Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Contingency Plans

By Meghan B.

Everyone I know has zombie contingency plans. What to do if the undead ever awaken, where to go and how to survive. They come up with the quickest way out of the mall they work in because, well, zombies and malls have a history together. The likelihood of zombies rising is slim to nil but some people I know have complex plans for getting out of Dodge when the undead get out of their graves. "Just in case," they say.  

Lately, I've been thinking about a whole other type of contingency plan. I vaguely wonder if my car could get me to Canada or what I would do if my bank account was suddenly taken away from me. 

With all the talk lately of limiting the medical rights of women by defunding Planned Parenthood and taking away the ability to have autonomy over our own bodies, I've been wondering if I need a contingency plan for a Handmaid's Tale future.

Science fiction and women's rights have a convoluted and interesting history. One of the most horrific, poignant and interesting works on this issue is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. A work of speculative science fiction, the story follows a fictional version of the United States after the rights of all women have been taken away by a tyrannical and religious, male dominant group. Basically slaves to men, only good for bearing children and no other purpose, the women are treated horrifically. They are stripped of their names and their educations as well as losing control over their bodies and sexualities. They are nothing but slaves to the men who rule.

The main character is Offred (named for the man she is a slave to) and she recounts the new world where she finds herself. She used to have a family and a job, but they are taken away by the new patriarchal government. The bank accounts of all women are instantly frozen (a truly terrifying thought in the current day and age of debit cards) and their freedoms and rights are taken away. Offred tries to escape to Canada but is instead caught, reprogrammed and settled into a life of sexual servitude. If you haven't read the book, I suggest you do. It is a stark, shivering novel of epic proportions. It seems both far-fetched and insane, but also cautionary and scarily ominous. I have a love/hate relationship with the book. It both scared the hell out of me and made me angry. It also made me think. I tend to come back to it whenever someone in power does something really revoltingly insane against my gender.

I'm not going to get all political and preachy here, but I will say that the Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood are some of the most sexist displays I've ever witnessed in all my life. By trying to take away the low cost health care of women, they had become no better than the men ruling Gilead, the name of the land in Handmaid's Tale. By taking away the rights of women to get pap smears and breast exams and, yes, even abortions, they have tried to limit the hard worn freedoms of my gender. It wasn't so long ago that women couldn't vote or own property. In some countries, women are still treated no better than furniture. It's sickening to see these things taken away from us, "for our own good", by men in positions of power. God knows we are just women and we know not what we do.

Just yesterday, Indiana's governor Mitch Daniels stripped Planned Parenthood  of a majority of it's federal funds, taking away much needed money for the most basic health care needs of women. Something like that really freezes your blood and makes you realize how some people really do see you as less important or less able to make choices. I am less deserving of health care because I have the outlandish and rather unfortunate gall to have ovaries.

Last night I pulled out my worn copy of the Handmaid's Tale and flipped through it. I read short paragraphs and skipped around, feeling a slight but choking dread. This crazy and far-fetched future dystopia was becoming slightly more possible with every passing day. I don't know about you, but I am concerned. I would rather be hung on a wall, dead, than suffer Offred's fate.

Science fiction has an odd way of predicting the future, in ways you didn't see coming. Everything from the invention of weapons and wars, of technology and social change have been documented in the books of sci-fi authors. Sometimes they are eerily correct and something they are incredibly wrong. I hope Atwood falls into the latter category. In the meantime, I am writing my representatives in the Senate and in Congress (which you should do!), donating a few extra bucks to Planned Parenthood to keep fighting the good fight (ahem!), and mapquesting how to get from my house to Toronto by tiny Honda.

You know. Just in case.
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5 comments:

  1. Will I get kicked off the blog if I admit I've never read "Handmaid's Tale"?

    ReplyDelete
  2. A wonderful review of a classic book and one of my favorites!

    The Republican attack on women has also included an attempt to redefine rape. Rape would have to meet their definition of "forcible rape," which could exclude statutory rape and the use of drugs or verbal threats.

    The Republican push to defund Planned Parenthood will hit poor women the hardest, especially women that live in rural areas without other resources for the care provided by Planned Parenthood. The Republican attack is based on the lie that taxpayers are funding abortion. In truth, not one penny of taxpayer money goes toward abortion, but rather for services like mammograms and pap tests.

    Your analogy using "The Handmaid's Tale" is excellent.

    Stella

    ReplyDelete
  3. The issue also extends to females being eligible for state funded insurance. I have run, personally, into the problem. Due to the recession we are living below the poverty line (my husband was laid off for a couple years and just received part time work). The main I reason I have found out for the disqualification...I am not pregnant.

    Yes you read that right. I am not pregnant so I am disqualified for help in basic medical services. The state puts adults into a lottery and pregnant women are first, then college educated men, everyone else above 18 afterward. I checked with human services and questioned as to why this is. No one could give me a real answer except that I was not expecting or had a baby at home.

    Needless to say I have signed up to try the lottery again and hope to find someone to help push the issue. When it comes to our health all women should be taken care of as people with rights.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anon- I would assume the issue is a lack of funding at the state level for insurance. Finite dollars means hard choices. Pregnant women would receive priority because not only are two lives involved, but one is a minor. Issues such as these just highlight how much more we have to do to improve the state health care in the US.

    I'm sorry you're going through this. I know how scary a lack of insurance can be.

    ReplyDelete
  5. A wonderful review of a classic book and one of my favorites!

    The Republican attack on women has also included an attempt to redefine rape. Rape would have to meet their definition of "forcible rape," which could exclude statutory rape and the use of drugs or verbal threats.

    The Republican push to defund Planned Parenthood will hit poor women the hardest, women that live in rural areas without other resources for the care provided by Planned Parenthood. The Republican attack is based on the lie that taxpayers are funding abortion. In truth, not one penny of taxpayer money goes toward abortion, but rather for services like mammograms and pap tests.

    Your analogy using The Handmaid's Tale is excellent.

    Stella

    ReplyDelete