Meghan Daum is a writer I follow on Medium.com. Here, she’s writing about The Perverse Seductions of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.
“That (the show) might be a smart way of promoting a new book, especially in a country reeling from our ongoing political fiasco. But the United States is not poised to become a misogynist totalitarian regime simply because there are some monstrous men out there (some with considerable power) and things don’t always move in the direction we’d like them to. It’s this overreaching premise that led Thomson Reuters to include the United States on a list of the 10 most dangerous countries for women, along with India, where public gang rapes are rampant, as well as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia (plus Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Congo and Nigeria. Whew, aren’t you relieved that the USA is only #10?), places known for “honor” killings, forced marriages, and female genital mutilation. The United States’ inclusion on the list, according to the poll’s website, was attributable to the fact that the survey, which polled 548 “experts on women’s issues,” was conducted last fall, in the wake of #MeToo movement.”
It might be telling that Congo, officially the Democratic Republic of, is on the list, along with the others, not counting the USA. While the dominant religion of 7 of them is Islam, with Hinduism the dominant religion of India, supposedly the dominant religion of the other two–USA and Congo–is Christianity. Telling, because real Christianity–the Bible–shows utmost respect for and care of women. If women are being abused in a culture, it is anything but Christian. In the case of Congo, it is endless war that is the oppression factor, specifically the enthusiasm for rape and torture of the victorious African “soldier”. In the case of the USA, it is imaginary.
“While the United States’ inclusion among the world’s worst women-haters is absurd, if not downright offensive, the list is an important reminder that there are countries in the world that, right now, get pretty damn close to Gilead. Which might raise the question as to why we don’t spend more time talking about them. Some progressives will reduce such comparisons to ‘whataboutism,’ insisting that a bad situation isn’t made less bad because another situation is worse. But another word for whataboutism is perspective. Once an essential tool for thinking, perspective is now a kind of obstacle. It gets in the way of the stories we want to tell ourselves — especially the stories we want to tell about ourselves.”
Interesting thought, that perspective presents an obstacle to believing narratives. Since she is writing for women, her focus is on anti-woman narratives. There are also racial, ethnic, religious and cultural narratives. You may have heard the expression, “there are four kinds of people in the world: those who make something happen, those who watch something happen, those who don’t know something is happening, but not sure what happened, and those who don’t know anything is happening.” With regards to pop narratives, they roughly correspond to: narrative promoters, who either believe the narrative or pretend to, mainly because it’s in their interest to do so; narrative agnostics, who are bombarded with the narrative until they aren’t sure what they think; narrative shruggers, who aren’t sure and don’t care anyway; narrative sleepers, medicated enough by social media, entertainment, or other drugs, and miss practically everything. I often wonder if the last group aren’t really the smart ones, since narratives come and go in “their sound and fury, signifying nothing “ (apologies to Shakespeare). Back to Ms. Daum.
“So, what makes Atwood’s persecution story so compelling? In my wilder moments of pondering, I’ve wondered if the extraordinary, unprecedented freedoms now enjoyed by women in places like the United States have made us all the more fascinated with the notion of our own oppression. It’s almost like part of the pleasure of reading the books and watching the show comes from imagining our own punishment and martyrdom. As is often the case with such conjurings, the cartoonish proportions of this punishment transform it from a factual possibility into a speculation, a ghastly fantasy that’s compelling precisely because you know it will never happen in real life. Maybe it’s not so much that we’re living in Gilead, but that some aspect of Gilead is living in us.“