January 23, 2018, by Words on Words
A terrifyingly literal girl power tale: Naomi Alderman’s The Power
This blog post was written by first year English student, Polly Moss.
Set in a world in which women gain the biological ability to release jolts of electricity through their hands and fingers, Naomi Alderman’s, ‘The Power’, portrays the potential consequences of a total social overhaul in which women become the dominant sex. First awoken in teenage girls who then teach their elders how to wield it, the power sparks a worldwide revolution.
Told from multiple perspectives (from a male journalist who documents first-hand the effects of the power in poorer countries to an outcast teenage girl who becomes the figurehead for a female-centric version of Christianity), Alderman explores the global effect of the titular concept. Sex slaves overcome their oppressors, women no longer feel afraid to walk alone at night and the politically and socially voiceless are all given a voice. Sounds exactly like the world that the current equality movement strives for, right?
Except Alderman takes it one step further and we are left with a rather uncomfortable reality: that power can be abused no matter which gender wields it. Some of the most uncomfortable scenes in the novel focus on the oppression that men begin to face, from segregation in schools to regular sexual violence. By switching around the traditional roles of each sex, Alderman suggests that no gender should have ultimate dominance. She acknowledges the issues faced by women, whilst drawing attention to male vulnerability: something that despite a generally patriarchal society, does exist.
As a result, this 21st century sister of The Handmaid’s Tale seems to advocate a true gender equality. Alderman does not wholly condemn women gaining power, however when emancipation becomes violent domination, the consequences are frightening. In a world where feminists and men’s rights activists seem to refuse to listen to one another despite having a shared goal of equality, it seems tome that Alderman’s message is one that should be listened to.