Hope in a Dystopian World: Finding Inspiration in the Real World

As a writer of dystopian fiction, recent events have been inspiring to say the least. The blog post “Writing SFf   in the Resistence by” The Disgruntled Haradrim echoes so much of what I’ve been feeling about trying to find the hope in all of this mess. Between George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, we have a bit less rebellion and high-kicking action than in some of the more recent dystopian novels.  In today’s increasingly claustrophobic, loud, and oppressive world, we cry out for books with female protagonists that fight the powers that be–for more about this, please check out for this older post by Nadine Brandes on The New Authors’ Fellowship entitled “Why Do Females Dominate the Dystopian World?” Like Kristin Hersh says in Dirty Answer, “You know how it feels when the real world encroaches.”


So, I watched the Women’s March unfold…with maybe a bit closer view, if virtual, than some…from certain closed/secret groups on social media and friends and sisters of mine. First it was a few women looking for a place to vent, to share news footage and gasp, “Can you believe he said that?” or asking each other where to get campaign signs because Hillary signs in town were constantly torn down, stolen. With a forum of friends and acquaintances, feminists, whether women or girls or not, became braver. You see, first people had to feel capable of speaking out in a safe space, and then they began standing up for themselves and others in their Targets and Walmarts and schoolyards. The more we shared with one another, the braver we felt. Someone joked about Dumbledore’s Army, but there was a sort of a nod of understanding.


After the shock and mourning of the election, an informal idea that we had to “do something” erupted into making phone calls, writing letters, showing up at some lawmakers’ doorsteps, and women who had never thought of themselves as leaders, began to follow the advice of Bernie Sanders and to step up and look for local offices to run for, local politicians to support.

We really went local. These women, these feminists, started to report more and more incidences when they stood up for others in public, stood up for the people around them against racist, sexist, bigoted, etc. moves made by those emboldened by the election. They embraced the Nasty Woman motif, and for good or bad, started to market it.

People started some discussion that became the kernel of an idea to march. Only later did it evolve into a March, with a capital M. Then there was The Indivisible Guide, yet another tool for these highly educated and heretofore hesitant women to respond to the rising tide of fearless indecency at large in the country. Those same little Facebook groups were setting up phone calls to senators and bus trips to, you guessed it, the Women’s March. (The more localized groups kept their grassroots status while Pantsuitnation was steeped in controversy which I won’t go into here, except to say Libby Chamberlain deserves some credit for stirring up something good.)

imgres-5Grannies and mommies and college students began to knit certain little pink hats that could bring the same kind of shudder from the other side as a red baseball cap still evokes in some of us. The Pussyhat Project became as grass roots as making your own glitter-tastic poster. And yet I see women on social media mocking those fuchsia protests with such vehemence.

There is a myth that women can’t be sexist. There is also a huge backlash in this country against feminism. Actresses and other public figures deny being feminists. (Are you or have you ever been a feminist?)

Megyn Kelly, formerly of Fox News, claimed in an interview she is not a feminist shortly after describing her own story in a way that is, by definition, feminist.  Thanks, Megyn Kelly, for being a feminist, but a sarcastic thanks a lot for denying it. Women have always been our own worst enemies.Is it an accident that Kelly is starting to look more and more like Jeanine Matthews?



There’s a post out right now on social media that is being eagerly shared by my not-so-feminist friends. It reeks of the same kind of rhetoric that comes out of the mouths of those who would deny institutional racism. Just because you haven’t experienced discrimination or misogyny (or haven’t noticed), doesn’t mean that your sisters haven’t. And please don’t brag that you can vote without giving a nod to the feminists who marched a century ago so you could get that right.

Women didn’t get the vote, with The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, until 1920. It took more than 50 years of hard work for that to happen. In an effort to stand out in a crowd and get noticed by the press, they wore white (purity), purple (loyalty), and green (hope) in solidarity, or, more accurately, sisterhood. The wearing of the colors was a “duty and a privilege.” They might not have worn black bad-ass sleeveless lycra, but they did wear some kick-ass white lace-up boots.

These women at the turn of another century didn’t sit at home drinking tea. And they worked in conjunction with a number of other causes.

According to the Library of Congress:

The [National Woman’s Party] effectively commanded the attention of politicians and the public through its aggressive agitation, relentless lobbying, clever publicity stunts, and creative examples of civil disobedience and nonviolent confrontation. Its tactics were versatile and imaginative, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources–including the British suffrage campaign, the American labor movement, and the temperance, antislavery, and early women’s rights campaigns in the United States.

British and American women influenced each other across the pond, just as feminist support poured forth from every continent for the Women’s March.

And their success was no thanks to anti-suffragists, which included women in their ranks. The suffragists were characterized by the media as lonely, unattractive, man-hating…sounds familiar, right?


While Separate but Equal arguments were deemed unconstitutional when applied to race before 1900, in 1972, Phyllis Schlafly argued that a  woman ostensibly has a separate but equal role, bearing children and serving home and family as her husband protects and provides for her and his offspring. While staying home with the children is a valid choice for a woman or a man, in Schlafly’s world, it is not a choice.

It brings to mind the book club member in Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran who resents the wearing of her veil when it becomes compulsory.

Schlafly was touted as a “champion for women” at her funeral in 2016 by a man who would later become President of the United States. Phyllis Schlafly, an accomplished lawyer, fought against the E.R.A. (Equal Rights Amendment) and never saw the irony of asking women to stay home and be quiet while she travelled the country and made speeches.

And, for some reason, or similar reasons, there are women who not only voted against Hillary Clinton, but they hate her. On a benign level they might have declared that they just couldn’t vote for a female president, as in a contemporary article by PBS. Some fell victim to misinformation that was scooped up gleefully by the Right. Some joined in the hate speech against her, proudly displaying misogyny on their own female bodies. Plenty of discussion has been had on this subject, so I’ll move on.


But about that glass ceiling women got so close to: I can’t believe there is even a question. Doing a casual search for articles about the glass ceiling yielded a Forbes article that got covered with articles about women’s wardrobe choices (I kid you not) before using that groan-worthy argument about two women who have not experienced a glass ceiling. Further exploration and I get a woman writing in Entrepreneur Magazine about how it is our fault. As one of the protestors sign at the Women’s March said Saturday: Ugh, Just Ugh.

At least as a writer I can cull some word count out of it, right?



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