Excerpt from Turning On The Girls by Cheryl Benard, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Turning On The Girls

A Novel

by Cheryl Benard

Turning On The Girls
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2001, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2002, 335 pages

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Turning On The Girls

Lisa returns to her office, fifteen minutes late and not very happy. Pushing aside a stack of books and slumping into the chair, she locates her prompter. She stares at her compuscreen and at the paragraph she was working on before lunch; no, it has not miraculously turned brilliant during her absence. She picks up a book from the side table; it is a copy of Pauline Réage, Story of O. Lisa throws it hard, it flies forward and hits the door. Being a paperback, it fails to make the kind of satisfying thud that a hardback would, but even so it has made a noise, and the door opens. A young man sticks his head in, inquiringly. "Coffee?" he asks.

Okay, time out, I need an introduction and I might as well put it here. The first thing you have to know is that, in my story, women have just taken over the world.

My main character is going to be Lisa, whom you have just met, and she will work for the Ministry of Thought, Department of Values and Fantasies, Subdepartment of Dreams.

The female persons who are now in charge of everything believe that a revolution has to change your thinking, otherwise, before you know it, you will be right back where you started from. So they put a very large staff in charge of women's brains and how to, you know, kind of launder out the sediment, iron out the kinks of centuries of oppression.

Well, oops, come to think of it, I guess they wouldn't like my metaphors, laundry and ironing. See how these things creep in? See how you automatically think in domestic terms when you think about women?

But back to Lisa. Lisa works for one of the many bureaus dedicated to the mammoth task of mental revolution. She is supposed to help straighten out the warped thinking, the retrograde dreams and politically incorrect fantasies, of her gendermates. Specifically, Lisa has been assigned to work on sex. Which doesn't sound so bad, I wouldn't think. In fact, though, as we will discover, working on sex is no bed of roses. Not when your boss is Nadine ("the Nazi") Schneider.

But I fear I am getting ahead of myself. You, of course, are still asking yourself, "Goodness me, how did women happen to take over the world?"

I can see that you won't just let me assume this happy scenario. I can see that you are going to force me to give you some kind of explanation of how it came about. It won't be a very likely story, I can tell you that much right now. You're just going to have to swallow it, suspension of disbelief and all that. You're just going to have to indulge me on this one, otherwise there's no story, and you'll never find out what happens to Lisa, and worse yet, you won't get to read all those excerpts from the pornographic texts which make up her working life, and with which I intend to spark your interest throughout the book.

And furthermore, I want to say that if you are going to let George Orwell get away with a bold premise, and Aldous Huxley, then you should extend me the same courtesy, I really think. If you are going to let barnyard animals be in charge of the world, then women shouldn't be that much more of a stretch.

Now, changes in power, even from one gender to another, are not an entirely absurd idea. Although I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this one, frankly. Nonetheless, numerous academics, especially fanatical radical probably lesbian feminist ones who will never get tenure, believe that such a gender-related shift in power happened at least once before, that things used to be matriarchal until one day the guys said hey, screw this, we're bigger than them, and made a revolution.

The matriarchal period of human history, herstory, whatever -- Nadine would undoubtedly make me say herstory -- is generally described by nostalgists as being really very nice, with lots of overweight, berry-gathering herb-brewing ladies in charge, ladies who made statues of themselves that have names like the Venus of Willendorf, which you can now see in a museum in Vienna, in the Naturhistorisches Museum, which I have been to, and it is a pathetic place full of moth-eaten stuffed wolves and dusty dead snakes with all their scales gone, and should you find yourself in Austria, I advise you to give it a miss and go skiing.

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Copyright © 2001 Cheryl Benard. Reprinted by the permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus & Giroux. All rights reserved.

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