Concept

The Female Man

Summary
The Female Man is a feminist science fiction novel by American writer Joanna Russ. It was originally written in 1970 and first published in 1975 by Bantam Books. Russ was an ardent feminist and challenged sexist views during the 1970s with her novels, short stories, and nonfiction works. These works include We Who Are About To..., "When It Changed", and What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism. The novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel universes which differ in time and place. The women visit each other's worlds and are startled by the different views on gender roles and social conventions surrounding women and womanhood. Their encounters influence them to reevaluate their lives and redefine what it means to be a woman. At the end, all four women discover that they are actually four different versions of the same woman and are able to free themselves of the patriarchal conventions of their respective worlds. The title of the novel comes from the character Joanna, who transforms into a "female man" in order to be respected and seen beyond her sex. A "female man" is a woman with a man's mind, her body and soul still female. Joanna's metaphorical transformation refers to her decision to seek equality by rejecting women's dependence on men and mirrors the journeys made by the other three protagonists. The Female Man includes several fictional worlds. Joanna's World: Joanna exists in a world that is similar to Earth in the 1970s. Jeannine's World: Jeannine lives in New York City in 1969, in a world where the Great Depression never ended and World War II never happened. As a result, her world is in a never ending depression without any significant feminist movements. Whileaway: Janet's world is an all-female utopian Earth ten centuries in the future called Whileaway, where all the men died from a sex-specific plague 900 years from the beginning of the novel. However in the final chapter, it is suggested by Jael that the plague was a lie and that the men were killed.
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