Although Joanna Russ’s story “When It Changed” is only a few pages long, it is so powerful and impressive from a feminist perspective. From the many stories that we read so far that touch on the subject of feminism and gender equality, Russ’ story stands out in its simplicity as well as in its clever way in pinpointing to the cause of gender inequality. “When it Changed” was written in the 1970s as a reflection of the male dominance back at that time, but what adds to its authenticity is the fact that even nowadays it can reflect the gender situation in the society. If we took Herland for example and compare it to “When it Change” we can notice many differences between how Russ and Gilman had dealt with the subject of gender equality, or to put it simply; the male/female relationship and whether they are dependent or independent on each other.
Both of these stories are the same in the fact that they picture an Utopian society which is limited only on the female sex, where they live in harmony and peace. Having said that, in Gilman’s story the females seems to be more open to the idea of living, or reliving again, with males. This is evident through the love relationship that evolved between the three male characters and the three women after a short period of time of their involvement in Herland. In other words, in Gilman’s story men are welcomed to live with women under a clear, and genuine equality.
This is not the case in “When it Change” as the idea of men living with women seemed to be an irrational thought. I believe that Whileaway represents the (imagined) present, where only women live together in a complete homogeneity while Earth represents the (real life) present, where males and females cannot co-exist together, according to Russ. Several references to the earth and men in the story, keeping in mind that earth mirrors real life, make us think that Russ believes that under such circumstances gender equality is out of reach. “I doubt very much that sexual equality has been reestablished on Earth” (774). Also another reference to men “Katy was right, of course; we should have burned them [the four men] down where that stood” (773). Men are simply not welcomed in Whileaway, also there is no curiosity from the women in Whileaway to get to know men, unlike in Herland.
The last couple of pages demonstrate Russ’ resentment of gender equality in the society.“When it Change” did not offer the possibility of men and women living together in a complete equality. Russ seemed to suggest since gender equality is highly unlikely the only solution would be that each lives in a different place. To sum it up, Herland seemed more open to the fact that men and women can live in a total equality. While on the other hand, “When it Change” does not embrace such idea, it suggest that the damage has already been done, and there is no solution other than each sex lives alone far away from the other. Which is quite impossible, therefore, this makes me believe that Russ’ hope for equality in real life impossible in her view.