Q: This idea, especially when it comes to women’s rights, that, “Okay, well, things are moving forward. Women are better off than they used to be.” Do you think we’re rethinking whether that is always true right now?
Margaret Atwood : Well, there’s no such thing as inevitable progress. And it always has been true and always will be true that rights did not descend out of the sky. Rights are things that people agree on, and they end up agreeing on them because people work to get them to agree. So they can always change their minds. They say, “Well, this has gone too far. We certainly can’t have high heels; let’s abolish them.” Or whatever it may be. And people are prone in times of crisis, turmoil, and social unrest … to limiting things. Because it makes them feel safer.
So there’s no inevitability about it. And you can’t have human rights for women unless you have human rights. Think of that. You cannot. Because unless you decide that women are some class of nonhuman beings and should have special treatment, then you have to have a general category of human rights, which includes women as human beings.