14 posts in this topic

@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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