Essay: Feminist Viewpoints on Herland

By | April 27, 2011

Sample Essay

Gillman depicts this fully functional world of women with no men for support in order to make one strong sweeping statement; not only can women survive in a world without their male counterparts but can also thrive upon it. Her work is reminiscent of a person deeply engaged in thoughts pertaining to the inner workings of society. Her references are direct and easy to interpret. The narration embodies gender education putting the sex that is generally regarded as the weaker sex square into the limelight.

She deems women to be equal to men in all aspects and is suggestive of them performing even better than men in similar surroundings. The utopian picture she depicts is immediately recognizable as enforcing a stigma against women which renders them a strict spot in society, to serve men and abide by their rules. Through Herland, Gillman urges the women to step out into other fields and shrug these rules away as their capabilities are not simply restricted to the husband. According to her, women can regulate the society better with their distinct set of characteristics of tolerance and love-for-peace in order to result in a vegetarian society, free of war and prejudice.

Van, from whose perspective the story is being narrated, takes a keen interest in the seemingly divine way the women reproduce. It is the one real hindrance to a society devised completely of women. In the case of Herland, the women reproduce through a process known as parthenogenesis that is akin to asexual reproduction. The process of becoming pregnant on their own accorded to this reproductive genetics renders them incapable of producing male children and hence, the land only comprises girls. This quality trumps their need of men completely furthering the rather patronizing tone of the whole society. Be that as it may, the three men are so fascinated by the perfect environment that they end up offering to marry three of the women. The women accept this invitation to naturalize their environment with male influences to which they can resort to for insemination. This alleviates the patronizing tone a little so as to continue upon the two-sex norms the societies of the rest of the world are used to. The fact that the women agreed to natural impregnation at the hands of these three men serves to show how important maternity and motherhood is to them. Moreover, Gillman portrays the very act of parthenogenesis as the sole goal for each female member, further solidifying their strict priorities to family life.

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