The Female Man is a feminist science fiction novel by American writer Joanna Russ. Russ was an avid feminist and challenged sexist views during the 1970s with her novels, short stories, and nonfiction works. These works include We Who Are About To…, “When It Changed”, and What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism.
he novel follows the lives of four women living in parallel worlds that differ in time and place. When they cross over to each other’s worlds, their different views on gender roles startle each other’s preexisting notions of womanhood. In the end, their encounters influence them to evaluate their lives and shape their ideas of what it means to be a woman.
The character Joanna calls herself the “female man” because she believes that she must forget her identity as a woman in order to be respected (p. 5). She states that “there is one and only one way to possess that in which we are defective … Become it” (p. 139). Her metaphorical transformation refers to her decision to seek equality by rejecting women’s dependence on men.