ABSTRACT

This article discusses Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1915) as a work of medical fiction and partial sex education manual that engages in conversation with various Progressive-era reproductive health discourses, especially scientific sex education theory and the birth control movement. Sex education at the fin de siècle often drew upon biological texts rather than anatomical or medical texts as a way to teach reproductive health during a period of censorship under Comstock Law. Gilman's use of satire rescripts this popular comparative biology approach to sex education by using entomology rather than plant or animal biology. Through satirical inversion, parthenogenesis functions as a defense for female body autonomy—or “voluntary motherhood”—and access to birth control. Although Gilman was sincere in her feminist argument for basic reproductive rights, a feminist disability studies reading of satire in Herland reveals a eugenics approach that eliminates impaired or disabled bodies from utopia.

You do not currently have access to this content.