Category: Women


That’s what I’m scared of, that what The Handmaid’s Tale proposes is true; that having to survive the incomprehensible will slowly, incrementally, insidiously, become reality.

That can’t happen, right?

But then again, I was almost convinced that Trump couldn’t win. Almost.  I knew it was statistically possible. I doubted it, but I knew it was possible. Statistically. Statistically! Statistics matter, right?

And that was before I knew about the Russian ratfucking of the election.  Or the duplicity of a FOX-induced electorate. Or the sheer depravity of Trump, or his minions, or his handlers, or those complicit in putting him in power – and here I’m thinking of Mitch McConnell, the most talented and depraved politician of my time.  Horrible people, doing horrible things.

But back to Gilead.handmaids-tale-future

I’ve only seen the first three episodes of the Hulu interpretation of The Handmaid’s Tale.  I got to the end of the third episode, not too long after it was released, and had to quit.  I was totally, thoroughly, at my very core, freaked out.  And I had read the book, two or three times. I knew what was coming.  Each time I revisited the story, its observations, lessons, its vantage points taught me something new about the perspective of religious extremists, and about surviving that extremism, about surviving catastrophic failure of a society. And I’d remind myself that in that fictionalized future, as in the world around me, not all survive.

So I knew where the story was going when Hulu released their version; I wasn’t surprised by its cruelty.  But I couldn’t keep watching.  It was the Spring of  2017.  The horror of the Trump administration was obvious from the outset, but it kept getting worse.  I had a need for escapism, not an extrapolation of what was going on around me.  I remember watching a lot of My Little Pony with the grandkid, and some other lighthearted Netflix binge-watching.  I could barely deal with the New Cruelty, as Wonkette,com continues to term it, let alone some horrifying futuristic fiction.

But it’s been a while now.  I haven’t stopped being outraged, but the wounds aren’t quite so raw.  From afar, I watch people chatter about The Handmaid’s Tale.  I know it has relevance.  It has resonance.  I know I “should” watch it, according to some inner voice that tells me to listen to the tale-tellers, the story makers, who react to what’s happening around all of us.  The story is old – originally published in the mid-80s – but it’s captured the attention of people now,  in this time, in this context.  And that matters.  The story has new relevance, and there’s a reason why.  I sense it, want to explore it, want to be in sync with others around me.  And still feel the reluctance.

The second season is out.  I suspect that this miniseries has taken liberties with the story that Margaret Atwood conceived; still, it’s probably in line with her original ideas.  I feel some need to “catch up,” to keep pace, to see where Hulu, of all corporations, has chosen to take this story about female oppression, debasement, and ultimate resistance.  I feel like I “should” watch it, like it should shore me up, but I’m frightened.  I don’t want to go there,  don’t want to “live,” in my mind’s eye, in Gilead.  I don’t want my country, my society, my communities, to go there.  It’s too close, too possible.

What a horrifying world, that I should feel that gap narrowing.

I have to include here a memory I can’t shake, from many many years ago.

I was in a small academic study group at The Evergreen State College, and The Handmaid’s Tale was an assigned reading.  Another student told me she found the book “pedantic” and too preachy. I took great offense at this; I saw in it some of the same themes found in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, where the social control mechanisms are a combination of ginning up hate and fear, and killing off – sometimes literally – any opposition in action or thought.  In the Republic of Gilead, you survived by keeping your head down, by playing along, by actually believing if that’s what it took.  It was a particularly female perspective, and I found that refreshing, if depressing.

But my friend found the story preachy, and pedantic, and a lesson everyone should already have learned.  I was pissed – why do people think everyone else should have already figured out what they are hip to? why do people denigrate others telling the stories they need to tell?  I snapped at her, “Fuck off!” and have felt bad ever since.

In retrospect, I see what she saw: a tale laid out to make a point. But it is more than that, and I still think Atwood’s tale has relevance, maybe too much relevance.  And so I fight with myself, like doing a homework assignment, or some chore that I resist even while I know in the end I will find it rewarding, to get myself to pick the series back up, and see what this new generation, some 30 years after it’s original publication, does with Atwood’s story.

But still, I’m scared. Sitting through a story is sometimes harder than one would think.

 

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For a woman who doesn’t have health insurance through my employer, is past childbearing, hasn’t met a sperm in person for about 30 years, and isn’t much affected by religious organizations, employment-based or otherwise, I sure can get my shorts in a bunch when it comes to the “should a religiously affiliated organization cover contraception” debate.

First of all, YES! they should. And their whining about offending their religious sensibilities really doesn’t track with me.

My main reason? that health insurance coverage? that’s not some gift bestowed by the company on the employee. That’s part of their pay, their compensation for the job they do.  It makes no more sense to me that the church (or church affiliated group) can dictate how a woman can use her health insurance than how she spends her paycheck once it lands in her very own hands.  Are they going to restrict her from buying contraception with her pay? of course not. Well, I suppose they might WANT to, but they basically can’t, and shouldn’t be able to.  Health insurance, being compensation for work done, should be exactly the same: if the coverage is offered in the plan (which it would be under the ACA provisions), the employer has no right to draw back on that compensation.

Second, plenty of religious organizations have no spiritual or dogmatic issue with contraception coverage.  Are we supposed to treat some religions different than others?

And third… well… seriously? This is the line in the sand these organizations are going to draw? With all the threats around the world, and even here in this Christian-friendly nation,* of actual harm to actual people, you’d think the churches might find something a little more meaningful to focus on. I’ll throw out a liberal handful: hunger, poverty, education and war spring easily to mind, but there are plenty of other things that would seem to trump the faux outrage over shelling out some bucks for health coverage that women will just use their paychecks for anyway.

*sigh*

This is why I don’t “do” religion.  Oh yes, there’s that problem where I don’t believe in deities, but the big one is the silly fits some believers wind themselves up in trying to defend silly extrapolations of religious fervor.  Once again, I am reminded of Woody Allen’s line from “Hannah and Her Sisters” – if Jesus came back right now and saw what was being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.


 

*yes, I do not believe in the war on Christianity. Big surprise, huh?  I don’t know, what with it being the most common religious affiliation, and what with all of DC going Christmas-crazy every year, and the whole economic cycle being tied to the Christmas celebration cycle, and churches getting tax breaks, and prayers over congress, inaugurations, and what have you… well, I’m just not convinced somehow.

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