Study Guide

Jeannine Nancy Dadier in The Female Man

By Joanna Russ

Jeannine Nancy Dadier

Naïve, romantic, and an active fantasist, Jeannine is the youngest of the four alter egos. Unmarried at twenty-nine years old and living in a version of Earth where the Great Depression is still ongoing, Jeannine doesn't have a whole lot going for her—not according to her family, at least. But underneath that vapid exterior is a young woman with a lot more brains than she or anyone else gives her credit for.

Like Joanna, Jeannine is a New York singleton—the Charlotte to Joanna's Carrie, if you will—but her New York is different from Joanna's. Even though it's 1969 in both worlds, on Jeannine's Earth, World War II never happened, mainland China is occupied by Japan, no one has any idea what a Cold War might look like, and people in general are poor, poor, poor. No Civil Rights movement, no Free Love—Jeannine's New York looks more like the set of Annie than that of The French Connection. And, in keeping with the old-timey poverty of her world, social conventions are much more conservative too.

Picture Jeannine as Olivia Newton John in Grease, or Reese Witherspoon in Pleasantville. Joanna sees her as "a long-limbed, coltish girl in clothes a little too small for her" (1.7.1). Jael describes her as "tall, thin, sedentary, round-shouldered, a long-limbed body made of clay and putty" (8.5.5). More than Joanna, Jeannine suffers from depression, and although her fantasizing gets a bit silly at times, it's one of the coping mechanisms she uses to retain some hope of a happier life.

So, what's got her so glum?

I Dream of Jeannine

When Jeannine tells Jael that she'll help in the war against men, what reason does she give? She says to Jael, "My whole world calls me Jeannie" (9.7.16).

That's it, folks; that's her reason. One bad nickname, and she's willing to settle Womanland soldiers in New York City's underground (where presumably they'll be trained by Hamato Yoshi). Seriously, Jeannine: what gives?

The problem with everyone calling her "Jeannie" is that it's an infantilizing term. And it's not just the name, either. Everything in Jeannine's world seems to suggest that she's nothing but a little kid. Her job at the New York City Library? Young Adult section. Her relationship with her older brother? Not great in general, but especially bad when he calls her a "young lady" and tells her to keep a civil tongue in her mouth (6.4.17). Jeannine is nearly thirty years old, not thirteen, but because she's an unmarried woman living in a world where a woman's worth is attached to her husband's name, she may as well be an infant in society's eyes.

As if that weren't enough, Jeannine senses that she's being groomed for a life of domestic drudgery, although she can't put her finger on why this makes her so depressed. On the day before she leaves to visit her family in the Poconos:

She bends and bends. Flour and sugar spill on the shelves over the sink and have to be mopped up; there are stains and spills, rotting radish leaves, and encrustations of ice inside the old refrigerator (it has to be propped open with a chair to defrost itself). Odds and ends of paper, candy, cigarettes, cigarette ashes all over the room. Everything has to be dusted. […] Of course nobody else helps. Nothing is the right height. She adds Cal's socks to her clothes and his clothes that she has to take to the self-service laundry, makes a separate pile of his clothes that have to be mended, and sets the table for herself. (6.1.1)

Scenes like this make it clear that Jeannine's life with Cal, if she marries him, will be like a never-ending episode of I Dream of Jeannie, in which Cal's every wish will be her command. We've already seen in earlier scenes that Cal is willing to wheedle and whine until Jeannine gives in and consents to sex, and now we know that he also treats her as his personal housemaid. No amount of fantasizing about the glories of marriage can really and truly convince Jeannine that this is what the rest of her life should look like.