Social Possibilities in The Female Man, by Joanna Russ Essays

Social Possibilities in The Female Man, by Joanna Russ Essays

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Often when looking at issues that involve the politics of socialization, the counter-response is often an archetypal polarization of a given personal philosophy. Good examples of this occur across the board – someone arguing for feminist principles can be labeled a man-hater, but someone who is more moderate in their views could be labeled as being too compromising, or weak. These polarized views are a good way to compartmentalize different ideals and social orders if used to separate. In Joanna Russ’ The Female Man there are many ways to take the fragmentation of the four main characters of the story, the potential outcomes of each social possibility. I will look to show that these fragmented characters represent the incompleteness of any one “absolute” vision, highlighted by the utopian world of Whileaway, arguing that none of the potential outcomes are the “right answer”, displaying the incompleteness of answering questions definitely when everything is based on perspective and the relational value of power.
Plenty of examples abound in the text, displaying how “incomplete” each vision of the world can be. This commentary could be seen as a display of how there is no “one” answer to any of the questions posed by the book. Specifically though, in Janet’s future world of Whileaway, it seems utopian a balance between the natural and scientific, where things are scientifically and rationally decided to the best possible outcome for everyone. There is no room for the absurdity of life, which you could glean from her lack of understanding in other realms of questioning that don’t follow the Whileawayan “rational” thinking. The fact that repeatedly there are “tenets” of what Whileawayans do, even down to generalizations of what they...

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...e reversal of patriarchal gender roles, which is a benefit to no one. Having all of the strength and beneficial qualities it takes to usurp power from the oppressor, Jael’s representation is also incomplete, as she only gains power by oppressing another, much in the same way the male roles oppress Jeannine.
In summary, since the four characters could represent the fragmentation of identity due to external pressures, we can suggest that Russ may be displaying the incompleteness of following one particular method of dealing with the world. As we discuss in class with the “lenses” of critical theory, we cannot construct a whole image of the world from one view – much as we cannot construct gender from only the traditional or radical, or inclusive or exclusive “solutions” to problems.


Russ, Joanna. The Female Man. New York: Bantam, 1975. Print.

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