This Land Is Herland, This Land Is Your Land . . . and You Can Have It
Recently, my colleagues and I have been speculating as to what the world would be like if women were in charge, and I lamented that no great sci-fi book or movie has explored this topic; a friend suggested that I read Herland, a utopian novel from 1915 written by feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman . . . and so I did: three male adventurers discover an isolated land where a group of women have created a civilization without the influence of men -- their last contact with men was thousands of years earlier -- and now these women reproduce by parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction -- virgin birth -- and they don't seem to have any sexual desires or miss fornicating with men . . . and sorry Cliff Clavin, these ladies do NOT "hail from the Isle of Lesbos," all their sensual emotion is directed toward the exaltation of motherhood . . . and religion, society, education, economics, science, and all other fields spring from this motherly philosophy, which has nothing to do with coddling children and everything to do with raising them . . . and if you're not good enough to raise a child, the village takes the child away from you . . . and if you're not good enough to have a child, then you are required to not bear young . . . and while this world is peaceful, logical, educated, practical, rational, and successful, it is also rather boring, especially the drama of Herland, which lacks conflict and originality, and art in general -- which seems conspicuously absent -- and the complete void of competition, whether in sports, business, or society . . . Gilman shows her lack of understanding of men when the three adventurers "marry" three women of Herland . . . as two of the three men are able to adapt rather easily to the fact that their mates are more like sisters than lovers, and have no sexual desires, only a yearning to reproduce sexually and become venerated as mothers of a new stock . . . I don't think most men are advanced enough to shed their sexual instincts; the third man, Terry, tries to rape his bride, and he is banished from Herland, and here Gilman shows at least some understanding of the male anatomy, as when Terry attempted to have his way with Alima, she kicked him in the nuts in order to subdue him . . . as a novel the book is rather boring, but as a window into how a fin de siecle feminist imagined a perfect society, it's very revealing . . . and it seems Charlotte Perkins Gilman is in agreement with my wife as far as a "final solution" for men.