In this enthralling, dare we say feminist, prize of speculative fiction The Power, Naomi Alderman conceives a near future where the deadly power to electrify spirals from women’s collarbones, through their hands, effusing across the globe, forcing a new world order. Though published in 2016, interest in the book picks up non-stop speed around the world, particularly in the U.S., as it interprets the zeitgeist of heady power brandished, and condemned, under the many-colored banners of feminism.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s historic eight-hour speech while wearing four-inch heels dominates headlines, a seemingly inspiring moment for women in politics. Yet, it competes with accusations of abuse against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter—the President siding with Porter tweeting, “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” The President faces backlash for showing lack of support for the alleged victims, something Pelosi was been accused of last November for showing support for Michigan Rep. John Conyers. The tides of feminism wax and wane under the country’s precarious political leadership leaving many to wonder who really has the power?
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry issues an apology for having a consensual affair with her security detail, chooses not to resign, and receives enthusiastic support on social media. The indiscretion could easily read as a page out Alderman’s timely novel—Barry particularly parallel to Alderman’s character Margot—but it’s just the latest in political scandals to hit the news. Perhaps in the eyes of French feminists willfully tethered to essentialist views of feminism, Barry’s conduct may be applauded as sexual liberation, but feminists in the U.S., still rallied by the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up, may have something new to contend with–abuse of power in the hands of a woman.
Both feminists in the U.S. and in France have come under fire time and again for lacking the inclusivity of intersectional feminism, unwilling to address the needs and conditions of women of color and the LGBT community. Alderman, however, skillfully addresses intersectional and myriad angles of feminism in her dystopian narrative. The four main characters, Allie, Margot, Tunde and Roxy, are formed in predictably dichotomous terms as black, white and biracial—or as they say in the UK, mixed race—but to Alderman’s credit, the entire globe features as the novel’s setting. Women in Saudi Arabia, newly empowered by “skeins” of electricity, blow up cars in protest against the ban on women drivers. Women in Delhi, once prohibited from going to the market without a male guardian, clog the roads in protest, and one particular woman, driven by sheer power to do so, attempts to rape Tunde, a Nigerian journalist and pro-feminist. In South Carolina, a theological feminist emerges as Mother Eve, whose cult places the mother above the son, but whose following harbors the sexual abuse of children. And in Moldova, a lipstick feminist saunters in a gold dress while bringing together players in her maniacal plot for world domination.
The power spreads to women all over the world almost at once in Alderman’s enrapturing prose, engendering a complete inversion of the gender binary experience. Here, in the real world, feminists are protesting against Russia’s new “slapping law,” which decriminalizes domestic violence and forces women to pay their abuser’s fines; women in Iran remove their headscarves in protest against imperious hijab laws; and in the U.S., women are showing their power in the polls and running for office in greater numbers than ever before. Here too, in the real world, a new wave of feminism ignites and the power is radial.
‘The Power’ is now available for purchase. For more information on the author, please visit her website at www.naomialderman.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Naomi Alderman is the author of The Liars’ Gospel and Disobedience, which won the Orange Prize for New Writers, has been published in 10 languages, and is being made into a film by Rachel Weisz. She was selected for Granta’s once-a-decade list of Best of Young British Novelists and was chosen by Margaret Atwood to be part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. She is the co-creator and lead writer of the bestselling smartphone audio adventure app, Zombies, Run! She contributes regularly to the Guardian and presents Science Stories on BBC Radio 4. She lives in London.