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"Day of the girls": reading gender, power, and violence in Naomi Alderman's The Power
journal contributionposted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by Alyson MillerAlyson Miller
Naomi Alderman's The Power is a speculative fiction that imagines a dystopia in which women, enabled by the ability to generate electrical power, come to rule a matriarchal world order. Yet the narrative highlights the danger of replicating old paradigms; indeed, critics were quick to highlight the problematic inversions of The Power, noting that whilst a female superpower might offer a reprieve from reality, it is neither optimistic nor feminist. However, the complications of Alderman's narrative are much more nuanced, as it uses representations of extreme violence as a strategy of resistance. It does so through a critical exposure of the means through which patriarchy controls women, and by literalizing those mythic archetypes associated with femininity, specifically the monstrous-feminine and its association with abject and highly sexualized imagery. By drawing upon conceptualizations of the monstrous-feminine and abjection via Barbara Creed and Julia Kristeva, and Linda Hutcheon's theorizations of postmodern parody, this essay argues that by reframing "female monstrosity as a source of physical power" (to quote Casey Ryan Kelly ), The Power offers a scenario in which women are able to "combat a culture of gender violence."