In case you missed it, I have decided to spend February reading exclusively on feminism! Check out the books I aim to read and the reasons behind my Feminist February Challenge.
The first seven days of this challenge have been incredibly productive! A work trip away gave me long train journeys with plenty of uninterrupted reading time so I ploughed through The Handmaid’s Tale in just two days – obviously the fact that it was an incredible book spurred me on!
After this I had to insert another book into my original list as I was coincidentally approved for an ARC from NetGalley. The book was Stay With Me by Ayobame Adebayo, and I am so glad I got this because it was perfect for my challenge and such a wonderful read. The novel deals with a Nigerian couple who have not yet had children, and they have to deal with a culture which values children and motherhood so highly that it endorses polygamy as a means for producing more children, as well as their own issues around this.
The exploration of motherhood and pregnancy was wonderful to compare to the themes of The Handmaid’s Tale and in some respects it illustrated show these dystopian themes operate in real societies. You can’t help but wonder if Yejide’s life and marriage may have been a lot happier if she did not feel so pressured to become pregnant. In Atwood’s novel, abortion is forbidden as bearing children is the prime goal of the handmaids, however in Yejide’s culture abortion is never even mentioned – pregnancy and motherhood is valued so highly that it never even comes in to play.
I found both of these books absolutely heartbreaking – I did actually cry at both. The way they deal with questions of purpose and identity around motherhood, and parenthood, is incredibly interesting and it is something that women all have to deal with on a personal level. It is also something which is becoming more and more fraught in the push for gender equality, just look at conversations about shared parental leave and maternity as an issue in the gender pay gap, never mind age-old debates over custody and traditional roles.
I really loved the fact that the two books so coincidentally complimented each other; it definitely made me think about the subjects they dealt with in a lot more depth. I think I may continue to pair up interesting combinations for this very reason.
My next book, which I am already halfway through, is The Bloody Chamber, and since I knew I would never just stick to my original list I think I may add in the graphic novel Ms Marvel, which is currently sat on my shelf. Ms Marvel the first Muslim superhero to headline her own book, and the team behind her consists of two women, so like The Bloody Chamber, this graphic novel is redefining a traditionally male and patriarchal genre, meaning they could be another interesting pair!