I am in the middle of reading Dune, and while Frank Herbert has some good takeaways and powerful quotes, I was most specifically struck by how far women in media have progressed since 1965, when the book was published. In Dune, even the most powerful women follow a common trend of submission, even when they do not agree with their husband or the leadership. In general, there are very few lead female characters who are portrayed as important to the narrative, especially in comparison to the many military men depicted. The “Bene Gesserit,” described in the novel as a fearsome and dangerous group of women, have power and wisdom, but ultimately serve the purpose of creating good genetic matches with men across the empire. Their power is immediately usurped by the protagonist of the novel, Paul Atreides.

The women of this novel are continually overruled by men, and it is almost exhausting to read this as a woman in a time where we have more agency and chances to advocate. Rather than give up on the book entirely, I was met with the realization that Dune is an example of how far we have come. I had finished reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series right before starting Dune, and in this series, as in many other modern works, women are given more advocacy. The trend in more modern books shows how we have continued to overcome the oversights of past literary and cultural norms for women, and though much progress still needs to be made, it is encouraging to read older works with this mindset.

– Christine Taylor (College Student and Copywriter)