We knew Emma Watson was fan of Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale when she hid 100 copies of the book around Paris last month, in collaboration with The Book Fairies, an organization dedicated to promoting literacy by leaving second hand books in public spaces.
So when Watson got the chance to interview Atwood for the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, the actress had no shortage of things to discuss with the Canadian author.
Chief among them was the book’s newfound urgency in the age of Trump, a conversation that engulfed Hulu’s television adaptation earlier this year. Watson asked Atwood if it was disappointing that her 1985 text about a future society in which women are oppressed by a strict patriarchy turned out to be so prescient.
“I’m not easily depressed by these sorts of things,” Atwood says. “It’s happened before.” She goes onto explain that every generation has had its own battles over rights and its own fights against oppression. “History is not a straight line.”
Eventually the conversation turns to feminism, a cause for which Watson has advocated most of her adult career and something The Handmaid’s Tale explores on a very visceral level. Both Watson and Atwood have been confronted with questions related to feminism recently, and Watson wondered if Atwood finds it tiresome.
“I’m not bored with it, but we have to realize it’s become one of those general terms that can mean a whole bunch of different things, so I usually say, “Tell me what you mean by that word and then we can talk,” she said. “If people can’t tell me what they mean, then they don’t really have an idea in their heads of what they’re talking about. So do we mean equal legal rights? Do we mean women are better than men? Do we mean all men should be pushed off a cliff? What do we mean? Because that word has meant all of those different things.”
This isn’t the first time Atwood has wrestled with the semantics of the word “feminism.” Oddly enough, the last time she did so in public was during an interview with another actress, Elisabeth Moss. In fact, the women of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale came under fire this spring, when they refused to classify the show as feminist. “It’s a human story because women’s rights are human rights,” Moss said at the time.
While talking to Watson, Atwood made sure there was no confusion over her interpretation of the word. “So, if we mean, should women as citizens have equal rights, I’m all for it and a number of advances have been made in my lifetime regarding property rights and divorce and custody of children and all of those things,” she said. “But do we mean, are women always right? Give me a break! I’m sorry, but no! Theresa May is a woman, for heaven’s sakes!”
Read the interview in its entirety here.