The Female Man by Joanna Russ was a difficult book to understand and to read. There’s a lot going on in the book, with several characters’ point of view throughout. That being said, there were interesting aspects that Russ was writing about. The biggest (for me) was the idea that there were several worlds, not just one. In these worlds, live the main characters. These characters are similar in some ways, but are mostly very different.
Janet grew up in a world full of only women. She’s confident, happy, and independent. “I didn’t see things very well, as first off I got behind the closet door, but I saw him rush her (Janet) and I saw her flip him; he got up again and again she deflected him, this time into the wall…” (Russ 47). There are many examples of Janet throughout the book, but I thought this one showed her attitude very well. She’s not willing to take any nonsense from men or anybody.
Then we have Joanna who lives in our world in 1969. Like we talked about in class, she seems to be just going with the flow of things. She’s not making an effort to make a difference.
Jeannine lives in an alternate version of our world, set in 1969 too. This world never had World War II so the Great Depression is going on. Without the war giving women opportunities to start to carve a different path for themselves, Jeannine is expected to be meek around men, to get married and start a family. “I do (thought Jeannine, looking in the precious full-length mirror inexplicably left by the previous tenant on the back of the closet door) I do look a little like…if I tilt my face. Oh! Cal will be SO—MAD—” (Russ 16). Jeannine is concerned with what Cal (and other men) think of her.
Lastly, there’s Jael who lives in a possible early version of Whileaway. In this world, men and women are at war with each other. She’s a fairly cold women who is ready to kill for what she wants.
These women are a product of their worlds. But Russ is also showing us different types of women, almost like she’s giving us options of who we (women) can be. She’s showing us that we can be the change for the better in our own world; we can be the start (or continuation) of changing how women are viewed and treated.