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The Female Man Hardcover – 1977


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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Star Books; FIRST EDITION edition (1977)
  • ASIN: B0036CQG16
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,674,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a fractured novel, showing four points of view of women from different times, places and dimensions. Joanna Russ means to show how one woman is different depending on her environment.
One version lives on the planet Whileaway, where the men died off in a plague but biological sciences enabled women to share reproduction. The woman from this place comes - how we are not told - through dimensions to a version of Earth which we can recognise, where women feel status is conferred by having children and looking after their husbands. Whereas a high-achieving single woman with a PhD, many published books, sports and travels is regarded by them as a threat, perhaps from jealousy.
A wry observation is "Women have feelings. Men have egos."
Russ is making her point at the expense of a plot, because there is no real sequence of events to keep you reading, often just a randomly picked facet of one society or other, such as the lack of violent crime on Whileaway. This is telling not showing and I would have been more absorbed in the tale if we had a straight swop of habitats between two women, each to experience life as they didn't know it could be lived.

My personal favourite of Russ' works is the award winning short story, 'When It Changed,' her first visit to Whileaway. Unless you want to go down the militant feminist road, in my view you are just as well off to read that story and not worry about this book.
By the way, I'm a married female who is a tree surgeon and was an amateur national standard showjumper, with award-winning writing to my credit. I think it's better to go out and live the life you want to live rather than complain about what you can't do.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By MD Healey on 23 Mar. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jael and Janet are from the future (but not our future), Jeannine is from the present (but of another past), and Joanna is from now (or, rather from 1970). They meet, interact and communicate: the plot as such doesn't exist. We are very much in the realm of 70s cutting-edge, modernist sci-fi.

This novel is a modern classic in at least two categories: it's a notable sci-fi title, and an important feminist novel. But most of all it's such a typical book from the 70s!

The style is what might be called innocently modern, with a mixture of stream of consciousness, straight first person and even third person narration. The transition between perspectives is very fuzzy, often times one doesn't know which exactly of the four alternative characters (Jael, Janet, Joanna and Jeannine) is talking/being narrated. It actually reminded me quite strongly of this other 70s cult title, The Dice Man, not because it's actually technically similar, but because it stems from the same spirit of the time.

Russ concentrates on the cultural and psychological side of male dominance: and occasionally, especially when sketching little scenes of a male-female dialogue, the satirical edge is brilliantly sharp and very funny.

Ideologically, it's interesting: firstly, because it's a historical account of feminist concerns at a particular time in a particular social grouping; and secondly, because it allows us to look from the perspective of almost 40 years (Russ's book was originally written in 1970) and try to judge to what extent the concerns are still valid.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Behan on 4 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps it's because I'm a thick-headed, linear, rude mechanical of a man, but I couldn't finish this book. This was not because I found it "too feminist" or anything - quite the opposite; that's what I wanted to read - but because the stream-of-consciousness narrative that flits between characters was intially very satisfying, often hilarious, but in the end, too confusing. In short, I largely enjoyed what I read, but became frustrated whenever I couldn't work out what was going on or who was talking in certain sections.

I realise that my failure to even finish the book somewhat undermines my qualifications as its reviewer, but I felt I needed to warn those who like me, often forget which character is which and spend a long time scrabbling back to earlier chapters of the more disjointed sci-fi novels trying to work out what's going on.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By FPR80 on 29 Sept. 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is very much a product of the 70's. These characters are all beautiful, intelligent women who, for one reason or another, don't really have men in their lives.
On first glance, the issues mentioned seem to be a touch out of date but while reading, I could not help myself from wondering if women are really as powerful nowadays as much as we would like to think or if, on the other hand, we have managed to tip the balance so far that men are now at a disadvantage - just like in "Whileaway". Still it would be truly a sad world if women all end up like "Jael".
This is a beautifully written book with good insight into the 70's feminist imagination! Enjoy!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Angry, justified and passionate views expressed, in a masterfully allegorical use of the "multiple world" sci-fi trope. Narrative can be confusing at points, but well worth persisting through.
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