Her talk begins:
In 1915 Charlotte Perkins Gilman published a funny but unsettling story called Herland. As the title hints, it’s a fantasy about a nation of women — and women only — that has existed for two thousand years in some remote, still unexplored part of the globe. A magnificent utopia: clean and tidy, collaborative, peaceful (even the cats have stopped killing the birds), brilliantly organised in everything from its sustainable agriculture and delicious food to its social services and education. And it all depends on one miraculous innovation. At the very beginning of its history, the founding mothers had somehow perfected the technique of parthenogenesis. The practical details are a bit unclear, but the women somehow just gave birth to baby girls, with no intervention from men at all. . . .
There are all kinds of irony to this tale. One joke that Perkins Gilman plays throughout is that the women simply don’t recognise their own achievements. They have independently created an exemplary state, one to be proud of, but when confronted by their three uninvited male visitors, who lie somewhere on the spectrum between spineless and scumbag, they tend to defer to the men’s competence, knowledge and expertise; and they are slightly in awe of the male world outside. Although they have made a utopia, they think they have messed it all up.
If you prefer to read it all, here ‘tiz, courtesy of the London Review of Books.