Editor’s Note: Our M.O. at Beauty Coup is positivity. We aim to celebrate, uplift, and champion all women. Today we feel compelled to take a break from our regularly scheduled exulting to address the unprecedented threats* to women’s rights in our country, and why The Handmaid’s Tale scares the sh*t out of us.
When I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, I was nineteen years old. Back then I was rattled by how possible a future it seemed for the United States, and moved by Margaret Atwood’s eerie ability to tap into a pear-shaped, unrecognizable world that still somehow felt like it was only a few clicks away from the present day.
After four episodes of the new series, I’m taking a break because the anxiety is overwhelming. In our current political climate, what once felt possible about Atwood’s story now seems plausible. One, maybe two clicks, and we could all be consumed by a plague of fear, hatred, and brutality born out of the subjugation of women.
To illustrate the extent of this anxiety, here’s an excerpt from another piece of Atwood’s writing, which was then condensed into this well-known quote:
“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
As seen in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, the whole truth is that the degradation and enslavement of women serves no one (except possibly an elite, demented few). If you’re a fervently pious sociopath, you’ll be happy in this world. But if you’re a layered, vulnerable human being – as most of us are – then, no matter if you are the oppressed or the oppressor, your humanity will be compromised.
I am actively trying, even in light of all the evidence to the contrary, to believe that there is too much goodness, too much kindness in the world for the atrocities of The Handmaid’s Tale to ever actually happen… but mothers being torn away from their children in the name of serving the state, female genital mutilation, subjection to a life of forced surrogacy, being branded an ‘un-woman’ and hanged for the crime of loving another woman… these are things that have already happened. These are things that are happening. Yes, they’re happening in other parts of the world… but they are happening. Human beings are inflicting horrible indignities on other human beings because of their gender, and sometimes right under our noses. Sex trafficking and forced marriages are not mythical injustices happening in faraway lands; these things happen in the present-day United States of America. Thanks to current U.S. immigrant policy, immigrant women and girls are the most vulnerable to these atrocities.**
Make no mistake, our democracy is at risk. The populace is electing violent men, self-serving men who care more for profits than people, and men who condone sexual assault into political office. We are giving these men power, and it is not them but us who will reap the damage that they sow. Many U.S. women are already suffering under restrictive laws and policies, as their rights are being legislated away by conservative lawmakers. If you’re feeling the heat living in a more progressive state, imagine the lives of women living in Texas and Indiana.
In another time and place, certain male behaviors would seem harmless, amusing, or simply eye-roll-inducing. When a man buys a ticket to a woman-only film screening as some sort of pouting protest, or a guy sues his date for texting during a movie, or another man places a statue of a peeing dog next to the statue of a fearless little girl so the dog is soiling her foot… it would be nice to see these incidents as innocuous and isolated, instead of a pervasive vitriol bubbling under the surface, on the verge of boiling over into actions that are far more harmful and ruinous. But how many clicks away are those men from becoming the men who beat their wives, or rape an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, or shoot up college campuses because they feel rejected by all women everywhere? How many clicks away are we from giving too many of these men the power to strip us of our rights, our agency, and our very humanity?
I don’t want to leave you in a state of despair. We need to hold onto our strength and our levity, even in – especially in – the face of all this awfulness. (There’s a reason this has become my #1 gif of 2017)
I know you’re tired, and overwhelmed, and frustrated. We are, too. But the good news is, that means we are not alone. And together, we are a force of nature.
*Women’s rights in the U.S. are facing greater threats than most of us have seen in our lifetime. Wondering what you can do about it? Volunteer for an organization that supports women’s rights, pay attention to and participate in local politics, support progressive female politicians, run for office, and/or donate money to reproductive rights organizations.