It is summer… a heat wave… tense, uneasy days in the city. There are ominous signs of political turbulence in the dying years of the twentieth century. Welfare benefits are under attack, but women are fighting back, using unorthodox weapons. Lynn Byers does not accept the government’s demand for a return to ‘womanly duties’. As desperate politicians use increasingly savage methods of control, she can no longer stand aside to watch. A classic of women’s fiction.
First published in 1979 by Virago, Benefits is a feminist dystopia in which a patriarchal state uses the social security system to impose repressive lifestyles on women. It was nominated for the Philip K Dick Award for science fiction, and the Hawthornden Prize for imaginative literature. It has been published throughout the world, and adapted for the stage at the Albany Empire in Deptford, London. It is the original source of the quotation widely featured on alternative Christmas cards: “THE BIRTH OF A MALE WHO THINKS HE‘S
GOD ISN’T SUCH A RARE EVENT”.
Widely interpreted as an attack on Margaret Thatcher’s welfare policies, Benefits was in fact written before she came to power.
Zoë Fairbairns was a founder member of the St Andrews women’s liberation group in 1970. Leaving St Andrews for London in 1973, she worked at the Women’s Research and Resources Centre (now the Feminist Library), the Pregnancy Advisory Service, and Spare Rib magazine. She is a member of the Fawcett Society, the Feminist Library, the National Secular Society and Abortion Rights; she writes fiction and non-fiction, and was for many years a television subtitler and branch official with the trade union BECTU. She teaches creative writing at the City Lit in London.
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