The Handmaid’s Tale,” based on author (and badass) Margaret Atwood’s brilliant dystopian novel of the same name, is officially the feel-bad hit of the new Hulu season. It should be required viewing for … well, everyone, especially people who are not natural dot-connectors. The conception, birth and delivery of a dictatorship parallels a society’s relationship with women and reproduction. This is not theory; it is practice all over the radical right-wing world. Since the advent of the written word, there has been a war on women. If you think that statement is hyperbole, read Riane Eisler’s “The Chalice and The Blade” and Leonard Schlain’s “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” and think again.
Sinclair Lewis is credited with saying, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” He forgot to mention “and stripping women of their human rights,” which is as predictable as the march toward theocracy both here and abroad.
“Oh, but Ellen! You’re such an alarmist!” I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has said that to me. “No one will ever overturn Roe v. Wade: that’s established law!” or “Contraception is really a conservative idea and family planning is good for everyone!” Ha!
I went to high school with friends who are now fundamentalist Christians and Trump supporters. They see the proper role of men as superior to women, period. While they and their ilk may give lip service to the idea that women are special or blessed, the “pedestal” approach to worshipping women boils down to their BQ, a term I created and have used over the years; it stands for “Breedabilty Quotient.” This worship — and simultaneous hatred — of females is not unique to radical Christianity, as many other fanatical Abrahamic brothers share it as well. When Christians brag about how their value systems are more advanced than Islamic Sharia law, I have to laugh. Timothy McVeigh was as murderous as any radical jihadist. And don’t get me started on the radical Jewish cults that keep women as suppressed as any radical Christian or Islamic sect.
As many of us watch “The Handmaid’s Tale,” we are disgusted and fascinated in turns. The show has excellent production values, great acting and is highly entertaining; an emotional and adrenalin producing spiritual rollercoaster. There are even unofficial drinking and other online games that accompany the show. For example, Karin Rose — an art director in Chicago — developed a set of parody bingo cards billed as “(unofficial) HANDMAID’S BING-Oh” to avoid any copyright problems. Bingo, after all, is a connect-the-dots game, thus the “Oh.” Her instructions read: “1) Check off the issues on your card that occur in this dystopian tale and that also occurs in our society today. 2) The first person to complete a line shouts “BING-Oh and becomes the winner! 3) For everyone to win — start fighting for women’s rights, like NOW.”
I started fighting for women’s rights when I was in my teens, while also having an extremely high BQ. I rejected marrying men for security, instead opting for actual compatibility as partners and human beings. Today I’m a woman who no longer has BQ going for her. As a result my worth as a person has tanked, not only in Gilead — the fictional country where “The Handmaid’s Tale” takes place — but in contemporary times too. I get reminded of this almost daily. A particularly dickish man I saw at a memorial just stared at me while I was speaking and then walked away. Younger men don’t return smiles or even say hello. Women of all ages also treat themselves and other older women as nonentities, or as they’re called on the show an “unwoman.” Over 40 and we’re MIA, everywhere. It’s weird being invisible after formerly being considered a “catch”: white, blonde, blue-eyed, well-educated, with Midwestern TV broadcaster nonthreatening good looks, i.e., good breeding stock.
I am so grateful Ms. Rose’s BING-Oh includes “Women are told they need protection,” which is my bailiwick: empowering women and girls to protect themselves emotionally, verbally and physically. What is missing on these mock bingo cards is stripping all of us of our histories. If an alien came down and read our history books or visited our museums, they would conclude that female humans just haven’t done much or contributed to society in any significant way — other than look nice. That is a surefire way to inculcate a huge group with their own worthlessness.
The development of so-called women’s museums, (we don’t call other museums “men’s museums,” although by content that’s mostly true) is of primary importance so we can see the shoulders we all stand on. Visit womensfreedommuseum.org for the genesis of an exciting vision. From my own work, the movie “Beauty Bites Beast,” I have a “Bad Ass Building Blocks” segment which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Ellensnortland. Women and men benefit from knowing about women and girls of the past.
Time for all our bad asses to step forward. Men: do you really think you’re not needed for so-called women’s issues? You are! In this real life game of BING-Oh, you’re also losing to those wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross and denying women’s rights. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Ms. Snortland’s gender and politics oriented column has been with the PW for a long time. snortland.com.