I got catcalled at St Pancras Station on Tuesday night – it was nothing significant on the sliding scale of general everyday bullshit but irritating nonetheless. Any woman will know that even a ridiculous comment such as ‘hey, cheeky girl’ can be delivered to rhyme with something far more intimidating. It’s all par for the course and something I am sure that every woman has experienced.
Funnily enough, I am so conditioned into apologising for my own existence here that I feel the need to tell you exactly what I was wearing and how I was comporting myself; I was heading home from an event, wearing a long wool tartan cape, done up to the neck, covering my dress and seamed stockings, my hair and makeup was on point, a small black felt hat across the back of my head, and a pair of flat shoes. I was walking swiftly to catch the 21:50 rather than the 22:00.
My reaction was to make that UUURRRRRGGGGHHH noise that is part exasperation and part ‘I am being sick in my mouth’ but of course, the catcaller was long gone. These comments are thrown with seemingly no reply invited. I will never understand why anyone would waste words in this way. I wished from my very core that I could have turned around, created a spark between my thumb and forefinger, and fired an arc of electricity from my hand into his body. Nothing too powerful, just enough to give him a shock and maybe wet himself so that he would have to continue his journey with wet trousers.
I had just started reading The Power by Naomi Alderman and was fantasising about a world in which the balance of strength were to shift in favour of the female. The recommendations that I received to read this amazing book were so passionate and so strong – you know when friends can hardly contain their excitement at having you read this so that they have someone else to discuss the book with – that I simply had to read it and am now urging you all to get in on this.
There will be no spoilers here, so let’s just enjoy the backcover blurb:
ALL OVER THE WORLD WOMEN ARE DISCOVERING THEY HAVE THE POWER.
WITH A FLICK OF THE FINGERS THEY CAN INFLICT TERRIBLE PAIN – EVEN DEATH.
SUDDENLY, EVERY MAN ON THE PLANET FINDS THEY’VE LOST CONTROL.
THE DAY OF THE GIRLS HAS ARRIVED – BUT WHERE WILL IT END?
The most lasting images that I have taken away from reading The Power come from that final question ‘where will it end?’ This incredible thriller explores how various sections of society use their power and an inevitable aspect of this is how those with less power are treated – certain countries establish controls upon men’s freedoms which feel shocking to read. As I sat reading, I realised that I was crying as every single one of these fictional limitations from taking away the right to drive, to taking away the right to travel without permission of a female guardian, is currently experienced by women in our reality.
As the power starts to be abused, there are attacks against men. Of all of the horrific things that happen to the men in The Power, not one single thing has not happened and is not happening to women… somewhere in the world… right now. It’s an incredible work of fiction that Naomi Alderman has created, grounded so painfully in reality.
Don’t for a minute think that The Power is heavy because it really isn’t; the book pulls you in from the very first pages and what follows is exciting, filmic (pleeeeeeease Netflix, this needs to be a mini-series), and simply impossible to put down. If you are anything like me, you will need to sit and stare into the middle distance for a while after reading!
I would love to bake a cake for Naomi Alderman for creating this incredible alternative universe that cannot help but make the reader think. The examination and identification of misogyny is never easier than when you imagine it flipped and reversed and focused back upon men – you would never think to treat a fellow human in such an awful way.
On Tuesday night, jokes were made by a group of men outside the event that I was leaving about changing from heels into flats. I pointed out to them that women need to be able to run. Plus, a stiletto heel can be used as a very effective weapon if needed. This is how we think. This is how we have to think.
The Power is currently available on Amazon for less than a cocktail. Click here to treat yourself.