REVIEW: The Power, Naomi Alderman

Thursday, 19 July 2018

What if the power to hurt were in women's hands?
Suddenly - tomorrow or the day after - teenage girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman's extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed.

Let me clear something up: I am nowhere near naive enough to believe that, if women were the physically stronger and dominant of the two sexes, the world would be a feminist utopia. Of course, it wouldn’t be. I mean, come on, even as a feminist I recognise that just because women are women, that does not automatically mean that they are good people who care about the world and those around them.
Women can murder, just as men can. Women can rape, just as men can. Women can abuse, just as men can.
It is a pretty shit thing to acknowledge that both of the two sexes have committed atrocities, just absolutely disgusting and despicable acts; but that does not negate the fact that a majority of the world’s societies are skewed in the favour of white, straight men.
So Naomi Alderman asks a question: what if society was skewed in favour of white, straight women? I make that point purposefully because, the lack of non-white, non-cis, non-straight women was rather telling and would have created an interesting dynamic in a story better executed than this.
Because, what eventual conclusion does she come to? That, even with a complete 180-degree shift in the gender power dynamic, everything would be exactly the fucking same.
Sit and think for a moment and let that sink in, because I don’t mean kind-of-the-same-but-different, I mean exactly the fucking same. The same insults (TW for rape and the language used by the women being identical to the phrases often heard by female sexual assault survivors), the same critiques of gender fiction, the same methods of control (male genital mutilation, really?!).
Instead of sitting a bit longer and thinking about the actual consequences of females becoming the more physically dominant, Alderman decided to just implement a banal and over-simplified switch-a-roo in her method of turning a patriarchy into a matriarchy. In this current climate, I could not honestly say whether women being in a charge would be a better or worse, but would the women act EXACTLY THE SAME as the men who came before them?
It's completely unrealistic, reductive and turned a truly wonderful concept into something I began to dread reading. The idea that women all over the world, irregardless of their culture and their background, would violently rise up and be like fuck-men-I’m-going-to-act-like-the-worst-of-them, was over-generalised and simplified so much that a distorted narrative appeared that didn’t represent any woman, or man, or human I have ever met.
I am just so damn disappointed. And, instead of it being an all-time favourite, the direction that Naomi Alderman chose to take with this novel dulled it into something that I won’t even be able to remember in a few months. Here’s to me remembering to keep my bar and expectations low in the future.

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