Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum! The Ghouls are here to educate you on not only the ways in which we have been oppressed but how we still very much are. On this episode, we talk about how sneaky sneaky the government is and how it wasn't that long ago that women weren't allowed to work. And how easily our rights can and have been ripped right from underneath us. We watched the Handmaid's Tale because Margaret Atwood really knows her stuff.
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RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Kat's Facts - Handmaid's Tale and Real World Oppression
Last week we talked about the history of the oppression of women, and basically the arguments made by traditionalists in favor of universal subordination of women to men throughout history, and we also learned how those things aren’t true, and that women and men through the necessity of species survival, have a long history of coexistence that has been different but equal. We also discussed the impact of religion on these ideas, and the manipulation of Darwin's theories. So if interested check that episode out. BUT TODAY WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HOW TERRIFYING IT IS THAT HANDMAID’S TALE IN MY OPINION COULD TOTALLY HAPPEN. BUT BEFORE WE CAN DO THAT, we’re going to have a new definition and get the scary party started
Creative Destruction- is a term coined in 1942 by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter to explain the ways in which technology and innovation develop. Not so daunted outright. But wait, to further define it, Creative destruction describes the deliberate dismantling of established processes in order to make way for improved methods of production. The theory of creative destruction assumes that long-standing arrangements and assumptions must be destroyed to free up resources and energy to be deployed for innovation. As is implied by the word destruction, the process inevitably results in losers and winners. As the commander states: “Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some”
Yay learning! So let’s think about the following. We hear the word production, and we usually think assembly lines, or companies, what if production was applied to babies, and the method of production, in the scenario where childbirth is becomes rarer and rarer, is women who are able, being forced to have babies against their will. If that sounds far fetched to you, you’re wrong, because in some ways its already happening. I mean men have been trying to control women’s bodies for a minute now, but specifically in modern American society, where the government makes bans on abortion, birth control, ECTOPIC PREGNANCIES FROM BEING REMOVED. Etc. People who have no idea what women’s bodies are, and what they need are making decisions for them. A scary timeline for you 2019 in America. We’re talking about America today because 1 that’s the place that the ghouls live, and the setting of Handmaid’s Tale, but I want to make a statement that the rights of women are under attack across the globe. There are a lot of countries where a version of handmaid’s tale is already basically happening. However because we in America are not in that space, I think we have this false sense of confidence that that could never happen to us, as we do with most things.
Feb. 4, 2019 U.S. Supreme Court stops Louisiana TRAP law from taking effect – for now
In a 5-to-4 split, the justices vote to enjoin the law and review the case. Justice Kavanaugh votes to let the law take effect, writing that abortion providers should have sought admitting privileges before their appeal — even though the TRAP law, if efforts to obtain admitting privileges failed, would leave the entire state with only one abortion-providing clinician at one clinic.
Feb. 22, 2019 The Trump-Pence administration issues a Title X gag rule
… in an attempt to ban providers in the Title X program from telling millions of patients how they can safely and legally access abortion — and “defund” Planned Parenthood health centers by making it impossible for Title X patients to obtain birth control there.
Winter and Spring 2019 Trump spews inflammatory lies about abortion later in pregnancy
In press remarks and at rallies, Trump echoes rhetoric used by a growing number of anti-abortion politicians — manufacturing outrage against safe, legal abortion by accusing pro-reproductive health politicians of supporting infanticide.
May 1, 2019 States have adopted 37 new restrictions on abortion rights and access
… since the beginning of 2019.
May 7, 2019 Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs 6-week abortion ban into law
… making the state the fourth in 2019 to enact an unprecedented — and unconstitutional — ban on abortion at a point in pregnancy before most people even know they’re pregnant. (Missouri will enact a similar ban the following week).
May 15, 2019 Alabama enacts a near-total ban on abortion
The Alabama legislation — the most extreme signed into law in any state since Roe v. Wade in 1973 — includes no exceptions for rape or incest. Anti-abortion politicians in the state say they hope legal challenges to the law reach the Supreme Court, where anti-abortion justices can undermine or overturn Roe v Wade
Essentially, during Trump era America, we have seen countless stabs at women, similar to what we see in the lead up to Gilead.
Gabe's Film Analysis - Oppression of Women and the Handmaid's Tale
Margaret Atwood’s novel, Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985. A story that didn’t know it was not only retelling the past but predicting our future. Atwood was heavily influenced by history in creating the world of Gilead. Margaret Atwood said this about her writing of Handmaid’s Tale, “I made a rule for myself: I would not include anything that human beings had not already done in some other place or time, or for which the technology did not already exist. I did not wish to be accused of dark, twisted inventions, or of misrepresenting the human potential for deplorable behavior. The group-activated hangings, the tearing apart of human beings, the clothing specific to castes and classes, the forced childbearing and the appropriation of the results, the children stolen by regimes and placed for upbringing with high-ranking officials, the forbidding of literacy, the denial of property rights—all had precedents, and many of these were to be found, not in other cultures and religions, but within Western society, and within the “Christian” tradition itself.”
It rings so close to truth that it is incredibly easy to fall under its spell and assume the mindset of not if, but when. I mean, since the publication of this book we’ve seen elements of this story brought to life, for example the Taliban’s rise to power and subjugation of women in the 1990’s. The very helpful website, historycollection.co highlights some of the historical events that influenced Atwood in the listicle, 17 Moments in History that Inspired the Handmaid’s Tale. I won’t go through all 17, but want to shed some light on some of the scary ones.
During her research process in the 1980’s, Margaret Atwood found an article about a fundamentalist Christian group in New Jersey called The People of Hope, who wanted to return to the old ways of society spelled out in the Bible. This group is still active, mind you. Women in The People of Hope were subservient to men. Marriages between young adults were arranged by their parents. They considered everyone outside of their church as “the empire of evil”. Unlike the Handmaids in Atwood’s dystopia, the real Handmaidens were similar to the Wives of Gilead. They had some power in it. But still, their roles were at home.
One of the specific events that Margaret Atwood found during her research process was “Decree 770” in Romania. This was a law that passed in 1967 that made abortions and all forms of contraception illegal. This had nothing to do with religious beliefs. It was an action that the government believed was necessary for the future of their country. The government already taxed married couples a 6% income tax if they did not have children between the ages of 25 and 50, but they realized that this was not enough to stop people from using contraception.This act of desperation was brought about after more women began leaving for the workforce in the 1950s. They were no longer staying home, producing children and taking care of them. They also needed to make money, and they couldn’t do that if they had children. So there was a rise in the need for contraception and due to the lack of accessibility to contraception, abortions increased. After the change of law in 1967, and women no longer had access to birth control, the number of babies born that year skyrocketed to roughly double what they had been the year before. Decree 770 forced women to visit the gynecologist once a month to check for pregnancy, and police officers stood in the halls to make sure women complied. If a woman was pregnant, the doctors followed her progress very closely. And as we’ve mentioned previously on Ghouls, making abortion illegal does not get rid of abortion, it simply makes it more dangerous. So obviously, there was a spike in deaths by home-abortions due to this.
A similar crisis occured in our neighbor country, Canada. However, unlike the communist country, Romania, Canada decided that the best way to heighten their ever-declining birth rates was to open its borders to immigrants who could then contribute to their birth rates. Just like Romania, Canadian women had to go to work (we saw that here in America too) which led to the declining rates. However, their rates escalated by opening their borders. In fact, it is predicted that their population by 2035 will be 80% immigrants! No wonder they’re seen as a refugee hub in the show!
Prisoners Cleaning Radiation. If you hear that and your first thought is Russia then ding-ding-ding you are correct and you win the very sad prize of reality sucks. During the 1970’s, prisoners in the Soviet Union were forced to do manual labor in uranium mines to gather enough material for their arsenal of atomic bombs. Obviously, prisoners were exposed to extremely high levels of radiation. The average lifespan of a prisoner in these mines was just two years. Everyday, trains filled with new prisoners would arrive at the mines. They estimate there were roughly 5,000 men who died working there. It was common for prisoners to collapse, and die on the spot. Their overseers would smash their heads in if they fell, because they did not want anyone to escape by faking their death. It was such a painful and awful experience, 12 prisoners made a suicide pact, blowing themselves up in the mines. A documentary was filmed about the experiences of the miners, called The Nuclear Gulag.
Women have for the majority of history been forbidden to work. Until World War II, women were meant to be at home. It wasn’t until the men were shipped off and the work still needed doing that Rosie the Riveter and gang (Marilyn Monroe included) joined in that we saw that women could hold their own. Once we got a taste of that independence there was no turning back. But that was really only around 75 years ago...that’s someone’s lifetime ago. So the idea of them ripping that away from us again seems easily done.
The Handmaid’s in Gilead are giving subservient names. Offred being our main character. She is of Fred. This is taken from history, think no further than slavery here in the US where people were stolen from Africa, given American sounding names and their slave owner’s last name. They belonged to them. This is why Malcolm X changed his name to the X, because he did not know his family’s original last name.
In 1958, The Child Welfare League of America began what they called “The Indian Adoption Project”. They believed that children living on First Nation reservations were not living up to American standards, so children were very literally kidnapped from their homes, even if there was no proof of parental abuse. None of them were ever documented to keep records of their birth parents, and they were given to white families for adoption.
Dress Codes - the article brings up the FLDS or Mormons, and how they have strict clothing restrictions. The undergarments worn by the Handmaid’s definitely feels like the mormon underwear they are notorious for wearing.
Something interesting I found in this article was the idea behind the forced surrogacy. Apparently, the Bible verse Genesis 30: 1-3, which reads, “And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her”. That is used to justify this ...ceremony has more to the story. Ya see, Rachel, is one of the polygamous sister-wives to a man named Jacob. Her sister-wife, Leah, has many children, but Rachel has problems conceiving. So she asks her handmaid, Bilah, to conceive a child with her husband in her stead. It works, and Rachel gets to raise the babies, while we never hear from Bilah ever again. These days women can be paid to have children for others like Moira does. In America its very expensive but in other countries like Cambodia, it is very cheap and the women are treated as criminals and can be charged with human trafficking.
It appears women need to have babies but clearly, only on their terms. We can’t get abortions but we also can’t provide someone who wants the kid with the kid. And we also also can’t keep our own kids??
Media from this week's episode:
Handmaid’s Tale (2017) Creator: Bruce Miller
based on the novel by Margaret Atwood
Set in a dystopian future, a woman is forced to live as a concubine under a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.