Feminism is the advocating for social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men (Random House College Dictionary). This story depicts just that. It is about a society made entirely of women with no need for men. We see the perspective of men through the eyes of our narrator. He gives us the point of view from three different men about women. Herland takes the traditional stereotypes about women and reverses them entirely. Everything that was once regarded by feminine and masculine standards was taken away. The women had short hair and athletic bodies. Their clothing was not provocative but built for comfort and convenience. They were not coy and flirtatious. They did not need men. Their daily living and whole lives did not depend on a man in any way shape or form. They were builders, farmers, scholars, and most importantly mothers. They lived together, harmoniously. The women of the land do not understand the gender biases of the world because they simply do not make sense. “There was no accepted standard of what was “manly” and what was “womanly”………….Jeff said, ‘a woman should not carry anything,’ Celis asked ‘Why?’ with the frankest amazement”(93). And why shouldn’t a woman carry anything. To her it was the funniest idea. If none of them carried anything, nothing would get done!
The men who “invade” Herland are filled with typical boyish fantasies of wild maidens in waiting. Their ideals about this place are comical. They expect to find a collection of wild women that are waiting to be tamed by men. They imagine a world of pure, untainted women. They cannot imagine a civilized world without the presence of men. “ They would fight amongst themselves, Women always do. We mustn’t look for any sort of order and organization” (10). This statement was made by Terry, as we come to know him. He is the most “manly” of the three men. His ideals are the most Victorian and chauvinistic. Jeff’s ideas about the women they would come to find were different than Terry’s. He believed that women should be sheltered and protected without a care in the world. “Jeff idealized women in the most Southern style. He was full of chivalry and sentiment, and all that. And he was a good boy; he lived up to his ideals” (11). Van’s ideals about their venture were the most practical in nature. He looked over every detail and tried to make the most sensible explanations. I believe he was the voice of reason. We could also compare the three to Freud’s Id (Terry), Ego (Jeff), and Superego (Van). But that is another paper.
Perhaps one of the most forthcoming feminist aspects is the fact that the women of Herland reproduce without the assistance of men. This feature of the novel helps to create a truly self -supporting society of women that our narrators cannot seem to grasp. This makes these women superhuman in a sense. The male race is unnecessary to their existence. I believe that this story was told with the purpose of making the gender roles of most of the world look like children’s games. It is clear that this story was intended to show that women were and are self-supporting human beings and not objects to be possessed and kept.
Herland Charolate perkins Gilman