I have recently re-read “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
I read it, when i was at university, as one of my research texts for my dissertation on Utopia. I’m really fascinated by the ideas created around Utopia and this is one of the more interesting texts exploring the subject.
Herland, as it is dubbed by three male explorers, is a hidden country where a series of unfortunate events rendered the country devoid of men. The women and girls struggled to keep themselves alive and worried about having children without men. However, a miracle occurred which meant a woman could have a baby through a virgin birth.
The male explorers find it difficult to believe that Parthenogenesis exists within this human population but are forced to admit that it must be true after learning more about the country and its history.
The men learn all about the country, and in return try to teach the women of Herland about the world outside. It is interesting to see how each side is challenged in their beliefs and morals and so when confronted with such a different way of life.
The men are fairly different characters: Terry is the typical man’s man, is tough and likes his women feminine and submissive; Jeff is possibly the most accepting of the men and is convinced by the wonderful life the women has created for themselves; and Van is the narrator who seems to have a good connection with the women, being more popular because he seems to understand them more. Terry’s behaviour becomes more unacceptable as time goes on because he believes that all women like to be “mastered” sexually, but the women of Herland are having none of it. The other two men have no problems with the women, only that they feel ashamed to admit how awful their world is in comparison to Herland.
I give this book 9/10 because it is original, fascinating and descriptive. The book is brilliantly written, and the struggles to communicate and teach each other about their worlds is totally believable. The ideas surrounding this utopia are well-explored, yet there are always more questions to ask about this country. It makes you question a lot of things which we take for granted in life. Worth reading!