Fractured Feminism: Racism, Classism, and Sexism in Herland

UNCA Author/Contributor (non-UNCA co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Shelby Beard (Creator)
University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA )
Web Site:
Amanda Wray

Abstract: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel, Herland, is often praised as a feminist utopian story that was ahead of its time. In it, Gilman includes several elements that may be read as feminist: a pro-woman attitude, the omission of men from the utopian society, and the sense of community the women have. However, Gilman’s utopia also contains problematic aspects, namely racism, classism, sexism, and white nationalism. These issues must be addressed but are largely ignored by Scholars writing about her work. This thesis brings those issues to the forefront by interrogating the feminist strides that Gilman makes in the novel, as well as the text’s pitfalls. My approach insists that intersectionality should lie at the heart of any feminist text. It would be easy to simply accept that Herland exhibits Gilman’s problematic views of society because of the time in which she lived and wrote, or to write it off entirely because of this fact, but this thesis contends that if we view her work through a modern intersectional feminist lens, we can perhaps apply what we learn to present times. In other words, by thinking about where Gilman got feminism wrong, maybe we can consider new ways to get it right.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland, Feminist, Utopian

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