Monday, February 24, 2014

Women Can Be Strong, Peaceful, and Violent in Sally Gearheart's "The Wanderground"

Through a series of short stories, Gearheart tells the stories of the Hill Women. The Hill Women live in serene world, communing with nature at every turn. Their world seems to have reached the apex of peaceful living, until the reader learns why the women live in the forests: they are forced to. Men have taken over the cities, and control every facet of a woman’s life. The women that rebelled fled the cities and learned to live among the trees and animals. In doing so, they developed psychic abilities, like “speaking” with animals, astral projection, and telepathy to name a few.

While the comparisons between the Hill Women and Gilman’s Herlanders are strong, Gearheart brings realism to the Hill Women by depicting them in the throes of irrational, or even violent fits of anger. One thing which seems to be reiterated in feminist utopian fiction novels is the lack of physical violence in women, but Gearheart is not afraid to admit her peaceful characters are still human, and within their range of human emotions, anger can be counted among them. Russ and Tepper bring similar elements to their female characters in The Female Man and The Shore of Women. In both novels, the female characters are part of war-less societies, but they are still capable of individual acts of violence.

Gearheart, Sally. The Wanderground: Stories of Hill Women. New York: Alyson Books, 1978. Print.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Feminism and Utopian Theory are Nearly Intangible (According to Frances Bartkowski)

Feminist Utopias
by Frances Bartkowski
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In so many utopian analytic texts, the tone is one of a jaded scholar, one who relies heavily in Suvin’s famous science fiction description of “cognitive estrangement”. Estrangement is surely at the heart of utopian texts, and yet, Frances Bartkowski takes Suvin’s description and pairs it with a more optimistic view, an echo of Karen Horney’s tone in Feminist Psychology.
Bartkowski’s definition of utopia is taken from William Morris’s News from Nowhere, as she believes “utopia is anywhere but here and now. It is alternatively the good place (eutopos) and no place (outopos) […] which could also be anywhere” (4). Her view of utopia is unique, but succinct.

As the text is named Feminist Utopias, Bartkowski delves into feminism: “Feminism has done much to bring together the theoretical differences and similarities of the struggles among classes and between sexes” (13). She is leading the reader to her conclusion, her conclusion being that utopian and feminist theory have deeper ties than most people realize, as utopian theory strives to better the human condition overall, much like feminism.
Bartkowski goes further in her comparison, stating utopian theory and feminist theory to be nearly inseparable, if not identical. What she is really saying is feminist theory is the ideal (the utopian ideal) as it encompasses many utopian elements and more in its definition. Of non-feminist utopians, Bartkowski summarizes the women in the stories, and how the creators of the utopias merely “made a place for women only to mask oppression while imagining patriarchal utopias” (14). Several science fiction and utopian writers are mentioned throughout the text, like Suvin, Russ, Butler, Bloch, Bellamy, and more. The chapters are made up of two feminist utopian works Bartkowski contrasts, comparisons, and analyzes. She includes novels such as The Female Man, Woman on the Edge of Time, and Herland.

Bartkowski, Frances. Feminist Utopias. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1989. Print.