I have always been a fan of dystopian novels and stories. I actually started with the Utopia by Thomas More in high school, which is an old classic that considered what a perfect society might be like. After that, I started devouring any kind of Utopia/Dystopia I could find: Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange, The Giver, the list goes on. The dystopian novel that has really haunted me, however, has been The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
I was 19 and overconfident in my knowledge of feminism. Despite this, I had only ever read the “classics” (focused on white male dystopias). This was assigned reading in my Women in American Society class(I dove into the deep end of critical theory and struggled greatly). Besides the other challenging, mind-blowing revelations in that class, this book focused on the fragility of women’s rights and how easily rights can be taken away. Reproductive rights, property rights, the right to not be sold as property in marriage, the right to participate in the same virtues and vices as men (jury duty, smoking and drinking in bars, running marathons, etc). Not only this, but also that many of these rights were only granted within living memory. I remember the novel mentioning women not being allowed to have credit cards without a male co-signer up until the 1970s. At first, I thought this was an alternative history timeline until I asked my mother about it and then proceeded to research it. This is the truly haunting part of the book, especially for those not the most well versed in recent history. I recommend this book for everyone, but especially young women, as often we can take for granted rights and liberties that were fought hard for.