From The Handmaid's Tale to The Hunger Games, dystopian novels penned by women have been at the forefront of our imaginations for years now. And that makes sense. Dystopias express our cultural anxieties. Dystopias fuel our drive for change. Our current political landscape is feeling just a tad dystopian at the moment. It would be weird if dystopias weren't in vogue. Every once in a while, though, we might want a break from all that gloom and doom. Yes, it's important to protect our reproductive rights and to understand the horrific consequences of government-regulated misogyny. But... we can also sometimes imagine nice things happening in the future? Maybe? Here are a few novels that show us feminist utopias, for when you need a serious dystopia antidote.
Now, to be clear, these are not all "utopia novels" from start to finish. The trouble with imagining a perfect society is that, by definition, a true utopia is not going to be rife with conflict. And fiction usually needs conflict to get a plot going. Every one of these books does show us a glimmer of what a feminist, gender-fluid, or matriarchal utopia could look like, though, and that's pretty darn rare. So take a quick break from re-watching The Handmaid's Tale, and check out some of these brighter, feminist futures:
'The Female Man' by Joanna Russ
Jeannine, Janet, Joanna, and Jael are four alternate selves from four very different realities. Joanna hails from a world much like our own, Jeannine from a world in which the Great Depression never ended, Jael from a horrific dystopia where men and women fight in a literal battle of the sexes, and Janet from the beautiful utopia of Whileaway, an all-lesbian society of peaceful farming and advanced tech.
'Woman on the Edge of Time' by Marge Piercy
Connie Ramos has been declared insane. She's been beaten and abused, she's lost custody of her daughter, and she's been confined to the mental ward against her will. But Connie also happens to be the only person on Earth who can communicate with the year 2137, and now it's up to her to save the socially advanced, non-binary utopia of the future.
'The Left Hand of Darkness' by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Left Hand of Darkness is not, strictly speaking, a utopia novel. But it does give us a stunning look at the planet of Winter, where people are able to switch between sexes at will, and androgyny is the social norm.
'Parable of the Sower' by Octavia Butler
Parable of the Sower is much closer to a dystopia than a utopia, strictly speaking. But the novel follows young Lauren Olamina as she attempts to start her utopian community of Earthseed amid the ecological and economic wreckage of North America. Earthseed represents a beautiful dream of teamwork and diversity, even if it doesn't quite come to fruition in this first novel.
'A Door into Ocean' by Joan Slonczewski
The Sharers of Shora are a nation of women, living on a distant, oceanic moon in the far future. They are a highly advanced and pacifist society, able to reproduce through parthenogenesis. But when a neighboring civilization threatens to invade their ocean world, the women of Shora must find a way to fight off the threat without betraying their nonviolent values.
'Houston, Houston, Do You Read?' by James Tiptree Jr.
A ship of male astronauts veers wildly off course on their way back home, when suddenly they're intercepted by a ship full of women! Who ever heard of such a thing? Houston, Houston, Do You Read? is a funny, dark, enraging look at sexism and patriarchy in space.
'Sultana's Dream' by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain
Published in 1905, Sultana's Dream is a witty feminist classic. Sure, it's a little more parody than it is sci-fi, but Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain's point still stands. In this reality, men are confined indoors and women take over the public sphere, ending wars and just generally making the world a much better place to live.
'Master of None' by N. Lee Wood
Vanar is a powerful, secretive planet that forbids foreigners and carefully controls all space travel. But when a man finds himself stranded in this strict matriarchal society, he will slowly come to understand this complex culture of women rulers, and the secret behind their secluded world.
'Ammonite' by Nicola Griffith
Men have died out on the world of Jeep. For centuries, women have lived and ruled on the planet alone, until a company arrives hoping to exploit Jeep's resources for their own benefit. Instead, they're forced to abandon several of their employees on this strange, isolated world of women. The surviving employees must now find a way to adapt to this new world if they wish to survive.
'The Legend of Wonder Woman' by Renae De Liz
Technically, Wonder Woman and her all-lady, Amazon island were created by a man back in the day. But The Legend of Wonder Woman brings a much more modern, beautifully-illustrated, feminist approach to Themyscira and Diana's family of super-powered women.
'The Book of the City of Ladies' by Christine de Pizan
If you want to get real old school with your feminist utopias, pick up The Book of the City of Ladies from the year 1405. Obviously, this book is a product of its time, but Christine de Pizan does envision a city where women are granted intellectual and moral equality to men, and where all the famous ladies of early Western Literature can kick it together.
'The Wanderground: Stories of the Hill Women' by Sally Miller Gearhart
Women are fed up with being treated as second class citizens. So, naturally, they flee to the hills, develop telepathic abilities and flying and healing powers, and then come back to rescue the women still left in the cities. The Wanderground is not the most realistic of feminist utopias, but it does resonate with anyone who's ever wanted to run away from the patriarchy and learn to levitate instead.