I recently started watching Hulu’s adaptation of the best-selling novel by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (1985). Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale has received numerous awards including this year’s Emmy’s. I have been riveted by this television series. I also plan to read the book.
The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the near future in the dystopia of Gilead located in New England. A fundamentalist Christian totalitarian government has overthrown the United States. Women are stripped of all their rights. Gilead faces environmental disasters and plunging birthrates. In this society the Commanders’ wives are sterile. Therefore healthy fertile women, Handmaids, are forced into sexual servitude to help propagate the population. The novel tells the story of, Offred, one of the Handmaids and her survival in this frightening society. Her goal, to survive and find the daughter that was taken away from her.
This disquieting story resonated with me because I feel that if we don’t remain vigilant versions of a Gilead could become a reality. Some of you may feel that it is unlikely a situation like this could ever happen in the United States. However, as a minority, a woman and a Latina, I am keenly aware of all the effort that has gone into attaining equal rights for the various segments of our society. And although we have made inroads, much remains to be done to support diversity in this country. Also working against progress are the harmful radicalized views of some of our fellow citizens. Venezuela has its own version of Gilead. Venezuela went from being a rich democracy to a dictatorship in 18 years.
I will share with you that I am a spiritual person and not a religious person. I support your right to have your own spiritual beliefs. However I am a fervent believer in separation of Church and State. The chilling truth is that our government does not have a true separation of church and state. It is very difficult for some our government representatives to separate morality from religion. The Judicial branch of our government is a perfect example of how conservative and liberal views may influence interpretation of the law. At the state level, states like Utah have legislation that is heavily influenced by the Mormon religion. Gilead, although a fictional place, does not seem so unlikely when we see the behavior or decisions made by some our leaders.
I highly recommend watching The Handmaid’s Tale. Regardless of your belief system and values, be they conservative or liberal, religious or secular, no one wants to lose their inherent rights. The Handmaid’s Tale is a cautionary tale. We have the civic responsibility to participate in our democracy. I feel it is sometimes very easy to rely on others to run things. We must be diligent in understanding what is happening in our government at local, state, and federal levels. And lastly, we must remain vigilant in furthering equal rights in our society. The Handmaid’s Tale calls for advocacy and activism.