Canadian author Margaret Atwood speaks during a press conference at the British Library to launch her new book 'The Testaments' in London. Picture: AP

London - Margaret Atwood has defended women’s right to work in strip clubs, saying it can be "empowering" and make them feel "in control of a room".

The 'Handmaid’s Tale' author said dancers in the clubs should be allowed to make their own decisions about how they earn money.

The 79-year-old was responding to a debate over strip club licensing which has divided opinion among feminists, with critics arguing the industry is outdated and exploitative.

The debate has attracted attention this week ahead of the release of the film 'Hustlers', starring Jennifer Lopez as a stripper who scams wealthy customers.

Atwood, who published 'The Testaments' this week, told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett: "A lot of women actually do find [stripping] empowering. They feel that they’re in control of the room when they’re doing that.

WATCH: Margaret Atwood reads from The Testaments

"But it depends very much on whether they are being exploited or not, whether someone is taking all the money... or whether they are in control of it."

But Atwood, who has put climate change at the centre of her dystopian novels, suggested there are bigger issues that need debating. "I’m saying you can do that [debate stripping] if you want," she said.

"But my choice would be to put it with something that’s going to change the needle on climate, because if we don’t solve that we’re all going to stop breathing and then it won’t matter who’s got their clothes on and who’s got their clothes off."

She added: "If it’s a choice a woman has made ... and you get paid much better for it than if you’re working a shift in a coffee chain, then why are you not going to let that woman make that choice?"

Daily Mail