Wake Up, America, Or We'll Be Living In Our Own 'Handmaid's Tale' Nightmare

Photo: Huffington Post
offred, handmaid's tale

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale when I was too young to fully understand it. But I remember then that it filled me with a sense of dread and fear. Back then, I was able to put the book down when things were scary and remind myself that it was fictional, that women are not being reduced to their basest functions as baby makers and pleasure devices.

Now, I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t some dark prophecy of the future to come.

Watching the Hulu-exclusive series in the era of Donald Trump has made me unfortunately notice some striking similarities between the fictional show and our current American reality.

It’s drawing some uncomfortable connections between an overly religious, male-led society … and the nation that Offred, our heroine handmaid finds herself in.

Offred's warning mirrors a feeling that I have had since the start of this baffling presidency: “Before, I was asleep. … That’s how we let it happen.”

Today, the Republican-led House passed a “health care” reform bill that stripped out President Obama’s required coverage for pre-existing conditions. For some, this seemed an unimportant move. An attempt to lower premiums while taking away coverage for the people most in need. I imagine that several hearty, white Republican men presumably patted each other on the back and shared a cigar at their overwhelming success at “bettering health care” as this travesty passed.

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And every woman I knew sat in disbelief and said, “They can’t do that.” We expressed our shock and dismay. “They can’t do that!” became a chorus. Tears. Anger. Fear. “They can’t do that!”

But they did. Right under our noses, they passed a bill that removed some of the most important coverage for women. Not just some women. Not just minorities, or poor or trans women that Republicans seem to not give a crap about.

They passed a bill that affects all women. And as we sit here saying, “They can’t do that,” they are.

The bill the House passed today is disturbing for many reasons.

In America, in 2017, a majority of House of Representatives agreed that pre-existing conditions should not be required to be covered by insurance.

In America, in 2017, Republican heavy-handedness stripped women down to the essentials. Baby-makers. Pleasure devices. Not people with needs, and thoughts, and desires.

If you are a woman, then you are being punished, overwhelmingly, for being female. C-sections, post-partum depression, well-woman gynecological checks, mammograms, vaccinations, and the treatment required for survivors of domestic violence and rape are now, thanks to your male lawmakers, considered “pre-existing conditions.”

And, of course, we don't even need to get into how they feel about birth control and abortions, which is another uncomfortably similar vein of commentary to those in The Handmaid’s Tale.

“Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

“Obviously rape is awful. What is beautiful is the child that could come from this.”

“If a woman has [the right to an abortion], why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t [usually] result in anyone’s death.”

Those are not quotes from a book about men who think that women should just lie back and take their sexual advances or live to serve them.

Those are real life, really real, actual, honest-to-whatever-being-you-pray-to quotes from republican lawmakers. People that you hired to represent you.

And they are so similar to things said in The Handmaid's Tale that it should give you goose bumps and a big, giant dose of "WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK, AMERICA?!"

The Handmaid's Tale is so relevant to the current times that some of Trump's supporters actually thought that it was commentary about the administration.

One of the most disturbing things about watching The Handmaid’s Tale is the eerie symmetry it seems to share with modern life.

When Offred and Moira get told that women can’t own property or have their own funds anymore, they sit in anger. In fear; dumbstruck as they say, “They can’t do that.” Even though we all know “they” absolutely did.

When it’s made illegal for women to read, and picture signs are posted instead, no one argues. When female circumcision becomes the standard response to “gender traitors” (i.e. gay women), life just keeps moving forward.

When women who can bear children are forced into marriage-like contracts with men in high ranks of government, no one stands up for them.

When they suggest that women are only for the production of offspring and therefore shouldn’t have the same rights, it was already too late.

They were forced to go along with the status quo and keep saying, “They can’t do that to us!” right up until it was day-to-day life.

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But these things are absolutely going on, right now, in your Trump America and around the world. Women are suffering in ways that are as bad or even worse than depicted in a fictional book about a society in which women are treated like breeding cattle.

“When they slaughtered Congress, we didn't wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn't wake up then either," says Offred. "They said it would be temporary. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you'd be boiled to death before you knew it."

Well, guess what, ladies? You are in that bathtub. You are being boiled alive.

We are in a society that is mirroring the one in Offred’s world in such a way that my heart breaks every time I watch the show. There is no denying that things are going toward an unhappy end.

The question is, what are we going to do about this? Marching isn’t enough. Voicing anger isn’t enough. They’re a start, but we must move toward real, definable action sooner rather than later. As Offred says, “Before, I was asleep. …That’s how we let it happen. I am awake now.”

It’s time for us to wake the hell up.