Traister and The Handmaid's Tale

Traister and The Handmaid's Tale

by digby

Rebecca Traister recently re-read "The Handmaid's Tale" in the wake of the Trump election:
In the first few weeks of the Trump administration, I reread The Handmaid’s Tale.

It had been almost exactly 30 years since I’d last visited Margaret Atwood’s fictional feminist dystopia, but I’d been thinking a lot about it. The book, like its authoritarian forerunner 1984, has recently returned to best-seller lists, only in part because a television adaptation is scheduled to air on Hulu in April. It will star Elisabeth Moss in the role of Offred, the heroine whose life, body, husband, daughter, and original name have been stolen from her in the futuristic, religiously ordered Republic of Gilead.

“We never wanted the show to be this relevant,” Moss has said of the television adaptation, which was written, green-lit, and already in production before Donald J. Trump was elected president. Before an Oklahoma lawmaker described women as “hosts” while defending his bill that would require women seeking abortions to gain written permission from the father of the child; before a Texas woman reporting abuse at the hands of her boyfriend was detained by immigration forces in the courtroom reserved for domestic-violence cases; before a report was released showing that violence and threats directed at abortion clinics are at their highest in 20 years; before Mitch McConnell silenced Elizabeth Warren while she read a letter by Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor; before a secretary of Education who has said she sees education as a means “to advance God’s kingdom” was confirmed; and before the First Lady of the United States opened her husband’s rally in Florida with the Lord’s Prayer. And these examples are just from the span of days during which I was rereading the book.

But the decision to bring The Handmaid’s Tale to screen, in advance of our present political circumstances, did not require some sort of mystical clairvoyance. The Handmaid’s Tale was born of, and now has been revivified in, a period of anti-feminist backlash — a response to the gains of women that certainly affected the 2016 election, but which had been playing out long before.

It's great stuff. Read the whole thing. She goes on to relate an interview with Phyllis Schlafly at the RNC six weeks before she died --- the same day the crowd spontaneously started chanting "lock her up!" and "Trump that bitch!" Schlafly was the model for one of the man characters in Atwood's book.

Traister has a more optimistic view of things than I do at the moment. (I'm usually fairly optimistic, but right now I'm having a hard time summoning up anything other than terror and despair.) She sees our story diverging from Atwood's dystopia because unlike the way Atwood portrays average women in the book in the pre-dystopian period, today's women are not apathetic about what's happening. I hope she's right. Certainly, if the resistance can keep up the level of energy we have been seeing, it's far more likely.