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Four decades of feminism through literature, and not a treatise in sight

In a recent interview with the New Yorker, Margaret Atwood took note of her favourite sign at the Women’s March in Toronto in January, one of many hundreds of marches by many millions of women around the world. It read: “I can’t believe I’m still holding this fucking sign.” “After sixty years, why are we doing this again?” Atwood asked the interviewer, although she had the answer herself. “But, as you know, in any area of life, it’s push and pushback. We have had the pushback, and now we are going to have to push again.”

The interview centred on Atwood’s The Hand­maid’s Tale, now a hit series on Hulu and an Amazon bestseller (number one in February, the book then dropped to number seven) thanks to the resemblance between Atwood’s dystopian future and the current American political landscape. But the book owes just as much of its rebooted fame to the prevailing wave of popular feminism—the kind...