The Dystopia I Feared Is Upon Us
Living In The Handmaid's Tale
I am a writer. Words and the stories I create with them are my identity and my life's purpose. But every now and then I go through these "no writing" spells, where the stories and words just won't come. I'm starting to recognize that these spells coincide with world events, over which I have no control. I'm trying little tricks to fool myself into storying, like leaving my docs open to the next paragraph or feeding my brain inspiring stuff–books, movies, videos–to get over the hump. But this time, as we face the defeat of women's reproductive freedom in the United States, the words won't come. All I can see is The Handmaid's Tale in my mind, which leaves room for nothing else.
I am lucky, reproductively speaking. There is zero chance of me ever facing an unwanted pregnancy. I count myself extraordinarily lucky that I never had to deal with such a situation in my earlier life. But that is not the case for the daughters and granddaughters, sisters and nieces, of my family and friends, and for all of the other women in this country who need to be safe and healthy and in control of their own bodies. And I want those girls and women, and the girls and women who may one day read words I have written, to be in control of their own choices.
I read The Handmaid's Tale in high school, along with other novels like Gibbon's Rise and Fall, which had a profound effect on the woman I became. I knew that patriarchal society/religion was poison for women who deserved the right to determine their reproductive choices. I wanted no part of a society that told me someone else had the right to tell me what happened to my body. Over the years, my vision of the future world had shifted to one of Star Trek's United Federation of Planets, a world in which all people had the autonomy to build rich, satisfying lives based on their abilities, not their bodies. But now The Handmaid's Tale is usurping Star Trek, and we are at risk of turning back into the dark ages of literal witch hunts and absolute control of women's lives. And if you think that this control won't extend to regulating who you marry, who you love, where you live, what god you worship, and every other part of your life, then you aren't paying attention.
It's the fiction writers we turn to for entertainment, yes. But it's also the fiction writers who have predicted all of the major changes in society and technology for the past two hundred and more years. It was fiction writers who opened our eyes to new ways of seeing the world and our relationships within it. It was fiction writers who gave us hope that things could be better, could be fair, could be equitable. And it's the fiction writers who warned us of what we could lose, writers like Margaret Atwood and Sheri Tepper. I thought those novels were warnings that could never come true. We cared too much, were too wise to allow such things to happen.
I don't believe that way anymore.
Yes, the things we fear have happened and continue to happen in the world around us. Women are forced to bear unwanted children in many countries around the world. Little girls who should be in school and playing games and dreaming dreams are forced into marriage against their will. Women and girls undergo horrific genital mutilation to control their sexual desire. Girls are prevented from getting an education and working for a living, owning their own homes, and even driving a car. Women and girls–and boys, as well–are forced into sexual slavery. All of these things happen around the world, yes, but they also happen right here, right now, in the United States of America, even if we try to avoid seeing it.
All of these horrors are the products of patriarchal institutions, which say that men are more than, are better than, are more worthy than, women. And that they have the right to tell us what we can do with our bodies.
And now, facing the Supreme Court's intentions of striking down Roe v. Wade, I am sick. Sick that we have to fight this again. Sick that we cannot live in an equitable society, despite all that women, people of color, gender-nonconforming people, non-heterosexual people, the disabled, and everyone who supports these people have fought for. I am sick that one violently, viciously vocal group of people wants to control what everyone else does in their own lives. I actually believed that we were moving towards a world of fairness and equality, but now they're trying to destroy it all. And I am sick of it.
These are not the words I want to write. But I have no choice. Until they are said, nothing else matters. Tomorrow I will write a story. Today I write my fear and sorrow.
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About the author
Hillora Lang feared running out of stuff to read, so she began writing just in case...
While her major loves are fantasy and history, Hillora will write just about anything, if inspiration strikes. If it doesn't strike, she'll nap, instead.
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