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The Female Man (1975)

by Joanna Russ

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,158567,257 (3.46)1 / 145
Living in an altered past that never saw the end of the Great Depression, Jeannine, a librarian, is waiting to be married. Joanna lives in a different version of reality- she's a 1970s feminist trying to succeed in a man's world. Janet is from Whileaway, a utopian earth where only women exist. And Jael is a warrior with steel teeth and catlike retractable claws, from an earth with separate-and warring-female and male societies. When these four women meet, the results are startling, outrageous, and subversive.… (more)
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» See also 145 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Story: 1 / 10
Characters: 2
Setting: 3
Prose: 2

Literally, the worst book I've ever read [ Sin noticias de Gurb was the previous worst ]. A feminist science fiction book sounded interesting, mostly because the genre is dominated by male leads. However, The Female Man doesn't have a story at all. A lot of books will have no direction, but the story continues on nevertheless. However, Russ simply introduces a few characters and places without creating any events. The characters do not do anything. Compound that with a lot of jumping around and a critically-reflective narrator and the worst book ever written results.
Do not read unless paid... ( )
  MXMLLN | Jan 12, 2024 |
This is a complex and twisty book, and I got a lot more from it than I did on my first time reading it as a teenager. The sexual politics are fascinating and eerie, both achingly familiar and historically alien. Not for the literal reader. ( )
  fred_mouse | Jan 2, 2024 |
A woman from a possible future, in which Earth is called Whileaway, comes back to what was the modern day at the time of writing. It doesn't really fit in with her other famous short story set on Whileaway where Whileaway is another planet and has been free of men for centuries with the short story dealing with first contact when some men turn up in a spaceship. This novel is more fantastic than SF and features women who are the same character but from very different alternative realities - at least I think so! ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
I read this ages ago, but someone reminded me that Jael's world has what are basically trans women living in the "male" space and the book treats them hideously. Like. They're presented as clearly women, and treated as women inside the male-only space, including being subject to abuse for being women, they're literally called "feminine", but they're not "real women". As soon as the main character women see a "half-changed", they get angry and hate them. The "changed and half-changed" are presented as horribly as possible. It's fucking vile. Like. Trans women were not totally unknown when Russ wrote this book. But she talks about them with a hatred that the men don't receive. Being a "half-man" is worse than being a "real man" to her, I guess.

The rest of the book has its moments and some deeply moving parts and it's incredibly personal but also often incredibly confusing because of the weird structure. It's very stereotypically second-wave feminist. Some of the ideas are good but I can't rate a book highly which has such a "Transexual Empire" vision of trans women. ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
I confess I couldn't get into this the way I anticipated (and I tried twice), but there were some quotable bits:

…I wept aloud, I wrung my hands, crying: I am a poet! I am Shelley! I am a genius! … Lady, your slip’s showing. …

There is the vanity training, the obedience training, the self-effacement training, the deference training, the dependency training, the passivity training, the rivalry training, the stupidity training, the placation training. How am I to put this together with my human life, my intellectual life, my solitude, my transcendence, my brains, and my fearful, fearful ambition? I failed miserably and thought it was my own fault. You can’t unite woman and human any more than you can unite matter and anti-matter; they are designed to not to be stable together and they make just as big an explosion inside the head of the unfortunate girl who believes in both.

Do you enjoy playing with other people’s children-for ten minutes? Good! This reveals that you have Maternal Instinct and you will be forever wretched if you do not instantly have a baby of your own (or three or four) and take care of that unfortunate victimized object twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for eighteen years, all by yourself. (Don’t expect much help.)

Are you lonely? Good! This shows that you have Feminine Incompleteness; get married and do all your husband’s personal services, buck him up when he’s low, teach him about sex (if he wants you to), praise his technique (if he doesn’t), have a family if he wants a family, follow him if he changes cities, get a job if he needs you to get a job, and this too goes on seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year forever and ever amen unless you find yourself a divorcee at thirty with (probably two) small children. (Be a shrew and ruin yourself, too, how about it?) ( )
  ptittle | Apr 21, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joanna Russprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bontrup, HiltrudTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clute, JudithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, GwynethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vasilakis, AnastasiaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
This book is dedicated to Anne, to Mary and to the other one and three-quarters billions of us.
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I was born on a farm on Whileaway.
Quotations
“I didn’t and don’t want to be a ‘feminine’ version or a diluted version or a special version or a subsidiary version or an ancillary version, or an adapted version of the heroes I admire. I want to be the heroes themselves.”
As my mother once said: the boys throw stones at the frogs in jest.

But the frogs die in earnest.
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Living in an altered past that never saw the end of the Great Depression, Jeannine, a librarian, is waiting to be married. Joanna lives in a different version of reality- she's a 1970s feminist trying to succeed in a man's world. Janet is from Whileaway, a utopian earth where only women exist. And Jael is a warrior with steel teeth and catlike retractable claws, from an earth with separate-and warring-female and male societies. When these four women meet, the results are startling, outrageous, and subversive.

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Book description
Four women living in parallel worlds, each with a different gender landscape. When they begin to travel to each other's worlds each woman's preconceptions on gender and what it means to be a woman are challenged. Acclaimed as one of the essential works of science fiction and an influence on William Gibson, THE FEMALE MAN takes a look at gender roles in society and remains a work of great power.
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Average: (3.46)
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Beacon Press

An edition of this book was published by Beacon Press.

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