The Handmaid’s Tale and today’s realities

I don’t like to be disturbed when I’m fighting the patriarchy unconsciously, much less consciously. I believe most of us find ourselves in such situations on a daily basis through the social policing of our clothing, being judged for choosing to listen to Spice over Gospel, snide remarks about body hair or not wanting to change our names after marriage.

Over time, we have all come to resist them in our little ways even if we don’t realize it. More women are consistently becoming even more comfortable when it comes to searching for their true happy selves.

I’m not a feminist and I don’t think I will ever be able to claim such a title because I’m still navigating the concept and unlearning stereotypical gender roles, which at times can be terribly exhausting especially when resistance is encountered from those close to you. I recently finished watching all the released episodes for Season 2 of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. It is an American dystopian drama series, based on a novel by Margaret Atwood. The plot is formulated around an undesirable society founded after the second American civil war where totalitarian rulers force fertile women, referred to as Handmaids, into child-bearing servitude.

While the series can be capped as exaggerated and unrealistic, the takeaway message and stories are the reality for many women. The control over women, the relegation of them to second-class humans and the entitlement of men portrayed in the series, still made me compare it with today’s world.

There is a particular episode that really struck me. In it, June, a handmaid, tries to convince Serena, the wife of a commander that their daughter is entitled to the same rights as boys. She manages to get her finger chopped off for wanting both boys and girls to be able to read. She feels defeated, her self-esteem erodes and even though she knows the abnormal was not normal, it was a significant turning point where she more or less began to accept it.

A few weeks ago, my husband checked into a hotel where I was already staying. My maiden name routinely manages to cause confusion at check-ins, so his first question was when are you going to change your name? To which I proudly responded, “ah never and yeah I missed you too”. In the moment, I could sense the entitlement.

We both knew where it was coming from. We were both raised in environs that constructed idealistic roles of what a woman should or should not do. We both acknowledge this. It is often buffered by the reassurance that if we resist, we will end up unmarried with 20 cats. He forgot about it five minutes later. I believe we can all be reasonable people when we truly trust to look inwardly at attitudes constructively and how they are shaped.

I have not changed my name partly due to laziness as it would involve going back to university to change certificates and also partly because I strongly believe in women defining their identities as best as they see fit as they mature. I may change it later, but for now it is a strong no.

My husband calls me a tough cookie, but he says repeatedly that he knows I will raise a strong daughter should I ever have one.

We must learn that feminism is not some sort of declaration of war against men, but more of a step towards equality. Resist however you choose to, just as long as it brings you happiness. 

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