The dystopian society depicted in “The Handmaid’s Tale” might seem far off, but it’s closer to our world today than most people would think. Even though Margaret Atwood’s novel was published back in 1985, many of the issues she covered can pertain to the incredibly screwed up culture we’re all dealing with these days. Hulu has modernized the background story a bit for their TV adaptation, making it even more obvious that we’re closer to our country’s destruction than we’d like to believe. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is quickly becoming our reality and it’s scary AF. Here’s a look at how.
This article discusses events that occurred in both Season 1 and Season 2 of “The Handmaid’s Tale” so if you aren’t caught up on episodes, you might want to save this article for later. You’ve been warned!
Women’s Rights Are Being Challenged
During Trump’s era, women’s rights are being challenged left and right. Sexism is a huge problem in the workplace and rapists are more likely to get away with their crime than to be charged for it. Conservatives are more determined than ever to retract abortion rights, working to defund Planned Parenthood. In fact, one of the first things Trump did as president was to reinstate a law forbidding any U.S. funded aid groups from discussing abortion.
In the television show, this is one of the problems that sends the United States into a downward spiral. Flashbacks show women protesting and marching for their rights long before Gilead takes over. Obviously, things only got worse from there.
Men Feel They Own Women
It’s not uncommon for men to feel superior to the women in their life, and can even have a sense of ownership over them. Thinking a woman belongs at home with the children, cleaning the house and cooking her husband dinner isn’t traditional. It’s abusive. All of those dads who make their daughters pledge their virginities to them are even worse as if a girl’s sexuality is something that can be owned. And that’s in the United States, the land of the “free”. In other areas of the world, women can’t be out after dark. They can’t even leave the house without permission. They’re either traded into marriage or sold into sex slavery.
Upon overthrowing the American government, one of the first things that were done by the leaders of Gilead was to strip women of their rights. It started small, deactivating their credit cards and then passing a law that their husbands or fathers would have all control over their funds. Soon women were completely removed from the workplace and couldn’t fill out their own birth control prescription without their husband’s signature. Likely the women who were unmarried weren’t able to get any contraceptives at all. Sounds a lot like what conservatives are trying to do in the U.S. these days. Then, of course, once Gilead takes over the men in society truly do own the women.
On Child Brides
In the second season of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, Nick is given a wife for being such a loyal driver to the commander. She was just 15. Not only was she obviously not mature enough for this kind of relationship, but his child bride was also brainwashed into thinking getting married and quickly knocked up was her duty as a girl. I can’t even call her a woman. This goes on all over the world, and girls are being married off to creepy old men before they even hit double digits. Just because a girl starts shedding her uterine lining shouldn’t mean she’s suddenly up for grabs.
Using The Bible To Justify Everything
Today, conservatives will quote the Bible to justify just about anything. Their homophobic, pro-life, sexist lifestyle, for example. Selective religious fundamentalism describes how most Christians are today, as they use Bible verses that support their hate and choose to ignore any that they don’t feel apply to their life. The fact that they take any of these verses literally is quite ridiculous, but to pick and choose which ones matter defeats the entire purpose of religion.
Gilead feeds off of these types of people, spewing out Bible verses to justify why women are being used as handmaids, raped on a regular basis. It’s also used to justify how women should behave, how they should obey men, and explain their duties in this new dystopian society. Verses are used to warrant punishments and murders. The screwed up part is that women are no longer allowed to read. So, unless they had memorized the Bible prior to the war, they had no choice but to believe that these verses actually exist somewhere.
Using Islamaphobia As A Control Tactic
The American government is always quick to blame Muslims. First, it was Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Now it’s all being blamed on ISIS. Even when there’s proof that a white person is behind a terrorist act, suddenly there’s evidence that they had ties to ISIS or some other Muslim terrorist organization. The government uses this ensure the public remains in a constant state of fear, reducing any chances of the formation of a resistance.
This is exactly how the war began in “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The president was killed, and Congress was attacked, and it was all blamed on Islamic terrorists. They didn’t overthrow the American government in just one day. They chipped away from it little by little, hardly being recognized in the media. If you watched Season 2, you could see June piecing together newspaper clippings of several events that on their own may have seemed small and obsolete, but when looking at the big picture, they allowed this group to take out the U.S. government.
White Supremacy Is An Underlying Theme
If you notice, there are very few people of color in Gilead. It’s only the scenes that take place in Canada and flashbacks where there’s much diversity on the show. That is because anyone who wasn’t white, called “Children of Ham” in the novel, were either killed or relocated to settlements called the national homelands in the midwest. While the book never goes into detail about whether or not people of color can be Marthas or Handmaids, the show depicts several black and biracial women in those roles. Since June’s daughter, Hannah, is biracial living with a set of assigned parents in Gilead, it’s safe to say that they’ll take biracial children. However, it’s obvious that all of the higher ranking men are white with the exception of Commander Horace who appears in Season 2. Horace and his wife were able to conceive a child naturally, resulting in a healthy child and a promotion. Perhaps they’ll go more into how race plays a part in their roles next season.
This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Our reality in America is transforming, and we’re coming closer and closer to this sort of dystopian society.