I’ve recently started watching the tv series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and found myself wondering whether the events within the show are in fact a dystopian element of fiction or an eerily similar commentary on the modern day far-right populism that is infecting our world today. Coming into the series I was warned of the graphic nature of depictions toward rape and body mutilation which is inherently at play during viewing. However what is perhaps more shocking is the portrayal of a slow onset repeal of human rights, more specifically women’s rights that snowballs into women being stripped of basic civil and universal liberties around determining what happens to their own bodies and the direction of their lives.
As ‘Offred’ the main protagonist explains the changes occurred slowly while they were all metaphorically asleep in a far right response to growing terrorism. The first effects of which began with people on the streets openly spurting hate filled rhetoric and abuse at her character while she was wearing work out gear (including shock horror, shorts) and jogging in public without the presence of a male chaperone. She was slut-shamed and refused service as a café but laughed it off as a once off. This scene is then juxtapositioned against a spiralling effect where the bank accounts of all women are frozen and they are ‘let go’ from their workplaces.
To be honest if this series had come out a few years ago I would have identified the parallels with the ongoing struggle of the feminist movement and entrenched patriarchy of our world but been able to end an episode and go on with my daily life. However, in the age that we are living in today my response, the further I get into this series, is one of utter fear. The parallels to our modern day, Trump era existence are frightening real. As in the Handmaid’s Tale, women and minorities are slowly losing their rights with every blinking of an eyelid. We are being sold the idea that this is necessary in a fear mongering campaign that works to capture the worst of our apprehensions about safety and security.
Day by day we are seeing decisions, actions and executive orders taken by those in the high echelons of power that should surprise us and shock us into action. But we’ve been so highly desensitised to the never ending absurdities that we seem to have accepted that this stupidity might just be our inherent fate. Now let’s be clear I am not saying that the next stage of the human condition will be plucking fertile young women out of their lives, placing them in homes of those who are wealthy but reproductively challenged and renaming them ‘of-whatever their masters name is’. However, I am attempting to highlight that what seemed completely unacceptable yesterday has crept into existence today in the most shocking of ways. The reimposition of the global gag rule, the repeal of planned parenthood services and the gutting of UN funding to marginalised women worldwide is an outright assault on our pursuit of justice and equality as members of the human race.
So I urge you today to not accept the next hideous thing that comes our way without a fight. I beg you to not ‘fall asleep at the wheel’ as June (I refuse to continue calling her Offred) and her friends did. Do not be desensitised by the continuance of these abhorrent violations of our basic human rights and please continue to resist.