The age of dark feminist fiction

Feminist dystopias appeal to our imagination particularly strongly these days. But does the genre have real value for feminist discourse and advancement?

Roxane Seckauer
Roxane Seckauer Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
The age of dark feminist fiction - NewsMavens
Handmaid's Tale intervention, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The Handmaid's Tale, Terra Ignota and now Christina Dalcher's Vox -- feminist sci-fi is booming. The current success of "such gloomy social depictions" is certainly related to the political situation, says German Studies Specialist Magdalena Hangel.

Despite the successes of the Western women's movement in recent years and decades, there is a clear backward trend. This is especially evident in relation to the physical and sexual right of women to self-determination.

Real gender equality is therefore still far away, says Hangel, whose research focuses on gender and fiction. 

The genre is especially relevant in times of social upheaval. It is an "insanely important source for feminist movements," says Viennese literary and cultural scholar Dagmar Fink.

These dark tales of women being forced into subservience force us to reflect on how gender policy will shape our future.

Details from the story:

  • Feminist sci-fi had its first boom in the 1970s. In the novels, political concepts of the women's movement were discussed and further developed. With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States the style got a second life.
  • The American activist group "The Handmaid Coalition", for example, primarily confronts abortion opponents.
  •  "The Handmaid's Tale" is criticized because of its sometimes cruel scenes. Some see it as feminist "torture porn".
  • Whether or not a dystopia that focuses on gender relations is also feminist is a matter of narrative perspective, says Magdalena Hangel.
  • Naomi Alderman uses another approach in her novel "The Power." It transforms a patriarchal world into a matriarchal haven.
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