The Female Man has little plot: What action occurs flows directly from the four main characters, who perhaps illustrate different facets of the same personality. Again, as suggested above, they may be considered the same “person,” the same bundle of genetic potential, shaped by four radically different environments.
Jeannine lives in a world in which sexual roles are a parody of American ones, a world in which boys and girls graduating from high school are given blue and pink books, respectively, entitled What to Do in Every Situation. The sexual relations recommended therein sound like early Playboy magazine. Janet comes from a world where mothers receive a five-year sabbatical to rear their daughters, after which the children are sent off to communal schools and taught to be independent, capable, outgoing, and happy. In that world, women learn how to do every job there is to be done by the time they are twenty-two. There is no war, no pollution, no class strife, no poverty.
Joanna hovers between the two, comparing a childhood that was unhappy because of sexual stereotyping to Jeannine’s existence, looking with envy at Janet’s freedom from domination and general self-confidence, and, at the end, deciding that she would like best of all to be like Jael: Jael the powerful, Jael the dangerous, Jael the female Genghis Khan.