A timely repost of this blog since, it proves once again, that truth is stranger than fiction and that patriarchal politics is working overtime. Enacting policies meant to rob women of their autonomy, we are on the road to making yesterday’s misogynistic vision of dystopian ‘great again’.
Jazzy red cloak. Wacky white bonnet. The perfect outfit for women in jeopardy. As political climate in the realm of reproductive heats up — again, The Handmaids Tale is becoming a little too close for comfort. Margaret Atwood’s book was dystopian fiction; real life is often much, much stranger. Inspired by the sociopolitical issues of 1970 and ’80s America, as well as a little-known a 17th century woman, I’m sure Atwood never imagined it could become a playbook for current events. But for years, politically and religiously radical movements have been brewing a perfect storm.
The surreal fiction of The Handmaids Tale depicted women in reproductive slavery. They were forced to bear the children of the elite, where their scarlet cloaks and crisp bonnets underlined their subservience. Most of the unlucky women had become infertile due to environmental toxins (yikes) except for a very few, like the iconic protagonist, Offred.
Atwood wrote that “the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, would need only a period of social chaos to reassert itself”. Chilling? Well, grab your sweater because politics has woven its way to the bedroom once again. Legislating women’s innate rights has become less rhetoric and more budding, backwards policy. Its sanctimonious fervor has gotten teeth and bitten into state rulings, deciding, by male jury, what is best for women’s bodies.
Newsflash. Getting pregnant is generally not a solo activity. Even if you hail from Gilead, it still takes two. Perhaps men need to be reminded, before they rule on what a woman can do with her own body, how procreation works in the first place. Unfortunately, like in Gilead, women are considered responsible for whatever happens to them and men are free – to judge.
“Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance; you have to work at it.” The Handmaid’s Tale
Would smirking male politicians be as enthusiastic to ‘punish’ dudes for abandoning or not supporting a child they gave life to? I think not. #metoo and #timesup have made inroads into women taking back their power, but not into the one area women should have total domain. When we are still judged by what we wore to invite rape, “one hand clapping” is a natural backwards judgement on pregnancy. A patriarchal society that gives only an occasional nod to women’s rights, can reverse those decisions in any change of political temperatures, straight out of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian vision.
The Handmaid’s Tale represents not just reproductive rights but the consistent inequality of pay, child care and simple entitlements men have always taken for granted. Unless women uphold each other, stand together, and consistently speak their truth, we all might all be residents of Gilead. Across the world, in every society, as we saw from the International Women’s Marches, we are more alike than different and the cost of silence is painfully sewn in every Handmaid’s scarlet cape.
“Back then, did you ever imagine a society like this?”quipped a character in Atwood’s famous tale. As a 60’s kid, I could not have imagined women being stripped of reproductive rights yet again. To be fair, before the previous Oval resident, there were many who also either turned a blind eye or piloted extreme regulations. But a POTUS who stated that women who get abortions should be ‘punished’, not only foretold today’s shape shifting, but laid the blueprint of how NOT to be ‘great’ again.
While Roe v Wade hasn’t been overturned (yet), the intent is clear. The possibility of its demise was foretold in 2017, “If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that’s really what’s going to be.” And, while we were distracted with other shiny things, more than 150 pro-life justices across the country were neatly in place, making the possibility of reproductive rights dissolution a stark reality.
In Texas, the ‘Heartbeat Bill’ was recently signed to prohibit abortions after 6 weeks, a time when many women are completely unaware they are even pregnant. Missouri, Alabama and Georgia are queuing up their own ‘great again’ reproductive laws. Defunding Planned Parenthood? Check. Stacking the courts with judges vetted by those intent on overturning abortion mandates? Check. Funny how people can be persuaded to cancel rights but not acknowledge them. If we did, we would have passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which has been gathering dust since 1923. Oops.
Gilead was born of a fear of ‘others’. Though it prided itself on its pro-women rhetoric, it forgot to mention that when it came to your ovaries, the state owned them. In Atwood’s society, abortion providers were hanged. Today, in 75% state legislatures, bills calling for life imprisonment or death penalties for abortion doctors are being passed like M&M’s. Oklahoma even advanced a bill that requires a woman to get written consent from the man who impregnated her. Considering the US has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world and domestic violence is ongoing, that idea seems not only ironic, but vindictive and dangerous.
“Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard, though silently.” The Handmaid’s Tale
A sea of red robed, white capped women, cowed under submissive laws, is a pretty ominous thought. Any religious and totalitarian ideologies that restrict freedoms and infringe on human rights have no place in a country founded on the premise that all people were created equal with certain inalienable rights. It seems we either didn’t get the memo or are rewriting the playbook.
If you think I’m pro abortion — you would be wrong. To paraphrase a certain Vietnam War dodger, who said he wasn’t a ‘fan’ of the place, I know of no one who is a ‘fan’ of abortion either. But unlike mythical bone spurs to skip the draft, women’s choices are not at all neat or easy. Like life, decisions are often extremely painful and the decision to abort is the most painful of all. I’ve never an abortion but I support, with everything I am, another’s right to choose for themselves. Perhaps if we focused, not just on pro-birth but pro-LIFE for the entirety of a human being’s life, things would be exceedingly different in our world.
Whoopie Goldberg once quipped about gay marriage: “I don’t care who you want to marry. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person.” My thoughts exactly. Whether it’s weighing in on a woman’s choice to work outside the home or being a stay-at-home mom, dating again after widowhood, marrying your gay partner or choosing what is right for your body, only those in the situation get a vote. Everyone else — zip it.
“Never mistake a woman’s meekness for weakness.” The Handmaid’s Tale.