Margaret Atwood turns 78 years old on November 18th. Happy Birthday, Margaret Atwood!
Celebrated thinker (and talented Scorpio) Margaret Atwood is a dedicated writer, environmentalist, and inventor. If you hadn’t read her legendary words before, you may now be familiar with Atwood through her wildly popular novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The 1985 dystopian story — about an America in which men have absolute power and women have no rights and are treated as incubators — has been given new life through its recent adaptation into an Emmy award-winning episodic series for Hulu. The series follows in the footsteps of its source material, speaking volumes about the current American socio-political climate, specifically about the state of women’s rights.
While the subject matter is horrific, Atwood powerfully and beautifully uses her skills to not only be honest, but to bridge generational gaps between women by speaking on the continuously relevant topics of gender equality and religious oppression.
Through Atwood’s work, we are able to discover the truth: The world is changing, but it is also exactly as it has always been.
There have always been men who used religion, violence, and political power as a means of controlling women. There have always been women fighting back, whether it’s within the confines of their own heart or expressed openly. The tools of oppression have changed, and women’s ability to speak out has progressed in certain ways, but we are still under attack.
Atwood’s observations make the parallels between past and present all the more apparent. As Moira Weigel writes for TheNewYorker.com, “We live in the reproductive dystopia of The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Solidarity between writers of all ages is key, but it is especially important among women.
When we read other women’s stories from their own time periods, we can recognize universal truths and injustices. We need older, more experienced women like Margaret Atwood to help us younger women better understand society, and to let us in on their philosophies and storytelling techniques. On the flip side, older women need our stories to help keep their perspectives informed because the world is ever-changing.
Moreover, this ageless sisterhood among femme storytellers is so beneficial because it helps destroy the idea that older ideas, people, and materials are obsolete. The world has a tendency to disregard what is no longer fresh, as if the magic vaporizes once something cools off. This is not true. Some also believe that life has changed so drastically in the past half a century that input from our elders is no longer valid. Our relationship with time is saddening.
Though she is an OG, Atwood is not the only woman writer to express her thoughts on gender relations, especially during today’s time. And Atwood has influenced many of today’s women writers, from Andi Zeisler, to N.K. Jemisin, to Mara Wilson — just to name a few.
As author Lang Leav told Elle.com, “Like many women, I find the current political climate deeply worrying. It is a sobering reminder of how fragile my freedom is, something I must never take for granted. The work of Margaret Atwood is iconic, not only in her mastery of storytelling, but in her ability to envision a world that could very well become our reality.”
Margaret Atwood’s legacy is one of extreme importance. She has dared to take on an entire culture, sharing her views in a way that the general public can comprehend and benefit from. Her work is not easy, but she does it, and for that, we are grateful.
Happy birthday to a literary queen. May her words and life bring women in writing closer everyday.