Scott's Reviews > Herland

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
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's review
Aug 04, 2012

really liked it
Read from August 04 to 09, 2012

Interesting book written by a feminist around 1910. It is about three explorers who search for the mythical Herland, a secluded region occupied only by women for the past 2000 years. It's more of a "what if" exercise, but it kept my interest. Most of the book is talking between the male sociologist and the women of Herland, about the politics, structure, agriculture, education of this all female society. The three men are obvious representations of the lecherous chauvinist, the over-idealizing romantic, and the rational but cynical one. That said, it's not as insulting to men as I was expecting. In fact, I was more curious than the narrator and had questions I had wished were addressed.

On a side note, I couldn't help but make mental comparisons to this non-violent motherhood society and Wonder Woman's Themiscyra. The two take the same concept in opposing directions, most likely due to the gender and purpose of each work, but interesting comparisons and contrasts abound. Most notably, in their response to violence. In Herland's motherhood society, there is NO concept of violence due to 2000 years of reeducation and frankly, no exposure to men. While in Themiscyra, Wonder Woman's sisterhood are brought up with combat training since childhood in order to defend themselves from inevitable violence in the world. The phrase "wonder woman" is used in several places in Herland as well. I actually looked up which came first: Herland was published in 1910 and the first Wonder Woman comic book was in 1940. In Herland, everyone is a mother or potential mother (spontaneous pregnancy occurs, the most science-fictiony, and yet unexplained phenomena of the novel). In Themiscyra, everyone is a battle sister. Sexuality is different as well. In Herland, there is no concept or desire for it, even when the men describe it, the women respond with the fact that nature has a season and purpose for sex but no animal just does it "for fun" (not entirely true, but mostly true). In Themiscyra, sex isn't really addressed much except that men want it and men suck. While I feel the Wonder Woman all-female microcosm survives in that it can powerfully defend against the real world, Herland survives due to its lack of exposure to the real world. In either case, in creating a society that is not bound to society's stereotypes of women (of the 1910s and 1940s in this case), they each create their own yet opposing stereotypes. Still, I was more entertained than I expected and almost wish I could write this paper up for a Literature class.

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