Rich Erlich, English 210                              1991, 1994, 1997

StGd Female Man

 

 

Study Guide for The Female Man (FM)

 

 

CITATION:

Russ, Joanna.  The Female Man.  1975.  Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 

 

 

SETTINGS, apparently all on Earth, but nominally on historical continua different from ours: (1) USA in 1969, but on an Earth where there's been no World War II; (2) Whileaway, a "good place" (eutopian) world about 1000 years from now, whose dominant species is sexually "one-form human" (monomorphic) with that form the female: all women and girls (see 7); (3) a near-future Earth where Manland and Womanland war; (4) our world, or a world very like it for some of the more essay-like sections. 

 

 

MAJOR CAST:

Jeannine Didier: a 29-year-old "good girl" (my term) from the              (mildly) alternative and blatantly male-chauvinist Earth in 1969.  ("Jeannine" = French form of Joanna and cognates.)

Janet Evason: a cop from Whileaway who finds herself in Jeannine's             world and later with the group with Jael.  ("Janet": dimminutive of Jane; "Eva-son" = "child of Eva" [=Eve])

Jael (Alice Reasoner): a warrior in the future quite literal battle of            the sexes, trying to recruit the other three "J's" to aid Womanland. 

In the biblical Book of Judges, the prophet and judge Deborah orders Barak to attack Sisera and his forces, whom Barak defeats.   Sisera flees on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber, a Kenite, because Sisera's people and the Kenites were at peace.  Jael greets Sisera, invites him in, covers him with a blanket, gives him milk when he asks for water, and when he is fast asleep, "took a nail of the tent and took a hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground."  (4.4-22, Geneva Bible [1560]; I have modernized the text.) 

Joanna: Authorial voice and a fusion of the "J's." 

 

The "J's" have nearly identical genotypes; the differences among them are the result of their different worlds. 

 

[ERLICHIAN NOTE: One thing you should learn in college is the following:

 

        Environment

Genotype -----------------]phenotype

           Time

 

I.e., everything that can be observed about any individual organism is the product of the individual's genetic endowment interacting with the environment over time.] 

 

 

(Based in part on Beverly Friend, "The Female Man," Survey of Science Fiction Literature, ed. Frank N. Magill [Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem, 1979] 2.766-69.  Below, EB3 indicates Encyclopaedia Britannica [1974], Micro- and Macropaedia.)

 

OVERARCHING QUESTION: Is The Female Man science fiction? 

Can you take seriously in FM the theory of a plentitude of universes?  (Does Russ intend us to take the theory seriously.) 

     The science as such is OK:

         Dream up Herr Prof. Dr. Erwin Schroedinger (1887-1961) and borrow his famous imaginary cat.  Put the cat in a sealable box with a device that will kill the cat if triggered.  Attach to the device a trigger that will go on if a quantum (very tiny, subatomic) event takes place and won't if it doesn't.  There's a 50% chance the event will take place (within a reasonable time).  Wait that reasonable time.  Unseal the box, but don't look (or listen or sense at all what happened in the box).  Is the cat alive or dead?  One theory of quantum events holds that quantum happenings don't happen until they're observed.  So, until some perceiver perceives what happened to the cat, the cat in the sealed box (in this theory) is both alive and dead.  As Schroedinger hoped, such a conclusion was disturbing.  He underestimated, however, the ingenuity of physicists.  He was answered with the concession that, indeed, the cat is either alive or dead, and it can't be both . . . in any one universe.  "Obviously," we need two universes created by the experiment: one where the cat is dead, and the other where the cat is alive.  Etc.--for every event since the beginning of time. 

         But Lord Shiva has always danced the worlds into being, and the Hindu sages needed no quantum mechanics to imagine a plentitude (if not an infinity) of worlds.  Ditto for other mystic sorts.  Does FM have the "look and feel" of science fiction?  A fantasy where one just wills one's way among the worlds? 

 

     Is FM fiction?  More precisely, for all the make-believe in FM, should the Beacon edition be labeled "Beacon Fiction" and shelved in a bookstore with the novels?  Can you agree with the potential critics Russ mocks for saying that FM is a "pretense at a novel" using various "tricks of the anti-novelists" (141)?  Would it be best to classify FM as a eutopia combined with a dystopia to form one kind of fairly traditional satire, but one that gives more space than usual in men's writing to the (eutopian) norm?  If you think that's the case, try comparing and contrasting FM with Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726): Gulliver goes to four different "worlds" and his consciousness holds together the stories.  Gulliver ends the story (1) hating humankind and (2) both highly sane and very crazy--"dissociated."  Perhaps in FM, dissociation is the place to start.  Or maybe FM is a philosophical novel in the tradition of Moby Dick and the Russian novels Woody Allen lovingly mocks in Love and Death.  All of the above?  None?

 

 

BRUTE FORCE CRITICISM (Part number in Arabic, section in Roman):

 

Part One

     1.I: Janet.  Note combining of familiar and novel; try to figure out where in the section you realize you're not, so to speak, in Kansas anymore. 

         First sentence uses the common tactic of announcing the dual topic of a personal narrative, "I" and whatever--here, Whileaway. 

 

     1.II: Jeannine.  Herr Shicklgruber is how Adolf Hitler was referred to by his political opponents.  Note that the premise for FM includes, "What if . . ." Hitler had died in 1936?  It's plausible that there would've been no WWII and that the Depression would've continued on.  For lower middle-class American women, was avoiding WWII a total good (2)?  /  Throughout, note baby and related words.  /  Throughout, note characters' attitudes toward sex, and the presentation of sex and violence.  Does Jeannine feel she has the right to copulate with Cal?  Does she enjoy copulating with him?  If she doesn't enjoy sex with Cal, is her (relative) sexual freedom of much use to her? 

     1.III: Janet. 

     1.IV: Joanna as character and narrator.  Note cocktail party and her becoming a female man (cf. Gulliver, IV.4, where Gulliver tells the Houyhnhnm master that England is ruled by "a Female Man," i.e., Queen Anne). 

     1.V, end: mes enfants = "my children."  Note possible implication here that Whileaway isn't Earth. 

     1.VI: "Expository lump," as the creative writers used to say, on God's plentitude (called "fecundity" here) and the physics theory of an infinite number of potential universes. 

     1.VII: Joanna and Jeannine watch Janet interviewed on TV. 

         Joanna is from a world with commercial jets and better TV, but Jeannine's world has 17 artificial satellites.  / Joanna likes urban life. 

         The reference to Laos, Cambodia, and Michigan State may be a sick joke.  One of the juicier academic scandals of the 1960s was MSU's secret contracts from DoD, CIA, and other agencies to run much of South Vietnam. 

         The quotation from the second human male on Whileaway is from Russ's story, "When It Changed," which see, if you get a chance (8). 

         The exchange on why men would go to Whileaway (9-10) may be a response to Ursula K. Le Guin's Genly Ai in The Left Hand of Darkness, talking to the (androgynous) King of Karhide (another kind of "female man"), with Ai coming out in favor of interaction, trade, integration.

         At the end of the interview, Janet does what visiting Outsiders do very well: point up the cultural taboos that seem "natural" to us.  When the men and older children are home at night, you don't get on TV words like "copulation"--or an enthusiastic description of lesbian sex (11). 

     1.VIII: Exposition on Whileaway. 

         In 9.VII, Jael will have a different version of the plague.  Be sure to return to the story here to look for discrpencies and consistencies. 

         Dunyasha Bernadetteson: apparently "the Philosopher" of Whileaway; watch for her sayings.  Also note her age: (1) Even with teeth trouble she lived to 82; (2) a millenium after us and people still live to only their 80s?

         Betty Murano expects to find "Nothing" in space--which is sensible.  Her quip, though, takes on more meaning if you compare and contrast it with a famous answer before a committee of the US Congress.  Asked in the early 1960s what he expected to find on the Moon, a clever American answered, "Russians."  That helped the US Moon-flight program. 

         duelling: There are no Y chromosomes in the genome on Whileaway; genetic accidents are rare; there are no macho perversions in the social structure--hell, it's eutopia!  And still they duel.  Russ says. 

         Guilds Councils / induction helmets: How much information does Russ give you about the political and economic structure of Whileaway?  (Possibly a lot more than you think.  Look for various definitions of "politics.")

         true cities / pastoral culture: Arguably, humanity's big mistake (if not making tools) was allowing the development of large-scale agriculture, cities and civilization; and in a lot of feminist/utopian writing, "We've got to get back to the Garden"--or the sheepfold.  What is Russ's attitude?

     1.XIII-XVI: Rounding up of the three "J's": Janet, Jeannine, Joanna.

 

Part Two

     2.I: Jael, but we don't know that yet. 

     2.II: Joanna on the party on 7 Feb. 1969.  Note direct address to the audience as children (20).  (Editing error?  Insult?  Other?)

     2.V: Janet on her arrival (a kind of First Contact). 

         cat's cradle: (1) title of a book about the military (among other things) by K. Vonnegut; (2) definitely not "the universal symbol" of anything--so Russ is taking a gentle jab at her character (which is important, since we'd expect Janet to be the Norm--eutopian product and all). 

         Janet is on better theoretical ground--and a cop's experience--with anger being strongest toward those closest to us.  We should know, though, that she somewhat underestimates the fear of the Stranger, the Other: a fear that must be taken to an extreme among high-level military officers if they are to do their jobs.  What in Janet's culture eliminates or at least reduces to the subliminal the fear of the Stranger that Le Guin (for a big example) makes much of in, say, "Nine Lives"?

         Note who Janet assumes to be in charge, and why. 

         "Take me to your leader" was a gag line by the 1970s (23). 

     2.VII: Return to Janet with Interviewer.  Note Janet on the peacefulness of humanity and her trying to avoid inspiring fear.  (There was an on-going debate during this time of whether or not human beings are peaceful.  Work out the various combinations of answers: they were all argued by someone.) 

     2.X: Jeannine.  Geopolitics in this alternative 1969.  Note well the idea that big wars are forcing houses: hot houses, "forcing" growth and change.  Consider carefully how World War II generally affected the lives of even American women, and rather positively affected the lives of many. 

 

Part Three

     3.I: Joanna identifies "This" as  "the lecture," and invites you to skip to the next chapter, either 3.II or, more likely, Part IV.  If you're getting academic credit for reading FM, read the lectures. 

         The Man: 1960s term, originally (I think) from Black slang, but here with a pun.  "The Man" is the ruler, the man in charge, the head honcho, the big cheese (etc., paraphrasing a William Shatner parody of William Shatner).  For a "man-identified woman," any man becomes The Man (29). 

         opera scenarios governing lives of conventional women--and men? (30): scenarios for stage works are outlines of the plots.  Reduced to a schematic plot, operas are usually melodramatic, silly, and bloody. 

         Janet neat but lazy: note for theme of work in Whileaway (32). 

         damask walls . . . not washable: Try to work out all the assumptions of people who put up damask wall covering and someone from Whileaway who'd draw pictures on it. 

         Room Service game: Janet is just playing.  How should we feel about her game?  (What if we identify with the workers in Room Service?)  (32)

         puppy love (my term) / bestiality (the term in law): Janet slips in, quite unselfconsciously, that she can certainly picture herself making it with a dog, but not with a man (33).

         Oh, I couldn't! / That's different: I guess the point is, Yes you can (but I'm certainly open for other suggestions [listen at meals]). 

         kick / fist through wall: Note violence (33). 

     3.II: Riverside Drive: Nice section of New York City, very expensive. 

         The -issa women:

              Spos-: Spouse?; Eglant-: Elegant?; Aphrod-: Aphrodite, goddess of sex and sexual love; Clar-: "little bright, clear one"--name of the heroine of an interminable epistolary novel called Clarissa; Sacchar-: very sweet; Amic-: friend(ly); Amphib-: i.e., a bisexual; Domi-: home; Dulc-: sweet; etc.

         His Little Girl / Ain't It Awful: What came to be known as "games people play." 

         alcohol / cannabis: Janet as smart Outsider makes the obvious moral argument against producing alcohol in a hungry world where marijuana grows easily on waste land (36-37). 

              The party may shift out of the fictive 1969 and into Russ's historical 1969: like WWII gave a big boost to hemp production, and I'd think that'd be important for marijuana use.

              Pot may be less a gateway to hard drugs than the hard drugs beer and nicotine are, but it's certainly a gateway to "free thinking" in ways that legal drugs never can be. 

              As late as the 1980s people smoked tobacco at parties without apology or even asking permission.  In such an atmosphere, shall we say, people off in a corner smoking C.S.--Cannabis sativa--wasn't so shocking.  (Nowadays, I trust, responsible people ingest THC in tea or solid foods.) 

         Ginger Moustache: Your best enemies, indeed, are those you know.  In the early 1960s, The Man was someone like Bull Conner: the stereotypical red-neck sherrif opposed to the Civil Rights movement.  Later in the 1960s, The Man was closer, and could be Liberals in positions of power, or even the sort of hip guy for whom the expression "The personal is the political" was original developed: greater or lesser hypocrites. 

              duels: Again, note that Janet has fought them--and why; still, we get no details, not even learning what they fought with (40-41). 

              grok: From R. A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, derived from the Martian verb for "to drink," meaning "to understand fully."

         new feminism: On our time continuum, the "old" feminism would've been the suffrage movement from the 19th c. until women got the vote (USA: 1920; France: 1940s; one place in Switzerland: June 1991); "second wave" feminism started in the 1950s and really got going in the late 1960s, when it became clear that the Left in America and elsewhere wouldn't deal seriously with women's issues, and a separate women's movement was necessary. 

         little book . . .: Russ literalizes the figure of speech (45-48). 

         baby: Apparently a major insult to an adult on Whileaway (47). 

     3.III-IV: Russ (?) against the women-are-essentially-peaceful school.

     3.VI (mislabeled IV): Childrearing (a standard section in utopias since all societies need some provisions for raising kids)--explained here, significantly. from the kids' point of view.

         roar (50): i.e., the mothers laugh at the idea they're dealing with their daughters' spiritual needs by letting others handle the physical. 

         Note that Whileaway is not a leisure utopia, but the people, esp. the young, travel frequently: Russ against the view of women as essentially sedentary--or essentially anything: that requires an essence (52). 

         taboos: note the age/sex taboo; it's important later (and it may be important that it's not very important (contrast Le Guin in The Left Hand of Darkness [LHD]).  Note well that if it's taboo to offend someone unintentionally, it may be OK to offend her intentionally (53). 

         work week: Think about the significance of Russ's playing with us on just how much the Whileawayans work, and at what (53, 54, 56). 

         psychology: Even as our psychologists spin out theories of the Oedipus complex, Electra complex, penis envy, or, more recently, personal and

sexual identity from separation from the mother--even so the psychologists of Whileaway (53).  Are all these psychologists a little more earnest than they should be?  See juxtaposed teachings of Dunyasha Bernadetteson.  (Hmmm . . . who likes tags similar to and different from philosophical Karhiders in Le Guin's LHD.  LHD: nusuth; FM: nicht wahr?, nyet?, hein [cf. Hain]?)

     3.X: Begins motif of who really exists and introduces question whether or not Janet, doing her duty, kills an insane person.  See 4.XVIII, 7.IV.

 

Part Four

     4.III: Laura Rose Wilding: A young woman who might become part of "Us" or at least a significant Other for the "J's"; does she?  Does she become a subject--a perceiving "I"--in her own right?  (Should she?) 

         Non sum: As the Narrator says, it's like English, "I am not (that)."  In context, this may mean, "I am not a lesbian" or "I am not a girl" (see 4.XI).  If it's obvious that she's a girl, and/or if in some sense Existentialists wouldn't accept she is a lesbian, her Non sum here could mean "I am not--I don't exist" (58-59).

     4.V: Mae West / Marlene Dietrich: Strong women who were important actresses into the 1940s. 

         UHF: Ultra High Frequency, used for minor stations.

         everyone knows: A motif.  Cf. the 19th-c. humorist Mr. Dooley on the problem's not being ignorance: "It ain't what folks don't know; it's all they know that just ain't so!" (quoted from memory).  Note that in propaganda subtlety is not a virtue.  (Also note that I use "propaganda" neutrally and in the technical way that includes the Gospels, the Declaration of Independence, DoD press releases, and much of what I write for newspapers.)

         Engels on the family: Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family,  Private Property, and the State (1884, trans. 1902).  Briefly: women as the first private property, handed over virgin from clan to clan or father-in-law to son-in-law (or whatever) for the husband to be able to transmit his property to his legitimate sons.  To enforce the institution of the family and private property, the State developed (EB3, Dict. Marxist Thought). 

         Genghis Kahn: Temujin, 1162-1227.  Recognized Universal Ruler (Genghis Kahn) by 1206 by the peoples of the Mongolian steppes and went on to establish a Mongol empire that extended from China to the Adriatic.  Temujin regularly ordered the massacre of defeated populations who had resisted him (or sometimes hadn't resisted him)--as part of a policy of terror (EB3). 

     4.VIII: whooping cranes were one of the first endangered species to catch the public's collective imagination.  Presumably, people who'd want to save whooping cranes should want to "save" Congresswomen. 

     4.X: Joanna describes herself as "the plague system" (63).  I don't know what that means, but note it for the motif of plague. 

         Janet imagines partially undressing Laura, imagining a violation of Whileawayan taboos against cross-generational sex. 

         fashion magazines: porn for "the high-minded" (63). 

         Freud: Sigmund Freud, 1856-1939, psychiatist whose work was generally disliked by most sorts of radicals ca. 1975; like, Mrs. Wilding might have done better to wash (and iron) the curtains (64); see 4.XI. 

     4.XI: Laura.  Penis envy: In Freudian theory, little girls get upset when they note that boys and men have something (a penis) they don't have.  Failure to get through this stage and resolve this envy has bad effects (65).

         et patati et patata: I don't know this one; help!

         songs about being a boy: reference to Flower-Drum Song, "I Enjoy Being a Girl."  Presumably much about boyhood is enjoyable, so we don't have

to propagandize the little fellows, constantly telling them they enjoy it (66).

         Socialist . . . camp: There were such things in the 1930s at least until the Old Left was crushed in the late 1950s.

         Separate but equal: the formula for Jim Crow segregation--a loaded phrase.  (If separate, the more powerful people will get better.) 

         buck-and-wing: a very complicated tap-dance step. 

         nigger shuffle: For a brief period in the late 1960s (say, 1967-75), radicals could use "nigger" without feeling racist if White or "self-hating" if Black (67). 

         Man-Hating Woman / Woman-Hating Man: You might try testing Russ's assertion from 1975.  Do women and men leave the room rather than be in the presence of a man-hating woman?  Woman-hating man (67-68)? 

         very nice boy: With what tone should one read this phrase?  The kid hurts Laura with what he says, and he's incredibly wrong: Laura may be gentle deep down inside, but it'd have to be much deeper than that fantasy life where she imagines herself Genghis Kahn, world-class mass murderer.  Still, he means no harm.  Is the point that even nice boys--esp. nice boys?--hurt girls?  But many boys are more like boy three and not nice; and healthy human beings are sexual beings.  If we add that point to the logic, does it get us to the lesbian possibility in the next paragraph?  Is it significant that this possibility is an "I couldn't" sort of thing (68)? 

     4.XII: Freud asked, What do women want?  In Chaucer, the answer to that question is power.  What does "power" mean here?  Does it include the power to hurt?  (Political power can be defined as having a lot of supporters and/or the power to help [one's friends] and hurt [one's enemies].)

     4.XIII: the narcissism of love: Narcissus fell in love with his reflection in a stream and pined away for love of himself.  The description of love here is like the scheme for teleportation on Whileaway (70).

         everyone knows: This time, though, with Whileawayan taboos also. 

     4.XIV: The Key: What Whileawayans call The Key, we Earthfolk on this continuum call a clitoris; the artifact is some sort of (1) mystery (Where did Janet get it if it's really Whileawayan?) or (2) sex toy.  See 7.IV (148) for a fuller description of an item without a generic name in the catalog I consulted.  Real Question: Was this section "hot stuff" for 1975?  Is it hot stuff for you?  By the oldfashioned standards I was brought up with, Russ is being far too coy in this sex scene, making it come across slightly dirty or inconsistently mystified (mystifyed sex doesn't go with the politics of the rest of the novel).  Or is this just me: what a friend of mine calls--with much exaggeration--my "Red-diaper upbringing" coming through?  (I.e., my being raised as a young communist: I wasn't; we were liberal Democrats in Chicago.) 

     4.XVI: Janet.  Again, the ref. to Whileawayan psych., and to the analogy of the 4-d curve (75). 

         Viking meadhall: This sucker I'm sure is out of copyright, so I'll translate the whole thing.  The reference is to the conversion of King Edwin in Bede's Ecclesiastical History (ca. 730 C.E.)--here, from the Old English.  A pagan thane of pagan King Edwin tells him

King Edwin, I'd like you to think about the present life of men on earth compared with the time we don't know about.  To me it seems as if you are sitting at a winter banquet amid your earls and thanes; the fire is kindled, and the hall is warm; but outside it rains and snows and storms.  Then a sparrow comes and swiftly flies through the house.  One way it comes in, and through the other end of the hall it departs.  When the sparrow is inside, he isn't hit with the winter storms; but in the blink of an eye he returns to the storm.  So the life of men appears a small time: what goes before and what after we do not know. 

         romantic passion: Are the Whileawayans in the tradition of "Love is a brief madness"?  Should a feminist eutopia be big on romantic love (79). 

     4.XVIII: kinship web: Viewed positively, as we should view it, there is great safety on Whileaway, and freedom.  Still, what if one wants to get out of the kinship web?  See Elena Twason story: 3.X and 7.IV (143-45).

 

Part 5.

     5.II: Jeannine on Cal. 

     5.IV-V: The three "J's" go to Whileaway. 

     5.VI: Authorial "I" disassociates from Joanna (89). 

         Sixty Amazons each eight-feet tall with daggers?  You don't believe that?  Or a Praetorian Guard on Whileaway?  (They guarded the Roman emperors.)

         whale-herders: If they don't milk them and/or collect the ambergris, why are they herding them?  (One obvious possibility . . . .)

     5.VII: Dialog on Whileaway (traditional in utopias). 

         Whileawayan economy = total social activity; no politics, apparently, unrelated to running the economy. 

         Personal vs. inter-State conflict (91). 

     5.IX

         ethologists: students of animal behavior, stressing its stereotypical forms.  In the 1960s and 1970s, some ethologists tried (cautiously) to look for analogies and homologies in human behavior.  (Some uncautious ones founded Sociobiology.)  dominance behavior = behaviors through which high position in a hierarchy is asserted and maintained (e.g., pecking order among chickens and butting order among cows; who gets to hit, kick, bite, or whatever among most social animals).  (93)

              Picturing a couple or three male undergrads I've known as the half-wit pontificating on Marlowe and Shakespeare, I identify with the English professor.  How do you respond to this party put-down by the prof.?  (Class, Gender, and Race are, indeed, the Big Three--but Generation always counts.)

         The Eternal Feminine: She's translating from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the closing lines of Faust. 

         The Second Sex: by Simone de Beauvoir, 1949, trans. 1952.  Classic feminist analysis of the status of women (94). 

         Irving Howe: democratic Old Left intellectual.

         A. H. Maslow: psychologist. 

         Man is a hunter . . .: Again stylish in the 1960s, after Robert Ardrey popularized the work of Raymond Dart.  Cliche (again) by 1975. 

     5.X: With what tone should we read this passage aloud?  The upshot is a call for revenge, but a bear story from Pogo, the comic strip . . . ?  (95)

     5.XI: A Whileawayan child tells Joanna a bear story, and about life in two worlds (96-99).  Try to figure out all the "two worlds" involved in FM. 

     5.XII: Note "feminine"/Taoist/Heraclitian view of a world in flux, with every "existent" headed only toward death.  Note also the implied "No way!" to the idea(l) of the sedentary woman. 

     5.XIII: smokes: What--tobacco in eutopia?  Less dangerous possibility: dope.  (If this analysis shocks you, are you thinking eutopian yet?)

     5.XIV-XV: Celebrations on Whileaway: Eutopia should be joyous. 

 

Part Six

     6.I: Jeannine.  The constant struggle to keep a place clean. 

         show me to myself: possibly an allusion to Le Guin's The Tombs of Atuan (and not a friendly one).  Then again, it's an old idea that one sees oneself only in the eyes of another, esp. a lover (109). 

     6.II: Note the two worlds and dissociation.  Note also the reference to "condescension and abstract contempt."  Given where I'm coming from, I'd say

that to understand Russ you should take that phrase absolutely literally. 

     6.III: What do you make of Jeannine's big brother? 

     6.IV: Menopause Alley joke: Is the comedy/offensiveness in mocking the "old."  Do boys find it funny just to say "menopause"?  Taboo word?

     6.V, p. 119: Against the "superwoman" myth.  Kirk Douglas: actor, still something of a hunk in 1975. 

     6.VI, p. 120: man as a way for woman to change her life--and the man. 

     6.VII: more on romance and romance vs. "reality," in this case probably favoring romance. 

     6.VIII: Romance, maybe--but not marriage. 

     6.IX, p. 131: Atropos: Number three of the three Fates, the one who cuts the thread (a death figure). 

 

Part Seven

     7.I: One Of The Boys: Technically, neither man nor woman, though not quite "neuter" if done by a male. 

         engineer's contract: Joanna (?) here.  I don't think Russ ever had such a contract, nor a full-time housekeeper, nor worked in a time when ten thousand dollars would be good money--or enough to hire a maid. 

         Rhadamanthus: the judge in Hades, and Dante's hell. 

         vagina dentata: "toothed vagina," literally so in folklore. 

         Grendel's mother: mother of the monster in Beowulf, who seeks to revenge her son's death and makes a worthy effort. 

         Rodan, King Kong: movie monsters, a giant pterodactyl sort of thing from the 1960s and a giant ape from the 1930s, respectively. 

         Faust: In Goethe's poem, a great striver and a Romantic. 

         Deborah: See Judges 4 and 5 for Deborah, Barak, Jael, and Sisera; I couldn't find a story where Deborah is struck with leprosy; Russ may refer to Miriam, sister of Moses (Numbers 12). 

         Buster Crabbe was an Olympic swimming champion, later in movies, ending his life selling swimming pools and, I guess, giving swimming lessons as promotion gimmicks. 

     7.II: Note "I" as outsider. 

         Sir Thomas Nasshe: There was a plain ol' Thomas Nashe, a writer of Elizabethan pamphlets and narratives.  (I don't think FM was very carefully edited, and I think the reference is to Nashe.) 

         dangles: penises (slang); sink: sewer (138). 

         Why . . . have you forsaken me?: Jesus's lament on the cross.

         Question on the doctrine of become what we are defective in: Is this a temptation to do what oppressed folk often do and try to become like the oppressors (139)?

         Man . . .study of Mankind: Alexander Pope, "Essay on Man" (early 18th c.): "The proper study of Mankind is Man" (quoted from memory). 

         Man: The title and much of the polemical point made explicit (140).

              Linus blanket: Linus, a character in Peanuts, refuses to give up his security blanket. 

              Questions: If "Move over" is definitely radical feminist, "we are all Mankind" seems pretty oldfashioned humanist; all together, would you judge this passage and FM feminist, humanist, or something else?  Would the feminist/humanist distinction have made sense in 1975?  Do you accept it now?

     7.III: Russ anticipates criticisms of FM. 

         ball-breaker Kate: I assume Kate Millett, feminist. 

         Note that catalogs like the one in 7.III are standard devices in satire, and their presence may indicate sufficient control consciously to use a traditional device.  On the other hand, as an occasional writer of satire, I'll tell you that a catalog is a way to let a lot of real anger spill out. 

     7.IV: Note the useful greeting custom among the Whileawayans, and their nonobsessive acceptance of personal violence (142). 

              QUESTIONS: Do the Whileawayans have wars?  Feuds?  Gang fights?  Do we learn of any fights bigger than duels?  What civilized males may've added to the human repertoire of nastiness is impersonal violence: violence to enforce laws, violence among large groups of strangers.  Le Guin and Suzy McKee Charnas both suggest that humans generally and women particularly are capable of feuds and intervillage fights. 

         Criminal Elena Twason Zdubakov: To balance the cooperation, perhaps, the "solipsistic underside" occasionally comes out, and someone tries to drop out of the kinship net and out of Whileawayan society.  Earlier, apparently, Janet told Laura she'd shot Elena Twason just with a drugged dart.  Here she says she used explosive bullets (145).  This is important: What do you do with dissenters in a world-wide eutopia, or with people who (just) want to opt out.  Or with criminals?  Kill them (143-47)?

              Note Janet's sentence on having a rifle like "the kind you've often seen yourself" (sic): Again, there are some editing problems in FM.

              Note little girl (etc.): serious insults (144). 

              Because you're bad! (146): Laura means this as a compliment to Janet.  In another time and place, she might've said "baaad."  She would not have said "Bad-ass mu-thuh!"--but is her usage a step in that direction?

              Note that Joanna assumes that Elena Twason is dead.

         progressive nitwit (148): joke, but take seriously the jab at civilization and, perhaps, "progressives." 

         Whileawayan communications device: see 4.XIV.  In what a Freudian might call a return of the repressed, the sex toy appears again. 

              Translating Joanna's lines to Jeannine (148) out of 1975ish: Masturbation--esp. as part of a lesbian relationship--will make you into a bad woman (my term), esp. when done with highly decorated devices that on our continuum seem to include the figures of animals and require 3 "C" batteries (not included).  See above on "bad."  And someone please tell me if I'm being incredibly naive in thinking my readers less shocked by sex talk than Russ's would've been in 1975.  (But if they don't teach you to at least talk openly about sex, what do they teach in all that SexEd. in the schools?)

              The Liberal rule is that adults can do what we want so long as we don't harm or endanger anyone else, and kids (usually) can do what they want so long as they don't harm or endanger others or themselves.  To be able to control adult behavior as private as mutual or single masturbation is to hold very great power.  To defy such power is a very radical act. 

         menarchal gifts (148): gifts given to girls in celebration of first menstruation.  Question: How do we celebrate this great rite of passage?

     7.V: An American Dilemma (149): on race relations in the USA (1944). 

         warrior saints (152): as, e.g., the Puritans saw themselves in the English Civil War of the 1640s. 

         selah: "cease"--a musical notation in the Hebrew psalms, sometimes retained.  (I was told it was retained by men who didn't know what it meant.)

         don't kill me, massa . . .: Russ is a radical, not a liberal, and the Black analogy is useful, as Alva and Gunnar Myrdal pointed out.  See above on "nigger," and see Joanna's comments on taste, narratival lack thereof.  (Except, again, this was less shocking in 1975 than it might be today.)

         Galileo (151): Unlike Joan, he submitted to the Inquisition (after seeing the instruments of torture they would've used on him).  My guess: another editorial error.  (Erlich's Theory: Authors can't know everything, and editors should edit.  Russ should've been queried.)

         plethora of joy (153): A whole lot of joy. 

              If all the "J's" have (more or less) the same genotype, they should all have the basic physiological equipment for emotions (see above the formula on genotype yielding phenotype).  Everything else is going to get determined by their interactions with their environments.  If Janet is stable and often joyous--well, she comes from eutopia.  Etc. 

         risks / Romance (153-54): Tone here--in the sense of Russ's attitude?

 

Part Eight

     8.I: Jael Reasoner (significant name!) introduced.

         brand name: I assume, something like "generic identification."  Nowadays, she has one, but I don't think Jael would like it.  In the hands of the (male) Cyberpunks, she became "a razorgirl." 

         S.S. uniform: uniform of the Nazi Schutzstaffel, the Blackshirts: the men (and some women) who did intelligence work, counter-intelligence work, secret police work, and generally insuring loyalty to the Reich (Gestapo); plus running concentration camps and death camps, torturing prisoners, aiding in the medical experiments, and spearheading the racial policies of the Nazi State.  Beyond Jael's wearing all black, I have no idea what the reference means here; but either Jael is pushing taste a bit much, or Russ is.

     8.II: Woman Who Has No Brand Name: cf. and contrast The Man With No Name--Clint Eastwood's characters in 1960s (and thereabouts) westerns. 

         Why I brought you here: standard line in detective movies. 

         ribbon of steel (158): Jael has a steel guard over her teeth.

         Comparative Ethnology: comparative study of cultural structures.  (Ethnographers live among a people and then describe the society as best they can.  Comparativists compare structures: anatomical, linguistic--whatever.)

     8.V Jael's exposition on: time travel (160), the genetic pattern of the "J's" (161-62).

         Doppelganger: literally, the ghostly double of a person.  More usually, a double in a light/dark pair like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde or all those light/dark female pairs Victorian heroes had to choose between (they were supposed to choose the fair one, even in a film of Ivanhoe when the dark one was played by the young--and very beautiful--Elizabeth Taylor). 

         four versions of the same woman: from four very different cultures (162).  Consider this point when judging whether or not FM is S.F. 

         Janet on aggressive sorts (163): Note this well.  Janet may understand one of the limitations of Jael's macha. 

     8.6

         war between Us and Them (164): If you're looking for a war, that is the basic war.  Question on tone: Does Russ believe war inevitable between an Us and Them?  (That could explain why they'd kill self-exiles on Whileaway.  If they kill them.)

         radicalism / separatism (164): key words.  Again, the tone question.  If you filmed this scene, how would you present Jael and her exposition?  Well, neutrally, mostly, but there's always a bias here and there.  Would you have her costume hint at a literal S.S. outfit?  In some visual way associate her with a recent neoFascist group?  Present her visually in positive ways? 

         fanatic (165): Jael is one and proud of it; apparently a fair number of her own people aren't. 

         guests: Loaded word?  In the Bible, Jael did soemthing arguably more shocking in context than being a woman who killed a man: she killed a guest.  Unto this day, welcoming the stranger is a nearly absolute obligation in all branches of Judaism, and in the ancient world guests were sacrosanct. 

         Men/Women = Haves/Have Nots (165): Yes--if we compare rich men with

rich women and American men with American women and so forth.  Or kill off the poor people and make the matter much simpler (164).  Jael gets into no such complexities; how should we feel about that? 

         Jeannine/Jael: Jael seems good for Jeannine.

     8.VII: All 4 J's go to Manland

         Young/Weak/Strong One: Who is which among the "J's" with Jael (165)?

         children: even dystopias have to raise kids (167).

         real-men/changed/half-changed (167): even dystopians want sex.  Note handling of real-manly taboos against sex between real-men.  (Note well for the whole question of sexual taboos.)

         Lenny's dreams of what women dream: Again, subtlety in propaganda is not a virtue (and a darkness/light vision is appropiate from Jael's POV). 

         Jael's internal speech (but overheard) on men (169-70): Note it well, but note also Janet's response and the Narrator's "pedantically." 

         half-changed "Anna" (170 f.): Note Jael's theory of how "Anna" got into the prostitution business (172).  Question: Is there criticism here of effeminate gays in the "Everybody knows" about feminine weakness? 

     8.VIII

         alien poontang: alien because its real woman, and poontang is a word from southern slang come north: literally, vagina. 

         what's my brand name yet again (174); this time, though, right after a brief bit on Manland "women."  Is Jael behind Joanna in Joanna's decision that she's a female Man?  Ahead of her?  (Joanna may still be the Weak One, still the humaninst and not yet fully a feminist.) 

     pregnancy fascinates them--and knowledge of menstruation would: contrast the more usual idea that men are disgusted by women's "plumbing" matters (174).

     They don't hear you (175): This seems to be the great complaint women have against men.  On the other hand, does Jael have any intention whatever of clear and honest communication with this goon?  (See and contrast Janet's attempts to communicate.  Note Jeannine's complaint that she doesn't have telepathy [8.VI, 165]; a standard human rejoinder to "You don't hear me" is "You're not talking to me; you want me to read your mind!"  [And here we may get into issue on which Erlich loses his usual serene objectivity . . . .])

     Boss / goodguy (174-82): He's a liberal.  Until fairly deep into the Age of Reagan (say, 1982), the Enemy for the Left was Liberalism, and for many feminist women the sort of men they knew, liberal men.  The hard Right was out of power, usually out of sight, and hard to take seriously.  (And [liberal] hypocrisy isnt the worst of sins, but it is among the most disgusting.)

     men play games (180): Possibly true down to the genetic level: male aggressivity may be typically based on the physiology of territoriality and female typically based on brood defense.  Territorial disputes are mostly symbolic; brood defense is a critical reaction: Wham, bam, kill ya, man!.

     language: Jael uses "bad words" (e.g., 180); what should we make of that?

     the kill (182): Here we have had violence; sex will follow.  (The story form of the Jael/Davy sequence is "An Old-Fashioned Girl"--a line in the story.  If Jael is macha is she just an old-fashioned, unliberated "girl"?)

     8.IX: Jael at home.

         Jael likes electronic music (at least Switched On Bach) and a highly modern house, weather that's just to see, not feel, and other, well, "unnatural" things (184-85).  Her electrified fence doesn't keep in prisoners, but it does keep out deer; and she's not exactly in sentimental touch with the neighbors (186).  How should we respond?  (Note Russ's nod to Shulamith Firestone in 9.VII: Firestone would move women out of nature.)

         Jael sees herself as an old-fashioned girl who became a grown woman, practicing a trade that takes her away from community, but toward what

she sees as quintessentially human, which I take to be murder (187).  She may, though, be a man-woman, rather contemptuous of woman-women (188). 

         Jael as a Prince of Faery (188-91):

              Note macho life, gender roles, fear & weakness/bravery (189). 

              hamadryad: king cobra.  Victorian lady: from say, 1832 to 1880, with clothing that's heavy, bulky, uncomfortable.  Kabuki: Japanese drama with beautiful costumes.  Chaos and Old Night (190): That which was (were?) in the beginning (Hesiod, The Theogony). 

         Blake: William Blake, Romantic poet (1757-1827), wrote "Proverbs of Hell."  (Contrast Blake/Russ on Excess with Le Guin in intro. to 1976 reissue of The Left Hand of Darkness, where things taken to logical extremes become "depressing" or "carcinogenic.")

         world crumble (190-91): The retainer's sexism is basic to his worldview: sexist theory couldn't handle Jael as human woman, but OK if she's Faery.  (Note whole episode for confrontation between empiricism, immanence in the world, and Theory, and for liberals vs. radicals on cultural relativity.)

         doing the One Genuine Thing (191): Taoist and Existentialist idea, though Taoists might dislike the immediate application.  (Is extremism in Jael useful extrapolation?  Science-fictional extrapolation?  Satiric?)

         Brynhild (192): a Valkyrie rescued by Sigurd, whom eventually she has killed--and then kills herself and asks to be lain on the pyre of Sigurd.  Nothing on girdles in my source. 

         will-I, nill-I: If I will or if I won't--I will (192). 

         geas: presumably Fate or curse.  Gaelic?  Help!

     8.X: A "didactic nightmare" (196) on rape dreamed by Jael (I think), which dream may or may not undercut what Jael has just said about Cause. 

         Cunt/Prick (193): (1) Again, how should we respond to Jael's diction?  Would the grownups say "cunt" and "prick"?  Is this what 11-year-old Jael would hear?  (Maybe.)  Is it Jael's subconscious dirtying up the diction of the dream?  (2) Jael usefully tends to extremes (throughout!); note here pushing sexist logic to the conclusion that humans are essentially our genitals.  (3) For your own usage, remember that "prick" as an epithet is an insult for a man, however much being one might not be entirely negative in macho culture.  (Dreams usefully oversimplify.)  See below, 8.XI, Davy.

         Original Sin (194): the sin of Eve and Adam in taking and eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, resulting in their expulsion from Eden, Adam's God-ordained dominance over Eve, death, and other bad things (Genesis 3).  In Christian doctrine, Original Sin is hereditary in the posterity of Adam and Eve, damning "natural man" not only to physical death but also to eternal damnation--and a warped heart, soul, and mind until death.

         Damned Fool (195): See above on "damned."  "Fool" in the Biblical sense can either mean a sinner or a wise Christian avoiding worldly wisdom. 

         Non sum: I am not (that); see above. 

         you (195-96): Again, I'd assume a liberal male reader; and, again, note the envenomed satiric catalog.

         best of all possible worlds: Allusion to Candide, a satire by Voltaire that in one quick hatchet job destroyed the doctrine of philosophical optimism: i.e., that God made our world the best world he could make. 

         boys/frogs: Mama may've rediscovered an ancient Latin saying. 

     8.XI: Jael and Sex with Davy:

         didactic nightmares: i.e., teaching nightmares.  Tone here?  (Note that in 1975 the lesson on rape would've been much more new to readers than it should be to you.) 

         old-fashioned girl (196):

              (1) heterosexual--which Jael means, plus the ironies involved with an old-fashioned girl having such a high-tech. sex toy. 

              (2) possible other meanings, such as her being both

old-fashioned and girlish in living out power fantasies of violence against men, and possibly girlish in still using a sex toy exclusively rather than forming a mature lesbian relationship.  See 4.XIV and 7.IV. 

         mesomorphic (197): muscular (not fat or scrawny). 

     8.XV: Nuts and Bolts Concerns (my phrase) with Davy.

         of course: How does Russ use this phrase?  In the S.F. manner of relating the character to the assumed future audience? 

         Leucotomized/lobotomized (199): two names for a psychosurgical procedure that can render one (at least in art) a docile idiot.  She's lying.

         Davy: Well, what do you think?  (Men get to answer first . . . .)                                              If man is essentially "Prick" (193), gentlemen, then Davy's your basic man.  He's also one kind of male fantasy, if you can picture Jael decent looking: being held captive and used as a sex object.  Start with your emotional reaction to Davy and Jael's using him to get off; then work through why your feel that way and how you might explain those feelings to others. 

              If what men are mostly good for is what Davy does, what, if anything, is wrong with Jael's arrangement? 

              Putting the matter very differently--is it progress for liberation that we now have soft drink commercials and such offering equal opportunity objectification? 

         this is what we want (200): Jael makes her offer to the "J's."  Does anything come of this bit of plot?

 

Part Nine

     9.II: Joanna's nonaggressive driving: Joanna isn't a New Yorker . . . .

     9.III: Men's fragile egos is an idea from liberal psychology that was very popular in the 1960s and into the 1970s.  Is it still popular?  Is it more true after the 1980s and the idea then that if you failed in the entrepreneurs and workers paradise of the USA it was your fault?  Etc.

         mater dolorosa: Mother of Sorrows--the sorrowing Virgin Mary, mourning Jesus in a painting by Titian (I believe). 

         Late Late Show: She'll let into Whileaway the male leads who played opposite the female stars of the 1930s.

         politics: The personal is the political--in a different meaning from the 1960s one of Don't be hypocritical. 

     9.IV

         revolutionary act (203): Thumb-smashing may be revolution on an awfully small scale, but if "The personal is the political," why not?  (Thumb-smashing is certainly more humane than many revolutionary acts.) 

         All cops / All fireman: Any progress since 1975?

     9.VI

         shlong (207): penis; matriarchy: rule by the Mothers (matrons, women); stoned (208): quite high on marijuana. 

     9.VII: Four "J's" in Schrafft's for Thanksgiving Dinner.

         Jeannine will aid Jael in the war; Janet won't (211).  And Joanna?

         the plague that killed the men: Jael claims to be the plague that made Whileaway possible.  Is this claim true?  What's its significance if it is?  Is Jael's phrasing for a thousand years of peace and love an allusion of Hitler's dream of a thousand-year Reich?  (Again, is Jael fascistic?) 

         Everywoman (212): Jeannine, Joanna, and Joanna.  Will you accept their Everywomanhood (as stated)?  From one point of view, aren't they awfully White, rich, young, healthy, educated, and American to be typical? 

         Laura shows up; Janet cries (212): Note nature of Whileawayan tears.

         Go, little book: Famous quote (Chaucer, Ovid [traditional]). 

         Friedan, Millett . . .: Feminists with a range of views.