Herland Paper

Topics: Gender, Gender role, Seneca Falls Convention Pages: 5 (1813 words) Published: August 19, 2013
An extension of Herland
In a secluded region of the world a society developed in isolation from external influences. Physical barriers allowed this culture to evolve uninhibited, and thus, be unique in almost every aspect of their society. The people work together as a collective whole for the betterment of the group. A person is secondary to the nation, which created a system of cooperation and growth. Traditional gender roles are non-existent. Women do not need protection from men, due to the ability to act as a whole to counter the possibility of a threat. Subjugation of any person would lessen their contribution to the group, so every person is respect as an equal member. This society is the fictitious "Herland" created by gender activist Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Through analytical study of Gilman's book Herland, and extrapolating from the information provided, scholars can theorize about the path the characters, as well as this nation, would take in the years following this story.

The basic plot of Gilman's work followed the adventure of three man on an expedition resulting in their discovery of Herland. These three men, named Van, Terry, and Jeff, are amazed by the uniquely different and independent culture that exists there. Herland is comprised completely of women that resulted from catastrophic events nearly two-thousand years prior. This utopian society is the culmination of what women's activist Elizabeth Stanton wrote about in her "Declaration of Sentiments" at the Seneca Falls convention. In her address she stated, "That all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" (Stanton 1848, 548-149). Through self determination, and no subordinating force, the women of Herland established a society and governing system that promoted the ideas presented by Stanton.

The absence of men allowed for power relationships to be created that avoided traditional gender roles. A tremendous emphasis was placed on the society as a whole, rather than individual spheres of power reserved for men held in high regard. Gilman referenced to this idea when she wrote, "You see, they had no wars. They had no kings, and no aristocracies. There were sisters, and as they grew, they grew together-not by competition, but by united action" (Gilman 1998, 51). Along with this theme, Herland also placed childbirth as one of their highest honors. When a women gave birth and replenished the society with the next generation it was a cultural ritual of the highest esteem. Gilman also highlighted this idea by stating, "I understand that you make Motherhood the highest social service-a sacrament, really; that it is only undertaken once by the majority; and that to be encouraged to bear more than one child is the very highest reward and honor in the power of the state" (Gilman 1998, 59). After childbirth, in conflict with most cultures, the children were raised by a group rather than the mother herself. This reinforces the idea of collaboration, and mutual respect.

When the three men first entered Herland, each of them brought their own stereotypes and prejudgments of what a society of women would result in. These predictions worked in cohesion with their personalities; it illuminated what gender roles they subscribed to personally. Jeff, who could be categorized as a Southern gentleman, held an heir of optimism when entering Herland. He was a strong proponent of gallantry, and being the man who protected women. Gilman described Jeff as, "[He] idealized women in the best Southern style. He was full of chivalry and sentiment, and all that" (Gilman 1998, 8). Jeff was amazed when he meet the women that accompanied Herland. While each man had his reservations, Jeff held the most idealized perspective. When...
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