Finally – The Gate To Women's Country

Sharon August 29th, 2008

Ok, I’m sorry, I’m sorry – I’m a bad blogger.  It has been one of those weeks.  And before I get into the book, one more delay – just in case you want to hear my interview yesterday it is here: http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kuer/news/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1351317&sectionID=184

Ok – today’s question.  Should we try and breed docility into just men?  Is that the only way (or any way) of avoiding the apocalypse?  I admit, I’m sort of fascinated by the idea that you can completely reshape human behavior by working with only half of the human race (Tepper’s Margot does admit that they also sterilize women if they prove to be unfit breeders, but her own daughter, Myra, is allowed to give birth 3 times, so they aren’t very good at it.)  Yes, the ram is half the herd and all that, and clearly those servitors are working pretty hard but ummm….

I’ve tried to read any number of Tepper novels over the years, ranging from _Grass_ which I read right after _The Gate to Women’s Country_ to a recent flirtation with _The Margarets_, and every time I read any of them, with the exception of this one, I find myself wondering how Tepper sells books. She’s smart, but such a tendentious, heavy, grotesque writer that I find it hard to explain how popular she obviously is.

This book is the exception for me – and it isn’t that isn’t troubling, or in some places awful.  But it is at least critical, as Tepper’s other books don’t seem to be, of the gender politics she partly endorses.  It does have Morgot admitting eventually that they do sterilize women too, that those who are breeding a new, non-violent future are damned, and it does allow Stavia to ask whether Myra’s limitations are partly because of the rigors of Women’s Country, whether she might have been different if she could have just danced,  not because of her genetic limitations (although we eventually learn those trump everything, since her father was Chernon’s father).

Backed up against the narrative is “Iphigenia at Ilium” which is really a revised version of Euripedes amazing _The Trojan Women_ (btw, there’s an astoundingly good 1970s era version of this play with Katherine Hepburn and Genevieve Bujold – really worth seeing) – including some interesting toss-ins from Sartre’s version of Euripedes and some of Tepper’s.  Quite honestly, without this, I think the book would not be worth the read.  But the overlay of this history of women’s experience of apocalypse – the recognition that this is routine, historical, repeated, almost – not sufficiently – but almost – makes us respect the deep misandry that underlies the text, IMHO.

The problem for me is that the narrative rings fundamentally false.  The violence of men towards women is described as inevitable, biological and innate, which can and must be bred out.  The only alternate society is “The Holylanders” who make the Taliban look like rays of sunshine, and who enact that violence on a total and societal scale.  They of course, prove that without this mechanism, violence against women is inevitable – they and the machinations of the warriors.

But the machinations of the warriors are always biological, not created by the bizarre configuration of their society, and in reality, we know that all women who obey the rather repressive rules are safe – that is, women are breeding out a trait they have successfully constrained anyway, repressing other women and killing men in order to prevent something they’ve successfully prevented (we learn in the story) for centuries.  That is, women are learning that men kill and destroy women, we have the apocalypse in the background – and that justifies any action in the present, no matter how deferred or unrealistic the threat.  There is a troublingly masturbatory quality to the Holylander scenes and the use of _The Trojan Women_ – that is, they are there to provide a big shiny pile of violence to justify the quieter, more discrete violence in the novel.

 I wish I could say that Tepper is merely playing with an idea, but having read a bunch of her other novels, I think she really thinks this – that her vision of maleness and femaleness really is this stark.  And that’s why I think of her as the logical parallel, in many ways, to someone like Kunstler – her world has as narrow and unthoughtful a view of men as his does of women.  

Women’s Country looks like a pretty tolerable place to live after an apocalypse – the trains run on time, the ordinary details seem to work, there are sexually available servitors (or at least their sperm) content in their special place in society.  But I admit, I don’t think I’ll be designing my own.

What about the rest of you? 

Sharon

33 Responses to “Finally – The Gate To Women's Country”

  1. Awlknottedup says:

    The three books, “The Handmaidens tale”, “Life as We Knew it” and “The Gate to Woman’s Country” all have an understory that brings up the stupidity and power hunger of religion. In all three some form of religion forces the subjugation of women to less than a minor role, only fit for breeding or the carnal lusts of men.

    Religion is a drain on human kind and we would all do well to move well away from it.

  2. MEA says:

    I have not read everything that Tepper has written, but I have come to the conculsion that she has a pretty poor opinion of the human race as a whole.

    In Gate, you can try to improve the human condition as a whole by breeding out the male-ness of men (which means you are asking a 1/2 of the human race to rencounce there sexual identiy) as the men who return to women’s country are see as less than manly by those they leave behind and as non-threading and there for not-male (as definded by the society) by the women.

    Or you can try to improve it for 1/2 of society, as the Holylanders for men, though they soon come up against the limits of biology, as you can’t give every man lots of young wives forever.

    However, in neither case have you really improved things. Obviously, the Holylanders have created a hell on earth for women, and raised a generation of men whose ability to make moral choices has been conpromised.

    The damed few of Women’s country haven’t done much better for their people. They limit the choices for their men and to a less extent for heir women. And create wars to kill off men as be it comes necessary to their aims.

    Although Margot argues that there are fewer men not returning to Women’s Country each generation, and that the system is working, I think she’s pretty settled in the status quo. It’s good to be a god, even if you feel you are damned by your actions. (I have no idea what she means by damned in this context.) If you are going to manupliate society as they do, why not limit male births and end the whole Army nonsense. Except then they might have created the perfect society, and what would Margot do with her spare time?

    MEA

  3. Hummingbird says:

    I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book because I found other books by Tepper to be grotesque and creepy and never wanted to read another. The grotesqueness wasn’t so apparent in this one, but it seemed creepy nevertheless.

    Breeding the violence out of men must have semed like a good idea–after all what other ideas are there when faced with a “Canticle for Liebowitz” scenario. We seem to be living such a scenario now as, having successfully avoided nuclear war with Russia for half a century, the US seems bent on precipitating one now for no particular reason. There is the parthenogenesis scenario–but we don’t know how to do that yet. And several of the women I know who vowed that their sons were going to be different have ended up with their sons joining the military. I wish you luck, Sharon. I suspect you may be successful raising nonviolent sons so long as you can keep them isolated from the prevailing culture of violent sports and video games. I’m not saying that all men are violent, obviously there are a lot of kind and good ones, but the culture seems to glorify the other kind. I don’t know how to change this.

    That said, women’s country seemed like cheerless place, or maybe that was just Tepper’s dark writing style.

    I don’t have any better suggestions to offer, but without some drastic change in male culture, I don’t hold oput much hope for the human race.

  4. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Finally – The Gate To Women’s Country Ok – today’s question. Should we try and breed docility into just men? Is that the only way (or any way) of avoiding the apocalypse? I admit, I’m sort of fascinated by the idea that you can completely reshape human behavior by working with only half of the human race (Tepper’s Margot does admit that they also sterilize women if they prove to be unfit breeders, but her own daughter, Myra, is allowed to give birth 3 times, so they aren’t very good at it.) Yes, the ram is half the herd and all that, and clearly those servitors are working pretty hard but ummm…. [...]

  5. Greenpa says:

    Oh, lordy, the fun to be had with these fantasy worlds! Niven mentions two other fun possibilities; the all-war-all-the-time Kzinti wind up in a situation where the females, kept as property in harems, have evolved to be non-sentient; and the Pierson’s Puppeteers (one of the best aliens ever imagined) have 3 sexes- only it turns out that the breeder is actually the equivalent of the caterpillar the wasp lays its eggs in… evolved into a sentient symbiont… wow. ick.

    So there is plenty to imagine.

    Clearly, all kinds of lopsided relationships can, and do, happen in Homo.

    I have a useful thought experiment for you though, which I came up with when talking with a girlfriend who stated flatly that all Native Americans severely subjugated their women. Someone had told her that. Far from true, of course.

    Imagine 3 tribes, living in proximity to each other. In one, the females are essentially slaves. In the second- it’s the males who are subjugated. In the third, the two sexes are really co-equal in decision making and contributions to the tribe.

    The climate changes. The region will no longer support 3 tribes. They fight.

    Which one will win?

    Assuming equal sizes and technologies- my bet is squarely on the 3rd tribe of co-equal sexes winning any competition; pretty much every time. “Why” gets to be too long for this format, but basically slaves are not likely to fight for their masters as hard as equals will.

    Now there is material for months of good college bull-sessions!

  6. Meadowlark says:

    I hated this book. I simply could not get past the “men bad. women good.” aspect.

    Apparently Tepper has never seen the meanness (not a word, I know) perpetuated by 3 little 6 year old girls. We are just as mean, we just are socialized to do it differently. I’d far rather someone threatened to kick my butt than pointedly say “I just love those pants! You are so fashionable… myself, I would never have the courage to wear them if I weren’t a size ” with a sugary sweet smile and then whisper with her equally catty friends in the corner. (Needless to say, I’m not a miniature size)

    Didn’t enjoy the anti-religion stance either. I suppose twisting things and presenting an uber-bad depiction is sort of her style.

    Not a fun read at all. At least for me.

  7. Meadowlark says:

    size “miniature” was dropped

  8. Rosa says:

    She kind of skips the parts that Lucifer’s Hammer covered – no idea what caused the apocalypse, a big blank spot for a while afterward, then new societies evolve and THEN we get to Women’s Country. So it’s more of a thought experiment than the survalist-style books. Actually, I was making a list of feminist utopias to compare this one too and they pretty much all do that, except for Handmaid’s Tale.

    Like a lot of these imagined societies, there’s no room for people changing over time – they get slotted into their roles early, and that’s it. I think that’s a dangerously wasteful approach to human beings.

    She does seem to have a pretty firm grasp on what it takes to hold people together: rituals, rules, the illusion of choice, the illusion of meritocracy. Her faith that a woman-only government would focus on providing the essentials seems misplaced.

    I think, if you assume the gender-essentialism that comes from the mainstream and from 80′s feminism, and then look at the patterns of violence in the real world and in history, you pretty much have to come out with misandry.

    Oh, and here’s the list I came up with: Woman on the Edge of Time came out in 1976. The Wanderground came out in 1984. The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, and so did Always Coming Home. Gate To Women’s Country came out in 1988, right at the end of the big outburst of essentialist feminist SF. It seems to try to answer all of those books with a “more realistic” utopia, complete with seamy underbelly and secret mechanisms of power.

  9. Eva says:

    I’ve not read Tepper but I’m glad someone else has picked up on Kunstler’s “narrow and unthoughtful” a view of women.

  10. Kati says:

    Unfortunately, I finished this book (rather quickly!) early last week, so my thoughts are now somewhat muddled.

    I didn’t think it was absolutely horrible. Honestly, life in Women’s Country didn’t sound very bad to me. Somewhat odd, but not necessarily bad. (And, I actually liked the idea of a child learning to focus their energies on “a science, an art, and a craft”.)

    Yeah, though….. The selective breeding aspect bugged me. At one point it almost seemed like Tepper was going to use Myra’s love of the romance of the warriors as an indication for how this tendency toward violence couldn’t be accurately bred out of folks, men or women. And the fact that you’ve got Habby and Joshua and Corrig coming back FROM the Garrison….. I thought she was leading toward a more voluntary shift in society, but one that’s imperfect. Until she threw in the bit that supposedly the servitor who’d fathered Myra, was also Chernon’s bio-father, and flawed, and therefore the kids were flawed. There was no room left for personal choice, if it all comes down to genetics. No room left for personality.

    And the fact of the matter is, Chernon’s character was even starting to show some critical thinking at the end, giving some thought to why women weren’t portrayed by the poets as thoroughly as the men. Then he was offed!

    It also irked me that the point of honor was made over and over and over, by both Morgot as to the honor of the women and the honor of the warriors. And in the Garrison, honor was all they talked about. And yet, they talked about honor, professed to be honorable, and then were very dishonerable in their actions. ALL of them! The women, and the men! (Actually, this reminded me of the current view of a lot of fundamentalists I see. They preach peace and love and charity, then act with disrespect and cruelty and greed. They profess to hold one set of values, while actually practicing a whole different set of values.)

    I don’t know….. I came away from the book not liking any of the characters except Joshua. Stavia, I felt sorry for. Myra, I couldn’t stand. Morgot was very patriarchal in her effort to “do what’s best for them, even if they don’t like it” actions. Chernon was an immature child (as was his sister, Beneda). Michael and Stephen were crooked. Corrig was a barely-there “love interest” for Stavia, but held little to no importance in the story.

    It wasn’t horrible to read (and, I’ve never read anything else by Tepper), but as a workable template for our future, it was very flawed.

  11. jerah says:

    I almost didn’t make it through the first chapter of this book. I have a two-year-old son, and the idea of every woman having to give up her five-year-old son and then be repudiated by her 15-year-old in a public ceremony almost made me bawl in public (I was reading on the subway).

    I suppose it’s supposed to be an amplified version of what mothers go through now (at school age and in adolescence) with their sons, but the thought was so awful that it took me a long time to figure out that this was supposed to be a society built by and for women. I mean honestly, how awful. I could not imagine a real group of women getting together and organizing a society where they had to give up ANY of their children.

    I mean, I know there are societies right now where girl babies are abandoned to die and boy babies are taken home and coddled, but isn’t that an example of the damage patriarchy can do? Why on earth would an ideal matriarchal society turn around and do exactly the same thing?

    It also seemed to me like this book was the product of a very male train of thought: “Say I’m in charge of the world, and there’s one major problem I have to deal with, and fuck the consequences. What kind of society would I design?”

    Ugh. Awful. Like an awful video game.

  12. jerah says:

    Oh, also. Why would women organize a society where the highest thing to aspire to would be NOT falling in love? Honestly. Can’t fall in love, can’t get too attached to your children. MUST obey strict religious rules without having them explained to you, must be in school endlessly.

    I can’t think of a world I’d rather less live in.

  13. Hummingbird says:

    Sorry, I realize my reference to Sharon’s sons was over the line. I apologize.

  14. Hausfrau says:

    Well, I rather liked the book. I didn’t think it was so simplistic as some of the people seem to think. There were lots of good male characters and several complicated, not all “good”, female characters. I disliked many of the female characters actually, and liked Joshua and the gypsy patriarch figure the best.

    I agree with Hummingbird. This culture is on a trajectory to Hell, not necessarily solely because of male violence, but that could certainly be a catalyst.

    I didn’t think they were breeding “docility” into the men – a loaded word if you ask me, Sharon!! – but violence – avoident. The servitors were still obviously capable, and could even enjoy (sadly?) violence in self-defense.

    I thought the servitors were actually the bravest men in the bunch. Going to a world the rest of the men would ridicule them for – that’s hard for men. Not knowing exactly what their role would be, or what awaited them – that’s pretty hard too. Staying with the familiar is pretty much the default, even when staring into the abyss like we are now. So I believe they were selecting for “bravery” in the men as well.

    Now, as to the question of whether this kind of eugenics could ever be justified??

    The hardest part for me to believe was the giving up of the sons. I just don’t see it…. I don’t think I could do it. But the point, I thought, was hard choices. Hard, hard, horrible choices. The hardest choice you can make, right? Many people in the world are facing these kinds of choices today. Which kids eat? Heat or eat? Which kid to sell into slavery to feed the rest? And so on. I think more people are going to be facing some of these same awful choices (not in this fashion, probably) in the mid-term future.

    I thought this book was thought-provoking, if you could get past knee-jerk reactions (it was hard to get over the thought of giving up the sons). Women’s Country wasn’t the matriarchal society I would design (hey – anyone ever actually seen a matriarchal society?), not by a loooong shot, but the book did make me think about how far I would go to avoid another Hiroshima, Holocaust, Rwanda, or World War III.

  15. Traci says:

    I didn’t read this book, I just couldn’t seem to muster the enthusiasm or time. I felt I needed to reply to Hummingbird about raising boys.

    I have 3 amazing sons aged 18, 15 & 13. They all have played their share of video games (some violent). My oldest son has been dating (quite seriously) a young woman for 2 years. They decided mutually to end their relationship because of college commitments. I have never witnessed a more respectful break-up, they are still friends and I haven’t heard an unkind word about her.

    My husband and I couldn’t be more proud of our sons.

    All children deserve to be heard and respected, everyday from the time they are born. I believe then we will see our culture shift.

    ~Traci
    Vancouver, WA

  16. Susan says:

    I like men. I’ve worked with them a lot as a contractor and find them easy to love. I agree that this author’s antipathy is parallel to Kunstler’s towards women, probably from past bad experiences. I read Kunstler’s autobiography –he had a harridan of a mother, poor man, otherwise such a gem!
    The problem of female subjugation and abuse is huge and enraging. I found my (intellectual) answer to this puzzling problem in Dorothy Dinnerstein’s feminist classic, “The Mermaid and the Minotaur.” I agree with her that the species has an unfortunate built-in lack of symmetry by the fact that our young are born intelligent but helpless (not true of any other mammal). Because of this biological fact, historically (this is changeable) women have been forced into the relatively helpless, dependent role of child-caregivers. Without birth control, (physical and mental) this work takes up most if not all womens’ energy during the most productive years of their lives, greatly handicapping the development and use of their other talents, and making them dependent upon and therefore subject to men. This has affected both genders’ psychology greatly, naturally, no blame to any. Its a biological feature and a challenge for we as a species to transcend. Which we are capable of doing. Dinnerstein’s prescription is to end gender roles in child caregiving. This has already started to happen, as has birth control, at least among the educated. So we are getting there very slowly, generation by generation.
    I’m always suspicious of a not-good-thing-going-down when anyone promotes an us vs. them mental state. This is not conducive to the survival-friendly new attitudes badly needed by the whole society –in both genders. We’ve been insanely socialized towards egotistical attitudes of self-righteousness, competitiveness, and predatory self-agrandisement –using people. The tiny intentional communities movement is trying (with difficulty) to model new attitudes friendly to equality and non-violence–such as curiosity about the complexity of others, authentic communication including listening, and constructiveness –a willingness to promote the way forward for the whole. Sound new and unfamiliar?
    What a whopper future-scenario novel a model of this society would make! If imaginable at all…

  17. Rosa says:

    MEA – you think they were trying to breed out the “male-ness” of men? They were specifically trying to breed out violence and impulsiveness. Do you think that’s the part of their gender identity most men think is important?

  18. MEA says:

    No,I don’t think that is true in real live. I’m not sure that it’s true in the novel, or even that men saw it that way in the novel. I think that would have thought honor made them male.

    I think that to the women in Gate to Women’s Country saw the traits of violence and impulsiveness at the things that made men male as opposed to female. They were trying to take away from men they very things that they saw as giving men their indendity in terms of there world. That’s why I put male in quotation marks. They weren’t just going in for selective breeding in a way that was secretive and manipulative, they were actively trying to make 1/2 the human race over in the image of what they thought the world should be.

    FWIW, I think there is a good kind of selective breeding for people– that is when people who may carry traits for genetic disorders can find of if they are carriers, and then decided if they want to make a child together. It’s very limited, and ultimately put the choice in the hands of the individuals in questions.

    I don’t think we can deny that in most societies men tend to me more violent that women (though I think a certain amount of the violence women practice on children, the ill, eldery, etc. is hidden). However, I don’t know if this is based on genetics or society.

  19. MEA says:

    Oh, shoot. Those quotation marks I thought I had put around male weren’t there.

    Is there a Fruedean in the house?

  20. Rosa says:

    It’s okay, I just wanted to clarify it.

    I think Tepper sidesteps a lot of questions by having the people who are currently running the society not be the ones who set it up – they can give the reasons they were taught for things, and then believe or not believe them to different extents, instead of having to make the argument for how things ought to be.

    She does that a *lot*, and in some of her better books (I really like The Family Tree, for instance) she puts causation in the hands of a small secret cabal and then a kind of karmic rebound of consequences, so she can have a clearly different world without having to address the reasons behind it.

    p.s. I read The Dead and the Gone, the companion book to Life as We Knew It, and really enjoyed it. Though I think the author may have painted herself into a corner – she has to stick with the same time period because, really, much more than a year after a year of volcanic-ash-winter, there’s no happy ending to stick on.

  21. Dani says:

    I didn’t not like this book at all. I didn’t like the writing style. I didn’t like the story. It left a very bad taste in my mouth. Mostly it made me think poorly of the author and her view of humanity. I got an image of a very bitter and twisted human (yes I got all Judgey McJudgerson about someone I don’t know the first thing about, bad me).

    I need to re-read Parenting for a Peaceful World (Robin Grille) as an antidote to this.

  22. Brad K. says:

    I read “The Gate To Women’s Country” several years ago. I started with Tepper’s “King’s Blood Four”, “Necromancer Nine” and “Wizard’s Eleven”, the first book of her long-running True Game sequence. So I may have taken Gate to have a slightly different feel to it.

    I didn’t see a distinct statement about men and women. The pattern of writing that Ms. Tepper has used is similar to her True Game world – with distinct magical races tracing back to nine bioengineered war-game role races.

    Women’s Country portrays several different social structures. While men are seen as more expendable, the ability to take part in many parentings makes the male side of the equation quicker, to propagate a characteristic through a group. We do this with livestock today, for the same reason. We select a healthy herd of females, and select a male to improve desired characteristics.

    Like her other novels, the stark distinctions apparent at the beginning, and shaping the story for the protagonist, unravels. Gradually we see the role of the male servitors, we come to understand rationales (beyond mere petty tyrant syndrome). I didn’t come to accept all the roles, but there were fewer that were pure ‘evil’ by the end of the book.

    Weird and creepy might apply to this novel. But psychological adventure might also apply. This is certainly not a prescription for utopia, and isn’t written to be that kind of story.

    Now, I think I want to re-read Wen Spencer’s post-apocalypse novel, “A Brother’s Price”. There the catastrophe is a virus that genetically sterilized most men. Women band together to marry one of the ‘clean’ men, men are isolated from casual social contact (and possible rape), or confined to brothels. The setting is reminiscent of the old west, in a near-modern-tech way, with a bit of feudalism thrown in for structure.

  23. Susan in NJ says:

    I agree that Joshua and the gypsy patriarch were the sympathetic characters in this book. In this world, I think I would want to be part of traveling gypsy circus. I’ve read a fair amount of Tepper circa ’80′s and ’90′s; Grass particularly stuck with me. I found the format of this book a bit tedious but in the end it was a sort of intellectual mystery. It was a little hard to swallow that a survivor society founded by woman’s would make as it’s central ritual a variation on a Greek drama. I also liked the craft, science, art vocational structure but surely Myra was not the first to find this a poor fit for talents.

  24. Wolf says:

    Breeding men to be more feminine? I think we already have that and what ahs that got us? A society of entitlement seeking, poor work ethic, in touch with their feelings generation.Let us see the end result of that….Here come a huge asteroid to hit the planet Earth. If we ask nicely and hope it joins the local feminist group it will decide to miss us. Yeah right….Men are men and women are women. Accept it as the many generations before us did. We can have better relationships through better understanding. You know…That small thing called communication. I think those who cant communicate should be “breeded out” of existence along with the “drama queens”. Life is hard enough….Why add extra drama with bad choices? Oh I’m sorry. I thought I was talking to an audience that could think rationally and logically. Ooops. My bad. Welcome to America.

  25. Sharon says:

    Umm, Wolf, you do realize this is a novel, right?

    Sharon

  26. marian says:

    what fun! to read a string of thoughts on Sherri Tepper, it’s been ages since I read ‘Gate..’ so can’t really remember much. I just get a charge from her fantasies with reality. ‘Just imagine if’……, I know her writing is not the most high-brow, but to me it is my secret ‘bodice ripper’ addiction with some substance thrown in. The last book I read was ‘The Margarets’ and it was worth reading the book for one line : two aliens discussing eating people ..’can’t stand the ones who have been smoking cigarettes, they taste terrible”!! I think this line sums up Teppers writing, it’s not to be taken that seriously, the other great bit in the Margarets is where Jerusalem is made to disappear …………how easy it is in one’s imagination to solve problems, love to all,from an Australian voyeur.

  27. Rosa says:

    It’s late in the conversation, but Hausfraus’ feeling that giving up sons is unthinkable and people wouldn’t do it…there have been a number of social groups where woman lose access to their sons at a pretty early age (men too, in some of them.) I didn’t find that unbelievable at all. Think of the British classes that sent sons off to boarding school at 7 (and I have met Americans from rich East Coast families that went off to boarding school at 8 or 9, and only saw each parent on alternate holidays after that.) In a lot of patriarchal cultures women lose their kids if they are divorced, and that was true in our own culture up through the 1890s at least, for formal legal divorces.

    People sell their own children, boys and girls; they selectively nurture some over others; they routinely discriminate against kids in their care who aren’t their own flesh and blood, or decide that difficult infants are “born to die”, stolen by fairies, or inhabited by demons.

    Other people buy children, steal them, allow them to die of overwork or starvation or dirty water. I think assuming that any culture won’t go along with giving up children is just a dream. Especially because in our own culture, young men and women are still commonly considered dependent children right up to the day before they are eligible to enlist in the armed services, and many parents encourage their own children to do that knowing there is a strong chance they will be damaged or killed.

  28. Susan in NJ says:

    Marian, I agree that Tepper’s writing has a lot in common with bodice ripper fiction, and in some cases, seems to actually be a riff on it. Thanks for reminding of this thought, which I had when I first read her years ago.

  29. Sharon says:

    I agree with Rosa – the idea that women would never give up their kids seems fundamentally wrong to me – of course they would, with the appropriate societal justification. We don’t much like acknowledging that something as basic as our feelings towards our children can be culturally constructed, but it certainly can. There’s good historical evidence that people have loved children through most of human history – and good evidence that they also haven’t very much, or that love hasn’t been enough to overcome other pressures.

    Sharon

  30. Jenn says:

    I finally made it through the book, but kept getting stuck on the idea of nature versus nurture. While I was certainly bothered by the idea of breeding out male qualities that are seen to be bad, I think I was possibly more disturbed that these were qualities that were “encouraged,” albeit in a somewhat roundabout way, but the society itself. If boys are sent off to be warriors, are taught to be violent and war like from the age of five, and then it’s made extremely difficult for them to come back (especially for those who are apparently torn by the choice), then it feels to me like the women are almost at a place where they’re justifying the breeding by setting up men to fail, by and large. I understand the point is to retrieve only those who are non-violent enough to return in order to continue that genetic heritage, but the way in which Tepper sets up the process I found to be problematic and, again, almost a self-fulfilling prophesy of maleness to justify genetic selection.

  31. Red Bull Cap says:

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