Speaking with famed actress and feminist Emma Watson in an interview for Entertainment Weekly, Margaret Atwood, the author of famous (and possibly prophetic) dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, shared a mixed message of optimism for young people dismayed by a seemingly rising hostility towards women from conservatives, and the compounding effect of the meteoric rise of politicians like Donald Trump.
“I’m not easily depressed by these sort of things,” said Atwood when Watson asked her opinion on the recent presidential election in the U.S. “If you were born in the ’90s, you were born into a world where quite a few rights for various groups had been established, at least in the West, and you thought that was normal. But if you’re older than that and you were born into a world in which this was not the case, you saw the fights that went into those rights being established, and you also saw how quickly — in the case, for instance, of Hitler — that you could take a democratically minded fairly open society and turn it on its head. So, it has happened before, but it’s also un-happened before.”
“I don’t think America is rolling over in acquiescence to all of this,” she added. “You’ve probably seen that women dressed as Handmaids have been turning up in state legislatures and just sitting there. “
In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood depicted a future world where religious fanatics had taken over the government and enslaved women to serve as “Handmaids,” whose purpose was solely to produce children. In states such as Texas, where politicians have passed brutal anti-abortion measures that Atwood has said essentially turns poor women into “slaves” who must “have children that they cannot afford” and then raise them without any government support, many women have taken to dressing as Handmaids as a form of protest. And the harsh reality, Atwood says, is that her vision of America’s future took inspiration from America’s past.
“The 17th century foundation of America was not, ‘Let’s have a democracy,’” Atwood explained. “It was ‘Let’s have a theocracy’ … [the book is] based on stuff that people have really done and therefore could do again.”
Atwood also spoke at length about her feelings on feminism, what it means to live in a patriarchy and how such structures came to exist, and what measures she thinks would best improve women’s standing in society.
Read the full interview at Entertainment Weekly.