The Power

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As is soon discovered, they can torture and kill, too. It is revenge porn, turned inside out, satisfying and twisted. What happens next is familiar, as the old order—also known as the men of the world—tries to get a grasp on the sudden disturbance of the usual way of things. Alderman reminds us of how power tries to consolidate itself during an insurrection: in families, in schools, in government, in the media.

A Massachusetts mayor, cool-headed but fierce, she conceals her skein once it is discovered that young women can awaken it in their elders , and rises through the political ranks. In one genius scene, a reversal of the presidential election debates so delicious it stings, Margot lets herself do what Hillary Clinton never could.

Naomi Alderman

Under verbal attack from her unctuous old boss in a gubernatorial race, she reaches out and stuns him in the chest. She wins. As carefully as Alderman weaves the fantasy of domination, the notion that women are somehow more immune from the ultimate corruptions of power than men unravels.

Again, the injustices he records are familiar, but become more disturbing: women, instead of fighting back, are perpetrating old crimes. Even as she renders the satirical upside-down world in which, for example, a shiny newscaster duo consists of a serious woman and her handsome ditzy side-kick, she exposes the cracks in its defining binary.

But I just wanted them to read me. DM: What always gets eroded is any possibility of complexity. Thumbs up, thumbs down, five stars, one star—this is idiotic, right?

Because most things are mixed. AS: I think there is an over-education thing happening right now. For me, there was a motivation to think critically about the stuff I was seeing, and some of the conversations I was having with artists in their studios.

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When you talk about expertise, it also opens up a conversation about who gets to be an expert, who is trusted with being an expert, who is considered an authority. DM: Did Pauline Kael have a degree in film? Expertise can be overrated. In the novel Herland , the feminist writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman imagined a society without men, in which women were able to reproduce parthenogenetically. Left to their own devices, women have become physically strong; their society elevates intellect, empathy, and pragmatism.

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Margot, more than the others, particularly enjoys the implications of her new power, just knowing that she could kill the men she works with in seconds if she wanted to. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth. One particularly droll recurring scene in The Power involves a televised morning-news show hosted by Tom and Kristen, wherein Kristen gets the soft segments on makeup and animals and Tom reports the serious stuff.

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The framing also seems to be a tacit argument that a more equitable society is impossible. That the battle of the sexes is exactly that—a battle.

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Someone has to win, and someone has to lose. People will jostle and scrap and sell out each other to get ahead, no matter their gender. What kind of weight, you wonder, might it take to tilt the scale toward a more even balance? And what kind of pain would be necessary, and justifiable, to achieve it?

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