It’s Hard to Be a Girl in the Future

Have you already read The Handmaid's Tale and watched the show on Hulu? There's definitely more in that vein. Dystopias are popular with feminist writers. I've written about readalikes for Margaret Atwood's masterpiece before, but here are some more to give you the shivers.

Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed takes place sometime in the future on an island ruled by 10 families. Girls must submit to their fathers in every way until they reach their "year of fruition," when they are given husbands. When their physical abilities start to deteriorate and they have grandchildren, the old couple commits suicide. This book is told from the viewpoint of four girls when they start to question their society's norms. Chilling and heartbreaking, this is one of the best books I've read this year.

Another fleeting rebellion occurs in Sarah Hall's Daughters of the North. In an authoritarian England ravaged by climate change and rising sea levels, most women are forcibly fitted with contraception and compelled to work in factories. One such woman finds refuge in a dissident, women-only commune, where she soon rises to the top of their paramilitary. This foreboding tale of global warming and gender warfare shows that those subjects aren't just of concern to North America.

Keeping with the idea of handmaids who exist only for men's gratification, there's Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill. In this book, girls are cloned to be the perfect arm candy and broodmares, trained only in the vapid exercises of beauty culture and self-abnegation before being married off to the rich and powerful. A young adult book that will appeal to adults, there's no revolution in this tale, just feral competition to find a man.

For those who think misogynistic dystopias are recent phenomena, there's Katherine Burdekin's Swastika Night, written in 1937. This imagines a future where Nazi propaganda has unfettered control of the masses and women are kept in concentration camp-like conditions for breeding purposes. Bleak and prophetic in tone, Burdekin's tale follows her own logical conclusion to the patriarchy of Nazism.

The women in a re-education camp in the Outback can't initially remember why they are there in Charlotte Wood's The Natural Way of Things, but it turns out to be for resisting influential men. Soon, the race for survival is on in Wood's lyrical, lovely prose.

Got more futuristic stories with women on the short end of the stick?  Tell us about them in the comments.

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