In The Power, Naomi Alderman builds a world where women around the world mysteriously develop an ability to emit electricity from their fingers. As women begin to harness this sudden strength, thus begins a revolution that results in a matriarchal society, where women are feared. Alderman’s novel is both a spirited cry for equality and an intelligent insight into the destructive nature of power differentials.
When you read The Power, you are torn between sympathising with the women who have been subjected to vast injustice, and recoiling from the brutality that they exhibit years into the revolution. It gives you a startling glimpse of human nature – our inability to be responsible and humane when we are given too much of something, anything, gender notwithstanding. You understand that perhaps, power is the real culprit here, and that you’re currently living in a world where the scales are tilted towards powering the patriarchy, and what you should be working towards is equalising, and normalising, and finding balance, balance, balance.
“The world is the way it is now because of five thousand years of ingrained structures of power based on darker times when things were much more violent… But we don’t have to act that way now. We can think and imagine ourselves differently once we understand what we ‘ve based our ideas on.”
In my dream, she is getting married. She is performing the saptapadi – seven rounds around the agni with the first six rounds led by her, and the last round led by her beloved. They are incandescent with joy, the ritual ends, they are married.
Then it is mang sindhoor, where he puts saffron in the parting of her forehead, and she looks up at him with glowing eyes. The priest continues the hymns, the spectators are puzzled because it should be the next part of the ceremony now. She takes some sindhoor that is being offered and does the same to her beloved, putting it in the parting of his hair, marking him the way that he has just marked her.
He mouths I love you.
Patriarchy and tradition, those bystanders, slowly fade away in the brilliance of her smile.
“I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever, but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement.”