Feminism and Self-Worth
The Female Man is an important social commentary about women, women’s place in the world, and women’s agency during the Second Wave feminist movement. My favorite passage in the novel is on page 207, when I’m assuming Jeannine says, “Learning to / despise / one’s / self.” Women have been socialized to not only dislike themselves, but to dislike other women. Our society has pitted women against each other to keep us separated, because the patriarchy knows power is in numbers. I think Russ gets at the heart of the internalized misogyny with these simple five words. Different avenues spew the language of hate, and women internalize the messages. Images in magazines, words from men, advertisements, music lyrics create a blur of meanings and expectations women are supposed to follow. And if women don’t succumb to pressures of the society and the media, they are ridiculed for it. Russ’s characters are represented in a way in which we can understand the different facets of women’s lives and choices they made in the 1970s.
Janet is the ideal feminist woman, wanting equality for everyone. Joanna is the everyday woman, figuring out her place in the world. Jeannine is the stereotypical woman, heavily dependent upon men. Jael is the stereotype of feminists, man-hating, violent, and radical. It’s important to understand Janet’s role compared to the feminist movement. Feminists believe in the social, economic, and political equality of all genders. Janet represents the feminist who believes in this ideology. People who claim the label feminist but also say they hate men are not true feminists. There are different ways of being a feminist, but hating men isn’t one of them. This is why Janet goes her own way when Jael asks her to join her revolution. I don’t blame Jeannine and Joanna for agreeing to fight with Jael, because they only have so many options to rid their oppression, and when it seems like there’s no out, violence is the is the supposed answer.
Garber, Megan. “‘You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby’: The Lag Between Advertising and Feminism.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 15 June 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2016.
Russ, Joanna. The Female Man. Boston: Beacon, 1986. Print.