Atwood, who was surrounded by the intellectual dialogue of the female faculty members at Victoria College, often portrays female characters dominated by patriarchy in her novels. She also sheds light on women's social oppression as a result from patriarchal ideology.[20] Still, Atwood denies that The Edible Woman, published in 1969 and coinciding with the early second wave of the feminist movement, for example, is feminist, and claims that she wrote it four years before the movement. Atwood believes that the feminist label can only be applied to writers who consciously work within the framework of the feminist movement.[21]
Speculative fiction and social science fiction[edit]
Atwood has resisted the suggestion that The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake are science fiction, suggesting to The Guardian in 2003 that they are speculative fiction instead: "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen."[22] She told the Book of the Month Club: "Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians."[23] On BBC Breakfast, she explained that science fiction, as opposed to what she herself wrote, was "talking squids in outer space." The latter phrase particularly rankled advocates of science fiction and frequently recurs when her writing is discussed.[23]
In 2005, Atwood said that she does at times write social science fiction and that The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake can be designated as such. She clarified her meaning on the difference between speculative and science fiction, admitting that others use the terms interchangeably: "For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do... speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand and that takes place on Planet Earth." She said that science fiction narratives give a writer the ability to explore themes in ways that realistic fiction cannot.[24]