Monday, 3 July 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

Mel and Loribeth* have both written about The Handmaid’s Tale, and over the weekend I did too, on A Separate LifeThey can’t do that, can they?  I was surprised by the level of rage and distress I felt over both the book (which I hadn’t read before) and especially the TV series, at the same time being delighted that it had been written/made so brilliantly. Initially, when I knew it was based around a story of fertility/infertility, I was a little put off. But afterwards, analysing my thoughts about it, I realised that my reactions were and are not influenced by the infertility angle, although admittedly I felt a few twinges about some of the nuances of the monthly-waiting, the questions being asked, the blame of not conceiving, the feelings of the infertile Wives, and my tribe of the unseen and rarely spoken of “Non-Women,” who are mentioned in the book but I am not sure they’re mentioned in the series.

Ultimately though, I have concluded that my strong reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale is all about feminism, and women’s status in society being reduced to their bodies. I think too this is why I continue to write, to defend the position of women without children, to talk about our legitimate but frequently invisible place in society, simply because we haven't produced children. Feminism is perhaps why I feel these injustices and ignorance so strongly, as along with the very personal context I have with infertility and life without children, I also view them in a much broader social context. Feminism is, after all, just about equality and justice, and surely that's what we all want?


*    If I've missed your post on The Handmaid's Tale, I apologise, and ask you to leave a link in the comments, as I'd love to read it.


 

17 comments:

  1. Visiting from Microblogging Mondays. I read the book long ago, and I have been opposed to watching the TV show based on the notion that as a woman I must watch it. Perhaps my brand of feminism is different, but it is routed in the notion that I be whoever and do whatever I choose. Women are marginalized in so many ways that I see the issue as being so much more than being reduced to their bodies, as that tends to oversimplify things in my view.

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    1. But the point of the series is that they do reduce women to just their bodies, whether they work or not. It happens in our lives too, but I certainly agree that we are marginalised in many many others ways.

      I actually think everyone should watch the show, not just women.

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  2. I really need to find a way to watch the Hulu version. The book and the 1990s film were so impactful.

    Glad to have your voice around this topic, Mali. Off to ready your other post.

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  3. Aaaaah, I haven't finished the series yet so I can't read any of the posts that are beyond where I am. I love what they've done with the world created by the book, and I love that Margaret Atwood is intimately involved in the show. It is upsetting, and I actually reread the book recently and it was a WAY different experience reading it as a teenager and a 20-something than it was to read it as a 40-something, infertile woman without children. But still quite enjoyable, if you can say that about the subject matter! Definitely a cautionary tale. And yes to feminism. I'm so glad your voice is out there!

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  4. I haven't read the book or seen the new series (only the made for TV movie, years ago when I was a teenager.) And I probably won't watch/read it any time soon as I don't think I can digest the content right now. But I thought a bit about your comment about women being reduced to bodies. It's interesting to think about because of course women (and men) are bodies, but being human also much more. I think subfertilty (and pregnancy) have made me more aware of my body because it was the first time I had to wonder about it not working or doing what I wanted it to do. And that has I think, fundamentally changed how I see myself, though I can't quite explain how right now.

    While women gave historically been reduced to their bodies, you could make an argument that so have men, by being expected to go to war and die for example,or do dangerous jobs. Maybe the connection is that in the modern era we are less accustomed to think of ourselves in terms of our bodies and their limitations, because we are farther removed from physical challenges and mortality. Some of us anyway.

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    1. Interesting. I'll have to think on that a bit, but my initial reaction is that these days, I think men are still judged by their bodies far less often than women. Women's looks are commented on far more frequently than men's, women's bodies are controlled by regulation and insurance companies etc, women are under far more pressure than men to conform to particular body types, etc etc. I still think the degree of judgement and pressure is very different.

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  5. That is such an interesting observation. Upon reflection, I probably only thought about the infertility angle from time to time. That it was more focused on the idea of freedom and equality, the idea of someone else choosing your life.

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  6. Misogyny. Patriarchy. Women reduced to their bodies (or rather, body functions or lack thereof). Women treated as chattel.

    It has been difficult to watch.

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    1. Yes, very difficult. But compelling too.

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  7. I read the book many years ago in college, when my boyfriend (now hubby) suggested it to me. I read it and found myself enraged, when he asked what I thought of it I remember saying...it is not that far off from reality, this could happen at any moment! He didn't see it then but does now. I haven't yet seen the series...I guess I still hold the book to close to memory

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  8. I read the book years ago, and I hated it. I think it hits too close to home - it makes me uncomfortable because I can see how easily that sort of society could come about. And whenever someone tells me how much they love that book...I'm confused, because it's horrifying. Because of it, I've never read another Margaret Atwood book. It's like seeing a picture of a particularly horrible spider. MAYBE you'll never encounter it, but you're a bit afraid all the same.

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  9. Oh how time flies. I wrote this post during one of Mel's book tours in 2007 - http://www.coming2terms.com/2007/12/09/an-unwomans-perspective/
    Look forward to reading and catching up with the latest perspectives.

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    1. Comments must be closed on your post, so I'll comment here. You asked some big questions, that I might turn my mind to in another post.

      But this is the part I really loved: "Motherhood and infertility share one very big thing in common: sacrifices. While the former’s sacrifices are well documented and understood, the latter’s are not … "

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  10. Mali, thanks so much for stopping by my blog and leaving a very thoughtful comment. I appreciate your time in doing so. As for Handmaid's Tale, I'm not at the point in my life right now to read the book or see the series. I usually like to consume entertainment to escape, not to be reminded of my current situation.

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  11. It's been a while since I read the book, but I think I would agree with you that it affected me more from a feminist perspective than as an infertility tale. So glad you got to read it & see the TV show (and that we get to read your thoughts about it!).

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    1. Ha -- prompted by Pamela's link, I looked up my entry from Mel's book tour back in 2007 (!). Quote: "Overall, though, when I think of this book, the themes of totalitarianism and the repression of women spring to mind more than infertility."

      http://theroadlesstravelledlb.blogspot.ca/2007/12/at-risk-of-having-my-canadian.html

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    2. Great minds, and all that!!!

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