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@Nidalaeh @JadeBleu15 @nudous @TyphoonFighter @CuriouslyMarriedWoman @J-Net @cantgetadecentusername @blueberry @Leigh1968 @javanutt @swipka777 @ZuZu'sPetals @celeste teal

 

Hi everyone :)

Welcome to the Herland discussion thread. For those who haven't seen the Book Club topic in the Suggestions forum started by Nidalaeh here is the link which gives some background to the Book Club and the first book we chose to read and discuss - Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. If you haven't heard of the Book Club and want to join us, please do! The more the merrier.

 http://www.shybi.com/forums/index.php?/topic/117490-book-club/&

If you haven't finished reading the book don't worry, you can join in the discussion whenever you're ready. Please feel free to suggest questions or directions of discussion for  Herland. 

Here are some questions to start things off:

How did you experience the book?  Was it immediately engaging? How did you feel while reading it?  What themes were present?

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I am not quite finished with it but my experience so far is very intrigued on the concept of the story especially given the time it was written  ( 1915). I wondered how it was recieved during that time.

How did I feel reading it? I was curious on how the concept came to, Charlotte Gilman and did she perhaps have bisexual tendencies. I also found it interesting that she used the word bi-sexual in her story but noted I dont believe it was used in the same context as how it is used today. I felt it was more talking female/male masculinity.  I could be mistaken but thats what I took away from the passage. 

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@JadeBleu15 I also had a reaction to the word bi-sexual in the book. I think she meant it as referring to how children are made - in Herland all the babies have only one parent, their mother,  whereas in the rest of the world two sexes, male and female are needed to reproduce. I was looking keenly while reading for any mention of sexual intimacy between the women of Herland but Charlotte seems to steer clear of that aspect of their society, although she does mention personal friendships and a feeling of "sisterhood" in Herland.  Perhaps Charlotte didn't want the book to be too provocative by addressing sexuality in addition to her many radical ideas about women's role in society. 

My overall feeling when reading the book was one of intrigue about the details of Herland society and how it contrasted with 1915 western patriarcy  as described through the three male characters Van, Terry and Jeff. There were a few moments of retro-cringe when she mentioned the tribes living beyond the Herland plateau as "savages:"; thankfully these shocking characterizations were mentioned only a few times.  Another overall feeling I had while reading was of calm peaceful serenity as I imagined what life was like for the women of Herland. 

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What aspects of Herland society did you particularly enjoy? What aspects were most surprising or unusual?

I really enjoyed the conversation between Ellador and Van when she was showing him the places where babies are raised in Herland and my imagination happily roamed around what it would look like, and feel like to be a mother, or baby in such a setting. Here is a passage from the book describing what they developed for educating and caring for their babies:

Quote

The houses and gardens planned for babies had in them nothing to hurt—no stairs, no corners, no small loose objects to swallow, no fire—just a babies’ paradise. They were taught, as rapidly as feasible, to use and control their own bodies, and never did I see such sure-footed, steady-handed, clear-headed little things. It was a joy to watch a row of toddlers learning to walk, not only on a level floor, but, a little later, on a sort of rubber rail raised an inch or two above the soft turf or heavy rugs, and falling off with shrieks of infant joy, to rush back to the end of the line and try again. Surely we have noticed how children love to get up on something and walk along it! But we have never thought to provide that simple and inexhaustible form of amusement and physical education for the young.

I came across this painting which reminded me of a Herland baby garden :)

de138f7a96975ba61f25a20129e8af5b--master-art-art-children.jpg

La ronde des enfants by Gaston La Touche

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@celeste teal  when I read that passage an image of the Garden of Eden popped into my head.  this picture is lovely I love it. 

To address your questions:

In my opinion, I enjoyed the aspect of an all women society (not that I hate men or anything, I have son I love dearly) it just really intrigued me and wondered in my mind how that would work. it is very unusual of course but just made me think, they obviously would have to take on male roles ( much like the Amazonian women in Wonder Woman) they would be defenders, builders and hunters as well as nurturing mothers, etc. 

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@JadeBleu15 That's what I thought too - they would have to take on many of the roles that males usually perform, such as builders, manual labour etc.

Since they are in a completely isolated place they wouldn't have to be concerned with aggression from the outside so they wouldn't really need warriors, and the way their society has developed over the centuries they don't really need police either. Imagine if we didn't need that in our society; there would be so much more wealth available to spend on education and raising babies!

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What aspects were most surprising or unusual?

One thing that I found unusual was the way the society of Herland lacked competition and hierarchy. They were more like a co-operative, or perhaps even communist but unlike the versions were have seen in the past 100 years they didn't have follow any rigid dogma and there wasn't an elite that had living standards significantly higher than the average person. There were several instances in the book where the men who were "visiting" compared Herland to an ant colony, or a bee hive in the way the individuals cooperated towards survival and the raising of babies, which is so different from our society.  Their society seems to be largely free from greed, fear and strife. When I was thinking about this I was reminded of the song Imagine by John Lennon - the lyrics seem to be a close fit for Herland.

 

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@celeste teal Very good points. I would only add how they came to be was unusual, women after 25 years of age just started getting pregnant and having babies.  Unusual that there were men then there werent, its almost like its implied "Mother Nature/God " just took massive action so they could survive

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19250370024_706bb189d0_b.jpg

Here's another painting that reminds me of the communal spirit of Herland.

The Coming of the Bride by John Duncan (1917)

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On 9/14/2017 at 8:51 PM, JadeBleu15 said:

@celeste teal Very good points. I would only add how they came to be was unusual, women after 25 years of age just started getting pregnant and having babies.  Unusual that there were men then there werent, its almost like its implied "Mother Nature/God " just took massive action so they could survive

Yes, you raise a very good point. The story could be seen as a religious one, perhaps told as a myth, or revelation. One interesting parallel to consider is between Herland and the story of Jesus/Christianity. Mary was a virgin who gave birth to Jesus through immaculate conception. Herland survives and prospers because their "Mary" gave birth to baby girls via a kind of immaculate conception who were also able to give birth to other girls in the same way. The story could be seen as a feminine version of "Christianity" in which heaven is created on earth as opposed to in an afterlife. 

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Here's another painting that feels like a scene from Herland. Raising healthy happy children is the highest priority of their society and the women who tend babies and toddlers make up  the most honoured, valued and respected profession. 

Marguerite_G%C3%A9rard_-_The_first_steps.jpg

Marguerite Gerard (1761 - 1837)  First Steps (circa 1788)

Edited by celeste teal
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On 10/17/2017 at 10:05 AM, celeste teal said:

Here's another painting that feels like a scene from Herland. Raising healthy happy children is the highest priority of their society and the women who tend babies and toddlers make up  the most honoured, valued and respected profession. 

Marguerite_G%C3%A9rard_-_The_first_steps.jpg

Marguerite Gerard (1761 - 1837)  First Steps (circa 1788)

Beautiful

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On 9/20/2017 at 7:24 PM, celeste teal said:

Yes, you raise a very good point. The story could be seen as a religious one, perhaps told as a myth, or revelation. One interesting parallel to consider is between Herland and the story of Jesus/Christianity. Mary was a virgin who gave birth to Jesus through immaculate conception. Herland survives and prospers because their "Mary" gave birth to baby girls via a kind of immaculate conception who were also able to give birth to other girls in the same way. The story could be seen as a feminine version of "Christianity" in which heaven is created on earth as opposed to in an afterlife. 

You always make me think outside the box. Excellent :)

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Herland first appeared in 1915 in The Forerunner, a monthly magazine that was published by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman. It contained articles, essays, book reviews, short stories, poems and serialized novels all of which were written entirely by Charlotte. The subscription base was only about 1,500 and so Herland was not widely read aside from feminist circles until much later in 1979 when it was published as a novel by Pantheon books. 

Why was there a 64 year gap from when it was written to when it was made widely available to the public? One possible reason was that it contained radical ideas that would be completely at odds with society during those decades, which are still to this day at odds with "mainstream" society. 

Those ideas include:

  • Women being intellectually and physically capable of building and maintaining an advanced civilization
  • Women being in charge of their own reproduction and bodies
  • A society where women can pursue vocations of their own choosing
  • A society without surnames and the need to maintain family ties or obligations
  • A society free of domination of the many by the few, a society that is egalitarian in principle and practice
  • A civilization that doesn't require constant economic growth to flourish but chooses to live within its means and is sustainable over centuries
  • A civilization that is largely vegetarian and doesn't require domination and control over other animal species
  • A society that is free of organized religion and the concerns of an afterlife  
  • A society that is free from codified "customs" or "laws" and is free to evolve pragmatically as situations require

 

forerunner.jpg

 

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The illustration on the cover of The Forerunner reveals Charlotte's ideas about how the sexes, female and male, should relate to each other to make a better world than the one she lived in at the turn of the 20th century.

She rejected the patriarchal imperative that women should devote themselves fully to the raising of children and tending to the affairs of the home and insisted that women needed to be economically independent from men and to be equal partners in the external world of business, academia and government.    

In the illustration we can see this sentiment expressed by both the woman and the man equally supporting the sphere which represents the "world" - the source of external resources (money, food, housing, education etc.) which support the baby standing on top of it.  The woman is directly supporting the baby with her other hand and the man is indirectly supporting the baby by supporting the woman's arm. This distinction between direct and indirect support of the baby reflects, I think, Charlotte recognizing that there is an inherent maternal instinct in women and that a partial division of labour between the sexes is still warranted in raising children, unlike the patriarchal notion of an absolute division of labour. 

The position of the baby, on top of the sphere and above the kneeling forms of the man and woman represents Charlotte's belief that loving and raising children should be the highest priority of society. This attitude is clearly evident in the description of Herland society. 

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Reading your thoughts on the illustration and I think they are pretty direct and on the mark.  I have a daughter and lots of nieces and have always tried to speak of staying out of the disney princess syndrome that seems to be still be instilled in our girl childrens head. Although was pleasantly surprised with Frozen and the kiss of love did not come from a prince or a man but the bonds of sisterly love and affection.  Sorry I may have got off track....

But I agree with your descriptions and how "we have come along way, baby" but still so much more road to travel.  Alot of people today ( from what I have seen) equate feminism to men hating  but of course there are radicals in any group.   

I enjoyed reading the peaceful and orderly world of Herland and when i I think of your last statement  "loving and raising children should be the highest priority of society", I think of the old saying it takes a village ( when raising children) and I also can't help but wonder how we fail miserably of doing just that, so many discarded children in the world, my mind reflects to recent events in my state where a young child was discarded and found in a creek clearly murdered, where was the village for that child? I believe in the society of Herland, those woman would never allow such a travesty. 

My apologies if I got off topic. 

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3 hours ago, JadeBleu15 said:

 

I enjoyed reading the peaceful and orderly world of Herland and when i I think of your last statement  "loving and raising children should be the highest priority of society", I think of the old saying it takes a village ( when raising children) and I also can't help but wonder how we fail miserably of doing just that, so many discarded children in the world, my mind reflects to recent events in my state where a young child was discarded and found in a creek clearly murdered, where was the village for that child? I believe in the society of Herland, those woman would never allow such a travesty. 

My apologies if I got off topic. 

I had a similar feeling this morning while seeing pictures of Yemeni children starving because of the Saudi blockade on humanitarian aid. Like "hey adults, while you've been busy with your sectarian proxy wars, innocent babies are wasting away because you won't let people access them to give them food. Do better."

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2 hours ago, ChemFem said:

I had a similar feeling this morning while seeing pictures of Yemeni children starving because of the Saudi blockade on humanitarian aid. Like "hey adults, while you've been busy with your sectarian proxy wars, innocent babies are wasting away because you won't let people access them to give them food. Do better."

I just do not understand this world we live in, its no wonder some children are growing up self absorbed and without compassion, its a learned behavior. 

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On 12/5/2017 at 4:10 PM, JadeBleu15 said:

Reading your thoughts on the illustration and I think they are pretty direct and on the mark.  I have a daughter and lots of nieces and have always tried to speak of staying out of the disney princess syndrome that seems to be still be instilled in our girl childrens head. Although was pleasantly surprised with Frozen and the kiss of love did not come from a prince or a man but the bonds of sisterly love and affection.  Sorry I may have got off track....

There are many tracks in this conversation so feel free to take whichever one you like :). You raise a very good point about how affection is portrayed in the media and how it might be slowly changing to de-emphasize the princess syndrome. There has been quite a bit of discussion on the internet about giving Elsa a girlfriend in the sequel to Frozen. Would you like to see that? I would, but I don't know if society is ready for that yet although I do think that something like that will happen sooner or later.

 

On 12/5/2017 at 4:10 PM, JadeBleu15 said:

I enjoyed reading the peaceful and orderly world of Herland and when i I think of your last statement  "loving and raising children should be the highest priority of society", I think of the old saying it takes a village ( when raising children) and I also can't help but wonder how we fail miserably of doing just that, so many discarded children in the world, my mind reflects to recent events in my state where a young child was discarded and found in a creek clearly murdered, where was the village for that child? I believe in the society of Herland, those woman would never allow such a travesty. 

 I agree that the women of Herland would never allow such horrific neglect of a child. Through the book we get glimpses of how the women react to the unsavory aspects of the outer world that the three men gradually and sometimes shamefully provide. Often it's outright shock that anything like that could ever exist in a human society, let alone be a somewhat commonplace thing. 

There is a sequel to Herland called With Her in Ourland which details the observations that Ellador makes when she travels around the world with Van. Ourland was written in 1916 during the insanity of "The Great War" so Ellador will be witness to many horrors and injustices that are utterly incomprehensible to someone who was raised in a peaceful society like Herland. Someday I'll read it but I'm not eager to see the emotional struggle that poor Ellador will face.

Edited by celeste teal
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Here is another painting that reminds me of Herland:

DBvrxINXsAElgiF.jpg

Fritz Zuber-Buhler (1822-1896) - Innocence

 

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The conceit of With Her in Ourland sounds like Wonder Woman! Although I suppose Ellador lacks an Amazon shield.

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Just now, ChemFem said:

The conceit of With Her in Ourland sounds like Wonder Woman! Although I suppose Ellador lacks an Amazon shield.

Thanks for the insight! It never occurred to me but there is a close parallel with the WW movie. 

 Ellador doesn't have a shield but she does have strength of character and society-changing ideas. I would love to see a follow-up novel(s) where Ellador and the women of Herland infect the world with their ideas and actually change society to make it more like Herland. 

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1 hour ago, celeste teal said:

There are many tracks in this conversation so feel free to take whichever one you like :). You raise a very good point about how affection is portrayed in the media and how it might be slowly changing to de-emphasize the princess syndrome. There has been quite a bit of discussion on the internet about giving Elsa a girlfriend in the sequel to Frozen. Would you like to see that? I would, but I don't know if society is ready for that yet although I do think that something like that will happen sooner or later.

 

 I agree that the women of Herland would never allow such horrific neglect of a child. Through the book we get glimpses of how the women react to the unsavory aspects of the outer world that the three men gradually and sometimes shamefully provide. Often it's outright shock that anything like that could ever exist in a human society, let alone be a somewhat commonplace thing. 

There is a sequel to Herland called With Her in Ourland which details the observations that Ellador makes when she travels around the world with Van. Ourland was written in 1916 during the insanity of "The Great War" so Ellador will be witness to many horrors and injustices that are utterly incomprehensible to someone who was raised in a peaceful society like Herland. Someday I'll read it but I'm not eager to see the emotional struggle that poor Ellador will face.

I agree not in a big rush to read and feel her struggles

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grimshaw-leeds-st-chads-1868-may-2012-small.jpg

This serene rural landscape - Leeds from Woodhouse Ridge by John Atkinson Grimshaw (1868) immediately made me think of Herland. 

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@celeste teal beautiful painting & I agree with you.

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