Tag Archives: Patriarchy

The Parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and the United States Today

By: Rachel Harmon

*Spoilers below*

While I may be late in the game to finally watch The Handmaid’s Tale, I am certainly glad I did. The Handmaid’s Tale is a Hulu original series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel by the same name. This dystopian, fictional story centers around Offred, a handmaid, who is forced to bear children, as she is one of the very few women who is still fertile in her society. Offred defies her commander and stands up for herself to escape the horrible life in which she lives. The series presents many ideas that are strikingly similar to current issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights, such as: women fulfilling their “biological purpose” as bearers of children, and women degrading themselves to avoid the tortuous consequences of rebelling against patriarchy. These ideas are not farfetched, for there many governments around the world that subjugate women’s bodies and reproductive rights.

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It does not shock me anymore in our current social climate that some people would fall into the notion of following strict Conservative Christian values. The women in The Handmaid’s Tale were reduced to serving men and the home by being servants, gaining permission from their husbands to do anything, and being stripped of their jobs. This was only achieved by a huge following (mostly men) that would enforce this because the women had passions and jobs that were outside of strict Conservative Christian values. Thus, it was degrading and disgusting the way the men of the society treated the women since they were forced to completely change their way of life.

In addition to changing their way of life, the women were treated in the most horrifying ways I have ever seen on television. This treatment seemed counterintuitive, because the men were treating the handmaids as the lowest of all women, despite their being the only fertile women of their society, and in my opinion, the most valuable. You would think they would receive the best treatment, considering the circumstances, but no. The handmaids were raped, beaten, cattle pronged, isolated, and tortured. You would think the most valuable people in that society would be treated like royalty, but they were hardly treated like human beings. In Atwood’s society, the commanders trade the handmaids as commodities with other countries that do not have fertile women. The handmaids were only seen as concubines; once they give birth, they were sent to another family to start the process all over again.

The Handmaid’s Tale made me think about how women are treated today. We are still demeaned in our workspaces, cat-called in the street, and seen as sexual objects. It is ridiculous that we have to try more to be seen more, believed more, and heard more. Even though we are human beings, it is still like we are fighting to prove this to everyone.

In an article about the similarities between the TV show and today’s political climate, Jennifer Armstrong corroborates the notion that Margaret Atwood’s novel cannot be categorized as science fiction because it “mirror[s] the United States’ embrace of conservatism…as well as the increasing power of the Christian right and its powerful lobbying organizations” (Armstrong, 2018). Atwood’s novel confronts the United States’ concerns of “the rising political power of Christian fundamentalists, environmental concerns, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights” (Armstrong, 2018). These are no different than the concerns in 2019.

While The Handmaid’s Tale presents a scary alternate reality that seems removed from our current American society, it is not as strange as we might believe.

This is what truly scares me. Women have come so far in terms of living outside of the home and being their own individual person that it would be heartbreaking to see this progress all be for nothing. We cannot dismiss Atwood’s story as pure fiction because women are being oppressed by society now. We cannot be naïve as we watch this show, and more importantly, we cannot believe that this could never happen to the United States. It could, and we should be active in supporting organizations that will uphold abortion rights, access to equitable pay, contraceptives, and education. We cannot become complacent in believing that we are done fighting for our rights and we must continue to fight every day.

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin. “Culture – Why The Handmaid’s Tale Is so Relevant Today.” BBC News, BBC, 25 Apr. 2018, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180425-why-the-handmaids-tale-is-so-relevant-today.

“Watch The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1 | Prime Video.” Amazon, Amazon, www.amazon.com/dp/B073X7TYY2?tag=moviefone-20.

 

Louie​ ​C.K’s​ ​“Feminism” and why it always sucked

By Anna Bottrell

Every Hollywood abuser outed has their own special punch in the gut sensation, but Louie C.K. is one that pained me with a little extra oomph. As a supposed feminist, how could I have been watching everything he’s been putting out for years while somehow missing that he’s a complete scumbag? Can hypocritical assholes imitate good feminists that convincingly? I’ve used this as an opportunity to think about what warning signs slipped on by.

Louie’s feminism takes a familial note. I can recall Louie winning celebrity jeopardy in the name of a charity for women injured in childbirth, and the time that Louie endorsed Hillary Clinton because she is a mother. His daughters are his stated motivation behind almost every positive thing he does. “Women” in the more general, he sees in a semi-angelic light. In a well known bit, he compares the leap of faith a woman has in going on a date with a man as insanity . Men are lower creatures. They are closer to the animal kingdom. Louie isolates intrusive sexual urges as male.

I am not going to attempt to connect Louie’s picture of the world to reality, or assess its accuracy or inaccuracy. I’m merely going to trust that his signature “raw” style of standup does actually reflect the tone of his inner attitudes on gender. There have been comedy bits done by every genius and every hack on “the difference between men and women” for years, but Louie’s specific tone of moral dichotomy is unique and permeating throughout his career.

The plot of his movie that barely escaped release, “I Love You, Daddy”, centers around a man (played by C.K.) who admires a Woody Allen-esque filmmaker and subsequently dismisses his reputation as an abuser and manipulator of young girls. That is, until his own daughter is the girl involved. Fathers having some sort of moral compulsion to guard a young woman’s sexual behavior is a recurrent trope that goes back to images of self righteous dads intimidating potential boyfriends with shotguns. I Love You, Daddy is different from these typical cases of fatherly overreach, where the dad believing that he has a say is a much more simple case of patriarchal control of households and a moral view of looking at women’s sexuality. The filmmaker is an abuser of minors, but then again, Louie’s character is dismissive of abusers, and also reportedly shown miming masturbation in front of a room of people (eerily similar to CK’s actual behavior with women).

The idea that women can be tugged around by protectors and violators like little rag-dolls is fairly typical Louie C.K. material, perpetuating the image he builds where women are defined by familial connections and by a lack of the chaotic urges that lead men astray. Men’s feelings and actions are the ones focused on, even if women are pivotal to the story. This treatment may make men the bad guys and show women in a positive light, sure. But, it’s dehumanizing, and it’s dismissive of predatory behavior in men, by including it in a universalized picture, and therefore implying that at least the motivations behind it are unavoidable.

An illustration of this concept sticks out in my memory, from the TV show Louie. It is a scene in which Louie is rejected by his romantic interest and proceeds by attempting to rape her. She wrestles him off of her, and chides that he can’t even rape correctly. The scene isn’t strictly comedic, and instead veers into the drama that mixes with the humor of the show. It also wasn’t very realistic, though I have no idea if it was supposed to feel real in any way. The scene very clearly came from a male perspective, where the viewer was intended to feel the swell of Louie’s emotions, and the woman’s lack of a reaction was secondary.

In Louie’s world, him being an abuser doesn’t really make him a particularly bad guy, even though he’s harmful. In his world, all men are driven by similar urges. He is one of a scummy pack, and all he can do is try to devote himself to a fatherly role, trying to save the ones he has an emotional obligation to save, from this lopsided world.

Women who aren’t his daughters aren’t really rewarded the same courtesy. It may be that in order to feel an incentive towards respecting women, he feels the need to see them as more little girls under his wing. This would explain the highly criticized part of his shoddy apology, where he overemphasizes how much 5 the women he abused had “admired” him.

Additionally, though Louie claims to care about “women” in terms of this wide group of inherently superior individuals, he still thinks of his needs and feelings and urges first in all exchanges with them, and assumes them to be a form of “other” while the flawed male is the default. One can observe this while listening to his comedy, that the male perspective is the one that we are invited to occupy as the audience. Louie is a man, so some might think it is a given. However, I think that’s a bit of a lazy way out when it comes to art. And, make no mistake, Louie C.K. believes himself to be an artist. Consider the rape scene on Louie. The woman was a developed character, but when a man near her was having intense emotions, his were the ones that superseded hers. If in other cases she was granted the opportunity to be fleshed out, then this sudden laziness without a joke to balance it doesn’t really seem artistically defensible.

In the future, I hope feminism is held to a higher standard. Even if he had never shown anybody his penis, the picture he creates of a world where the current patriarchal system of oppression is a byproduct of inherent psychological urges isn’t compatible with an agenda of social change, which is what any form of pragmatic feminism should include.

I’m concerned by the fact that I never unpacked these objections until it was too late. Maybe I was distracted by the positivity, the flattery of his portrait of women. Maybe I excused it as a joke, not seeing the underlying attitudes that Louie was espousing, and that his hordes of male fans relate to. I don’t know how many of them use the same excuses to themselves that Louie did, considering their morality to be biologically handicapped, but it’s about time that we stop spouting gender pseudoscience to each other veiled and packaged in the form of jokes, or “art”.

Some men say that feminists are overly sensitive, and can’t take a joke. I don’t know what kind of laugh they expect from me half the time, maybe some sort of existentialist reaction where I laugh at the mundanity of hearing the same jokes over and over again, accompanied by the claim that men are better at thinking of jokes than women. Have I heard a man think up an original sexist joke? Maybe Louie C.K. did, and it slipped past me, and I think I laughed. Personally, I thought Louie C.K. was funny, at least most of the time, but this is a prime example of a joke not being funny anymore. When I was a little kid, I thought Bill Cosby was funny. When I was a teenager, I used to laugh along to Joss Whedon’s dialogue in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I laughed at Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and Wag the Dog. I don’t think I’m going to be laughing anymore, and if you’re a man reading this article who wants to tell me that I have no sense of humor, then nobody’s stopping you.

On Minimization as a Patriarchal Reflex

By Matthew Remski

On Facebook, I posted a brief note about starting to learn what is painfully obvious to women: patriarchy inflicts the stress of constant bodily vigilance at best and acute terror at worse.

The post took off and the comments were stunning. So many stood out, like those that reported on strategies for increasing safety in taxis. One commenter wrote that she always video-chats with a friend while she’s alone in an Uber, dropping details that signal to the driver that someone knows where they are. If men don’t know about this kind of defensive labour, they’ve got to learn.

I don’t have to assault women to participate in the normalization of assault. My learned, default responses are participation enough. Without that participation, could assault really be so prevalent?

I have to climb a mountain, forty years high, to look a little boy in the eye and tell him it’s okay to feel his pain and sorrow. To tell him it’s a good thing, actually. That it will help him learn to listen, and listening will help him let other people have their feelings as well.

 

Read the entire post here

Why Feminism Does Not Perpetuate Gender Categories

Many open-minded and freedom-loving young adults do not like the term feminism because they believe it perpetuates gender categories. Is the world not ready to move on?, they ask. Being ‘nice’ to women is ‘common sense’!

That is not the case – here we discuss why.

In a thoughtful post titled Feminism: A Male Anarchist’s Perspective, Pendleton Vandiver highlights how the attitude toward women has indeed changed for the better – not because humanity has slowly come to its senses; not because some vague sense of justice has cured bigotry – but only because of the ongoing struggle of feminism that has pushed through the past two centuries and still burns passionately today.

Vandiver writes:

To deny this struggle is to perpetuate a myth similar to that of the happy slave. Yet this is precisely what we do when we speak of feminism as somehow perpetuating a gender divide, or hindering our progress away from identity politics. Feminism did not create the conflict between genders: patriarchal society did. It is important not to forget that the aforementioned idea that women are fully human is not common sense but absolutely, emphatically, a feminist notion.

He goes on to discuss why many ‘freedom-for-all’ advocates, especially anarchists, have criticized feminism for being:

  • Essentialist (“believing that a woman is somehow truly, deep in her core, identifiable as a woman; being a woman is not simply the result of different attributes and behaviors.“)
  • A philosophy that asserts female superiority to men.
  • A perpetuation of gender categories.

Vandiver walks us through the arguments against these views. Here is a good snapshot:

Feminism can perhaps be best defined as the attempt to get beyond the state of affairs where people are oppressed because of gender. Thus, it is not possible to go beyond gender without feminism; the charge that feminism itself perpetuates gender categories is patently absurd.

The post is well worth a read. Check it out here.

So, what do you think – is the struggle perpetuating the problem?