51 pages 1 hour read

Miriam Toews

Women Talking

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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The Violent and Repressive Nature of Patriarchy

Content Warning: This section of the guide includes discussions and depictions of domestic and sexual violence.

When the women gather in Women Talking, they are deciding what action to take in response to the unspeakable violence they have suffered. They have been not only been regularly and viciously attacked as they sleep but also silenced by the perpetrators and their allies, either explicitly or complicitly. This violence and repression are a result of a toxic patriarchy: a society in which men have complete control over women.

Salome, in an impassioned speech, describes the world in which the women live:

We’re not members! she repeats. We are the women of Molotschna. The entire colony of Molotschna is built on the foundation of patriarchy […] where the women live out their days as mute, submissive and obedient servants. Animals. Fourteen-year-old boys are expected to give us orders, to determine our fates, to vote on our excommunications, to speak at the burials of our own babies while we remain silent, to interpret the Bible for us, to lead us in worship, to punish us! We are not members, Mariche, we are commodities (120-21).

This patriarchal society, with Peters at its head, creates a world wherein the women are subjugated and men control their lives.