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guest appearance by Ms. Feminist
Yes, our satirical event on parts of the liberal movement is over, but this still warrants a few cheap shots.
Wanderground is a story of extreme eco-tribal feminism, by the fairly obscure author Sally Miller Gearhart. The type where women go back to nature and live in communes in the woods away from men to be free of their oppressive influence, with a nice load of psychic power style sci-fi mixed in for good measure. Now, before I go any further, the pertinent question might be...how the hell did a out of print mid-70's novel about such a unique topic come into my possession? Let's just say it involves the dark arts and a certain Canadian...and college...and the South. Nonetheless, the book was passed to me as a sort of running joke, as it had been reading material at some of my college's English classes. At first, I assumed what everyone was laughing at/bitching about boiled down to good ol' boys getting pissed about having to read about women folk who aren't making pies or having children while chained to the dish washing machine, but lo! It really was terrible. Yes, this is one of those loveable novels that does the whole "too far" thing. As in, "I don't want to seem like a misogynist but give me a break". The novel not only describes what could be referred to as an "extremely radical viewpoint", but it also adds in a ton of terrible, terrible, sci-fi writing. It's what pushes this book from general crap to shit noteworthy of review. It's a terrible political/moral code novel (ATLAS SHRUGGED) crossed with bad Star Trek fan fiction. "But Scotty, we can't free ourselves from the manocracy until you learn how to release your inner Mes-gulatiaze! Now, let me show you the ceremony of Zhathgra the Wrathful to begin the process!"
The novel is, effectively, a loosely tied together collection of short stories, each which serve to deliver important points, like man's society is evil, or once woman is free of man, she can learn how to fly...we'll get to that second one later. The novel does the fairly standard bit of starting in the middle of the action and implying what has happened (like why society collapsed) as the novel progresses. Except the action is the start of that whole bad psychic bullshit, so it's more like starting in the middle of the WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT and filling in the blanks from there. The blanks that aren't their gibberish activities. See, most of the novel consists of the reader watching the women go through ritualistic activities to heal the earth, heal each other, menstruate, heal trees, heal trees that are menstruating. Now, for a fun game, go back over that last sentence and figure out where I started lying. Here's a tip: not before I got to trees. There's also all the excitement of talking to trees and just about every creature imaginable. Sure, I've never really cared what a tree has to say, but that doesn't stop the reader from finding out. Eventually, we learn that women can hold their breath for a long period of time, fly, and other such amazing feats as well, thanks to man no longer holding his evil penis-grip over them.
So just how evil is man? The answer is: beyond all comprehension. In this book, heterosexual man literally cannot stop himself from raping any woman he comes in contact with. You think I'm kidding? The first chapter really addressing what happened to men is when a woman stumbles through forest after being raped, and needs Earth (healing mumbo jumbo ho!) to recover. See, Mother Earth so hates evil man that she has confined him to cities, the only place where electricity and his penis will work. Yes, penises only work in cities. Long, long ago there was, yes, "one rape too many". Not a man raping a man, mind you, no one cares about that, but a man raping a woman, and Mother Earth snapped and cursed men for their evil ways. Thanks a lot, frat boys, you pissed off Mother Earth for the rest of us. SALLY WASN'T EVEN THAT HOT, MAN, YOU WERE JUST TOTALLY DRUNK. MU ALPHA PI RULES! Anyway, man is to be avoided at all costs, and stopped on his evil penis induced rampage before he destroys nature once and for all. I'm fucking serious.
I keep referencing how "bad" the psyshic sci-fi portions of the book are, so I feel I owe the reader a full example of such a passage. Keep in mind, these processes are most of the book, and I found this by basically flipping to a random page. Here we go:
She was constructing her own shield now, regaining control, moving in the familiar patterns of remember-guide. She did not try in her hard-self to reach Seja, though she was less than a short meter from her. She was not sure she could have done that at this moment even if it had been called for. Instead she enfolded Seja in a steady shortstretch of drenching greens and blues, of major chords and leading tones drawn to consonancy, of coolness and of sturdiness. As she enfolded, she sent the constant message, "The facing of your fear is yours. But you are not alone."
Did you catch all that? Seja was raped and the other woman was doing mental exercises to help her heal. But the rape hurt her so much she couldn't actually touch Seja; she just did mental yoga. And something about greens and blues. Let me emphasize: THIS IS THE ENTIRE BOOK. Right there. Just copy that over and over again and swap "remember-guide" for "learn-touch" or "happy-pulse" or "ham sandwhich" and swap colors or shortstrtech to longstretch and that's it. That's the entire book. It's either listening to what women can do now that they are free and how they tackle problems when liberated, or how evil men are.
To be fair, there are some good men. Gay ones! Yes, the way the author makes the females feel conflicted about hating all males is in introducing gays. They're tame and emulate females, so it's okay! I wonder if Gearhart envisioned only the catty gays being accepted, or if the leather daddy types who seem masculine on first appearance would have been allowed, too. I mean, the novel is really eco friendly, so could the leather daddies even wear leather? Or would they be stuck in the city with the straights for being SLAYERS OF NATURE for wearing assless chaps, wishing their erection or their boombox with Village People tape could work out in the woods. That was my major concern when reading the novel. I didn't really care what the actual conflict was because the leather daddy dilemma, among other things, didn't involve any shield forming or mind stretching.
The interactions with nature are pretty hilarious, too. It's hard to tell at some points how serious Gearhart was in her vision of human/nature interaction. Yeah, I get she likes animals and all, but Gearhart has people basically living in a Disney theme park version of nature (minus the Prince - his erectionless ass is stuck in Queens) that only shatters when MAN'S TERRIBLE REACH INFECTS IT. For example, there's a whole chapter dedicated to mentally finding and healing a dog who gets stuck in a bear trap, placed by horrid man before he was banished to the cities. People live in wooden semi-hut things where animals come and go as the please, sleeping with them at night. I missed the musical part of the book with the deer choir, I think, but I'm pretty sure it's in there. It's laughable that Gearhart thinks women are somehow more in tune with nature then men, or that ultimately women would/do treat the environment any better, or that somehow women are of nature and men are not. Anecdotal evidence (like all those moms who drive SUVs) aside, this seems like a heavy handed attempt by Gearhart to claim good traits for women while trying to associate those things evil (STUPID FUCKING INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION) with men.
Wanderground does have a great ending, though. A huge mass of women and animals gather together in what can be best described as a massive bear pile to channel all their energies into healing Mother Earth. It might be too late. Man has done so much rape/damage (they are referred to in the final chapter simply as slayers) that Earth might soon, I don't know, put on an Evanescence album and slit her wrists in a bathtub, but if not, they're going to save it. The ending is supposed to feel fairly epic it seems, what with them all chanting together to save the Earth. And uplifting, too! If women band together, they can do it! ..It doesn't really come off as that, sure, but look on the bright side. It doesn't explicitly resolve if women actually save the Earth and destroy that which destroys it. Sure, it implies it, but without explicit statement, you know what that means! Room for a sequel. Now Gearhart's niece can pick up the series after she dies and write tons of inferior prequels to cash in on the Dun- er, Wanderground universe. Maybe she can throw in giant robots. Giant manbots.
Ultimately, my problem with Wanderground is the core idea that men are somehow more inherently evil than women, or that inversely, at the very least, women are more empathetic or natural to positive emotions. This simply isn't true. Humans are humans, and while there are differences between men and women (LIKE ONE LEAVES THE TOILET SEAT UP, AM I RIGHT COMEDY CLUB PATRONS?!), it's mostly in the expression and execution of these emotions, not their root formation. Women still hate people and things, they are just more likely to not openly air it, or air it in a more passive aggressive way (hence how the term "bitchy" has come into the English lexicon). Guess what, there's been women dictators and brutal female tyrants, and ultimately women engage in damaging the Earth just as much as men. And you know what? It's not because they are under men's Evil Penis Influence of Doom (TM). It's because they can and are just as selfish or arrogant as the average man. Gearhart's problem is that the sex she envisions inheriting and saving the Earth exists in neither gender, but only in her own head and her idealist feminist mind set that's decided that just because father knew best for a few millennia, women can do incredibly better.
Goddess, I can not believe how pigheaded this review is. Oh sure, Nixon, you don't want to be a misogynist. Well, guess what, Hitler! You are! The gall of you to even begin to pan such an important piece of feminist literature. Important because it is feminist literature, and we need every piece of literature we can get to balance out 6000 years of penis based fiction. You accusing this novel of being bad science fiction is forgetting all the terrible male science fiction every liberated woman has had to put up with. I mean, anything with guns or swords is clear male phallic obsession meant to force women into the kitchen and visually rape them. This novel is barely even fiction. I mean, I practice Wicca with my friends in the safety of our forest retreat, and men are the slayers of all things good. Besides, women are always empathetic and kind, men are always rapists and misogynists. And the only true solution is to kill all the men (or at least all the straight and bisexual ones). If you want to try and claim this isn't a novel at its best in writing, fine, whatever, go masturbate to more of your women hating pornography. But don't try do denigrate the novel's message! Women will be better when men are gone because they are inherently better people.
Er...thanks, Ms. Feminist. Though to be fair, I've never considered myself a Hitler so much as a second rate Mussolini with a better taste in hats. Anyway, Wanderground is a must read for anyone with a few hours free time on their hands. The physic power passages must be seen to be believed and the rest is just a fun romp too. And pass the novel on to a friend too, telling him you've found the next sci-fi masterpiece. You won't regret it.