Trigger warnings: rape, murder, abuse, genocide, war.
It begins, as anything does, slowly, and with whispers. We sit around, watching the news, and muttering, “This can’t happen. Not to us.”
But it can.
Slowly, and with whispers behind closed office doors, men in crisp shirts straighten their ties and decide.
We cower in our beds, unable to sleep, and hiss, “They can’t do this. Not to us.”
But they will.
Confusion reigns as disaster looms large, and when we look to our leaders, they give us answers.
Someone is to blame, and God and man must be appeased. The words of God are braided into nooses by silver-tongued zealots, and the guilty strung up to writhe and twist before those who would dissent.
This is ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ but it could be Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea. It could also be here. tweet
Before we know it the terror is everywhere. There is no one left to trust, nowhere left to run. Everywhere now, the enemy is in control. We curse our cowardice and our stupidity. How could we have been so naive? To think that life could be peaceful, that we would prosper, that we would be left alone.
We were wrong.
This is “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it could be Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea. It could also be here.
Yes, here. Here, and now.
Examine “The Handmaid’s Tale” and you will find all the ingredients for a cultish, totalitarian government takeover. Environmental or natural disaster. Religious zealotry and extremism. A fringe, but elite group of men belonging to the same extreme religious and political factions. And then the fallout: the blame, displacement, and murder of anyone who breaks from the patriarchal, heteronormative agenda as set forth by the warped politics and fun-house-mirror religious ideology. Looking at this picture, you might see something you think can never happen to you.
Which means you are likely White, Christian or secular, and from a country recently untouched by war.
You are here, and this message is pointed directly at you.
Dystopia doesn’t just happen in far away places, to people with strange sounding names and unfamiliar religions. Dystopia is not a past we have conquered through military might and superior reasoning. Dystopia can happen, and will happen, right here.
Just ask Offred.
(From Hulu, Elizabeth Moss as Offred)
In Offred’s world, sicknesses and steeply declining fertility rates cause panic and economic instability. The only way back to prosperity, according to the new government, run by an extremist Christian sect, is to return to a highly ritualized and tightly controlled society. A society whose foundation is the subjugation of women, and the use of women as sexual slaves and breeding stock.
The only way back to prosperity, according to the new government, run by an extremist Christian sect, is to return to a highly ritualized and tightly controlled society. tweet
No longer able to run, Offred is captured and forced to become a Handmaid. She shops, she cleans, she keeps her head down, and once a month she participates in “The Ceremony:” once a month, she is raped by Commander Waterford, in the hopes that she will bear children for him and his barren wife.
This sick iteration of patriarchal oppression is bolstered by military might, routine beatings, mutilations, and executions, and austere and terrible women who call themselves “The Aunts.”
Were it not for The Aunts, this persecution and enslavement of fertile women in Offred’s world would not be possible. The Aunts subscribe wholeheartedly to the idea that women must fit a set of feminine characteristics, must be subservient to men, and must bear children. They twist scripture to suit their agenda, constantly barking Bible verses at Offred and her fellow Handmaids. And they wield whips and cattle prods, just in case someone decides to get lippy about routinely being raped.
The parallels between Offred’s world and ours are so frightening and unmistakable they should be read as a cautionary tale. A warning. This is the theory of art as the canary in the coal mine at its finest.
Suspend the fabricated narrative, for a moment, that Muslims are barbarians because Islam is a barbaric religion, and replace it with the idea that perhaps, under the right conditions, everyone is a barbarian. tweet
Though American media often examines Islam and Muslim-majority countries through a lens of supposed moral superiority, branding Islam as a terrorist religion and Muslims as born and bred misogynists incapable of achieving democracy, Offred’s tale contends that with the right ingredients any society, no matter how “holier-than-thou,” can be crushed under religious extremism and patriarchal terrorism.
Suspend the fabricated narrative, for a moment, that Muslims are barbarians because Islam is a barbaric religion, and replace it with the idea that perhaps, under the right conditions, everyone is a barbarian.
Go back to when Offred was a New Yorker named June. Place yourself in June’s shoes, and try to see the red flags that will be sewn into your Handmaid’s cloak.
(Side note: I freaking wish that last link was a satirical site. It isn’t, and that’s horrifying).
The only thing missing from Offred’s tale that is present in ours is the pervasive anti-Black racism tearing our country to shreds. It’s about the only criticism I can offer this series: that in examining the heteronormative patriarchy, The Handmaid has conveniently forgotten examine White supremacy. Like a single serpent with two heads, the two are conjoined, and the one cannot survive without the other.
White privilege and the notion that political, religious, and economic instability will never affect a certain race or class have also led to the dense naivety of our populace.
Well-intentioned and guileless June certainly adopted this attitude, shortly before her bank account was frozen, she was fired from her job for being female, and protesters were gunned down in the street.
June and those who continued to miss the signs allowed a military coup, a religious takeover of government, and a veritable genocide of “un-women,” “un-men,” “gender-traitors,” and political dissidents. June tied her own bonnet strings when the new government suspended the constitution and instituted martial law, and Bambi-eyed June declared, erroneously, “They can’t do this to us.”
With White women as a demographic voting 54% for a government based upon militarization, religious extremism, xenophobia, and misogyny, “The Handmaid’s Tale” is a wake up call to White women and complacent individuals across the nation.
“Blessed be the fruit:” dystopia has arrived.