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So.... Nicky?

Pretty much all books, history, science, civil rights, anime, travel, or, you know, baby animals.


Herland - Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Ann J. Lane Fun, classic (1915) prediction of what an all-women world would look like. I especially liked the varied reactions of the three guys who drop in on this hidden land in the mountains where women have lived on their own for millennia. Luckily for the women, they've figured out how to spontaneously conceive, so can continue their line. By now all the women are related, everyone is family, and society is geared toward making things nice or better for their children's children.

"Have you no respect for the past? For what was thought and believed by your foremothers?"

"Why, no," she said. "Why should we? They are all gone. They knew less than we do. If we are not beyond them, we are unworthy of them--and unworthy of the children who must go beyond us."

The voice of the narrator helps this polemic go down easily. There are a lot of sweetly funny bits: when the guys try to take advantage of women who are in better shape and on home turf; how the manly man reacts to being led by middle aged women (when back home he doesn't even really notice them); and how they fall in what they describe as love.

We talk fine things about women, but in our hearts we know that they are very limited beings -- most of them. We honor them for their functional powers, even while we dishonor them by our use of it; we honor them for their carefully enforced virtue, even while we show by our own conduct how little we think of that virtue; we value them, sincerely, for the perverted maternal activities which make our wives the most comfortable of servants, bound to us for life with the wages wholly at our own decision, their whole business, outside of the temporary duties of such motherhood as they may achieve, to meet our needs in every way. Oh, we value them, all right, "in their place," which place is the home, where they perform that mixture of duties so ably described by Mrs. Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon, in which the services of "a mistress" are carefully specified.

I liked how much specific detail Gilman gives, contrasting what a closed society built on such values would look like day to day. By the end, I was sad that my society really hasn't advanced further since 1915, when this was written. I don't know that I would want to live in Herland, though: I suspect I would be judged not maternal enough and in need of re-education.

A fave passage:
...it was funny to watch Terry and Moadine. She was patient with him, and courteous, but it was like the patience and courtesy of some great man, say a skilled, experienced diplomat, with a schoolgirl. Her grave acquiescence with his most preposterous expression of feeling; her genial laughter, not only with, but, I often felt, at him -- though impeccably polite; her innocent questions, which almost invariably led him to say more than he intended -- Jeff and I found it all amusing to watch.

He never seemed to recognize that quiet background of superiority. When she dropped an argument he always thought he had silenced her; when she laughed he thought it tribute to his wit.