Margaret Atwood’s Advice For Young Feminists: ‘Be Informed, Be Aware’

It’s an International Women’s Day miracle! Margaret Atwood, author of the classic feminist dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale, took to the internet today bearing gifts: A new teaser for the Hulu series adaptation of the book, a takeover of the series’ Instagram account, and a Reddit AMA bursting with feminist inspiration. 

Over the course of her AMA, the speculative fiction doyenne offered Reddit users insights about her work, the upcoming “Handmaid’s Tale” series, and the feminist struggle. A major topic of discussion was the dystopian novel ― timely due to both its soon-to-be-released TV version and the timeliness of the book’s events. The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in a future North America in which a theocratic regime has seized power and dramatically rolled back women’s rights. 

Here are some of the big takeaways:

Young feminists need to stay informed about threats to their rights.

In one response, Atwood encouraged young women to be politically engaged ― a fitting message from the author of a book that’s had such a profound impact on many feminists today. “Be informed, be aware,” she wrote, urging feminists to try “to prevent the roll-back that is taking place especially in the area of women’s health. Who knew that this would ever have to be defended? Childbirth care, pre-natal care, early childhood care ― many people will not even be able to afford any of it.”

The consequences of women losing access to reproductive healthcare would be dire.

If these healthcare battles were to be lost, Atwood was clear that the damage would be severe: “Dead bodies on the floor will result.”

Sexual assault is still a problem, and we need to be able to defend ourselves.

“There is the whole issue of sexual violence being used as control ― it is such an old motif.” She suggested one concrete, practical step for women to take immediately: “If I were a younger woman I’d be taking a self-defense course,” she advised. “It’s an unsettled time.”

The dystopian world she created in The Handmaid’s Tale seems increasingly possible here and now.

When one Reddit user went so far as to posit that the U.S. “is basically on the road to becoming Gilead” (the theocratic, patriarchal totalitarian state in The Handmaid’s Tale), Atwood didn’t disagree. “I cannot tell you how strange this feels,” she admitted. “I wrote the book hoping to fend it off, and I believe it will be fended off: America is very diverse, a lot of people have been jolted out of political slumber and are paying attention, and the Constitution still stands.”

Comparing the 2017 screen adaptation of the novel to a 1990 film version, she noted that times had changed: “That world is closer now! [...] then, many people were saying, ‘It can’t happen here.’ Now, not so much.”

The Hulu series won’t downplay the anti-woman dystopian themes. 

During the AMA, she had high praise for the Hulu series, which she helped write and on which she’s credited as a consulting producer. “It goes farther than I did in the book,” she revealed. 

How exactly does it go farther? Let’s just say: We can’t wait to find out.

Claire Fallon Culture Writer, The Huffington Post

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