Feminist Favourite: Margaret Atwood

Serena Basra gives five reasons why you need more Margaret in your life

If you haven’t already welcomed Margaret Atwood into your life, then your task for today is to clear some time in your diary and some space on your bookshelf. The 75-year-old Canadian author is renowned for her feminist works and her furthering of the feminist movement. If that isn’t enough, then here are 5 compelling reasons on why you should delve into her writings:

1)                 Her eye-opening poetry.

Reclaiming the female body, exploring yonic imagery and  smashing gender concepts; Atwood’s literary prowess allows her to bring together a myriad of themes as she draws attention to the oppression of women in society. Her 1971 collection Power Politics is perhaps her most explicitly political, as she challenges the ‘battle’ that society has established between the sexes – and it is still relevant 44 years later.

Some personal favourites of her feminist poems: Helen of Troy does Countertop Dancing, Spelling, Siren Song, You Fit Into Me

2)                 The Handmaid’s Tale.

To condense the brilliance of this book into one paragraph is seemingly impossible. As we gaze through the eyes of  our brilliant, inspiring protagonist Offred, we peer into a dystopian world in which female worth is practically non-existent. Atwood illustrates how women are consistently undermined, and in this future society still treated with a primitive mind-set in which their worth is determined by their body. Nevertheless Atwood destroys assumptions that feminists aspire to a society with men as the subordinate class (we need only glance at the Aunt’s actions to be shown how feminism is everyone’s responsibility). Moreover, she illustrates the power of the written word (Pen is Envy) and how writing can change people’s perceptions regarding equality. Her clever use of the ‘Historical Note’ at the novel’s close further demonstrates how women’s role in literature and society is consistently undervalued and, unless we address the problem, it will continue to be.


3)                 She is undeniably quotable.

Atwood is clearly brilliant at enlightening society of its double standards. She is not afraid to address the stigma of female power in society, clarifying how: “We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.” Surely in 2015 this should no longer be the case? There is no doubt a power imbalance exists in society, and Atwood brings these thoughts to the forefront of public consciousness, thus triggering discussions that have long been ignored; she is adept at explaining the feminist movement. By displacing generalisations she emphasises how the core of the moment is simply about equality between the sexes. She straightforwardly states: “Does feminist mean large unpleasant person who’ll shout at you or someone who believes women are human beings. To me it’s the latter, so I sign up.”

Some other illuminating quotes: “There is more than one kind of freedom…Freedom to and freedom from.”, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”, “A word after a word after a word is power.”

4)                 Her role as a woman who writes.

Atwood is aware that being a woman has influenced her works and the issues she tackles. She explains how “no woman writer wants to be overlooked and undervalued for being a woman; but few, it seems, wish to be defined solely by gender, or constrained by loyalties to it alone”. She is aware that writing is both a tool and a vocation, and that writing as a woman and as a feminist does not have to limit the range of topics she addresses in her works.  Regarded as one of the most prolific and revolutionary writers of her generation and field, Atwood boasts a body of work spanning 54 years

If you are aspiring to become a writer, do make sure to check out these useful writing tips from the great woman herself: http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/10/05/margaret-atwood-10-rules-of-writing/,


5)                 She is to be the first contributor to the future library.

Is this not just tremendously cool? In 1929 Virginia Woolf published A Room of One’s Own, a text in which she explained how women writers were consistently undervalued or ignored in society (“Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman”). Now, Atwood is leading the forefront in the next stage of literary development. The contribution from the Man-Booker prize winning author will be first published in 2114, as this new time-capsule-esque project is sure to be relished in years to come. Woolf is true in her statement that “Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems”, yet Atwood demonstrates how women are beginning to reclaim the influence that they have been neglected for far too long.

Visit The Guardian to find out more about the project: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/05/margaret-atwood-new-work-unseen-century-future-library

Image: Blaues SofaFiona and Kelly Garbato


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