film by Chorouk Akik June 7, 2019
It’s that time again. The Handmaid’s Tale season 3 has begun and Hulu dropped 3 new episodes.
Known for its masochistic level of oppression and crimes against women, the story continues building Gilead as a post-coup America with a religious theocracy where women are subject to cruel practices in order to promote fertility.
Margaret Atwood, the original writer of the novel upon which the story is based, states that all the torture is based on real events in our history. So how close is the Handmaid’s Tale to American History?
We’ve all heard the recent reactions to the slew of anti-abortion laws comparing them to The Handmaid’s Tale. Forcing women to suffer through pregnancy because of a twisted sense of the sanctity of life.
In The Handmaid’s Tale season 1, we learn that Gilead’s creation relies on a few key events and people. We learn that there was a continuous retraction of rights, specifically women’s rights and LGBTQIA+ rights.
Women could not obtain birth control without a husband’s consent. Women could no longer work. Non-normative non-heterosexual people are persecuted and executed. Other religions are persecuted. Women could no longer read.
In season 2, we learn that Serena, the wife of Commander Fred (Offred/June’s captive family), is one of the inspirations and public figures that promoted and supported the creation of Gilead. Serena, a white upper class educated woman, points to sin as the reason for the fertility panic in the world.
She holds speeches and rallies and writes books about how feminism hurts women and their natural roles as child bearers. And when Gilead is created she subjugates and despises Offred/June her handmaid.
In our world, there is a similar trend to the initial creation of Gilead. Protections for LGBTQIA+ folk are degrading. Structures continue to limit access to birth control.
Women can no longer access safe abortions in many states. And we have entire bans against religions as well as frequent hate crimes.
What got us here? Government.
Who makes up the government? Old white men mostly.
And who keeps electing them? White women.
The Serena’s of our world indirectly supported the crumbling of women’s rights in America. But this is not a recent trend.
White women have historically thrown other oppressed demographics under the bus if it meant they would have more access to the spoils of patriarchy.
Take the suffragette movement. We know that white women opposed Black men getting the right to vote before women, despite Black women making up much of the organizations for the suffragette movement.
White women fought for rights that would let them acquire and hold land, putting off the economic struggles of lower class women who did not have access to wealth. And white women pushed out Lesbians from their organizations, Betty Friedan calling them the “Lavender Menace,” and refusing to fight for their rights.
We’ve called a more modern version of these behaviors and trends “White feminism” and opted for more “Intersectional Feminism” and the way to topple the patriarchy.
The Handmaid’s Tale ends season 2 with a breakthrough of Serena siding with Offred/June and doing what’s best for her ‘daughter’, the symbol for all women of the future. She does this after realizing that Gilead is bad for women when they cut off her finger for reading scripture.
She finds that even if she is close to power as a commander’s wife she is not immune from the oppression and torture of being a woman in Gilead.
It seems that in season 3 we might be seeing more cooperation from Serena to fight against the Gilead regime and with her fellow women.
Will white women in America change their ways and do the same?
Whatever happens, nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.