Synopsis: Janet Evason lives on planet Whileaway, where 600 years ago all men suddenly where extinguished within one generation, and they reproduce by combining ova. All roles in the society are filled with women, but most have to work as farmers to survive.
Katy drives like a maniac
starts the story and gives away Janet’s wife’s character: she’s not the gentle type of female but an aggressive, harsher sort.
Now, they expect the first visit from far away Earth since all those years. And the visitors are male astronauts who are sure that Whileaway misses men.
Review: Joanna Russ is a well known author, most regarded for her novel The Female Man which is written and set after this short story. When it Changed has been published first in Harlan Ellison’s famous anthology Again, Dangerous Visions and won the Nebula Award. In that anthology, Joanna Russ describes her motivation for writing the story as a reaction to Ursula K. Le Guins Hainish-novel Left Hand of Darkness, because she didn’t understand why Le Guin needed to use male and female pronouns for the otherwise nonbinary people in her world.
The result was a world of full gender equality because there only is one gender (written at a time before nonbinary gender became a thing), namely female. Contrasting other imaginations of fluffy, big breasted amazons written by male authors, this world has all sorts of humans: killers, dangerous duellists, caring, and loving females. One sentence struck out, a question not really asked but nearly by one of the visitors: “Which of you plays the role of the man?” And this is a question that could have been asked nowadays, nearly fifty years after this story has been written. While the men recurringly tell that Earth has now gender-equality, we can imagine very well how that would look like: yes, there are female chancellors. But is there equal pay for the same job, are corporations filling important positions with females? We’ve come a long way in society, but it’s still miles to the horizon of equality.
This story is a perfect example for a thoughtful society criticism with interesting characters. It doesn’t need a plot, as the discussions, reactions, and musings are enough to make this story stay with you for a longer time. Because it’s a classic that transports awfully well into our modern days.