Hossain's Gender Hurts

1456 Words6 Pages
In her book “Gender Hurts”, Sheila Jeffreys writes: “Radical feminist theorists do not seek to make gender a bit more flexible, but to eliminate it. They are gender abolitionists, and understand gender to provide the framework and rationale for male dominance” (Jeffreys 85). Sheila Jeffreys, a radical feminist herself, writes to the extreme; the complete elimination of gender in a world that depends on the construct—for product consumption, for university admissions statistics, for division in the job market—is essentially impossible. Jeffreys pushes against this heavy presence of gender in her use of extreme rhetoric, in her reach for the impossible. The same can be said of feminist science fiction. Both Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s story “Sultana’s…show more content…
Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain herself is an example of the inability to silence a group of people; in her writing of “Sultana’s Dream”, she breaks out of the role of the invisible woman in the zenana. She is still read nearly a hundred years later. Thus, for women to turn the tables, to restrict and oppress men in the same way they have been restricted and oppressed is an impossible notion, because there will always be someone to break out of the mold. Additionally, because Hossain herself shows that no group can be made completely invisible, the meaning of “Sultana’s Dream” cannot be interpreted on a literal level, as a call to hide men away while women do all the work in their own society (10). Rather, the impossibility of the situation grabs the reader’s attention in order to show the presence of female oppression in the real world. Just as Jeffreys brings attention to the familiar concept of gender by calling for its elimination, Hossain examines what would have been a familiar concept in her time, the zenana, and in calling for a reversal of its purpose, brings attention to the excess of discrimination against…show more content…
The existence of ‘Herland’ is very much based upon a logic of impossibilities. Unlike “Sultana’s Dream”, there are “…no men in this country. There has not been a man among [them] for two thousand years” (Gilman 39). Yet in reality, men occupy over half of the labor force (Bureau of Labor Statistics), and are over half of the world’s population (US Census Bureau). In 1915, when Gilman wrote the novel, the male presence would have been even more dominant than it is today. Even after two world wars and multiple other conflicts, the male population has not yet ceased to exist, nor are there any indications that the entire decimation of the male race is a possibility. Gilman’s society of women is further made an impossibility in its Utopian aspects. The narrator observes, “You see, they had had no wars. They had had no kings, and no priests, and no aristocracies. They were sisters, and as they grew, they grew together—not competition, but by united action” (Gilman 51). The lack of any hierarchy or divisional groups completes the picture of equality that is shared amongst all women in the land. While the picture is beautiful, it has time and time again proven to be impossible in our own reality. Thus, like Hossain, Gilman uses the medium of science fiction to create a world that is incapable of
Open Document