Using fiction as a form of social commentary is a long practiced art in the literary world, with examples including Thomas More’s Utopia, George Orwell’s 1984, Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games, and most recently, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The most recent TV show adaption of Atwood’s novel however has even spread its popularity further.
But while many literary works are used to reflect the current climate of society, it rather seems the opposite has happened as members of society are utilizing Atwood’s book and its TV version as a means of protest. For those looking for a summary of The Handmaid’s Tale, it is a fictional story about the life of women in an dystopian America, ruled by a theocratic Christian government who uses women as sex slaves and reproductive creatures.
But real life protesters have taken this one step further by actually dressing in iconic costumes inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale to protest Republican policies that they believe infringe upon their rights. Of course, the women of today are in no way near the dire situation of the women in The Handmaid’s Tale so their statements are massive hyper exaggerations at best.
Furthermore, how often do Christian churches beat women in public and do genital mutilation? Do you see any Christian women wearing any garb that resembles anything remotely similar to what handmaids in Margaret Atwood’s novel wear? The answer is probably no unless you consider the radical Mormon FLDS church to be Christian, which they are not. But if you want to find real life examples of The Handmaid’s Tale, look no further than Saudi Arabia or Iran. If any world religion was to start a government like in Atwood’s book, it would definitely be Islam.
I think it is especially ignorant that Atwood portrayed the dictatorship in The Handmaid’s Tale as a “Christian” one when every aspect of her book seems to be almost a carbon copy from the way women are being treated today throughout the Middle East in Muslim-dominated nations. Women in America aren’t forced into marriages but women in the Middle East are. Women in America aren’t denied basic healthcare but women in the Middle East are. Women in America don’t have less access to justice but women in the Middle East do. And women in America don’t have to wear restrictive clothing but women in the Middle East do.
In fact, some of the safest and best countries for women to live in are countries where a significant majority of its population at least claim to be Christian. So why did Atwood specifically pick on Christians as the “bad guys” in this story? Probably because it was supposed to be a thinly veiled attempt to attack conservative Christians in America like enough people aren’t already doing that. But in doing so, Atwood and her book’s fans are misdirecting their anger at the wrong group. Instead of protesting Republicans, they should be more concerned about the rights of women in Middle Eastern countries and the demands of Muslim refugees in the US who want us to conform to their values, or the lack thereof.
So if these women really care about their own rights and preventing The Handmaid’s Tale from becoming reality, they should abandon their “first world problems” protests and focus on actual threats to their rights coming from extremely sexist and deluded Islamic groups. They may not all agree with Christianity’s view on women but unlike Muslims, Christians do not believe in “conquering” everyone and forcing all women to be like them.
Muslims, especially fundamentalist ones, however want everyone to forced to obey their laws and rules, not just those who agree with them. So believe me, if The Handmaid’s Tale ever comes true in America, it will be under an Iran-like regime that is enforcing sharia law, not a group of Christian radicals. You can’t preach women’s rights and justice while embracing the misogynistic cult of fundamentalist Islam at the same time.
Follow Publius Tacitus on Twitter at @PCTacitus