The Handmaid ’s Tale is a difficult display to understand right now. After following the plot of Margaret Atwood ’s 1985 e book in its first season, its 2nd season piles on a series of extra horrors, all set in the future nation of Gilead — a religious theocracy that kills and tortures girls who refuse to undergo male possession. As my colleague Laura Hudson writes, “its portents are so terrifyingly acquainted that they have turn out to be excruciating to watch.”
The Handmaid ’s Story ’s premise — that you just can ’t completely stamp out sexism, simply send it extra or less into remission — is perpetually well timed, as is Gilead ’s basic omit for girls ’s our bodies and choices. However for all this, The Handmaid ’s Tale ’s imaginative and prescient of non secular oppression feels strikingly at odds with how misogyny works these days.
Atwood ’s Gilead is a dystopia written in the ‘80s for the age of the moral Majority and feminist intercourse wars. Its leaders sofa their misogyny in the language of defending women from the hazards of pornography and objectification, which were issues for proper-wing and left-wing women alike. Gilead ’s ladies have given up “freedom to,” that means particular person autonomy, for a theoretical “freedom from” being victimized. Their world is circumscribed by means of scripture, together with a Biblical starting place story for handmaids and brutal punishments for Christian fundamentalist boogeymen like abortionists and homosexual or lesbian “gender traitors.”
None of these concepts have disappeared; Vice President Mike Pence helps giving women “freedom from” sexual harassment by protecting them clear of men, as an example. however the white supremacist “alt-proper” and more generically nationalist “alt-lite” coalition, which have helped outline the current political landscape, are strikingly secular. As Chris Stedman talked about at Vice, “in contrast to far-right American movements of years prior, you don ’t pay attention much talk of God or faith at lately ’s alt-proper rallies.”
President Donald Trump ’s Christian affiliation is perfunctory at absolute best, and his management has been an exercise in debasement for evangelical supporters, who have ended up defending pedophilia and offering sexual “mulligans” to excuse alleged infidelity. Trump ’s well-known boast approximately groping girls might were best possible fodder for Gilead ’s scare-tactic propaganda.
As An Alternative, could-be patriarchs have claimed to oppose spiritual misogyny the way in which Gilead ’s founders antagonistic pimps and pornographers, by means of appropriating excellent-faith complaint of the sector ’s such a lot Gilead-like non secular sects (in particular, the ones concerning Muslims) to excuse misogyny toward home. Alt-lite superstar Milo Yiannopoulos has bemoaned fundamentalist Islam ’s oppression of a few women, at the same time as promoting loss of life and rape risk campaigns towards others. Atheist vloggers fostered the 2014 anti-feminist Gamergate movement, which introduced the existing careers of figures like Mike Cernovich, a person who has claimed that “the only rape tradition is Muslim rape culture.”
Could-be patriarchs have claimed to oppose religious misogyny the way in which Gilead ’s founders hostile pimps and pornographers.
From Time To Time, this is simply disingenuous rhetoric supposed to close down grievance. However every now and then, it ’s an argument for locking down borders and rolling back civil rights to battle the overpowering, existential danger of Islamic fundamentalism. Trump ’s anti-Muslim commute ban ordered executive companies to assemble and free up information on “honor killings” of women in the United States, a thinly veiled request to publicize gendered crimes by means of Muslims. Some alt-proper individuals have known as for a “white sharia” to supposedly beat extremists at their own sport, stripping ladies of all economic and political power and forcing them to endure children for white males. There are few grand scriptural justifications for this — simply bare calls for racist male supremacy, and the top to a peaceful modern society that supposedly feminizes white men.
The Handmaid ’s Story ’s Gilead at the beginning used to be white supremacist, despite the fact that Hulu ’s showrunners dropped this part from the tv series, a call that ’s been criticized for downplaying the legacy of racism. But even the e book ’s mythologically justified racism, which had Gilead deporting black voters on account of the Curse of Ham, would appear toothless as of late. many spiritual other people could be racist, however these days ’s best racists wave the banner of scientific authority, pointing to IQ tests or spurious just-so tales approximately evolution. When Christianity makes an appearance, it ’s as an example of Western intellectual greatness, no longer divine fact.
within the comparable way, nowadays ’s so much outspoken misogynists argue that biology — no longer God — has made women not so good as men. More Than A Few sexist “manosphere” philosophies revolve around hyper-simplified models of animal habits, where alpha males preside over an inherently violent and dominance-primarily based society. “Involuntary celibate” mass shooter Elliot Rodger, who can have helped encourage this week ’s massacre in Toronto, encouraged a strange eugenics program where men could evolve to the next shape via killing all women. If ladies have been allowed to make a choice pals and undergo youngsters, he explained, their under-evolved brains might “devolve humanity completely.”
Somewhat few other people espouse such direct racist or sexist hatred, however in a milder shape, those aren ’t specifically fringe ideas. The Bell Curve, a book that encourages coverage-makers to simply accept that sure races are doomed to intellectual inferiority, made creator Charles Murray an academic superstar. Jordan Peterson, who has been referred to as “the most influential public highbrow in the Western global,” makes use of lobster biology and Jungian psychology to argue that male dominance hierarchies are the core of human civilization. (At The Same Time As urging male fans to “make stronger up” to draw women, he ’s mused that feminists who give a boost to Islam “unconsciously lengthy for masculine dominance.”) Detractors of the #MeToo movement have time and again pointed to their belief that men are “intended” to pursue and make undesirable advances towards women. With or with out a god in the picture, numerous other people believe it ’s a sin to battle the universe ’s “preordained” plan for humanity, where men dominate girls and white other folks run society.
The Handmaid ’s Story also reserves various scorn for those out of doors the regime who didn’t stop Gilead ’s upward thrust, or who forged alliances for political gain. in the nineteen eighties, this meant radical feminists combating exploitative pornography. As Of Late, there are any collection of uncomfortable attainable objectives — from technologists whose paintings is repurposed via hate movements, to unfastened speech advocates who protect fascists out of principle, to innovative politicians who middle the “white running elegance” in their rhetoric. (within the name of equal-probability complaint, i’d add: writers who condemn toxic social actions without formulating better alternatives.) you can mount ethical defenses of most of these teams, that’s precisely why probing their weaknesses could be compelling. Dystopias lower deeper while you’ll be able to believe sympathetic other people abetting them.
Comfortable biological determinism doesn ’t necessarily result in harsh oppression, however that ’s now not the point. In The Handmaid ’s Story, Margaret Atwood imagined how seeds of xenophobia, misogyny, and authoritarianism may just completely corrupt a well-liked ideology with many smartly-that means supporters — because a Gilead can develop in any staff that we could its ideas take root. that includes Evangelical Christianity, but in addition a contemporary secular rationalism that ’s being co-opted via white male supremacists, speaking the language of technology and logic.
It ’s now not hard to ascertain a world that ’s as merciless to women as Gilead, that is why watching The Handmaid ’s Story is so hard. However regardless of all its brutality, the display softens a extra painful truth: misogyny doesn ’t simply persist, it evolves.