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February 6, 2008 6:49 AM   Subscribe

"It's a world about men, and completely devoid of men."

Who said that, and what is "it"?

posted by mpls2 to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure it's an exact quote? If not, it could be a reference to Joanna Russ's famous story "When It Changed" (originally published in Harlan Ellison's sf anthology Again, Dangerous Visions in 1972). It was reprinted in The Arbor House Treasury of Science Fiction (ed. Robert Silverberg and Martin H. Greenberg, 1980), whose introduction says: "The planet that is the setting for Ms. Russ's story is completely devoid of men, and although this situation has been dealt with in science fiction before, it was usually in the form of 'men to the rescue' and/or a reaffirmation of the 'natural' need of one sex for the other. This is not the case here. ... Like all fine science fiction, 'When it Changed' has much to tell us about the present." It might be said that the story is in some sense "all about" the men who aren't there (though I wouldn't put it that way).
posted by languagehat at 7:00 AM on February 6, 2008

[Slight side-note: the story that languagehat mentions is available on Sci Fi's website. But read it quick, since as of June 15, 2008, they will be taking it down.]
posted by Xoder at 7:44 AM on February 6, 2008

Perhaps "it" refers to a harem? Just an idea ...

Joanna Russ! How I loved her writing in college. I'll have to go back to it and see how I like it now.
posted by minervous at 7:48 AM on February 6, 2008

Response by poster: I've heard the quote attributed to Roland Barthes, and I think it's an ironic comment on how the things that females do to attract men are really meant to impress other women.

But google is failing me.
posted by mpls2 at 8:07 AM on February 6, 2008

Caramel is a movie about the lives of women in Beirut, and a recent review 1/31/08) asserts, "And while Caramel is certainly a film about relationships and romance, it is almost entirely devoid of men. "

But as minervous said, and perhaps I am projecting now, I seem to remember reading a book in which a woman notes that a harem or seraglio she visits (or is thrown into?) is entirely focussed on men: the women are perfumed, bathed, oiled, hair styled and makeup perfected and all the talk and focus centers around men, in a world devoid of men.
posted by misha at 10:47 AM on February 6, 2008

It wouldn't have anything to do with The Women, would it?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:09 AM on February 6, 2008

This expression might have been used to describe an old-fashioned finishing school for girls. I haven't been able to dig up anything specific though.
posted by teleskiving at 11:15 AM on February 6, 2008

Very different wording, but you might be interested in the following, which this Guardian article attributes to Coco Chanel:

"Women dress for other women and out of a spirit of competition. But if there were no longer any men, women would no longer dress at all."
posted by teleskiving at 11:33 AM on February 6, 2008

I think I've got the Barthes quote. Page in French. Google translation. Look for "monde sans hommes" in the French one or "World without men" in the English one.
posted by teleskiving at 12:15 PM on February 6, 2008

Best answer: Here's a better English version with the quote in context.
posted by teleskiving at 12:18 PM on February 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks teleskiving!
posted by mpls2 at 12:20 PM on February 6, 2008

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