Charlotte Perkins Gilman throughout her life was concerned with the conditions that compressed the important productive energies of women. The typical feature of her numerous writings is a sociological perspective that shed light upon the problematic aspects of society in her day; she also attempted to provide the theoretical foundations for the structural reorganization of society. Thus in 1915, she produced one of her most popular books, Herland, which was adapted to the popular literary genre of the utopian novel.
The novel provides the reader with the opportunity to imagine a world devoid of gender system of society. The author opposes readers with their own values and standards related to the role of a woman in society, expectation from the marital life, and religion views. Herland is the story of three American males who come across a secluded land inhabited entirely by women. These three men get vanquished by aboriginal women who treat the captured guests with much care.
When Gilman narrates about the role of the males she uses the term “other” sex to denote men: When Terry said Sex, sex with a very large S, he meant the male sex, naturally; its special values, its profound conviction of being “the life force,” its cheerful ignoring of the true life process, and its interpretation of the other sex solely from its own point of view (Gilman, 1979, p. 134). Actually, the term was borrowed from the works by Simone De Beauvior.
Such gender discriminatory features attributed by American society to females and fostered into these males like being jealous and helpless sex-objects are replaced by that of a female population that is wise, confident, resolute, and strong, educated, and employed. The women in Herland had created a perfect without any faults world. In Gilman’s view, the women embody characteristics of the most ideal type, for they are neither “feminine” nor “masculine”. The sole exception to their human, but “unfeminine” personalities is that every resident of Herland is a mother.
While not every woman in Herland was a biological mother, they were mothers in the most important sense: the fundamental underpinning of their society was the collective care, education, and growth of every child in the community. Motherhood means to us something which I cannot yet discover in any of the countries of which you tell us. You have spoken” – she turned to Jeff, “of Human Brotherhood as a great idea among you, but even that I judge is far from a practical expression? “
Jeff nodded rather sadly. “Very far – ” he said. “Here we have Human Motherhood – in full working use,” she went on. “Nothing else except the literal sisterhood of our origin, and the far higher and deeper union of our social growth. “The children of this country are the one center and focus of all our thoughts. Every step of our advance is always considered in its effect on them – on the race. You see, we are Mothers,” she repeated, as if in that she had said it all (Gilman, 1979, p. 66).
As is clear from the preceding quotation, Gilman did not simply desire to create room in society for women’s participation. Housing arrangements, clothing, farming technology, and other innovations all flow from the basic fact that women are making the choices which best promote their utopian community. Gilman tries through her writings to challenge her readers to envision her utopians as reality, and make them more probable.
Works cited list:
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. ( 1979). Herland. New York: Pantheon.