After finally finishing The Power by Naomi Alderman a few weeks ago, I thought now would be a great time to write a little review of it and talk about one of the main themes in the book (and one of my favourite topics to talk about) ; feminism!
I know a lot of people don’t really like to talk about feminist issues as it’s made out to be a relatively taboo and contentious subject. However, I found the book to be so deeply ingrained in feminism that it’s nearly impossible to not talk about it whilst reviewing the book!
**Just a quick note: I know I’m very late to the hype of this book but I just loved it so much that I needed to do a review on it. I’ve also tried to keep spoilers to a minimum**
So, The Power by Naomi Alderman explores what the world would be like if women were the most powerful, if the patriarchy became the matriarchy and women had the ability to control men. All over the world, young women are discovering that they have an electrical power in their collarbone which can be used to shock people with the touch of a finger. The surge of electricity in the women is symbolic of their empowerment; when they start to use it they are able to escape their oppression.
When I first read about the idea for this story I loved it! I was so attracted by the idea of women empowering themselves and fighting against their oppression and, at the beginning of my read, this fantastical idea seduced me and pulled me in. However, as the story gained momentum I soon realised that this book was more complex than simply advocating for a matriarchy and empowerment.
Power and the Matriarchy
The creation of the matriarchy in The Power is just as problematic as the patriarchy is today. The book brought in wider issues of exerting power over others as well as just female empowerment. Here, men become the oppressed; their bodies are sexualised, they become victims of everyday sexism as well as violence and rape. They become the weaker sex and women are able to control them because of this. The idea of women being empowered does not result in an equal society as we would probably all romanticize it to do. Though the balance of power has changed, the playing field hasn’t. The overall system remains the same and nothing changes; people are oppressed and people are the oppressors. Though the book shows that individual empowerment can result in a collective empowerment and the over-throwing of structural inequalities, it also shows that this collective empowerment can also become toxic because of the way society has been historically structured. History shows us that if people have power and they can use it, then they will. The book alludes to how dangerous power is in that everyone abuses it for the simple reason that they can.
One part that really struck me is when a boy’s mum is saying that he cannot go outside alone and it’s not safe for him to walk around at night. This is what my mum used to (and still does) say to me and, for me, this really reiterated that the matriarchy in the story hasn’t changed anything because it is still based on the exertion of a dangerous and unpredictable power.
I also think the book highlights how ridiculous and fictional gender norms are. In the book, women become unemotional and strong and the men are the opposite; weak and easily controlled by women. It shows how made-up they are but also how much emphasis is placed on these gender norms in society and how false and futile that is.
I loved that the story talked about how the younger girls could “wake up” the power inside the older women. I feel like that’s so prevalent today in how the younger generation is leading the fight for equality and paving the way.
I saw so many similarities in the book with the contemporary, post-truth society we live in today. As a result of the Hollywood sexual harassment scandal, we’ve started to see a little shift in the traditional, hegemonic power structures. Almost as if the evidence that has been released about these men has empowered women to keep fighting, to come forward and continue talking about these issues and to not feel shame like society conditions us to.
Personally, I think the themes that this book talks about (the unequal distribution of power, female empowerment, gender and contemporary social movements) makes it such an incredibly important and relatable read today. I enjoyed it immensely and would really recommend the book for everyone, though I think this is a particularly important read for men!
Have you read The Power? What are your thoughts on it?
Thanks for reading!