Other Sellers on Amazon
Follow the Author
The Female Man: 11 Paperback – 1 September 2018
Enhance your purchase
Joanna Russ offers a gallery of some of the most interesting female protagonists in current fiction, women who are rarely victims and sometimes even victors, but always engaged sharply and perceptively with their fate. -Marge Piercy
A stunning book, a work to be read with great respect. It's also screamingly funny. -Elizabeth Lynn, San Francisco Review of Books
A work of frightening power, but it is also a work of great fictional subtlety. . . . It should appeal to all intelligent people who look for exciting ideation, crackling dialogue, provocative fictional games-playing in their reading. -Douglas Barbour, Toronto Star
About the Author
- Publisher : BEACON PRESS; 1st edition (1 September 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0807062995
- ISBN-13 : 978-0807062999
- Dimensions : 13.69 x 1.47 x 20.35 cm
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Review this product
Top reviews from Australia
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Following the authors trains of thought (going in different directions), with vague (probably deep and meaningful) characters and jumping around was very unpleasant.
I love SF, I love feminism ... I could not read all of this book! (Only 3rd book in my life I’ve given up on!)
Top reviews from other countries
Jael comes from the future, and from a society where relations between the sexes have broken down altogether. In her world the phrase “the battle of the sexes” is no mere metaphor; men and women have divided into two armed camps, in a state of continuous war with one another. Janet is a native of the planet Whileaway, and comes from another vision of the far future. The inhabitants of Whileaway do not need to worry about relations between the sexes, because there is only one sex on their world, a plague having killed off all the men several centuries earlier. The women, who survived the plague, have learned how to reproduce asexually, although they are not completely asexual as lesbian relationships are now the norm.
The novel’s main strength is Joanna Russ’s imagination and ability to conjure up visions of new worlds, especially in her descriptions of Whileaway. This society is not quite a utopia, but it is a lot closer to being one than any of the other three worlds featured, being more egalitarian, more peaceful and placing a greater emphasis on living in harmony with nature. Jael’s world is not so much a prediction of a possible future as a satire on the sexist (or “male chauvinist” to use the contemporary phrase) attitudes of the sixties and seventies.
The sexual politics of this novel, incidentally, are very much of their time. Russ takes a fairly negative attitude towards both heterosexuality and male homosexuality; the men of Jael’s world, deprived of female companionship by the state of war, form relationships with either transsexuals (“the changed”) or effeminate gay men (“the half-changed”). Janet, an adult in her thirties, enters into a sexual relationship with the seventeen-year-old Laura Rose, a girl from Joanna’s world, liberating herself from a Whileawayan taboo against cross-generational relationships. Russ may have been making the point that all societies, even semi-utopian ones, have their own sexual taboos which may seem irrational to outsiders, but forty-odd years on from 1975 when her novel was first published, a relationship like this one would seem more exploitative than liberating.
The novel’s main weakness is that the plot is very confusing. It is told using a multiple narrator technique, but it is never stated explicitly which of the four women is speaking. Sometimes it is easy to tell from the context, but at other times it is more difficult to identify the narrator or the world in which the action is currently taking place. “The Female Man” contains some interesting ideas, but Russ’s complex narrative structure really needed more careful planning in order to come off.
"Come here and say that. My fiancé will kick your ass."
I don't know if this is telling us anything, but it says to me that life since the publication of The Female Man hasn't changed much. The Female Man was 1960s feminist science fiction, a story in which a time travelling invention splits a woman called Joanna into four people, each inhabiting their own version of history. The theme uniting the stories of all these women is the difficulty of living with men, and the possibility of living without them.
I think I enjoyed The Female Man not because it told me how to put the world to rights, but because around the fervid feminist centre, the story had a touching and humorous ambiguity in describing people trying to find that elusive something. Of the four women in the story, I found Jeannine the most interesting. When she is not working at her mundane library job, she spends her time in a small flat with her cat Frosty dreaming daydreams straight out of a romance novel. There are no radical feminist ambitions here.
Jeannine has a crisis during a family holiday and tries to talk it through with one of her fellow versions of Joanna:
"Do you want to be an airline pilot? Is that it? And they won’t let you? Did you have a talent for mathematics, which they squelched? Did they refuse to let you be a truck driver? What is it?"
You get the feeling that airline pilot, mathematician or truck driver would not do it for Jeannine. Jeannine's family tells her that marriage will sort out her unhappiness. You could just as well say that flying aeroplanes or driving trucks, or fettling coefficients would do that. Marriage might help some people. Now that I think of it, marriage made Monica happy most of the time, except when Chandler temporarily lapsed back to smoking. People are different. They don't all fit into the same mould. In fact, as The Female Man repeatedly shows, people can have different sides of themselves struggling within them. Something that might help an individual today might not work tomorrow.
Different people find different answers, and the same people find different answers at different times. Perhaps a good society is not one without marriage or men, or truck driving or mathematics, but a society that allows people to find their answers. Alongside the feminist message I think there was this wider sense of exploration in The Female Man, which, for me, made it into a difficult novel rather than an easy polemic.
The Female Male is an interesting read, with a great many ideas that were totally new in the 70s for we had mostly forgotten that our grandmothers had fought for equality in the thirties, and that our great-great-great-grandmothers and back had also demanded a better deal for women. The novel not only throws light on the 70s feminist movement but has a great deal to say to us now, when women's hard fought for rights are again under threat of removal. Excellent, glad I found it - I actually found it while reading about the Vancouver Women's Library.
Leaves you with a nasty feeling. Contains content of transphobia and a detailed scene of an adult having sex with a minor.