"#MeToo is what everybody has known. It's people saying out loud what was said in private," the author tells PEOPLE

By Sam Gillette
September 11, 2019 11:45 AM
The author
Marta Iwanek/Toronto Star/Getty

As a fervor built around #MeToo in 2017, Margaret Atwood was already deep into the writing of her long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. But that didn’t prevent her from threading some of the movement’s sentiments throughout the new book.

In an interview with PEOPLE, Atwood discusses her latest work, The Testaments, and shares very specific advice for activists: don’t cast one group as “angels.”

“#MeToo is what everybody has known. It’s people saying out loud what was said in private,” the author of the dystopian classic explains. “Men have been behaving badly for a very long time.”

“But believe all women? Women schwomen—I don’t think you should believe all anything,” Atwood, 79, continues, referring to the “believe all women” movement that also gained traction on social media. “It’s not fair to single out a group and turn them into angels. Sooner or later someone’s not going to live up to that, and it will be used to discredit everyone else who may be telling the truth. It’s more useful to say listen to all women and take what they’re saying seriously enough to actually do investigations.”

Margaret Atwood Doesn’t Hear Complaints That The Handmaid’s Tale Is Unrealistic Anymore

Thirty-five years ago, Atwood came to national attention with the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale. Since then, she’s gained a whole new level of adoration following the 2016 election and the release of the eponymous Hulu series—at least by the part of the population who viewed Donald Trump’s presidential win as a frightening step toward the authoritarian patriarchy the book depicts.

And now she’s raising a whole new series of philosophical and political questions with The Testaments. The sequel took Atwood four years to write and explores the downfall of the novel’s repressive Gilead through the stories of three women connected to the original handmaid.

For more on Atwood, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on stands this Friday. 

Even as the novel receives acclaim (and earns Atwood the cover of Time Magazine), the author isn’t sure if she’ll write another novel.

“Will I write another novel? Will it be about Gilead?” she says. “I cannot say anything about what I may do in the future because every time I have said something, I have been wrong. That shows you how much of a prophet I am.”

The Testaments is on sale now.

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