Feminist fictions

10 06 2017

Fresh from ‘The Handmaiden’ and ‘The Dispossessed’, I think I have found a new favourite fiction genre – late 1970s and early 1980s feminist ‘sci fi’, books set in the future that speculate not (or not only) on developments in technology but in how societies can be run, how gender relations can be regulated and interestingly, in how language can be used as a tool by regimes to institute their worldview. All of these themes come together in Suzette Haden Elgin’s “Native Tongue.” Written in 1984, it is set in a United States where women have been stripped of their rights and become little more than the property of male ‘guardians’. At the same time, contact and trade have been established with alien races and the world’s economy is dominated by an inward-looking cabal of linguists who alone can act as interpreters and in-betweens between humans and alien races. It is among the women of this group, that a new idea emerges, to create a language only for women which will free them from the grip of patriarchal thinking…