What if Women Ruled the World?
By: Erica Lee
A world run by women sounds like heaven, right?
Gerd Brantenberg published Egalia’s Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes in 1977, firmly in the midst of the second wave of feminism. The women of this day both figuratively and literally threw away traditional symbols of “woman-ness” tied to oppression: lipstick, high heels, bras, and other artifacts of “femininity.”
Egalia is written as a satire, a form of social commentary that reveals the illogical nature of reality by exaggerating the characteristics of the society. While satires are usually caricatures of society to show how ridiculous it is, Egalia is unique in such a way that the story rarely feels over-exaggerated. What woman hasn’t been explicitly told what she could and could not do, whether it be to go braless or to run for Senate?
Women of the 1970s protested their representation in the Ladies’ Home Journal and denounced the treatment of women in the Miss America Pageant, and participated in countless other groundbreaking protests. Egalia goes one step further.
Brantenburg doesn’t just throw out lipstick. She switches gender roles.
Echoing women’s complaints, Brantenburg illustrated the greater context of oppressive female roles by filling the hallmark tight skirts and impractical shoes with men. In Egalia, Brantenburg places women in every leadership position, dresses them in smart, practical clothing, glorifies menstruation and birth, and even changes linguistics to give the social power to women.
Egalia follows Petronius, the son of a high-powered wom through his adolescence trying to understand and later subvert the oppressive culture around him.
As the dominant sex, women are called wim, and men are called menwim. In addition to the glossary below, many of the negative vocabulary now centers around menwim. In Egalian society, if a menwom does not find a suitable wom and ask her for fatherhood protection and take her damename as their new family name, they become a spinster, and will be referred to as Spinnerman the rest of their lives.
Brantenburg mirrors the oppressive beauty standards of our world for women and weaves in the unspoken shame at the foundation of these standards beautifully. While a wom wears practical, sensible clothing, a manwom is fitted for impractical shoes, tight skirts, and a peho, a small bag for their penis that hangs outside of their skirts. They spend hours setting their hair and beards in elaborate curled styles, and the ideal body type for menwim is short and fat. Just like the “ideal” woman wears heels and impractical clothes and has an incredibly restrictive body type, the ideal menwom is powerless to help himself, hindered by tight skirts and a voluptuous belly.
Although the third wave of feminism might have slightly different, more multifaceted ideas, the core of Egalia is the same: society oppresses one gender by restricting them to a stereotype. Recognizing this is the first step to eradicating it.