Red Clocks is a novel that shows what would happen if abortion became illegal in the US, following five women who have to live in this new reality.
If you loved The Handmaid's Tale, you probably know that the series is an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel about a fictional –but not that distant– possible future scenario where conservatives have stopped the feminist movement and imposed a misogynist and patriarchal regime. Atwood paints a dystopian society in which Christian fundamentalists have overthrown the U.S. government and created a theocratic regime (ruled by priests), where women have lost all rights and are now enslaved to serve in different positions created by male dictators. The main character, who used to be a mother and middle-class wife before the coup took place, is now a “handmaid,” a servant of a commander’s family, whose main purpose is to give birth to their babies.
Atwood’s story should give everyone the chills because her book was published in 1985, at a time when conservatives had sought for years to discredit feminist activists whose goal was to achieve equality among the genders. Thus, could you imagine what our lives would be like if our society was completely ruled by extremely conservative men? Or worse, what if women hadn't fought for equal rights at all? Well, Leni Zumas, the author of Red Clocks, takes a look at another issue related to women's rights: the pro-choice vs pro-life debate.
In January 2017, women carried signs and customs with references to Atwood’s novel during the Women’s March
Zumas and Atwood’s stories share some similarities: both use a speculative-fictional narrative style to send a warning about the decisions that could lead to our own self-destruction. Atwood’s novel warned us since the 1980s about extremely conservative groups who had long made moves towards stopping equality among genders. Now, feminist advocates are fighting for an issue that has to do with the implementation of authoritarian laws that seek to impose restrictions on reproductive organs. Zumas' book, which was published in early 2018, warns us about the consequences of losing the reproductive rights battle to conservative initiatives.
In Zumas’ Red Clocks, a new law in the United States has made all abortion illegal after revising the Roe v. Wade court decision in 1973 (which made abortion legal in 50 states), making it a severe crime. This, of course, changes the lives of many women, when measures like the incarceration of 16-year-old girls, among other things, start to take place in the country. Besides that, the government decided to impose a rule that prohibits being a single parent; no one can raise a kid on their own since all embryos have now been granted human rights by law. This story doesn’t have a theocratic regime like The Handmaid’s Tale, but it limits women from being able to make their own decisions regarding their bodies and plan a future life.
The story is told from five different perspectives, each character introduced in a different chapter. All women, all with different problems that are inter-connected, and all affected by this new law. What makes this story relevant and frighteningly possible is that the reproductive rights movement is still being highly attacked by conservative groups. Since 1973, conservatives have made a lot of efforts to reverse the court’s decision that pro-choice groups have fought tirelessly to maintain –and sadly, in some states, they’ve made some progress. In 1986, the state of Minnesota became the first one to pass a "fetal homicide" law. Today, 38 states have used that same statute and applied it to their own jurisdiction.
What makes this book so interesting and frightening at the same time isn’t just Zumes' ability to tell a complex story from the perspective of five different characters, but also how the novel raises awareness about issues concerning our society through a fictional and dystopian reality. This novel was definitely inspired by some of Atwood's techniques in that it takes real-life facts about actual history to construct her story. In other words, throughout history, there has been a record of legal crimes against women, and surprisingly enough, even today, there are still people in power attempting to sabotage activists' efforts to gain the freedom of decision when it comes to abortion. Red Clock and The Handmaid's Tale are not just good stories, but also a call to action for everyone to be aware of the consequences lawmakers’ actions could have on our society.
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