading it. I finally returned his copy to him since I picked up an anthology that included this book. And now I've finally gotten around to reading it with another group on Goodreads, and I'm really glad we chose it for this month's fiction read.

It's not a very easy book to review, I will be honest. That's why I finished it on November 12th and am just now getting around to
...more
Simon
This is my first and, most likely, last experience of the writing of Joanna Russ.

This is not so much science fiction that explores themes of gender but rather a feminist tract with occasional use of SF tropes. Large parts of the narrative form an undisguised polemic railing against the condition of women in society and the way that this condition is maintained by men.

The plot, such as it is, involves four different versions of the same woman but from different parellel planes of existence comin
...more
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Jun 04, 2016 Kurt Reichenbaugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
What I know about Feminist Literature could be fit into a shot glass. As for Science Fiction, yes, you'll find this novel under that category, but I think it's a limiting label. It's "science" fiction in that it has time travel and parallel dimensions but I would be tempted to just call it a novel of ideas and leave it at that. As for plots, I couldn't summarize one here for you. It doesn't matter. There isn't a point to reading a book like this to see what happens next. In fact, often in the no ...more
fromcouchtomoon
Jan 01, 2015 fromcouchtomoon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How did I miss this in college? How did this never make it to my mother's shelves? The genre divide is dangerous when a book like this is overlooked by the literary and socio-political establishments. A must read for its historical significance, but still relevant when examining the current state of gender relations. We're not there yet.
Shinjini Dey
God, I’ve been on the verge of tearing out my hair because I spent the last five minutes reading the reviews below. Why have I attempted to tear out my hair – because I am inarticulate.
This book was written in the 70’s, so they say ‘I’m glad things are better now”. Oh, I’m glad too. I’m glad for the internet because I can access steady updates of the Black Lives Movement, and The Dalit Camera. Because in my little cocoon, and other similar un-metamorphized spaces we talk queer theory and live s
...more
Katie M.
This is an important book for feminist science fiction, but it's not an entirely successful one. It's all polemic and very minimal plot. Much of the book is just description of the society of Whileaway, a future version of the world in which the human species is entirely made up of women. I love worldbuilding, but there was too much tell and not enough show. The narrative of The Female Man is hard to follow as it switches between narrators and between first and third persons. The book's message ...more
Beth
"Remember: I didn’t and don’t want to be a ‘feminine’ version or a diluted version or a special version or a subsidiary version or an ancillary version, or an adapted version of the heroes I admire. I want to be the heroes themselves."

This is a weird book, but I was fascinated. It's a largely stream-of-consciousness narrative from the perspectives of Jeannine, a WPA librarian living in an altered history where WWII never happened and the economy never recovered from the Great Depression (she liv
...more
Hazel
May 03, 2011 Hazel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students of recent history
Shelves: never-finished
Chris has reminded me that I didn't finish this. I found it too dated; a useful reminder of feminist history, but not relevant to our lives today.

But you know, a few weeks ago I took on a new professional role and introduced myself to a colleague who announced that he'd known I was new, because I was only the second woman doctor he'd worked with in 30+ years. The first, he'd met the previous week; another in my cohort of new recruits.

He then proceeded to enquire whether I was Dr Miss X or Dr M
...more
virgodura
Joanna Russ is brilliant and she gets men. So I'm not surprised that many men think that this book is overly simplistic or ridiculous or outdated. (Russ anticipates these complaints in the book). It's the same deal with Margaret Atwood, tbh.

I do wish I understood what was going on better though. Scifi isn't my gig.
Leo Robertson
Jul 09, 2013 Leo Robertson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great fun, great anger, great points- how happy they must have been to be able to classify this vitriol as sci-fi!
Alberto
Mar 18, 2017 Alberto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Durante muchas décadas del siglo XX, literaturas "de nicho" como la ciencia ficción fueron consideradas, injustamente, territorio masculino: vehículos de aspiraciones y fantasías "de hombres". Sin embargo, a partir de los años sesenta autoras como Joanna Russ abrieron el camino para que ideas menos tradicionalistas se abrieran paso en la ficción especulativa de Estados Unidos y de otros países. Por ejemplo, esta novela explora –a partir de conceptos del feminismo– posibles sociedades humanas en ...more
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Joanna Russ (February 22, 1937 – April 29, 2011) was an American writer, academic and feminist. She is the author of a number of works of science fiction, fantasy and feminist literary criticism such as How to Suppress Women's Writing, as well as a contemporary novel, On Strike Against God, and one children's book, Kittatinny. She is best known for The Female Man, a novel combining utopian fiction ...more
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“As my mother once said: The boys throw stones at the frog in jest. But the frogs die in earnest.” 122 likes
“This is the underside of my world.

Of course you don’t want me to be stupid, bless you! you only want to make sure you’re intelligent. You don’t want me to commit suicide; you only want me to be gratefully aware of my dependency. You don’t want me to despise myself; you only want the flattering deference to you that you consider a spontaneous tribute to your natural qualities. You don’t want me to lose my soul; you only want what everybody wants, things to go your way; you want a devoted helpmeet, a self-sacrificing mother, a hot chick, a darling daughter, women to look at, women to laugh at, women to come for comfort, women to wash your floors and buy your groceries and cook your food and keep your children out of your hair, to work when you need the money and stay home when you don’t, women to be enemies when you want a good fight, women who are sexy when you want a good lay, women who don’t complain, women who don’t nag or push, women who don’t hate you really, women who know their job and above all—women who lose. On top of it all, you sincerely require me to be happy; you are naively puzzled that I should be wretched and so full of venom in this the best of all possible worlds. Whatever can be the matter with me? But the mode is more than a little outworn.

As my mother once said: the boys throw stones at the frogs in jest.

But the frogs die in earnest.”
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