The Female Man, Joanna Russ

February 12, 2010 scitina

  In the narrative Female Man written by Joanna Russ, one particular chapter stuck out in my reading. In Part 8 Chapter 5 Alice Reasoner, Jael, is making interesting interpretations between herself and each of the three other characters. She makes the statement, “they are four versions of the same woman.” Jael concludes that their genetics are the same and each would look alike and think alike if it weren’t for their environments. I think she introduces an interesting concept of how much our environment has an effect on our personalities and characteristics.

Each of the four woman have distinct qualities that correlate with their universes. Joanna is from a place similar to Earth in the 1970s and is described as attractive, not depressed, and sits with her spine like a ruler. Janet is from a utopian society called Whileaway and possesses all the Whileawayan improvements, no sinus trouble, no allergies, and she is muscular. Jeannine lives in a world where the Great Depression never ended and is described as intelligent. Jael notes herself as strong enough to throw them all across the room. She says, “they ought to be equally long-lived but aren’t and ought to be equally healthy but were not.” (162)

Jael makes several inferences about the way things should be and how these women should compare, but blames their differences on the effect of their environments. Is this a fair accusation? I believe that knowing all the woman originate from very different universes, where the role of gender is widely contrasting and the norms of civilization are completely different supports the idea of their environments molding their characteristics. Lastly, Jael states, “So plastic is humankind!” (162) I took this to mean that all humankind can be shaped and molded by their surroundings. A person’s environment directly impacts their beliefs, meaning someone’s values can also be changed. I think Russ included this section purposefully to sway preexisting ideas during the feminist movement.

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