Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How Close Are We to a Handmaid's Tale Reality?

I don’t remember when I read A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I was probably in 8th or 9th grade when I heard about it, and I know I read it only because it was on a banned books list. I didn’t care what it was about, but I had to know more. 

About the book: Set in a future America that has turned into an anti-feminist fascist state, the book tells the story of Kate, a handmaid who lives a life of sexual servitude but falls in love with a man who is not her assigned partner.
Excerpt: “‘I was coming to find you,’ he says, breathes, almost into my ear. I want to reach up, taste his skin, he makes me hungry. His fingers move, feeling my arm under the nightgown sleeve, as if his hand won’t listen to reason. It’s too good to be touched by someone, to be felt so greedily, to feel so greedy.”
The controversy: A Judson, Tex., school superintendent banned the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum after a parent complained that it was sexually explicit and offensive to Christians. In doing so, the superintendent overruled the recommendation by a committee of teachers, students, and parents. The committee appealed the decision to the school board, which overruled the superintendent in 2006.
I barely remember any details about the book. I do remember being surprised it was on a banned books list, but then again, I grew up feeding my morbid and gore curiosity on Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I guess the idea of a near-future dystopian New England wasn’t much to grab my imagination or to repel me on the idea of sex. 

Strange off-tangent  thought here: my mom was fairly strict about allowing us to watch movies that, in her opinion, was too sexual in nature. That seemed to include a lot of stuff, even as we got into high school. I always wondered if she gave any thought to the violent nature of Stephen King’s books. She knew I was a voracious reader of his novels. Is violence more socially or morally acceptable than sex for pleasure?

The book seems to be popular again, especially because of the hype-surrounding the Hulu series, which is set to start in late April. But I also think it’s growing in popularity because of how society treats women, especially with the publication of this article: "The handmaids in Atwood's book are subject to strictly enforced dress codes and are provided uniforms similar to a Catholic nun's habit, except bright red. Red is the symbol of their societal status as women who are kept solely to conceive children for the wealthy. You may think this is extreme, but in 2017 when you have a president who says '[he] likes the women who work for him 'to dress like women,' it may not be so far off.”

Just days ago, United forced two girls to change out of their leggings before allowing them to board a flight. "A United Airlines gate agent barred two girls from boarding a flight Sunday morning because the girls were wearing leggings. Another girl who was wearing gray leggings had to change before she was allowed to board the flight from Denver to Minneapolis, a witness saidThe airline’s passenger contract says for the safety of all passengers and crew members, the airline can refuse to let a passenger board if the passenger is 'barefoot or not properly clothed.' The airlines, however, does not define 'properly clothed.'

Hey, it’s totally okay to make girls feel bad about themselves! They don’t know well enough to care for themselves!

"In the book, women are fed a story about how their new restrictive lifestyle protects them from the dangerous world around them. "There is more than one kind of freedom," said Aunt Lydia. "Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it." Freedom from being catcalled, from being assaulted by men. At my high school, they didn't want boys to be distracted by the girls' shoulders, so they required us to cover up instead of telling the boys not to objectify us. Covering up was freedom from the comments of our male classmates. Freedom to would have been teaching boys that girls do not exist for their viewing.”

High schools around the country are telling female students they need to send photos of their prom dresses for school approval, before the prom, so they can be admitted. "Employees at Perfect Fit Formals, where Morris spent that $500, say they don't even stock the more risky styles. 'We have two pieces, but we are more like a family-oriented business. We only order dresses that show about 1-2 inches of skin in the belly area,’ Brown said.

If schools are going to insist these students submit their dresses in advance for permission, then does it need to be required of the students that have already turned 18? After all, those students are already legal adults.

Better yet, how about the prom chaperones who make girls leave the prom when such prior approval isn’t required? "A Virginia teenager says she was forced to leave her prom after fathers who were acting as chaperones at the event complained that she was dancing provocatively and her skirt was too short'[She] told me that some of the dads who were chaperoning had complained that my dancing was too provocative, and that I was going to cause the young men at the prom to think impure thoughts,' Clare claimed.” But then again, this was a prom held at the Shady Grove Methodist Church…for the Richmond Homeschool Prom…that girl wasn’t going to be able to do ANYTHING right that night!

I think one commenter to this article summed it up perfectly: "It's a sad day when normal intelligent Americans blame a young woman's choice of dress for their own "impure thoughts". Speaks volumes on the dad's integrity.

Let’s control the females’ appearances, but not teach the males how to behave?

"It is hard not to wonder what truths might lie in plain sight within fiction. In the trailer for the upcoming Hulu series, the take home quote is, "We only wanted to make the world better . . . better never means better for everyone." It has eerie similarity to Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again," which beckons my response: will America be great for everyone?”

Of course, America will be great for everyone…as long as you’re a natural born American citizen, not a Muslim, is a male Republican, and you don’t make any waves in society. 

"Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t go to dinner alone with women who aren’t his wife or drink alcohol around them…There are sensible reasons that somebody like Pence would avoid being alone with women. He was first elected to Congress in the shadow of the Clinton sex scandal years. During that time, a self-preserving politico would be wise to avoid any appearance of sexual impropriety. Plus, Pence’s choice to avoid being alone with women is a function of his religious faith. It’s hard to fathom similar left-wing backlash if Pence’s conduct were informed by a non-Christian faith.

As the Vice President, Mike Pence is a public figure. But it makes me wonder how the never being alone with a woman other than his wife or drinking around them even came to light. It might make more sense if he explained why he feels he has to live like that, but he should also be able to keep some parts of his life private. Personally, I think he’s probably got a drinking problem and he’s a womanizer. Maybe his wife put those restrictions on him because she knows what he’ll be like if he gets out of control. I also wonder what part of his faith brought him to those decisions.