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The Female Man

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  6,345 ratings  ·  752 reviews
It has influenced William Gibson and been listed as one of the ten essential works of science fiction. Most importantly, Joanna Russ's THE FEMALE MAN is a suspenseful, surprising and darkly witty chronicle of what happens when Jeannine, Janet, Joanna, and Jael—four alternative selves from drastically different realities—meet. ...more
Paperback, Beacon Paperback 721, 214 pages
Published July 20th 1997 by Beacon Press (first published 1975)
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Orpheus Pretty likely. In Jael's society (the one where theres a full on gender war), trans women exist solely for the purpose of sex objects for men who can'…morePretty likely. In Jael's society (the one where theres a full on gender war), trans women exist solely for the purpose of sex objects for men who can't have "real women" (because the gender war obviously). Many of them are still referred to with male pronouns and male language. It's pretty disgusting. This is brought up later in the book, so you could feasibly read the first couple hundred pages. The author self identified as a radfem though so... be careful.(less)
Miranda McKennitt I think it would be fine for a young teenager (around 15) or older. Not because of any violence or sex, but because younger kid just wouldn't understa…moreI think it would be fine for a young teenager (around 15) or older. Not because of any violence or sex, but because younger kid just wouldn't understand it.(less)

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May 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've seen people argue, both here and elsewhere, that this book is outdated and no longer topical.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
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 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
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
Nate D
Mar 06, 2014 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
Dec 31, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

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
Rachel (Kalanadi)
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
May 04, 2012 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
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
SF Masterworks (2010- series) #15: Four different women, from four different realities, lives cross in this essentially polemic feminist work which on the face of it could be accused of being entrenched in the 1970s when it was written, but then you look at President Trump, you look at political interference in woman's bodies, you note that on Statista that there were 652,676 confirmed cases of rape or sexual assault in the United States in 2018, and me, well, I got to say the feminist aspect of ...more
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, 2020-shelf
I think I wanted to like this much more than I did. It was published in 1975 and seems to have made its rounds as something of a classic feminist novel. It brings up a lot of the usual ideas in feminism, blaming the patriarchy, blaming women who agree with letting themselves be subjugated, and wondering what their role should be if they did cast off the yoke. These are, of course, the same issues still in circulation today.

This novel hasn't taken the rounds of a radicalized political feminist mo
Laura Noggle
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, women-fiction
Convoluted. Relatable.

“I left my smiles and happy laughter at home. I’m not a woman; I’m a man. I’m a man with a woman’s face. I'm a woman with a man’s mind. Everybody says so.”

Not for the faint of heart, this book makes you work for it. You have to be on your toes to keep up, and suspend logistics at the door.

Beyond the mere words lies a greater truth and sadness permeating from reality into the multiverse of imagination.

Russ deftly masticates on the implications of being man or woman, the
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
Sep 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fab-16, to-re-read
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
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
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
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
Oleksandr Zholud
This is a literary SF, or an outcry of angry feminism. When I denote it as angry I quote the author herself and not mansplain :) . It was published in 1975 and nominated for Nebula. I read is as a part of monthly reading in January 2020 at The Evolution of Science Fiction group.

This is a hard book to categorize and judge. It has a “flow of consciousness” approach to telling the story, jumping not only from place to place but from “she” to “I” and back. It presents the critique of contemporary (
J.M. Hushour
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Everyone must have his own abortion."

I'll admit I didn't go into this one with high expectations. I was worried that Russ, for all her admirable fervor in her heyday as a champion of her sex, nowadays might come across as overly bitter, pushy, and of that proto-PoMo nausea-inducing type.
Luckily, I was wrong! This is one of the funniest, most creative sci-fi books I've read in a while and one that manages to wrap itself up in a neat socio-political message without becoming overtly preachy.
The pl
Dec 16, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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
Oct 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Liz Janet
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!
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
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Come for the catharsis ; stay for the fiction.
If you expect me to observe your taboos, I think you will have to be more precise as to exactly what they are.
I've recently become a part of a special interests group that, for purposes of a mainstream definition, I'll say can be encompassed by the upcoming movie "The Shape of Water", and it's amazing how much bullshit goes on in there. You'd think that willingly embracing one example of a highly stigmatized sexual/romantic attraction identity would make one more conducive to, say, ackn
Kate M.
Jun 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Peter Landau
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am the male woman. My wife is the main breadwinner. She works all night and I rub her feet in the morning when she gets home. I make the kids breakfast, lunch and dinner, shuffle them to and from school, and make play dates with their friends’ mothers. I wake my wife up with coffee and the newspaper. She puts together the Ikea furniture. She goes out drinking with the girls. I stay home with my wine and stories for company. Reading THE FEMALE MAN by Joanna Russ was a blast. Finally, someone ge ...more
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Rachel Bea
Not quite sure how to rate this. There were parts of this book that I LOVED. All the observations and thoughts about being a woman and societal expectations placed on women were so sadly on-point. The book is decades old but so many passages were highly relevant (unfortunately).

Other parts, I was scratching my head because I didn't know what was going on. It's definitely something I'd have to read again, after I read some analysis about it.
This will be reread soon.
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Goodreads Librari...: please add page count 3 14 Aug 14, 2020 05:33PM  
The Evolution of ...: January 2020 Group Read 1of2: "The Female Man" 48 52 Jul 04, 2020 09:47PM  
500 Great Books B...: The Female Man - Joanna Russ - Alexa 2 23 Dec 16, 2017 02:24PM  
SFF Readalongs le...: * Parts 1 - 3 & Introductions 2 64 Mar 09, 2017 05:12PM  
SFF Readalongs le...: Parts 7 - 9 & Final Thoughts 1 15 Jan 08, 2017 12:31PM  
SFF Readalongs le...: Parts 4 - 6 1 8 Jan 08, 2017 12:29PM  

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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 frogs in jest.

But the frogs die in earnest.”
“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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