Salon - Conservatives Try to Convince Themselves “The Handmaid’s Tale” Isn’t About Them
Keith A. Spencer’s original title was Watch these conservatives do mental gymnastics to convince themselves “The Handmaid’s Tale” isn’t about them, however, it would not fit, which is too bad, because its perfect! Personally I haven’t been watching the new “Handmaiden’s Tale” series, nor have I read the original novel, however, unlike some of these people, I have a good idea as to what Margret Atwood’s story is about.
When Margaret Atwood penned the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” in 1985, a moralistic Christian conservative was in his second term in the White House and the Religious Right was ascendant. Meanwhile, Atwood had observed the conditions of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, in which a formerly secular, Westernized society was suddenly transformed into a patriarchal theocracy. Under the Ayatollah, women were legally obliged to wear the veil and were banned from many college majors; it would take nearly 40 years of struggle from women’s rights advocates in Iran to restore many, but not all, of their pre-revolutionary rights. Intriguingly, huge numbers of Iranian women actually marched in favor of the revolution that would diminish their rights, which Atwood took note of.
Hence, in Atwood’s tale, the U.S. has devolved into a Christian fundamentalist society in which women are used as breeding stock and servants for the caste of elite men. At the time, Atwood observed the situations in the U.S. and Iran and thought that the U.S. might not be so far off from a similar fundamentalist patriarchy. “I started noticing that a lot of the things I thought I was more or less making up were now happening, and indeed more of them have happened since the publication of the book,” Atwood is quoted as saying in a 1986 New York Times interview. Atwood noted the presence of an American Catholic sect that called women “handmaids” and “threatened the handmaids according to the biblical verse I use in the book — sit down and shut up.”