In the 1985 Washington Post article Women Warriors and Earth Mothers by Janrae Frank, Joanna Russ’ The Female Man is discussed as an example of what Frank calls first generation feminism in a breakdown of how the feminism movement seemed to split into two directions along a generational gap: the women who waged war for their rights, and their younger sisters or daughters who didn’t see the struggle as much more than a curiosity of past times. This article connected to The Female Man by explaining much of what drove the first generation feminist writers in the composition of their works, and pointing out that these writers had such vigorous and extreme heroines because they themselves were responding to a merciless daily struggle against society’s expectations of women’s roles.
Frank communicated her idea that the feminist movement is a “subculture that is profoundly split” by referencing several texts in relation to what generational movement of feminism she postulated them to belong to, and pointing out key differences in between. One of her prime examples of what represented the first generation of feminism was The Female Man, asserting that Russ wrote it as a utopia novel upon the idea that “the only way women could really be free was through the extermination of the entire male race.” Frank backs up this notion by pointing out earlier how it was common for first generation feminist writers to build off of a trend of rebellion against roles considered traditional for women to fill within society, such as nurturer, wife, and mother, and a portrayal of men as selfish hulks, all being themes which Russ incorporated in great volume in The Female Man.
Personally, in reading The Female Man I did not pick up on the motto that the extermination of males is the only way to win true independence for women, although upon reflection of the idea I can see where Frank comes from in her assertion of this. Certainly, the only society in which women no longer have to deal with at least the efforts of men to dominate and oppress women is that of Whileaway, in which no men exist! Even in the world of Jael, a separatist society where women are completely independent and self sufficient, it can be seen that men still make an effort to impose their superiority upon women and guide them back into more ‘traditional’ roles.