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Never-ending nightmare: why feminist dystopias must stop torturing women

Article here. Excerpt:

'Suffering sells, especially when it’s women who are doing the suffering, and as with any trend, the pressure is for each new iteration to outdo what came before. The results sometimes skirt absurdity: in Vox by Christina Dalcher, due to be published in August, women are fitted with bracelets that deliver electric shocks should they speak more than their allotted 100 words a day. And there’s more to come. At the London Book Fair in March, the big announcements were driven by stories of dreadful things happening to women: Joanne Ramos’s The Farm, to be published by Bloomsbury next year, is set in an industrial surrogacy facility; Vardø, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, about 17th-century witch trials, was acquired by Picador for a six-figure sum after a 13‑way bidding war. In YA, the same fascination holds sway: Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours, published in 2014, established the tone, revisiting The Handmaid’s Tale for the teen market.

Atwood’s 1985 novel endures as a touchstone because its power to shock has never faded. Limiting herself to technology that existed and events that had already happened, Atwood created a vision of patriarchal totalitarianism that has radicalised generation after generation of women readers. Updated to the present day in its TV adaptation, it has acquired new resonance. Commissioned before Trump’s presidency, but broadcast during it, The Handmaid’s Tale has become an instantly recognisable reference point. Feminists have dressed in handmaid costumes to protest anti-abortion legislation; fashion designers have sent handmaid chic down their runways.'

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