The Good Place
Imagine! An entire special double issue on utopia [“This Way to Utopia: Dreams of a Better World,” July 26/Aug. 2] without a single mention of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
One may come away from Jeet Heer’s essay “Utopia Allows Us to Dream Together” with the impression that feminist utopian thinking began in the 1960s and ’70s, and that women did not contribute to the great period of utopianism at the turn of the 20th century. On the contrary, writers such as the South African–born Olive Schreiner (in Dreams, 1890), the Bengali Muslim Rokeya Hossain (in Sultana’s Dream, 1905), and the American Charlotte Perkins Gilman (in Herland, 1915) created influential, inspiring visions of gender-equal societies, and to overlook their importance now is simply wrong.
Margaret D. Stetz
Professor of Women’s Studies,
University of Delaware
I found it remarkable that the discussion of several of the great utopian writings overlooked the one that was published in Philadelphia in 1787. This one was significantly different from the others in that it contained a description of the process by which its shortcomings could be corrected. Unlike all other utopian ideas, the US Constitution acknowledged its awareness of its own necessity for change, if not in the fundamentals of its theory, then at least in its necessary adaptation to unanticipated threats. Those fundamentals included the crazy idea that people are free to wish as they please, act on their wishes, and alter their course when necessary.
Franklin Lonzo Dixon Jr.
Re “A Small World,” by Katha Pollitt [July 12/19]: In the struggle for a clean and sustainable environment, people who want to have more children are not the enemy. Overpopulation is not the issue.
The problem is how people in industrialized societies treat the environment—consumption of fossil fuels, horrific agricultural practices, plastic wrapped around everything. To be clear: Wealthy people, corporations, and a weak-kneed regulatory structure deserve the most blame for the perceived lack of resources. More important, concerns about so-called overpopulation nearly always end with forcing contraceptives on women of color. In this way, overpopulation arguments not only fail to address the root causes of environmental despair and the inequitable distribution of resources, they support eugenics. Let’s not make these arguments as progressives.
“Cripping Utopia to Save It,” by s.e. smith [July 26/Aug. 2], misquoted Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. as writing in his Buck v. Bell decision that “three generations of idiots are enough.” He actually wrote that “three generations of imbeciles are enough.”