Handmaid’s Tale Reflects US In Dark Mirror
The disturbing Handmaid’s Tale (April 26 on Hulu) holds a dark mirror up to America and other societies in the world today.
I’ll write more later on the parallels I see. What do you see?
Use terrorism to limit rights
In this tale zealous Christian “Sons of Jacob” attack Washington, killing the President and most of Congress. They blame Islamist terrorists for the coup, which they use as a ruse to “restore order” by removing rights and installing dictatorship. A wall is built to keep terrorists out.
Some wonder if the wall was built to keep the people of Gilead in.
The government strips away women’s rights
The new republic — modeled on Old Testament patriarchal theocracy — now rises from the ashes of what was once the United States…
…And gradually strips away most rights for women, who are treated according to Old Testament dictates. And worse.
Women are now property and subordinate to their husbands and fathers. They cannot be involved in politics, hold a job, read, write, possess money, or own anything. Women dress according to caste and are not allowed to choose their own clothing. A red robe hides the faces of handmaids.
Here are the castes women are divided into:
- Fertile women called “handmaidens” are given to high status men to bear their children since environmental degradation has left most people barren. (The toxic environment is deemed “God’s punishment” for sin.)
- Infertile women serve as domestics or prostitutes.
- Political enemies are sent to clean up hazardous waste. Or they might get their hands chopped off.
- More powerful “aunts” brainwash less powerful “handmaids” into a sense of profound inferiority.
- The luckiest are wives of high status men, but even they have quite limited rights.
This story is told by a handmaid called Offred, so called because she now “belongs to” a commander of the regime named Fred — so she is literally Of-Fred. She has no identity outside the man she serves. Her name also conjures the word “offered” — a sacrifice, an offering.
Women accept double standards… and it’s always “her fault”
“Handmaids” are brainwashed to hold themselves in low esteem. They are taught that if they are raped it is their fault. More powerful women force less powerful women to slut-shame those who have been assaulted. Women are encouraged to pull the rope that hangs other women accused of adultery. In fact, generally speaking women are taught to punish each other for “sins” against the regime that oppresses them.
Hypocrisy within the regime
The elite often fail to follow the doctrines they preach. Fred disobeys all sorts of rules with Offred. He is only supposed to have sex with her with his wife present. To please or bribe Offred he allows her to read and gives her presents (one of his better infringements of the law). And he takes Offred to a night club.
The commander’s wife also disobeys dictates of the religion as she chooses, even though she was once an outspoken proponent of the pre-Gilead regime. She smokes black market cigarettes, expresses the forbidden idea that men may be infertile (remember: everything is officially women’s fault), and she schemes to get Offred impregnated by her driver.
Do you see parallels between this world and ours?
I’ll write more on parallels I see between this world and ours. If you see any, let me know what you think.
Unfortunately, all of the major events of this tale have already happened. I’ll write more about that next time.