This just seems so odd to me for an author who portrayed one of the best and purest forms of sex-based oppression in a novel. So why does she not even identify as a Feminist? I've also heard posters here say she isn't an ally.

How is this even possible and what is going on with her? I find it truly confusing.

This just seems so odd to me for an author who portrayed one of the best and purest forms of sex-based oppression in a novel. So why does she not even identify as a Feminist? I've also heard posters here say she isn't an ally. How is this even possible and what is going on with her? I find it truly confusing.


My very cynical take is she is hoping to win a Nobel prize.

Oof. But yes, this is kind of what I'm getting at. It all seems a bit fishy to me.

Maybe not a Nobel Prize (only men get awarded those for doing nothing). But she wants to maintain her place as a beloved literary celebrity. And she knows she'll get the Rowling treatment if she doesn't tow the TRA line

[–] scriptcrone 0 points Edited

Maybe not the Nobel Price, but a place in canon. Women writers are already marginalized--single chapter in a book, all-women panels at conventions and festivals, discussed separately from canon. Canadian writers are marginalized outside Canada. Same thing. Atwood studied literature, so she knows how this works and that she has two strikes against her already. Becoming identified as a feminist woman Canadian writer--ultra marginalized.

I like her writing but I'm not sure that she is a feminist. I think she has a very dark view of human nature both male and female.

It's not that I want her to show women as being 'always right' or having no darkness...but it always seems to be darkness through and through with a few small moments of solidarity.

I do think she tries to show women's unique plight - e.g.in Alias Grace depicting how hard the life of a servant girl would be, and how she was sexualised by men in her life. But equally she shows her as a manipulative liar and possible murderer.

One of the books has an old style 'consciousness raising' femininst meeting (I guess it was set in the 70s) and the character basically got told to shut up by the other women due to her privileged background.

Cat's Eye depicts a young girl being bullied cruelly by her female 'friends' which destroys her ability to trust other women for the rest of her life (this one hit home for me).

I guess most people are aware of Aunt Lydia in the Handmaid's Tale - men create this dystopia, but plenty of women are happy to throw other women under the bus to thrive in it.

The Heart Goes Last - men are depicted as obsessively lustful, even paedophilic (this theme shows up in Oryx and Crake as well) but there is a twist that seems to say 'see women can be bad too!'

I'm not convinced it's anti feminist to assert that women are also human in literature. this reminds me of the similar criticisms against Gillian Flynn. personally, I've always been drawn to female villains and been far more interested in stories where women can also do bad things and reveal difficult complexities that are hard to accept. in the real world, women do bad things and hurt other people. pretending otherwise would make for very inauthentic material that pandered to ideology rather than reflected human experience. female authors writing villainous females is not a betrayal of women, nor is it an anti-feminist or anti-woman act.

I was more going off the vibe I get when I read her books. They don't make me hopeful that I can find solidarity with women or that we can work together to enact meaningful change - I feel more like 'trust no-one'.

That said, I totally take your point that portraying women as faultless beings of light would be boring, bad art, and not even feminist.

Interesting, I have only read Handmaid's Tale, so I don't have the context on those other books. So based on your description, it seems like she may have some distrust/criticism of women too. I mean sure, you can be fully distrustful and call out shitty women. Being a Feminist does not mean you can't call out bad behavior so I still find it odd she would take that stance.

I might be remembering her negative depictions of women more since its closer to home- she definitely portrays men warts and all as well.

It is a while since I read the books so hopefully I'm not misremembering too much.

It's not like feminists think all women are angels though...

Think of the scorn here for the (heh) handmaidens to TiMs!

The Handmaid's Tale and sequel get at an important point: men can only oppress women thoroughly when women cooperate, either through cynical self-interest or sincere belief. Think of the women holding down their own daughters to have their genitalia sliced off, at the extreme. Women are numerous enough and important enough to be a force to be reckoned with; that's why patriarchal systems invite women in to the oppression, to help enforce it and 'legitimize' it.

I don't know a lot about MA but it's possible she does care about women's rights and wrote a book to showcase its importance, but she just doesn't want to go as far as to label herself as part of an actual movement for her own personal reasons.

I mean, Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty" shone a light on animal cruelty and Sewell did care about animals, but we don't know if she would have considered herself an animal rights activist and worked at the humane society.

I think you're right about not wanting a label. However, she also signed off on some pro-trans thing awhile back. I can't remember what it was, but I remember thinking, you wrote the Handmaid's Tale and you can sign this (letter, statement - whatever it was.)

Found it! Was a statement in response to JK Rowling:

“We are writers, editors, journalists, agents, and professionals in multiple forms of publishing. We believe in the power of words. We want to do our part to help shape the curve of history toward justice and fairness,” they write. “To that end, we say: non-binary people are non-binary, trans women are women, trans men are men, trans rights are human rights. Your pronouns matter. You matter. You are loved.”


for her own personal reasons

Yeah, I'd be interested to know what those personal reasons might be

I mean, Anna Sewell's "Black Beauty" shone a light on animal cruelty and Sewell did care about animals, but we don't know if she would have considered herself an animal rights activist and worked at the humane society.

I'm not even sure the concept of animal rights activism was even a thing in the 1800s, so that seems a bit apples to oranges. The backdrop of Feminism existed well within Atwood's time and yet she backs off from it.

My uneducated guess is that those “personal reasons” are financially motivated.

This was my initial suspicion, and all the "i don't like labels" crap is just a way to hide the truth of it.

My uneducated guess is that those “personal reasons” are financially motivated.

I believe it was socially motivated. She most likely fears being cast out by her hip, liberal friends and uninvited from the trendy literary cocktail parties more than she fears losing money for acknowledging female oppression

[–] InfiniteGames 18 points Edited

Great writers follow their own drummers. Full stop.

Atwood has made a point of not wanting to be perceived as a feminist, and has written at least one essay around the theme "I'm a bad feminist because ..." and going on about where her position differs from standard dogma.

I think it's a way of buffering herself from criticism from feminists who feel betrayed when she goes off the reservation.

Additionallly, feminism is often equated with liberalism, and more than a few people like to take a nap over the areas of THT where the excesses of liberalism are a contributing factor to the Gilead revolution.

[–] [Deleted] 17 points Edited

She strikes me as someone who doesn’t see much good in the human race altogether. Clearly she recognises internalised misogyny in women, wether she calls it such is up for debate, and she has written book after book about the flawed, deviant and destructive nature of men.

She focussed upon the excesses of liberalism in my favourite book of hers, Oryx and Crake, where the downfall of mankind was effectively sex.

Maybe her feminism centred on women’s emancipation being more conservative than the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s provided and the outcome left her with little hope for women.

She’s a massive letdown in person but just like with Terry Pratchett, her work speaks for itself. There are no trans Handmaids.

No matter what she or other people insist, her work clearly demonstrates the ineffable biological differences between men and women. “Trans women” cannot be women because they could never take on the role of a female in the reproductive cycle and therefore cannot be discriminated against for that reason.

I’ve often wondered if they’d try to put a TIM in the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s one of my secret nightmares, but I’ve recently realised they literally could never because they’d either have to be absolutely truthful to biology and therefore piss off the TRAs, or they’d have to lie and that would piss off so many women who find HM a cathartic exploration of their oppression.

Well – I don't find Atwood to be particularly sympathetic to women in her writing, though it is not something that I would expect either. She is part of one of the southern Ontario, non-racialized population, and they have distinctive political and social views. Very committed to liberal individualism, and often pressing claims that everyone is "equal" and "both sides" are wrong in any argument, because they consider those claims to be objective. They don't like "labels" because "labels" deny sameness. I don't trust interview comments by an author about not wanting to be considered to have a real opinion or to be writing in a particular genre because they don't want to be limited.

I follow her on Twitter, she just seems like a person who doesn't want to be put in a box. And all labels are ultimately boxes. There's fights on here like every day about whether something is 'radfem' or 'libfem' or not. While I'm not completely ready to abandon labels, I understand where she's coming from and why she might want to feel free to write whatever she wants to write next without people going, 'well gosh, that's not very feminist of her.'

Yeah, there's something very disingenuous with that approach. It reminds me a lot of so-called "centrists" like Tim Pool who claim to be liberals yet every single talking point is hard right. I just don't find it to be a very honest way of portraying yourself.

I agree and it’s an “I’m not like other girls” type of thing. It’s like Joan Didion refusing to call herself a feminist.

This bothers me too, you would think she would get it. I had read that the academics (Professor Pieixoto etc) who are recounting the tale later in the future are full into the erasure of women by then. They are apathetic to the situation of the women and girls and consider the commanders to be great men of history. This is actually the most chilling part for me, that it never got better. Doesn't she see that playing out now?

Maybe she does it because it's better for her career (?) I mena I'm not a renowed writer like her but I'm VERY careful about men and cool girls in my life not knowing I even know abput feminism because it siuts my interests for it to be this way.

I think her explanation of not considering her a feminist was that she met some feminists who didn't think women should wear make-up, and so she decided she must not be a feminists since she wore lipstick. And thus her explanation that The Handmaid's Tale wasn't feminist because she wasn't one (it doesn't really work that way though!).

I think at present, she's trying to keep herself relevant and thus on the market. After those tweets she posted about clownfish and sex not being binary, it felt like she was trying to pander to younger customers, er, readers.

I think just because a person wrote a story that portrays certain types of characters and their experiences well, doesn't necessary mean the writer has to support something. There are many men who write good women characters and stories for TVs and movies, and vice versa. There are non-religious writers who write good portrayals of religious characters and their stories, and vice versa. The writer just needs to be a good observer of people and talented at telling stories. So I don't begrudge Atwood for not being a feminist. She's an author. She wrote a story. That's all.

The one who I feel REALLY betrayed women is Gloria Steinem. She's literally famous for being a feminist icon. Now she's all TWAW. WTF?

I agree on Steinem. She stood up to Cuomo against surrogacy, but somehow she had to spout the TWAW bs. I think she knows better, but is, sadly, a coward. But a lot of us are...we see how much we have to lose.

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