Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

The Timely, Relevant Handmaid’s Tale

June 4, 2017

Hulu has begun airing a series based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the critics are falling all over themselves in proclaiming how timely and relevant the program is in Trump’s America.

The Handmaid’s Tale, for those fortunate enough not to have encountered it, is a dystopian novel set in the “Republic of Gilead”, a future North American nation in which Christian fundamentalists have seized power. Naturally women are horribly oppressed in Gilead, since that is what Christian fundamentalists most like to do. Women are chattel who are forbidden to work outside the home or to have bank accounts. There is an epidemic of infertility caused by environmental pollution and those women who are still fertile are pressed into service as “handmaids” compelled to give birth to women incapable of having their own children. As you can see, The Handmaid’s Tale is timely and relevant, for women living in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. Since Trump hardly ran on a platform of disenfranchising women, the novel is probably not particularly relevant to the experiences of American women, whatever Atwood and her fans might believe.

An everyday sight in Trump’s America

The purpose of dystopian literature, and science fiction in general, is not to predict the future but to highlight circumstances and emerging trends in the present. If it had been Margaret Atwood’s intention to highlight the oppression of women in the Middle East by portraying a similar situation in a more familiar context, much as George Orwell highlighted Stalinist tyranny by placing it in the more familiar context of England, than her effort would be laudable. That is not what she was trying to do. By her own account, she was trying to show what the “religious right” intended to do to women when they gained power. The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, at a time when the Moral Majority seemed to be on the ascendant, so it might have been timely and relevant then; except that not a single prominent figure on the “religious right” was proposing anything at all like the subjugation of women in the book. If treating women like chattel had been on the agenda of the Christian Coalition, I doubt very much if it would have had any influence on politics at all. And again, Trump is hardly a fundamentalist Christian, nor did he campaign on reducing women to brood stock as part of his program to Make America Great Again.

This is where The Handmaid’s Tale falls short as a dystopia. A dystopia works by pointing out the most extreme consequences of existing trends. The resulting vision need not be especially realistic. This is science fiction after all. However it ought to ring true. The setting of a dystopian work ought to at least seem possible, based on things already happening

As a man of the left, George Orwell knew from personal experience the totalitarian tendencies of most left wing movements. He knew what he was writing about when he wrote 1984. He was able to make the setting of his novel match the real life circumstances of totalitarian governments like the Soviet Union under Stalin and Nazi Germany. He believed, with good reason, that Britain was heading towards a totalitarian socialist state. We may not currently be living in Big Brother’s Oceania, but in an age of mass surveillance and bigger, unaccountable bureaucracies, we should certainly be aware of the possibilities.

Aldrous Huxley had considered very carefully the possible changes that advancing technology might bring to society. His Brave New World is a study of how advances in contraception, cloning (though the word hadn’t been coined at the time) might change family life. If we can design each person according to plan would we design different people for different jobs? What would the concept of equality mean if some people are designed before birth to be the leaders while others to be workers? Huxley also explored the implications of freedom of thought in a world in which thoughts are conditioned by persuasion techniques far more advanced than the crude advertising and propaganda of our time. You might not need the Thought Police if every thought in every head is put there by years of conditioning. It is possible that something like Brave New World might really be in our future, perhaps closer than we might imagine.

In contrast, Margaret Atwood knew nothing about the goals and aspirations of conservative Christians when she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale and there is no sign that she has bothered to learn anything about them in all the years since. Her vision is one that simply does not match the reality. No prominent Christian leader of any sect or denomination has come out in favor of disenfranchising women. Christianity is not the religion that teaches that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. Historically, women have generally had a higher status in the Christian West than in any other civilization. It is true that women have often been discriminated against and patronized in the West, but women have rarely been treated as chattel or worse to the extent they have in East Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, and especially the Islamic world. It is in the Christian West that the idea that women ought to be treated as actual human beings, and even protected arose. Only in the West could anything like feminism come to be.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a fantasy. I think it is poorly written, but that is just my opinion. Perhaps others may think it a classic. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about the literary quality of the work, but please don’t insult my intelligence by saying it is in any way timely or relevant to contemporary America.

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Dennis Prager the Misogynist

March 20, 2014

I got this message from the DSCC Rapid Response team.

McConnell Fundraiser: Wives have “obligation” to have sex with husbands
Automatically denounce him immediately >>

Friend — I’m absolutely disgusted: A misogynistic Republican radio host who argued that wives “ought to consent to at least some form of sexual relations as much as possible” despite their “mood” is hosting a $15,000-per-person fundraiser for Mitch McConnell today.

This isn’t the first time that this host — Dennis Prager — has been outspoken against women’s rights. Take a look:

• He said “women are not programmed to prefer a great career to a great man and a family”
• He’s denounced feminism’s “awful legacy” on women

The worst part: Mitch McConnell is raking in boatloads of money from this misogynist TODAY despite his repulsive views. This huge influx of dirty cash could cost Democrat Alison Grimes the lead in this deadlocked Senate race.

Automatically add your name: Denounce Mitch McConnell IMMEDIATELY for taking this dirty cash. Let’s get 100,000 strong against him by midnight.

Your Action History
Supporter Record: VN96C28FDA1
Last Petition Signed: October 24, 2013
This petition: (signature pending)

Right now, McConnell is trailing Grimes — McConnell (R) 42 – Grimes (D) 46 — in an incredibly close race. And Nate Silver reports that McConnell’s seat could determine control of the entire Senate. He’s desperate to stay in office, and willing to do anything to win.

But raising money with this sexist financier is simply over the line. There is NO excuse for McConnell lining his campaign coffers with a mountain of cash from someone who belittles women with such archaic views.

Take urgent action: Click here immediately to automatically sign the petition and denounce McConnell.

Thanks for your support,

Julia Ager
DSCC Rapid Response Coordinator

As a sometime listener of Dennis Prager I can attest that he is probably one of the most civilized people in talk radio. In a field full of shock jocks and simplistic ideas, Prager stands head and shoulders above many of his peers. It is therefore a little surprising to find him at the center of a controversy.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager

As I am only a sometime listener of Mr. Prager’s show, I cannot be certain of the context of the remarks that Julia Ager finds so offensive. Based on what I know of Prager’s talk show and his weekly column, I can suppose that his crime is to state that men and women are different emotionally and so may want different things out of life. This, of course, is the worst sort of heresy to the left, which holds that men and women are precisely the same and any differences are social constructs.  Dennis Prager is a misogynist  for stating  what everyone who has ever interacted with little boys and girls, and is not blinded by left-wing ideology, can see with their own eyes.

As for the remark about wives having an obligation to have sex with their husbands, I believe that Mr. Prager is stating another obvious point that when one is in a marital relationship, your life and body are not entirely your own. You cannot simply consider your own needs, but also the needs of your spouse. The apostle Paul puts this very well, if I may use Christian scripture to defend a Jew.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Cor 7:3-5)

The idea is not that the husband owns the wife and can demand sex whenever he feels like it. Rather the husband and wife form a partnership each member considering the needs of the other. If feminism holds that marriage is a war or a system of bargaining between the man and woman or that men and women do not need each other, than it has indeed  had an awful legacy for women.

But, you see what is really going on here. It has long been a tactic of the left to announce that some conservative has gone beyond the limits of what is acceptable discourse, limits they define. That person is denounced as a bigot and a hater and all right minded conservatives are expected to share in the denunciations and shun him. Somehow nothing any liberal ever does is ever considered to be unacceptable. George Soros can bankrupt the Bank of England through currency speculation and be convicted of insider trading, yet his money doesn’t seem to be dirty. Al Sharpton has said some truly repulsive thing and has incited riots,yet Democratic politicians race to his doorstep to receive his blessing. Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy and many others can have a record of abusing women, yet they are not misogynist. People who have absolutely no shame at all ought not to be in the business of telling others what is and is not acceptable and we ought not to let let them get away with turning conservatives against each other in this way.

There is another issue here,one a little deeper than mere politics. Did you notice the words that Ms. Ager used to describe Dennis Prager’s remarks. They include, “disgusted”, “repulsive”, “sexist”, and “archaic”. Notice what she doesn’t say. Are the statements true or false? If men and women are, in fact, different on an emotional level, as Prager has said, then it doesn’t matter how repulsive or sexist his statements are, they are true statements. If they are not true statements, then why not call him out for making false statements? It is as if whether or not a statement is true, or at least whether or not it can be defended by available evidence, is of far less importance than whether a statement is progressive, or useful. The truth doesn’t seem to matter, at least not if it conflicts with ideology of political expedience.

I know that politicians and their enablers of every faction take this sort of view, to a great or lesser extent. Yet, I suspect that people on the left,with a nihilistic view that there is no truth or truth is a sociopolitical construct are far more apt to disregard inconvenient truths than others. Dennis Prager’s crime is restating some inconvenient truths.

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