Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland, first published in 1915, is a feminist utopian novel that describes an isolated society composed entirely of women---a progressive, environmentally conscious land where peace and rationality reign and poverty is unknown. Told from the perspective of Vandyk Jennings, a male sociology student who sets out with his two friends to determine whether Herland really exists, the novel ironically and pointedly critiques the arbitrary nature of many gender norms as it highlights the irrational features of the men's society and asserts women's fundamental capacity for reason and cooperation. Herland is a landmark work of feminist thought whose themes are as vital today as they were in the early 20th century.
Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor
"Herland is utopia with a smlle, a gentle, witty version of what women can be. As fascinating to women for what it omits entirely as for what it discovers and invents for us, it is a fast and invigorating read." (Marge Plercy)
There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin
I had been deeply moved by C. P. Gilman's chilling short story The yellow wallpaper before I decided to listen to this utopia. The book is a thought-provoking description of a society populated by women only. Women are the only moving force, being capable of parthenogenesis (the ability to reproduce without men). Having established a perfect social order, the women of Herland live a noble life using "a clear, far-reaching judgment, and a strong well-used will".
By the way, the story is narrated through a man's eyes, who relates the events as an 'impartial' observer.
C. P. Gilman brought up the issue of stereotypes that dominate society and questioned the notion of gender: What is equality? What is femininity? Is it "reflected masculinity"? What are gender expectations? And what should define gender roles? Being totally independent of men, had the women of Herland ceased to be women? Should we put an equals sign between 'motherhood' and 'maternity'?
Certainly, C. P. Gilman had an unequivocal answer to these questions, but it was revolutionary back when the novel was written, in 1915. She pitted masculinity against femininity and ridiculed hackneyed prejudices and sexism.
This is a Feminist/Socialist Utopia where the act of sex has disappeared, but don’t let that make you think it is a total downer, this is also a really funny story. While the society is inherently simplified, and rather…well, sexist, it is also light hearted. The author has an agenda, but time tries to win people over with honey and not vinegar. Hopefully you at least smile at the antics of the American men, and the superiority of the mothers of Herland. The audiobook starts off with a 54 minute forward that puts the work in its social context, I enjoyed this, but you may decide to jump over it.
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