Feminism and the Apocalypse

Happy Apocalypse everyone!

So apparently we are all going to die today. Or maybe we were supposed to die earlier? I’m not sure how this whole Mayan prophecy thing is supposed to work. Should we have died at midnight on the 20th, or am I still waiting for midnight tonight on the 21st? Or is it going to happen randomly today?

Whatever the case I don’t think the world will actually come to end. There have been doomsday predictions since almost the dawn of humankind. We seem to really want to die. Morbid, huh?

Well, just in case the world does end, I want to say it has been an honor blogging with you.

And to my fellow women: out of everyone, we should be the most scared of an apocalypse, because things don’t tend to go well for women in post-apocalyptic societies.

If you have been scaring yourself watching those stupid History Channel shows about the apocalypse, you’ll know there are many ways for the world to end. But some of the more interesting shows are the ones that describe how to survive after the apocalypse.

Yes, dear reader, you may survive the apocalypse, but you will then be stuck in a post-apocalyptic world that is far scarier than death, especially, I would argue, for women and other minorities.

Trigger warning for discussion of rape.

One of these History Channel shows describe how we would have to survive if, for example, most of earth’s humans were killed by aliens. One “expert” said, that for the human race to survive and eventually fight back that the moment a young girl was able to conceive she would have to get pregnant. …um, what?

Control of our own bodies is not the only thing to go. Many post-apocalyptic stories show society re-enforcing gender roles, regardless of the skills and talents of the women and men.

Now there are many apocalyptic stories that just show things getting bad for everyone all the way around, but the idea that minority groups would be worse off does make sense.

Women, people of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ community already have it bad now. Imagine what it will be like when everyone gets crazy and desperate.

The book Poison Princess is one novel that focuses on this idea. After The Flash, the event that sets off the apocalypse and kills most people on earth, many things start to change. There’s no more rain, nothing grows, Bagmen start to appear (zombie-like creatures that are always thirsty), and for some reason many women die. It’s one of the as-of-yet unexplained events in the apocalypse: for some reason most of the world’s women have died off, making the surviving women… a commodity.

Jackson and Evie are our two main characters, and throughout the book Jackson protects Evie from men that want to rape her and keep her as their own personal little housewife. Jackson also describes to Evie how his town was taken over by a militia, and despite the fact that his friend (and possible half-sister) Clotile is better with a rifle than him, she is put in the kitchen with the other women, while he is assigned to protection and hunting duties. Jackson eventually describes how Clotile, along with other women, was dragged off to be raped by the men of the militia.

Evie is kidnapped and nearly raped several times, and once almost raped and tortured, though she gets her own back by the end of the novel. However, it is always made clear that the men not only want to have sex with the remaining women, but also want someone to fulfill the typical gender roles of a woman. The men want the women to cook, clean, wash, and tend to the surviving children as well as producing their own children.

Things in Poison Princess don’t exactly go well for people with disabilities either. Matthew is an autistic boy who represents The Fool card (some people in the story have Tarot-themed powers), though the book doesn’t make it clear if he is actually autistic or if he acts that way because of his powers. Whatever the case, the fact that he is at the very least perceived to be autistic affects his life post-apocalypse. His mother, thinking she can’t travel anywhere to find help or supplies because of her autistic son, eventually decides to drown him, by locking him in the basement with rising water. He is later rescued by Evie and Jackson, but Evie is quick to hide a medical bracelet Matthew wears that says he is autistic, because she fears if Jackson found out he would leave him behind.

Children of Men is a movie that deals with the same type of minority issues. Children of Men is about an apocalyptic future where the human race has become infertile. However, this infertility is described as being a problem particularly on the female end of things. Experiments being done on women are often mentioned as a way that the government is trying to fix the infertility problem. The movie makes it clear that pretty much all humans are infertile, but still this is seen as a female problem and experiments are done on women only.

The movie also makes a point to speak out about racism and anti-immigration sentiment. Mass chaos has come about because of the mass infertility, and Britain is the only remaining nation that hasn’t deteriorated, but to do so it has become a military state that strictly watches its borders and often detains and imprisons any refugees or immigrants, legal and illegal ones. The main conflict of the story arises when Theo Faron is kidnapped by “The Fishes”, an immigrant rights group that asks Theo to help an illegal African immigrant named Kee. Kee is special because she is pregnant and wants to be taken to The Human Project, a much more humane group trying to cure infertility. Kee and Theo just manage to escape after Kee gives birth and all-out war breaks out between the white British government and the immigrant refugees.

Again we see an example of fear and terror breaking out against already discriminated groups, because people naturally place all of their blame and fear against the supposed “other” in society, in order to put a face to something they can actually fight. The immigrants obviously aren’t causing infertility, but the government is using them to distract people from the larger problem, and put a face to their fears.

I would like to say that that are some stories about the LGBTQ+ community in apocalyptic fiction, but there aren’t. There is one story that has yet to be published that could soon feature gay and lesbian characters, as well as minority and disabled characters. It’s called Stranger by Sherwood Smith and Rachel Manija Brown. This book received a lot of press when a major publishing company asked Smith and Brown to either get rid of or straight-wash one of their protagonists named Yuki, a gay Asian-American teen. The authors had this to say about issue:

When you refuse to allow major characters in YA novels to be gay, you are telling gay teenagers that they are so utterly horrible that people like them can’t even be allowed to exist in fiction… We wrote this novel so that the teenagers we know-some of whom are gay, and many of whom are not white-would be able, for once, to read a fun post-apocalyptic adventure in which they are the heroes. And we were told that such a thing could not be allowed.

They have recently been picked up by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing, and the book will still feature Yuki as a gay teenager along with supporting characters Brisa and Becky, a lesbian couple.

Now I started this post scaring you that women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people would have it worse in a post-apocalyptic society, and that’s probably true, but the good thing about movies and literature that talk about these issues is that they bring to light racism, ableism, sexism, and homophobia.

These stories take something that we already know—that minority groups have a difficult time in this world—and then put those same difficulties in an apocalypse that makes everything more obvious, more dramatic, and more interesting for the reader.

I don’t think the world is ending, but in the years you will continue to live, I would encourage you to read more books, and watch more movies and TV shows about the apocalypse. It may just inform you a little more about the injustices in your own world.

1 thought on “Feminism and the Apocalypse

  1. Pingback: It’s the End of the World As We Know It But I Feel Fine: Stranger, a Book Review | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

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