Reminds me of THE EVENT!
Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
These days, there seem to be more and more parallels between our world and those of classic dystopian fiction. But with its commentary on women’s rights and reproductive freedom, perhaps Margaret Atwood’sThe Handmaid’s Tale strikes the most resonant chord. It’s been over three decades since Handmaid’s release, but what was once a distant fantasy has becoming something unsettlingly, possibly real. As Gloria Steinem noted, “Atwood’s novel should be read—or read again—as a warning about patriarchy” and “is not exactly fiction.” The twenty books below will give you more food for thought—and that the same bone-chilling fear of what just might lie ahead.
The Book of Joan
A 2017 hit, The Book of Joan is the inventive reimagining of the Joan of Arc legend. After a series of violent wars, the survivors flee to CIEL, a platform hovering just above the earth’s now-radioactive surface. Since the disaster, humanity has become sexless and hairless—more creature than human—and fallen under the reign of a misogynistic dictator. But when a band of rebels rises, the world’s fate lies in the hands of one powerful girl-warrior named Joan. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Book of Joan is a “riveting, ravishing, and crazy deep” exploration of gender fluidity, and the complexities of the human condition (Cheryl Strayed, New York Times-bestselling author of Wild).
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
A selective virus has decimated the female population, increasing childbirth and pregnancy fatalities. As the men gain control, Midwife’s nameless protagonist sets out to free the enslaved women from their captors. Dressed as a man, she covertly administers birth control and medical advice while dodging the men trying to harm her. Elison’s world is “gripping and grim”—and very reminiscent of Atwood’s Gilead—as one woman battles the commoditization of female sexuality (Publishers Weekly). Be sure to check out the follow up novel, The Book of Etta.
The Female Man
The Female Man jumps from timeline to timeline, dystopia to dystopia, as the lives of four different women intersect. Where Jeannie is desperate for marriage and male attention, Joanna is a feminist trying to stand her ground in a male-centric world. And where Janet hails from an all-female society, Jael comes from a future where the sexes are segregated and at war. As the relationships between these women grow, Russ shows how gender roles and identities evolve as time passes and cultures shift.
Related: 10 Dystopian Series You Haven’t Read Yet But Should, from The Portalist
The Shore of Women
In the post-war future, women are goddesses, calling all the shots and using men only for procreation. Exiled to the outskirts of the city, Birana now lives among the male population and soon meets Arvil. Like Offred and Nick, their friendship turns romantic and, as the couple tries to evade their oppressive leaders, they realize the nature of men and women is not what they thought.
Walk to the End of the World
Years ago, a catastrophic event destroyed the world. From its ashes, emerged a new society called the Holdfast. Here, women, or “fems,” are like Atwood’s “Handmaids”: pieces of property, breeders, and scapegoats for the disaster that laid waste to the world. Through the eyes of three men, we come to learn about life in the Holdfast and of the precocious Alldera, a “fem” spearheading an underground resistance movement against the patriarchy.
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By the 22nd century, the 19th Amendment has been repealed. Most women are banned from public life while others serve as “linguists,” bred solely to facilitate interplanetary commerce. But the women of Native Tongue’s dystopian society are hungry for freedom and, in a revolution similar to “Mayday,” create their own language. Native Tongueis more than an “absolutely compelling” feminist story, but a testament to the power of words and language (Women’s Review of Books).
Daughters of the North
Sister lives in post-apocalyptic England, where the Gilead-like “Authority” controls women’s reproductive health. Disguised as a protective measure against overpopulation, the “Authority” requires the sterilization of any woman of childbearing age. Traumatized by her procedure, Sister flees to the female utopia of Carhullan, only to realize it is not so dissimilar from the place she left behind. A haunting page-turner, Daughters of the North offers a sharp “feminist commentary on war, gender, politics, and identity” (Publishers Weekly).
The Big Lie
Nazi-held England has hardly changed since the mid-20th century. A woman’s place is still in the home. German blood must stay pure, and any defects are prevented by government-sanctioned hysterectomies. Jessika is a “goody-good” who has never questioned the injustices of her world. But when her friend’s rebellious behavior falls under Nazi scrutiny, Jessika must choose whose life is worth protecting. An “intriguing, engrossing, and frighteningly plausible” mash-up of The Man in the High Castle and Handmaid, The Big Lieis a coming-of-age tale that tackles everything from feminism and sexism to personal integrity and sexual acceptance (Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours).
Only Ever Yours
Part Stepford Wives, part Mean Girls, part The Handmaid’s Tale, Only Ever Yours is set in a society that prioritizes male pleasure over everything else. Educated in beauty and obedience at “School,” only the most beautiful graduates receive the highest honor: marriage to a wealthy man. Though best friends frieda and isabel (their lower-cased names, further reflections of their status as “things”) are desperate to succeed, frieda’s gradual self-destruction jeopardizes their futures. “Deep, dark, and frighteningly believable,” Only Ever Yours raises important questions about our perceptions of beauty and femininity (Marie Claire).
The Core of the Sun
Chances are, you probably haven’t heard of this Finnish modern classic, but it belongs in everyHandmaid fan’s TBR pile. There are two classes of women in the new Republic of Finland. The “eloi” are meant for sex and procreation while the “independents,” whose intelligence is a menace to society, are sterilized. At the center of it all is Vanna, a clever “eloi” searching for her sister as she—wait for it—battles a chili pepper addiction. From a religious cult on the sun to chili pepper prohibition, Sinisalo puts a unique spin on the dystopian genre while being no less astute in her social commentary.
The Children of Men
Just like in The Handmaid’s Tale, the world in Children of Men has been plagued by infertility. After the planet’s youngest person dies, there seems to be little hope for future generations. That is, until Theodore and a group of rebels discover a life-changing secret—a pregnant woman. And while some fight to keep her identity under wraps, others have much more sinister intentions. PD James’ vision of 2021 is “as scary and suspenseful as anything in Hitchcock”—and a perfect read for Handmaid fans (The New Yorker).
The Glass Arrow
While technology has advanced, society has regressed to a caste system that enslaves women. Aya lives freely in the wilderness, but after she is captured by the government she finds herself on the dreaded auction block. When she’s sold to the wealthy Mayor Rykor, Aya begins to plot her escape—and strikes up an unexpected friendship with the mayor’s son. But in a dog-eat-dog world where no one can be trusted, Aya must rise above sexism, violence, and a corrupt system if she’s to regain her freedom. The Glass Arrow is an action-packed dystopian thriller about the beautiful and ugly parts of humanity—and the power of the human spirit to overcome.
Woman on the Edge of Time
Doctors think Connie has gone insane—but she simply knows a frightening truth. A time-traveling envoy has given her glimpses of two possible futures. One is a utopia where everyone is equal. The other is its nightmarish opposite, a Handmaid-esque society where humans are little more than objects. With the fate of the world on her shoulders, Connie embarks upon an “absorbing and exciting” adventure that will require every ounce of her moral courage (The New York Times).
Into the Forest
Similar to The Big Lie and Only Ever Yours, Into the Forestrevolves around two young women living in a post-apocalyptic world. As sisters Nell and Eva struggle to survive in the dystopian wilderness, they must also come to terms with their encroaching adulthood. Blending elements of The Handmaid’s Tale and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Into the Forest examines complex relationships—how they change, survive, or end—in an environment where everyone must fend for themselves.
Ever since the nuclear holocaust, the alien Oankali have kept humans unconscious. Reawakened after one hundred years, the survivors—including a woman named Lilith—find that their planet is not the one they remember. Just as Offred is a minority in the Republic of Gilead, Lilith must also find her place in a world where she has suddenly become the outsider. Dawn is yet another stunner from the award-winning author of Parable of the Sower that will make you question what it means to be human.
The Gate to Women’s Country
For Stavia’s entire life, women have ruled the world and presided over all the secrets of civilization. Warfare is the only duty left to men, who either live outside the city walls or in military garrisons. Over time, the men have grown curious, wanting access to the knowledge that only their female rulers posses. So when Stavia reveals the secrets of Women’s Country to a young boy, the long-kept peace breaks out into a battle of the sexes. The Gate to Women’s Country “provokes a new look at old issues,” like our definitions of “femaleness” and “maleness” (The Washington Post).
The virus that struck Jeep did more than kill every living man—it altered the female DNA. Terran Company has arrived with a new vaccine, but their visit quickly turns awry. Only one of them, an anthropologist named Marghe, continues their mission, hoping to understand the Jeep natives and their disease. Ammonite’s cast of characters, while all women, are diverse in their personalities, and Griffith manages to smash gender stereotypes while telling a “gripping, many-layered, ever-changing” story (The New York Times Book Review).
Y: The Last Man
From Lost writer/producer Brian K. Vaughan comes the most critically-acclaimed comic series of the past decade. Yorick Brown and his pet monkey are the last males, human or beast, left alive. Now, Yorick is homeward bound to reunite with his fiancée, mother, and sister. But not all is smooth sailing as the pillars of civilization continue to crumble, and Yorick finds both allies and enemies in government officials, scientists, and rebels. Y: The Last Man is an inverse of The Handmaid’s Tale, but its socially relevant message—and thrilling combination of violence, comedy, and romance—will ring true with fans of Atwood’s book.
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future
Glory has always wrestled with the demons of her past: Will she grow up to be like her mentally unstable parents? Or are there better times ahead? But Glory’s life takes a sharp turn when she has grim visions of the future. The world she sees is as horrific as Atwood’s Gilead, a place where women are stripped of their rights and society is on the brink of war. As Glory fights to save the future and overcome her fears, King poses provocative ideas about feminism, sexuality, the male gaze, and societal pressures on girls.
When three men learn of an all-female society, they are determined to become its new rulers. But what they find is not what they expected. The women of Herland are self-sufficient, not only doing “men’s work” but capable of asexual reproduction. Such independence forces the men to reevaluate their notions of a woman’s role in society. Published in 1915, Gilman’s argument for gender equality was revolutionary for its time. At once funny and thought-provoking, the novel asks us to recognize that women are just as valuable—and intelligent—as any man.
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According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, which began tracking such outcomes 75 years ago, 2014 marked the first time that there was a greater likelihood that a woman would hold a bachelor’s degree than a man.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women comprised 57 percent of college students and 57 percent of college-degree holders in 2014. Nonetheless, while more women than men now earn bachelor’s degrees, there is strong evidence that they do so on campuses where inequality still persists. In a recent study published throughHarvard University’s Voices of Diversity project, U.S. college students at several predominantly white, 4-year institutions were asked about their experiences at college. (Only one of these institutions, Missouri State University, agreed to be publicly identified and to implement recommendations to address these problems immediately). The men and women interviewed described interactions small and large, subtle and overt, in which female and male minority students were subject to discriminatory treatment. Many of these experiences involved microaggressions — that is, intentional or unintentional slights that contribute to a hostile environment and which are recognized by experts as being harmful to learning.
Such experiences often persist — especially for women — once students graduate and find themselves on the job market, with detrimental consequences for employer and employee alike. A recent report by Catalyst, a non-profit organization that aims to improve career opportunities for women across many employment sectors, found that men at U.S. universities hold a considerably higher percentage of tenured positions than women. Female instructors were also more likely to be employed in lower-ranking orpart-time faculty positions at these institutions. A related analysis at the University of Southern California revealed that 92 percent of white males at this institution were awarded tenure between 1998 and 2012, while just 55 percent of women and minority candidates were.
Female hires experience discrimination in other industries as well, particularly in technology fields. Indeed, 73 percent of tech employees surveyed by The Guardian in 2014 reported that they believe the industry is sexist. According to research presented at the 2014 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, nearly 40 percent of women who earned engineering degrees in the past 60 years had either left the field or opted not to pursue careers as engineers, earning the discipline the dubious honor of being the field with the highest turnover of female workers compared to other skilled professions like law, medicine, and higher education. One explanation was the industry’s “hostility toward women.”
STEM fields have been identified as a major domain of discriminatory treatment towards women, both in college and the workplace. Only about 25 percent of STEM degrees are awarded to women, although there are colleges working to address this disparity. Such institutions are enacting deliberate efforts to increase hiring of female faculty in science, technology, engineering, and math departments as well as providing more mentorships to support women in these disciplines.
In light of how common it is for women to encounter gender discrimination in educational and employment settings, what accounts for their higher achievement in school?
Claudia Buchmann, a sociology professor at Ohio State University, explains that as career opportunities expanded for women in recent decades, girls have become increasingly motivated to strive in school in order to have similar choices when they reach the workforce. As Buchmann notes, they seem to understand that success is not a given and that hard work is necessary to reach their goals.
According to a 2014 report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that compared reading, math, and science achievement among 15-year-old boys and girls in developed countries, researchers found that girls read and study more than boys, a difference that is especially significant since reading is foundational to all other areas of learning. Indeed, experts believe that such practices enable girls to develop the habits and skill sets that result in both academic and career success.
That said, gender discrimination takes a toll — personally, educationally, and professionally — as a 2015 report by a U.N. working group noted. In spite of the strides women have made in recent decades, their achievements still lag many other countries around the world.
What can schools, colleges, and workplaces do to support girls and women more effectively?
Teachers and faculty need to include scholarship, literature, and histories that represent diverse experiences and perspectives. In the absence of prominent female or minority members of specific disciplines, though, instruction should address the reasons for their underrepresentation. Moreover, since gender discrimination intersects with race, class, age, and sexual identity or orientation, those who work in all areas of education need to engage in dialogue and foster change to remedy the harm that results from exclusion or discriminatory treatment.
A Texas A&M University study by economists Jaegeum Lim and Jonathan Meerexamined the standardized test scores of over 14,000 middle school students in South Korea, and discovered that girls perform significantly better, especially in math, when they are taught by women. The researchers speculated that these outcomes were due to the additional level of comfort female students feel when instruction is provided by a woman, and suggested that female educators foster a sense of equality and freer expression among these students in their classrooms.
In 2014, the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) announced an initiative known as TIDES, or “Teaching to Increase Diversity and Equity in STEM.” The program provides 20 higher education institutions with grants to fund faculty development and curricula aimed at effectively teaching STEM disciplines to diverse student bodies. As AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider noted in the association’s announcement of the effort, “It is critically important for higher education to find ways to increase success in STEM fields for both women and all students from underserved communities.”
While American girls and women have made enormous progress educationally and professionally in the past half century, their achievement still occurs in environments where microaggressions or downright discriminatory treatment are more the norm than the exception. School and college leaders, teachers, and faculty can address these issues forcefully to create educational and employment opportunities in which women can contribute with excellence. After all, everyone stands to gain from this outcome.
You can read the latest updates and opinions on education-related news and ask a question to find out how colleges you’re considering address gender discrimination.
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Men are statistically more likely to go to prison than women for the same crime. Feminists and Men’s Rights Activists alike should be outraged.
People forget that prisons aren’t always there to protect us; in fact, they often aren’t there to help us at all. When you have a primarily or entirely privatized penal system, prisons become a business and their primary reason for existing is to make money.
In America today the prison business is booming… and men are disproportionately paying the price.
According to a recent study by Sonja Starr, an assistant law professor at the University of Michigan, men on average receive 63 percent longer prison sentences than women who commit comparable crimes. Reinforcing data accumulated from numerous other surveys on the subject, Starr also found that women are twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted of a crime – which may explain why 90% of the prison population is male – and estimated that the gender gap in sentencing could be as much as six times as large as that between white and non-whites (more on that in a moment). Despite this trend, the existing tendency among progressives has been to push for changes that only exacerbate the problem, such as the concerted effort among British feminists to abolish female prisons altogether.
In America today the prison business is booming… and men are disproportionately paying the price.
These facts put advocates of prison reform in a tricky dilemma. On the one hand, leftists who point out that female convicts “often have poor mental health or are poorly educated, have not committed violence and have children to look after” aren’t wrong. However, because these same traits frequently apply to men who are convicted of crimes (indeed, a compelling case could be made that they describe a considerable fraction of our prison population), it speaks volumes that this data is used to widen the sentencing gender gap instead of confront how our sentencing system is fundamentally draconian.
After all, the gender gap is far from the only problem facing American prisons today. There is also the problem that police are more likely to target non-whites than whites, who are in turn less likely to be able to afford quality legal counsel. As a result, one out of every three black males born today will be incarcerated during their lifetime, as compared to one out of six Latino males and one out of 17 white males. According to the 2010 Census, almost one in ten black men between the ages of 20 and 34 were in prison; by contrast, the numbers for white men in the same bloc was roughly one in fifty. Needless to say, non-whites make up a majority of the more than 2.4 million people living behind bars as of March 2014, a number that is likely to be much higher than 3 million when you take recidivism rates into account.
Of course, because the American prison-industrial complex is incredibly lucrative (as of 2013 it was worth $70 billion), politicians are influenced by lobbyists for groups like the Corrections Corporation of America to create laws that put more people in jail rather than fewer, especially through tighter drug laws. As a result, Americans have been left with a penal system in which poor boys, particularly of color, are more likely to go to prison for the same crime as a rich white girl.
In short, the issue of the prison-industrial complex is an intersectional one encompassing state corruption, capitalism run amok, race, and – when it comes to the heavier sentencing for men – gender inequality. So why isn’t the last issue receiving more attention?
‘A lot of times these issues will get drowned out because of highly public fighting between Men’s Rights Activists and feminists, which winds up overshadowing the legitimate concerns that many MRAs have,’ explained Adam Hollingsworth… ‘The sentencing gap should be a large issue not only for Men’s Rights Activists, but for feminists. It is a clear example of how our justice system treats women as if they have less agency and are thus less accountable for their actions.’
“A lot of times these issues will get drowned out because of highly public fighting between Men’s Rights Activists and feminists, which winds up overshadowing the legitimate concerns that many MRAs have,” explained Adam Hollingsworth, a Men’s Rights Activist who was interviewed for this article. “The sentencing gap should be a large issue not only for Men’s Rights Activists, but for feminists. It is a clear example of how our justice system treats women as if they have less agency and are thus less accountable for their actions.”
The problem, it seems, is that it is often much easier to put men in jail. As Hollingsworth implicitly pointed out, the conventional assumption is that women can’t hack it in prison, whether because they need to raise families, or are too emotionally frail, or literally lack the physical strength to survive behind bars. Within this zeitgeist, a man who steps up and takes prison time for a woman can be depicted as chivalrous and noble; inversely, a man who expected a woman to do the same thing, meanwhile, would seem dishonorable and cowardly.
It must be emphasized that this story isn’t about calling women out for using the “woman card,” but about making sure that both genders are equally accountable for their actions. In America, the popular cliché among the law-and-order set is that “If you do the crime, you should do the time.” It says nothing about what you have in your pants, and any justice system that factors that into its decisions –knowingly or unknowingly – is reinforcing patriarchal assumptions that simultaneously demean women and are unjust to men. Logically speaking, there is no getting around the fact that in a free society, the same sentences should be meted out regardless of sex.
Instead truly meaningful prison reform should focus on (a) creating racial, gender, and economic equity in the distribution of justice and (b) cranking up pressure on politicians so that they will stop finding reasons to incarcerate people. Certainly we can start with lessening offenses on minor drug charges, particularly those involving marijuana; finding alternative methods of rehabilitation for juvenile offenders convicted of committing petty crimes, particularly those that focus on community participation and remembering that “it takes a village to raise a child”; and making sure that our prisons take the severity of a convict’s mental illness into account when determining how he or she should be treated during their incarceration.
If nothing else, however, any feminist should be outraged to know the statistics about the sentencing gap. It is proof that fellow human beings are receiving unjust and unequal treatment, even as it simultaneously demonstrates that our justice system has a misogynistic mentality based on outdated assumptions about women being the weaker sex. This is a cause in which feminists should find common cause with Men’s Rights Activists, in the same spirit that Emma Watson articulated to the United Nations last September: “Gender equality is your issue too.”