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
    Jul 2002, 335 pages

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But anyway, in the descriptions, matriarchy sounds -- except for the part about women being fat, of course -- a great deal like Southern California, with lots of psychic energy zooming around and everybody really in tune with, you know, nature and their bodies and stuff. The men are said to have meekly gone along with all of this because they believed women could make themselves have babies all by themselves, by magic, whenever they felt like it, and if you made them mad the human race would die out or, worse, they would specifically get rid of you in particular, because they were just keeping you around out of the kindness of their hearts and for your entertainment value. Actually, the revolution is thought to have started when the guys somehow figured out that, hey, on the topic of making babies this was not quite the whole story.

My point is, I could probably develop a remotely plausible story for how the power shifted back, since some paranoid people think this is happening already anyway. But then I would have to write a really well-researched historical tome, which would be about a thousand pages long, and who do I look like, James Michener? I don't think so.

So let's get past the part about taking over the world, and the most painless way to do that is going to be for you to join me in imagining a cataclysm. It could be an environmental disaster, it could be a war, it could be some kind of international terrorist extravaganza, it could be a total economic collapse, it could be all of the above, and I ask you to imagine that as it begins to unfold, people feel there has been a colossal bit of global mismanagement and poor judgment on the part of those in charge, who happen to be men, and that maybe it would not be such a bad thing to let a different gender take a shot at it, women, for example. Actually, all of this could happen sort of incrementally, with more and more really competent and ambitious women gradually inching up higher and higher and looking better and better compared to the male power-holding individuals of poor judgment, bad morals, a lack of regard for the law, an affinity for purchasing extremely expensive instantly obsolete weapons systems, a penchant for involving themselves in highly embarrassing public sexual escapades with interns and press secretaries, and a thundering lack of interest in the well-being of the normal people they are supposed to be working on behalf of. Let's imagine that everybody starts to get seriously annoyed about this, until all that's really required for women to take over is a nudge. Let's imagine that the mind-set of a fresh young millennium, and a combination of the above disasters and annoyances, provide the nudge. And if you want a longer version, you can read the novel Dryland's End, which chronicles in exhaustive detail how women come to power, but I warn you that it is BO-RING and, on top of that, has a sad ending.

So why don't we do it my way and just say that here we are, and women are in charge of a fine, upstanding, democratic, justice-and-equality-oriented, security-minded, peace-seeking social order, which they call the New Order, and are striving to erase all signs of what came before, which they call AR, which stands for ancien régime and shows how erudite they are.

Now, it's not that easy to set up a new order. There is much to do, just to keep things running and to prevent a backlash. And you've got to change everything: the schools and the toys, the books and the language, the television programs . . . everything. The rules. The world. The women. The men.

Now, some of you may be familiar with men, and may have an opinion on how easy that last part of the enterprise is likely to be, and just how enthusiastically we should expect men to go along with a program designed to trim their sails, rinse the starch out of their shirts, renovate, domesticate, demystify, democratize, and overall improve them. I mean, yes, it's a full-fledged government program, but is it that different from what women have been trying to accomplish for centuries on the more modest scale of homegrown cottage industry? I'm skeptical. But let's wait and see. Maybe they'll surprise us.

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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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