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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Femninist Sci-Fi Classic, But So Very 70s
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...
Published on 23 Mar 2009 by MD Healey

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The female man
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...
Published 19 months ago by Clare O'Beara


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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Femninist Sci-Fi Classic, But So Very 70s, 23 Mar 2009
By 
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This review is from: The Female Man (Paperback)
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.

Possibly surprisingly, the biggest difference is perhaps in the attitudes to homosexuality; and possibly unsurprisingly, the least progress is in the women's own attitudes to marriage and breeding.

Most still are, but most seem, at least to me, rather petty: there is no mention of the ACTUAL discrimination, of the effect of poverty on women, of reproductive rights, of equal pay, of colonisation of women's bodies...of hundreds of concerns that seem rather more valid to me than cultural dominance of the idea that woman who doesn't marry and have children is a failure as a human being. It is possible of course that the fact that I see is a petty is one of the symptoms of progress we have achieved. I personally think it's more a question of Ross's concentration on issues important for middle class Westerners, so typical for a lot of feminist movement in general, and especially in those times.

As a sci-fi, the book works only to some extent: there is too much psychological and ideological rumination and not enough world building or plot.

It's really 3.5 stars not 4, but Amazon won't let me have a half point rating, so I decided to be charitable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The female man, 12 Jan 2013
By 
Clare O'Beara - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable premise, ruined by an ideology that has lost relevance., 2 Nov 2011
The Female Man is one of the more disjointed and repetitive books I've ever read in SF. I got to the end, only just, irritated by the (at times) stream-of-consciousness type approach to the narrative. Perhaps much of what the book contains may have heartened feminists when it was first written, however, now it comes across as anachronistic and somewhat twee; a rather more sophisticated discourse pervades gender studies in the modern day. Not one I would recommend.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A confusing narrative., 4 Dec 2009
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This review is from: The Female Man (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, 29 Sep 2004
This review is from: The Female Man (A Women's Press classic) (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Angry, justified and passionate views expressed, in a ..., 25 Aug 2014
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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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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Book, 17 Jun 2011
By 
Angel House "Poet" (South Oxfordshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I bought this book because I read somewhere that it was a classic or that it changed the world or something like that. It had a big build up. So it is probably not surprising that it did not turn out to be as I expected. To be blunt, it is bizarre and a bit disjointed. Plus I am not sure what I think of a world without men. I like men. I have not yet read it all but will finish it. I am sure that sticking with it will be worthwhile even if just to see what kind of a book achieves the height of all accolades. And it has given me quite a bit to think about.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 12 Jan 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Female Man (Paperback)
One of the best novels about sexual roles ever written. Any man that wishes to understand women should read this.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 19 May 2011
By 
H. Ashford "hashford" (Sheffield, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Female Man (Paperback)
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I have a special interest in sci-fi written by women, and I was vaguely surprised that I had never read any of Joanna Russ's books before. So I was looking forward to reading it with pleasurable anticipation.

However, I was really disappointed, and gave up about half way through. (I won't summarise the plot here, as that has been done exceedingly well in another review - so will move quickly on to my own personal responses to the book). For a start, I found the writing style exceedingly difficult to get on with; quite a lot of the time it's hard to tell who is talking (or being narrated), but more importantly, there's no clear connection between different parts. And so, because you can't work out who is talking, or why they are saying/doing what they are, you can't get to know and understand the characters. What's more, there's nothing even remotely resembling a plot (not that I found, anyway)!

Yes, it's true that there are sections of dialogue which are witty and satirical - it was these that kept me reading as far as I did get. And yes, I suppose it is ideologically interesting, but there's far too much pontificating about male behaviour - or at least the author's idea of it, which I thought was overly stereotyped (yes, I know she is making a point, but I think she is too heavy handed about it).

All in all, I found this book to be bewildering and uncoordinated. For me it didn't work either as science fiction, or as "women's literature".
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is there a way out?, 12 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Female Man (Paperback)
It is a haunting novel and not only in terms of gender relations. Issues of work ethics, minorities rights, and discourse stereotypes are entangled in this evergreen text. But the most obtrusive question emerging again and again, is: "What do I want at last?" accompanied by "What have they turned me into?"
Is there a way out?
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The Female Man (A Women's Press classic)
The Female Man (A Women's Press classic) by Joanna Russ (Paperback - 1 Mar 2002)
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