Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a story about the United States after a coup has abolished democracy and established a theocratic and patriarchal dictatorship. The book has been translated into more than 40 languages. Now it’s a Hulu miniseries starring Elizabeth Moss.

We are four episodes into Hulu’s miniseries The Handmaid’s Tale and it is terrifying, thought provoking, mesmerizing, and deeply disturbing. The Handmaid’s Tale was originally published in 1985, and at its core it is a parable about a dystopian post-revolution America in which women have been reduced to property, natural resources in North America have been all but destroyed, and neighbors spy on each other, looking for signs of insubordination to the government. When The Handmaid’s Tale was written 30 years ago, the second-wave feminism of the the 1960s and 1970s was clashing with the increasing influence of the Christian right in American politics. Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale in response to these conflicting ideologies, to serve as a warning about the disastrous consequences of taking these intensely religious views to the extreme. But it seems Atwood also had a touch of clairvoyance as well, as Hulu’s miniseries adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale reveals many of its ideas are, frighteningly enough, still as relevant now as they were then.

One thing the miniseries offers that the book does not is more context and background information about how the US got from here to Gilead. The miniseries switches back and forth between Offred’s current life and her life before Gilead. Through short flashback scenes, we get to see how the United States developed into the oppressive Christian Right authoritarian government known as Gilead.

Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up then, either. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.

In The Handmaid’s Tale, the government took away women’s power, bit by bit, until they had nothing left. We see evolving perspectives about women’s sexuality and modesty; Offred goes running in shorts and a tank top and is slut shamed when she tries to buy a cup of coffee. We see evolving perspectives about LTBQ+ rights; non-cisgendered and non-heterosexual individuals are labeled sinful “gender-traitors” and strung up and hung in public spaces. We see evolving perspectives about women’s roles in the workplace and at home; the government passes a law prohibiting women from owning credit cards and managing their own money – money is turned over to their closest male relation. Bit by bit and little by little, women’s rights and freedoms are eliminated, just like we saw today with regards to the passage of the Republican healthcare bill (AHCA) and Trump’s “Religious Liberty” executive order.

Did I just loose you? Do you disagree with me? Do you think I am overreacting and exaggerating?

Fuck off and wake up.

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Did that get your attention? Are you angry with me yet?

Yes? Good. Let’s keep going.

I want to briefly address the “Religious Freedom” executive order. As a candidate and shortly after taking office, Trump declared he would “totally destroy” what’s known as the Johnson Amendment, a six-decade-old ban on churches and other tax-exempt organizations supporting political candidates. The provision applies to all tax-exempt organizations, including many colleges and foundations. But Christian groups have been the most vocal complainers about the ban.

But there is a good reason for this prohibition of preaching politics from the pulpit. For the health and welfare of our democracy, we have a constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State through the First Amendment. Trump’s executive order puts that separation at risk. The imposition of Christian beliefs into politics, particularly far-right Christian beliefs, opens the door to high levels of discrimination in our government. Imagine churches participating in politics to promote anti-LGBTQ+ policies. Imagine conservative churches participating in politics to promote anti-women’s rights policies. Sound familiar? Isn’t that what happened in The Handmaid’s Tale? Isn’t that how we got from the United States to Gilead, a country where “gender-traitors” were strung up and hung in public squares?

the dead handmaid tale.png

“The actions taken today are a broadside to our country’s long-standing commitment to the separation of church and state,” ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero said in a statement. “Whether by executive order or through backroom deals, it’s clear that the Trump administration and congressional leadership are using religion as a wedge to further divide the country and permit discrimination.”

But let’s move on to the more offensive issue – the republican healthcare bill. If you do not already know, Republicans passed a healthcare bill today, known as the AHCA (or Trumpcare), that will repeal and replace Obamacare (the ACA). This bill is now headed to the Senate, which is also Republican-controlled, so if you are a woman, you should pay particularly close attention as I explain how much this bill fucks us over.

Did I lose you again? Do you still think I’m overreacting? Is my use of the word Fuck messing with your delicate sensibilities? Bear with me a moment as we take a closer look at this “healthcare” bill.

Beyond stripping away health-insurance coverage for more than 24 million individuals and costing more than 8 billion dollars, the republican healthcare bill labels the following as preexisting conditions:

  • Rape
  • Domestic Violence
  • C-Section
  • Postpartum depression

Let’s be clear about what this means. If you are a woman, you are a pre-existing condition. 33% of American mothers have had a C-Section, 20% of American women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes, and 25% of women experience violent domestic abuse.

But what does it mean to have a preexisting condition under the republican healthcare bill? It means we go back to the way things were before Obamacare (the ACA); if you have a preexisting condition, insurance companies can deny you coverage or charge you exorbitant premium prices. So, if you are a woman, get ready to lose your health insurance coverage or expect to pay a high price for it.

Before Obamacare, rape survivors who got treatment for their injuries could be denied healthcare coverage later on. When a rape occurs, it is very typical for doctors to prescribe anti-viral prescription to help prevent the transmission of HIV. Historically and pre-Obamacare, however, women have lost health insurance coverage post-rape for up to three years after their assault until they can prove that they are HIV free. When asked if rape survivors would be approved for health insurance coverage, Chris Turner, a health insurance agent, told CNN that “Medical treatment associated with rape made the person too high a risk.”

The new republican AHCA bill turns the power back over to the states and allows them to discriminate based on medical history, basically giving insurance companies a free pass to deny people coverage if they have a preexisting condition. So, if you get raped and your doctor prescribes you anti-viral medication to help prevent an HIV infection, good luck getting health insurance coverage. And to a put a price-tag on that, a 28-day course of drugs to prevent HIV infection may cost up to $1,000.

But why should we be surprised? Republicans have always been so thoughtful and respectful when talking about rape.

“Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” 1

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down.” 2

“Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.” 3

“Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” 4

“If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.” 5

“I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.” 6

26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” 7

grab them by the pussy

Have you been treated for injuries due to domestic violence? You now have a preexisting condition too. So not only are you a survivor, but you are marked for life and may be an undesirable candidate for healthcare coverage. Want mental health counseling to help with your recovery? Good luck getting insurance to pay for that under the republican healthcare bill.

Let’s talk about C-Sections. C-Section births are on the rise in the U.S. In 1965, the U.S cesarean birth rate was 4.5 percent.1 Since then, the national cesarean birth rate has increased seven-fold. In 2009, the rate peaked to 32.9 percent and dropped slightly to 32.2 percent in 2014.2 Currently, one in three women give birth via C-section, the country’s most common operating room procedure.

Even though pregnancy and  birth are not just a woman thing (men cannot exist without women, aka their mothers, and it biologically requires a man to be involved at some stage in the process, aka conception), republican lawmakers do not think that men should be responsible for sharing the cost of prenatal care.

“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” 8

“Do men not have to buy maternity coverage?” “To the best of your knowledge, has a man ever delivered a baby?” 9

Do you still think I am overreacting in comparing the republican healthcare bill to what we have seen in The Handmaid’s Tale? Did they not take away women’s ability to pay for things themselves? Did they not take away women’s control over their own bodies? Where will the United States be when the majority of women are without health insurance? Where will the United States be when the majority of women cannot afford to pay for their pregnancies and births? Will we still be the United States, or will we look more like Gilead?

But the future we face and the consequences to come go far beyond these two laws. These two laws didn’t come out of nowhere; we have been making our way here for the last ten to twenty years. Every day, women face unprecedented levels of harassment, discrimination, and anti-woman attitudes.

“The solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: Women should log off.” 10

“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” 11

“Didn’t men give you the kitchen?”

“Know your role and shut your mouth.”

“You would be much happier at home with a husband and children.”

So, am I still exaggerating? Is Gilead really so unrecognizable? Do we not see it reflected in our current politics and culture?

If you still disagree with me and managed to get this far into my post, take a moment to talk to the women in your life (your mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, etc.) and ask them how they feel about this healthcare bill. Chances are they probably spent most of the day in shock, rage, or sadness.

So, what comes next?

Fuck the patriarchy. It’s time to be a Bitch, because Bitches get stuff done.

Don’t be sad. Get angry.

Stop crying. Start screaming.

And don’t let the bastards get you down. Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum, bitches.

nolite te bastardes

  1. 24 March 1990, Texas oilman Clayton Williams, the Republican nominee in the Lone Star State’s gubernatorial election on March 24, 1990.
  2. U.S. Representative Todd Akin of Missouri on August 19, 2012.
  3. Rick Santorum, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania who was then campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination on January 20, 2012.
  4. Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for one of Indiana’s U.S. Senate seats on October 23, 2012.
  5. Lawrence Lockman, a Republican member of the Maine House of Representatives in February 2014.
  6. Chuck Winder, Republican Senator from Idaho in March 2012.
  7. President Donald J. Trump, on Twitter.
  8. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) March 2017
  9. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) in 2013, referring to Obamacare’s essential health benefits.
  10. Milo Yiannopoulos, now permanently banned from Twitter.
  11. Breitbart News Headline. Article written by Milo Yiannapoulos.
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