threat is frequently disguised as patronage, the violence surfaces quickly enough
if a man is challenged (as almost any uppity feminist can testify.)
In Herland Gilman has shown us a country where, because the women outnumber the men a million to three, this physical threat is missing, and it is this
which makes the novel so relaxing. Terry blusters and threatens, and instead of
trembling, the women "would gather around and watch him as if it was an exhibition, politely, but with evident interest." The women are never bitter or
scornful, but neither are they intimidated. The point is driven home at the
end of the book when the three men fall in love with, and marry, three women
of Herland. Terry's desire to "master" his wife leads him to pull out what in
our society is the male trump card - violence. He attempts to rape her, and -
but I won't spoil it for you, since to this particular uppity feminist it was the
high point of the novel. It leads to a trial in which Terry disdains even to defend
himself - because, as Van notes, "in a court in our country he would have been
held quite 'within his rights,' of course." Instead, Terry told his judges
that they were incapable of understanding a man's needs, a man's
desires, a man's point of view. He called them neuters, epicenes, bloodless, sexless creatures. He said they could of course kill him — as so
many insects could - but that the ■ despised them nonetheless.
And all those stern grave mothers did not seem to mind his despising them, not in the least.
This passage is typical Gilman — unfailingly polite, always grave, but with
goodnatured merriment practically bubbling out as she faces and deflates the
most swollen manifestations of male pride. This repressed laughter takes her
triumphantly to the finish as the men, about to be expelled from Herland. are
requested by their guides not to reveal Herland's existence until the women
deem it advisable. Terry, consistent to the last, refuses, and threatens to bring
an expedition and force entry.
"Then" they said quite calmly, "he must remain an absolute prisoner, always."
"Anesthesia would be kinder," urged Moadine.
"And safer." added Zava.
"He will promise, I think," said Ellador.
And he did. With which agreement we at last left Herland. V
by Marian Phillips
Herland. By Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 146 pages. Pantheon. $2.95.
I have my prejudices — as indeed who hasn't? — and two of them are that
I don't like Utopian novels because they bore me, and I do like feminist literature but it depresses me (and well it might.) So when I came across a book
whose front cover said Herland: A Lost Feminine Utopian Novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I sighed, reminded myself that even reviewing books
has its drab moments, and started to slog through it.
Slogging was unnecessary: I flew through it instead. When I finished the last
page I paused briefly in order to make out a list of people that I wanted to
send copies to, and then went back to the beginning and read it all over again.
From the first line to the last, Herland is a jewel of a novel — fast-paced, entertaining and thoughtful. Everyone should read it at least once, merely because it's clever, well-written and instructive. For women, however, it is additionally recommended that you reread it on certain specific occasions, to
wit: when you start thinking that if one more man patronizes you because
of your sex, you're going to punch him in the nose; when you've been subjected to a chorus of insults, wolf-whistles and obscene suggestions because
you choose to walk down the street alone;, and finally, when it gets to the
point where a man calls from his car, "Hey baby, you need a ride?" and it
takes a conscious effort of will for you to refrain from screaming insults and
breaking his windshield. Herland is medicine for all of these symptoms,guaranteed to soothe, heal and otherwise repair the abraded nerves which, like
the pugilist's broken nose, are the occupational hazard ofthe full-time feminist.
Gilman's novel (which was serialized in her magazine The forerunner in
1915, but never reprinted until now) presents us with a country entirely populated by women and completely cut off from the rest of the world until it
is discovered by Uiree (male) explorers. Between them the men show us the
two ends and middle of the sexist continuum: Jeff is a Southern gentleman
who feels that women are weak, helpless darlings with the souls of angels;
Terry believes that there are two kinds of women - "those he wanted and
those he didn't," and whose pet theory is that all women love to be "mastered," a word which for him encompasses everything from overbearing rudeness to rape; and Van (the narrator) represents a man of reason — prejudiced,
certainly, but willing to change his opinions when faced with undeniable facts.
The emotional atmosphere in Herland is in striking contrast to that of most
feminist writings. Feminist literature as a whole is written in a context of physical menace. Women, who are (in general) smaller than men, and who are
usually given little or no physical training, are constantly threatened with
violence, either implicit or explicit. We cannot walk out alone at night for fear
of assault and rape. We are advised not to resist a rapist because he'll probably
be strong enough to murder and/or mutilate us. We need multiple locks on our
doors and windows because we cannot be safe even in our homes. The deference men have exacted from women for so many centuries is due precisely
to their ability to punish us if we don't comply, and although nowadays a
NEW YORK - St. Martin's Press has
announced plans to regularly release,
in both paperback and hardcover
editions, outstanding fiction with gay
themes and settings. Michael Denny,
editor for the program and associate
editor for Christopher Street Magazine,
explained tire purpose of the project:
"We need gay fiction for two reasons -
one, to strengthen the sense of self-
identity and two, to develop gay writers
and artists." St. Martin's has undertaken
the gay fiction program with the realization that gay readers now constitute
a major sector of the book-buying public, and that there is a lack of well-
written literature available to these
readers relevant to their own lifestyles.
The three novels chosen to inaugurate the program are: David at Olivet by
Wallace Hamilton; Special Teachers/
Special Boys by Peter Fisher and Marc
Rubin: and A Queer Kind of Death by
George Baxt. Publication date: February 28, 1979. Price: $4.96 paperback;
ID! ■■=-■■ -1QE
Book Reviews continued on next page.