#MeToo, Trump and misreading <em>The Handmaid’s Tale</em>


#MeToo, Trump and misreading The Handmaid’s Tale

Feminists wilfully ignore the commitment to freedom of expression that lies at the heart of Margaret Atwood's fiction.

Ella Whelan

Ella Whelan

Today, Margaret Atwood is no longer an author. She’s a saint. A modern-day, feminist saint, but holy nonetheless. The novel on which her sainthood rests is, of course, The Handmaid’s Tale, a first-person account of Offred, a handmaid living under the authoritarian regime of the Republic of Gilead. Offred’s sole purpose in life is to carry and give birth to the children of her various assigned commanders.

Today, The Handmaid’s Tale is so much more than a work of dystopian science fiction. The symbol of the handmaid – the oppressed woman – is now a staple of all kinds of political protest. Handmaid costumes, with the winged hoods and red robes, have appeared on pro-choice rallies and anti-Brexit marches. Indeed, so prevalent has the iconography of The Handmaid’s Tale become that billionaire reality-TV star Kylie Jenner even threw a Handmaid’s Tale-themed birthday party. It was not well received by other ardent Atwood fans.

Originally published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale was an immediate critical success, gaining a nomination for the 1986 Booker Prize. The New York Times praised Atwood as having ‘succeeded with her anti-Utopian novel where most practitioners of this Orwellian genre have tended to fail’.

Yet it is only recently that Atwood and The Handmaid’s Tale have been lionised. Indeed, after its initial publication, The Handmaid’s Tale tended to be celebrated from the margins, rather than embraced by the mainstream. A film adaptation followed in 1990, with the screenplay partially written by Harold Pinter. But, even with big names like Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Natasha Richardson and Aidan Quinn all starring, it proved a box-office flop. Pinter even made a point of distancing himself from it after its failure.

So why, then, over 35 years later, has The Handmaid’s Tale suddenly become such a hit?

Atwood and her most famous book owe their sanctification, in part, to the political rise of that barrel-bellied, blonde beast Donald Trump. Following the announcement of his presidential candidature in the summer of 2015, feminist paranoia hit the roof. Trump’s past and present bouts of male chauvinism sparked fears that America under Trump would be a misogynistic nightmare. In April 2016, not long after the release of the Access Hollywood tape on which Trump had talked of grabbing women ‘by the pussy’, the US TV network Hulu announced the production of a serial adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. It was as if only then, in the midst of Trump’s sexism, that Atwood’s seminal work made sense. The Republic of Gilead, an authoritarian state in which women were systematically oppressed, was now a glimpse into the future of a Trump presidency.

The emergence of the #MeToo movement in October 2017 further fuelled the rise of The Handmaid’s Tale. As #MeToo developed into an all-out attack on sexual misconduct in general, Atwood’s most famous work seemed to strike a chord among an ever-growing number of people. Hulu’s TV adaptation was updated to include modern references, such as GPS-style trackers instead of tattoos on the handmaids, purposefully blurring the line between dystopian fantasy and reality. One reviewer claimed that the TV version ‘captured a moment in time and successfully funnelled its rage outwards at a world in which women are indeed silenced, controlled and killed by men’. A piece for the Sydney Morning Heraldconcluded that it is ‘hard to imagine a book that resonates with our times as powerfully as The Handmaid’s Tale’.

Atwood herself has partially sustained the claims that The Handmaid’s Tale offers a critique of contemporary America, saying that there is ‘nothing in the book that didn’t happen, somewhere’. Last year, during the run-up to the publication of its sequel, The Testaments, which follows the next generation of handmaids and the resistance, Atwood was even more explicit. ‘Instead of moving away from Gilead, we started moving towards it, especially in the US’, she said.

Yet there’s a problem here. The Handmaid’s Tale is simply not a warning or premonition of the Trumpian, #MeToo years to come. That contemporary feminists have managed to co-opt the handmaid to symbolise the supposed threat of contemporary patriarchy and sexism rests on a simplified reading of the tale.

Activists demonstrate against US President Donald Trump outside Buckingham Palace, London, 3 December 2019 (Picture: Getty.)
Activists demonstrate against US President Donald Trump outside Buckingham Palace, London, 3 December 2019 (Picture: Getty.)

Published in 1985, the same year that Ronald Reagan was sworn into office for the second time, following his landslide victory in 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale’s depiction of conformity, religious fundamentalism and the fetishisation of motherhood is historically specific. In 1983, for instance, President Reagan had written an article for The Human Life Review aimed at cementing his reputation as a pro-life advocate. Reagan promised to roll back the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling, which had set a precedent for access to abortion for women. No wonder the idea of powerful men having jurisdiction over women’s wombs resonated.

Atwood, a Canadian, was therefore using the particular tensions of mid-1980s America to create her dystopian fiction, imagining a world in which widespread sterility has led an authoritarian regime to sanctify pregnancy. Indeed, Atwood was drawing on an America riven by the culture wars. An America in which the contraceptive pill had only recently been legalised for use by unmarried women. An America still getting used to women in power suits joining and sometimes managing the workforce. The reaction to the emergent America was often extreme. Think, for example, of lawyer Phyllis Schlafly, who waged war on feminism and spearheaded anti-equal-rights organisations like the Eagle Forum.

But the America to which The Handmaid’s Tale was responding was a very different nation to that of today. Prejudice against women, against their intellectual capacities, was not merely the preserve of an oafish president. It was a daily reality. Plucking The Handmaid’s Tale out of the 1980s, and applying its vision to the supposed ‘everyday sexism’ of the late 2010s, is to erase the vast advances made by women over the past 40 years.

In fact, there are other important trends informing The Handmaid’s Tale obscured by today’s simplified feminist reading. Atwood’s novel arrived, for instance, towards the tail end of a protracted period of paranoia during the Cold War — Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’, the missile-defence programme, had been announced in 1983. Hence The Handmaid’s Tale plays on distinctly Cold War fears, set, as it is, at a time of unexplained nuclear and ecological disaster.

The Handmaid’s Tale was also published slap bang in the middle of the AIDS panic. So, the Republic of Gilead features men who have become inexplicably sterile and women who give birth to ‘shredders’ (severely deformed babies). In the Republic of Gilead, sex and procreation are a risk.

Like all good science fiction, then, Atwood’s dystopian world reflects the paranoias, prejudices and panics of the society she is observing. Atwood’s exploration of these contemporary fears – fear of sex, fear of political and religious fundamentalism and fear of impending global doom – turns the The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments into far more than simple-minded feminist handbooks.

But that is precisely what too many have argued that The Handmaid’s Tale and now The Testaments are — namely, contemporary feminist handbooks. This interpretation ignores a key part of Atwood’s worldview: her championing of freedom of expression. It is no accident that The Handmaid’s Tale is a first-person account from a defiant handmaid. Her individual freedom to express herself matters. One of the novel’s most powerful moments occurs when Offred is given a pen to write down ‘Nolite te bastardes carborundorum’ in the commander’s office. He tells her that it is just a simple boy’s joke in Latin – meaning ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’. But it is her ability to reconnect with writing and reading that matters to her: ‘The pen between my fingers is sensuous, alive almost, I can feel its power, the power of the words it contains.’ Reading, writing and refusing to be silenced constitute Offred’s method of defiance in the Republic of Gilead.

That is why the contemporary feminist co-option of The Handmaid’s Tale sits awkwardly. Because Atwood’s championing of the importance and revolutionary power of freedom of speech and thought goes against the censorious tendency of today’s feminist politics.

At one point in The Handmaid’s Tale, Offred is reminded of the earlier times in which she was free, and reminisces about her life with her partner Luke and her daughter, who was taken from her. Offred considers the difference between then, when ‘women were not protected’ and there were ‘rules that were never spelled out but every woman knew’ with regards to avoiding the dangers of strange men, and her present in the Republic of Gilead:

‘Now we walk along the same street, in red pairs, and no man shouts obscenities at us, speaks to us, touches us. No one whistles.’

This is perhaps the most politically powerful moment in the book. Offred remembers the tyrant Aunt Lydia’s words: ‘There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from.’ The freedom to speak and act versus the freedom from offence and hurt. If Atwood’s novel is a warning, it is not about sexist old men like Trump. Rather, it is about the danger of giving up the freedom and risks of a liberated life for the sterile regulation of the safe space.

The Testaments actually develops this theme, emphasising the importance of freedom of speech. Hence we find out that Aunt Lydia, one of the central architects of the totalitarian regime of Gilead, is plotting to bring it down with one weapon – the written word.

Atwood’s championing of the revolutionary power of freedom of speech goes against today’s censorious feminism

It is unlikely that Atwood’s feminist cheerleaders, who want to make misogyny a hate crime, ban sexist speech and protect women from words, will support her defence of the ‘freedom to’. But then, Atwood’s actual political vision tends to be eclipsed by her contemporary deification. She can’t even get a hearing for herself, such is her mythical reputation now. For example, in an article published three months after #MeToo started, headlined ‘Am I a bad feminist?’, Atwood questioned #MeToo’s scalp-hungry nature:

‘I believe that in order to have civil and human rights for women there have to be civil and human rights, period, including the right to fundamental justice, just as for women to have the vote, there has to be a vote. Do Good Feminists believe that only women should have such rights? Surely not.’

For this, and for asserting that ‘women are human beings, with the full range of saintly and demonic behaviours this entails, including criminal ones’, Atwood was castigated on social media as a victim-blamer. It obviously hurt. ‘Taking a break from being Supreme Being Goddess, omniscient, omnipotent, and responsible for all ills’, she tweeted following the backlash. ‘Sorry I have failed the world so far on gender equality. Maybe stop trying? Will be back later.’ But, unlike Dame Ann Leslie, Catherine Deneuve and other high-profile female critics of the excesses of #MeToo, Atwood’s transgression has been politely ignored by most. Her role as the creator The Handmaid’s Tale is too important to allow her to have nuanced views on contemporary feminist politics.

Atwood is a fantastic writer, evidenced by both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. In the great tradition of dystopian fiction, these works shine a light on the political contradictions of their time. Moreover, her defiant championing of women’s freedom to be exposed to the trials and tribulations of a life lived at liberty remains powerful. Yet in today’s culture of censorship and panics about women’s safety, it is controversial, too. Perhaps Atwood knows this. Perhaps it is Atwood herself who is speaking through Aunt Lydia at the end of The Testaments: ‘Goodbye, my reader. Try not to think too badly of me.’

Ella Whelan is a spiked columnist and the author of What Women Want: Fun, Freedom and an End to Feminism.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Sam Brock

18th February 2020 at 2:43 pm

I was under the impression, from an article I read some time ago, that the handmaid symbolises Canada and Gilead, the USA. As Margaret Atwood is Canadian, is the undercurrent of the book simply anti-American and a backdrop to the Cold War? In today’s time I struggle to equate Donald Trump with the fictional predicament of the Handmaid. A long shot, in my opinion. I see Trump as a powerful old man who, as such, bears the usual character absurdities and sense of entitlement that go with being used to dictating terms. I’ve not read the book, nor will I because the subject matter is so dammed depressing. I found the TV series bone-chilling to such an extent that I switched off in all ways. A friend of mine, Adrian from Australia, broadcast on FB that he couldn’t believe what he was watching and had switched off too. But initially, my unsuspecting self was overcome with a frozen inability to escape the horrors unfurling before me. The phrase ‘Torture Porn’ came to mind. I stopped watching, questioned myself for watching and then questioned my fellow audience – ‘normal’ people or hardcore porn-obsessed lowlifes in dark places? I asked myself, if you’ve had a long day at work, a hard commute home and you’re stressed and tired, do you really want to watch a woman being held down and raped, another having her eye gouged out by a seriously frightening woman, a man being stoned to death by a bunch of young women, another victim being hung to death from an impossibly long pole and another having her genitals cut out, admittedly while under anaesthetic, which is what I wished I was when I started watching it. What was the point of all this, other than to remind ourselves of how truly vile a species we are? But we knew that already didn’t we?

Alex Porter

26th January 2020 at 6:19 pm

I first read this book in Saudi in the 90s. I thought it was an act of moral cowardice by the TV producers who did not set the TV series in an Arab/Sharia context.

Tim Wheeler

26th January 2020 at 11:43 am

A regimen of humourlessness, paranoia, fear, & control surrounding natural human speech and socio-sexual relations is far more consistent with the apparent goals & aspirations of extreme #MeToo feminists than it is with everyday life in any current Western democracy (even one with Trump as president.)

Tim Wheeler

26th January 2020 at 11:54 am

In the Kananaugh hearings, Republican Senator Susan Collins revealed she’d interviewed Kavanaugh at length and he had made it clear he regarded Roe vs Wade as settled long-standing precedent and had no intention of trying to overturn it. The Democrats did not want to hear it because it didn’t fit their narrative that he was a Nazi, Misogynist, Fundamentalist, Rapist who should be condemned without evidence.

Thomas C

21st January 2020 at 9:11 pm

Great article. The distinction between “freedom from” and “freedom to” was made famous by Isiah Berlin in Two Concepts of Liberty. I haven’t read it, but I thought it might be a helpful note for anyone interested in the idea.

Mark Aldridge

20th January 2020 at 12:41 pm

So apparently everyone here (including the article’s author) are ignorant of the fact the the Book / TV Series are not the same thing.

Let me enlighten you – the TV series was created/written by Bruce Miller and his team. Here’s a quote from a better informed (real) journalist:

“After sticking to the plot of Atwood’s novel for its first season, Miller and his writers went beyond their source material for the second, imagining the transformation of June (Elisabeth Moss) from a regular young woman into more of a freedom fighter.”

(SOURCE: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/the-handmaids-tale-season-3-elisabeth-moss-bruce-miller-margaret-atwood-channel-4-a8952141.html)

Peter Hobday

13th January 2020 at 10:10 am

Attwood’s book is badly written. I was trying to read it over Christmas. Couldn’t get past the poor grammar. That was strange as she is celebrated by so many. Have they tried to read the book, rather than watch the TV series?

nick hunt

12th January 2020 at 8:47 pm

‘Feminists wilfully ignore the commitment to freedom of expression that lies at the heart of Margaret Atwood’s fiction’. What a shame this author appears to wilfully ignore the very real, modern and most virulent form of patriarchy which Atwood’s fiction so strongly and so obviously evokes: Sharia law. When will feminists speak up and stand up for the millions of Muslim sisters subject to real tyranny? When will they realise they should get fully behind Donald Trump, the greatest defender seen in our lifetimes of the western way of democracy and freedom,. of the culture which gave us human rights, the rule of law, an end to slavery, and women’s wonderful freedoms? WHEN?

Cedar Grove

17th January 2020 at 10:23 am

Actually, I read THT when I was working in Saudi Arabia, and was very well aware of its resonances. I have been documenting the swell of Shari’a influence in the West ever since.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost friends and have had articles consistently rejected because the Left, including other feminists, cannot see past the fact that Shari’a was invented by people with brown skin. For them, that means it’s racist to criticise its totalitarianism.

These people have no sense of an enemy. They see Muslims as a powerless minority, when in fact 1.5 + billion makes a powerful lobby. The OIC from its Brussels HQ, funded by Gulf oil money, incessantly petitions to have analysing Islam made a legal offence. With our new hate speech laws, they’ve pretty much succeeded in reinstating the mediaeval blasphemy laws.

Echo Romulus

25th January 2020 at 12:06 pm

“When will feminists speak up and stand up for the millions of Muslim sisters subject to real tyranny?”

They have no intentions of doing anything of the sort because it means going against an intrinsic enemy that does not fear, nor respect them and is totally unmalleable. Unlike that of the soy induced beta males who easily capitulate, the Feminists will continue to act like the crybullies that they are and tilt at windmills about gender pay gap, the patriachy, victim blaming and rape culture. They will simultaneously ignore the problem of the latter two in the Islamic world and go for the softer option of the #metoo and Harvey Weinstien because it proves the least resistance and doesn’t threaten the insanity of the multiculti-project by shining a light on a round peg in a square hole being Pakistain men or Hijabs.

Stephen Kenny

12th January 2020 at 7:40 pm

Atwood isn’t a ‘fantastic ‘writer. In that genre she’s ordinary at best. She’s empty, compared to, for example, Doris Lessing (if you particularly want a female). Handmaid’s Tale is just a rather silly feminist wet dream.

Claire D

13th January 2020 at 4:52 pm

Exactly right.

Harry Daly

14th January 2020 at 7:47 pm

Yes, that’s the point. If not the only point, then at least a point upon which all other points depend. If Margaret Atwood were no good as a novelist how could it matter what kind of feminist she was, pro-abortion or anti-sexual-predator? How could it matter what kind of feminist a bad or dull or uninteresting novelist was? Unless Ella Whelan shows that Margaret Atwood is any good as a novelist, she, herself, is saying nothing worth saying. And to see just how bad and dull and uninteresting Margaret Atwood is, compare anything she’s written with Edith Wharton’s short story, ‘The Dilettante’. You could say that it is feminist but you’d then have to say that another short story of hers, ‘The Other Two’ is masculinist. The one term is as hopelessly un- or sub-critical as the other.

John Lewis

12th January 2020 at 9:22 am

For a while I thought I was reading the work of the late and unlamented (other than for comedy value) Wendy Kaminer.

Chauncey Gardiner

11th January 2020 at 8:44 pm

The “Trump is sexist” is really boring, and appealing to it amounts to every-day, journalistic gas-lighting.

Take, your primary exhibit, the “grab ’em by the pussy business”: Trump was observing that there are women out there who will become interested in men who are well endowed with money or power. “Interested”, of course, is understatement. There are women out there who will not merely make themselves available — we can put it that way — but who will go out of their way to ingratiate themselves and will invite men with money or power to — guess what — “grab ’em by the pussy”.

That’s the way of the world. Donald Trump didn’t invent. But he did colorfully explain how the world works.

And what in the world is “sexist” about that?

T Zazoo

16th January 2020 at 6:48 pm

What’s sexist about ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ ? The shear crudity of it for a start.

If my boss said she would grab her male associates by the balls I would say she was being sexist.

And crude.

Yazmin Robinson

17th January 2020 at 3:37 pm

Did you not read the message, he said that there are women who are interested in good looking, well endowed, rich and powerful men that they will make themselves available to them just like how guys are interested in female celebrity so I don’t see how it is sexist.

michael savell

11th January 2020 at 6:22 pm

I don’t see the supposed improvement in society that the past and present actions taken by the law ,
universities and Governments all underwritten by feminist organisations has made.Right across the board, nations and people are unhappier and the outlook gets worse each day.The freedoms of women used to be curtailed somewhat, purely because they have always been put on a pedestal,were deemed to be more pure of thought and were the guardians of the kids we need to maintain our society which was always deemed to be female led.
Now they are all honorary men it will be quite apparent that they are as guilty as men are in terms of honesty and sexual mores,we shall shortly see,no doubt,the type of witch hunting on which Feminism was founded written of course by the other side whoever they turn out to be now we have about 4 or 5 sexes.

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Claire D

11th January 2020 at 7:15 am

Margaret Atwood is a feminist. The Handmaids Tale is a work of propaganda, the book not very successful, the TV series so successful it caused a moral panic and brought some powerful men down, who’d have thought ?

The idea contained in Ella’s critique that American women prior to the 1980s were ‘ oppressed ‘ is based on what ? That The Pill was only prescribed to married women ? You think that meant single American women did’nt have sex when they felt like it ?

In The Handmaid’s Tale women are either elite (and barren), baby makers or w hores. This is feminist analysis taken to the ‘nth degree.
Personally I found the book creepy, tiresome, horrific and ultimately, boring, I’ve got better things to do than watch a TV version. It is the TV series which has gripped some young women (and their male supporters) and upset them. An effective work of feminist propaganda brought about an hysterical response and moral panic. No one in their right mind could equate Gilead with Trump’s presidency.

Michael Lynch

11th January 2020 at 4:37 pm

The trouble is Claire, is that the majority of the modern Left are not in their right minds anyway.

Michael M

13th January 2020 at 8:48 pm

Left handers are right brained…

Michael Lynch

10th January 2020 at 7:42 pm

Modern feminists seem hell bent on turning women into perennial victims. No longer responsible for their sexual desires, bodily functions or emotional responses. Sounds very much like how women were once regarded in Victorian times. So much for equality. The original Suffragettes will be turning in their graves.

Cedar Grove

17th January 2020 at 10:29 am

Yes. My generation of feminists was seeking empowerment, in the sense of having the right to buy our own homes, get access on equal terms in the workforce, and explore our sexuality outside the male-assigned roles of virgin/whore/ancillary housewife.

The victimhood doesn’t sit well with me, especially as the women who now complain did not support those of us who resisted at the time. Instead, they made sleazy bargains, took the advantages those bought for them, and now want the deals rescinded. It’s dishonourable.

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James Knight

10th January 2020 at 4:37 pm

The Handmaid’s Tale is torture porn for Guardian readers.

The irony is that if the spirit of Gilead is anywhere in contemporary politics, it was in the #MeToo hysteria that has led to multiple suicides as well as the screeching mobs around the Supreme Court nominations.

Michael Lynch

10th January 2020 at 8:19 pm

Trouble with the Guardian is that it has allowed itself to become a fanzine for the extreme Left. The center ground has dramatically shifted away from them because of the GE. Unfortunately, instead of moving with it they’ll most likely carry on with doubling down on the ideology. Similar to the BBCs current behavior. This is exactly what happened in the US when Trump won and look how far that has gotten the Democrats. They are now scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to continue in their tedious finger wagging at the POTUS. It really is absurd behavior.

Andy Bolstridge

12th January 2020 at 10:06 pm

TBH I always thought the concept of treating women as either wives or “sex slaves”, and made to wear stupid uniforms showing their inferiority to men…. was something the Guardian supported. Or have they turned Islamophobic recently? Is it because the uniforms are a different colour, and thus, all’s OK in leftyland?

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keith falcone

10th January 2020 at 2:31 pm

this is a great show, in so many ways. i love the storyline, although quite scary. my initial reaction to seeing the oppression, all i could think of was Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Bern Sanders. This show has liberal way of life written all over it. It makes me think if a democrat is ever elected president again, this is what our society will become.

William Brown

10th January 2020 at 1:29 pm

The Irony of today’s lefties adopting the Handmaids Tale as a warning against their imagined Western cultural slide towards fascist oppression, seems lost on them. Particularly when they cry foul when a Shiite Commandant gets so clinically slotted.

Ven Oods

10th January 2020 at 12:27 pm

‘Offred’ would be a great name for the anti-Corbynistas in the PLP.

Pat Davers

10th January 2020 at 11:00 am

I think the biggest irony of this irony-laden phenomenon was that people who were protesting by dressing up in fictional costumes representing sexual / religious oppression world were the same ones who were cheering on the election of the likes of Ilhan Omar, who dresses up in real-life costumes representing sexual / religious oppression.

jan mozelewski

10th January 2020 at 12:08 pm

Indeed! The quote above about walking in red pairs, and not being touched etc reminded me forcibly of the burka. Its purpose being exactly the same.

Jerry Owen

10th January 2020 at 10:08 am

Interesting read.. however Ellan it’s not ‘barrel belly’ it’s ‘beer belly’ I know Spiked have to attack Trump in a personal manner whenever it can but at least get the insult correct!
Surely the word ‘maid’ should be resigned to history as it suggests ‘slavery/oppression, not to mention it is could be deemed a sexist patriarchal or genderist term or whatever, I lose track now. It’s equivalent to a feminist accepting she’s a bit of ‘totty’ or ‘fluff’.
The feminists have taken someone else’s scribes and used them for their own political ends which we see increasingly with the lefts re writing of history, but not content with that they also sh*t on the author as well, such a lovely bunch of proverbial cuckoos aren’t they.
Feminism now in it’s most common form is simply hatred against white males.
It is an evil creed.

Paulo Finani

10th January 2020 at 8:38 am

I think these feminists are the ones who should actually be having sex change operations, as they are grotesquely jealous of the Male anatomy and mind.

Ven Oods

10th January 2020 at 12:28 pm

If true, that would be grotesque. But it might not be.

Michael Lynch

11th January 2020 at 4:44 pm

Gosh, I wish they would. Maybe then they’d realize the reality of what it is to be a male nowadays. They’d soon get sick and tired of being blamed for all the ills of the world and would quickly want to go back to being Mum!

Philip Humphrey

10th January 2020 at 7:47 am

I seem to remember that sales of George Orwell’s 1984 surged just after the election of president Trump. Presumably being bought by leftists and liberals who thought that president Trump was Big Brother. Which to me was baffling, the book is a criticism of everything leftism does (censorship, conformity, state enforced “equality”, historical revisionism, Newspeak and the policing of language) and the election of President Trump was in part a popular reaction against PC and leftism. Yet leftists didn’t seem to get it. I haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale and have heard so much about it that I never want to, so I can’t really comment on that specifically.

Pat Davers

10th January 2020 at 10:53 am

Totally agree. Ineed, the Left’s enthusiasm for 1984 quickly wore off, when they realized that is was actually about them…

In fact, the only character to whom Donald Trump bears any kind of passing resemblance is Emmanuel Goldstein, and only because he is the object of the two-minutes’ hate of all right-thinking people.

Ven Oods

10th January 2020 at 12:31 pm

Emmanuel Goldstein does sound like he might be the recipient of some hatred (probably more than 2 minutes-worth, though) from the modern Labour Movement (although I should add that Shameless Chakrabahteeee may not agree with me).

Michael Lynch

10th January 2020 at 7:45 pm

Precisely. In fact, I felt a bit like Winston until I found Spiked.

Jonathan Smith

10th January 2020 at 5:19 am

The Handmaid’s Tale had other contemporaneous allusions. The Islamic Revolution in Iran springs to mind and if anything, is more aposite than the Reagan parallel.

Steve Gray

10th January 2020 at 4:58 am

This article adresses a question which arises from Brendan O’ Neill’s article about Meghan Whats-her-name. Goofing off from a cause greater than onself does not bring a life of pure self-realisation.

Indeed, I would suggest that wokeness is the ultimate-so-far in renunciating one’s own agency, in the name of a creed which demands obedience, silence and a general bowing-of-heads-in-submission, etc, etc .

One might argue back that O’ Neill’s argument stands, as the obedient bit is just for the proles, The Chosen Ones get to do as they please, applauded for farting, pointing out the next human sacrifice, etc.

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