I have never enjoyed reading dystopian fiction much. Everything seems broodish, and sad, and even though they are stories of a reincarnated world, they are dark and honestly, terrifying.
I remember going into a reading slump after 1984, for example.
I’d heard vaguely of The Handmaid’s Tale. But it was never on my Goodreads Want to Read list. I never actively seeked it out or planned to read it. But somehow I did, at a whim.
I regret reading it.
Whether it be Offred’s mother being a protesting Feminist, who rallied for equal rights and everything a 70s Feminist rallied for, or it be Moira being everything that she was, or it be Offred taking things for granted- inheriting a world her mother had struggled to create, or it be Luke, who was frustratingly passive about everything and Offred supporting it nevertheless because “love”, every string of the story hit me hard.
I really shouldn’t have read it.
The story seems the farthest from fiction, if there ever was one. In the current political climate of Men’s Rights Activism, and Who Wore it Better?, and Good Girls don’ts, and Rape Muslim Women, and Grab ‘Em by the Pussy and Give Him a Chance, and Boys will be Boys, I don’t know whom to trust to bring about change.
I know Steven Pinker tells me we are better off than we ever were in the h eistory of humanity. I know game theory and evolutionary biology tells me the story of evolution of cooperation – how it is a non zero sum game- everyone is better off when we cooperate. I believe in that too. Of course, I do. And of course we’re better off than we were before. But we’re not quite there yet, are we? And we need to be. We need to create a world in which equality is the status quo. Respect for everybody. Is that really too much to ask for? Is it really not the most fundamental thing to aspire for? So we can all quote statistics about how we’re better off, and thank God for that. But we need to aspire higher.
The more I realize this, the more I think that I shouldn’t have read it.
I shouldn’t have read Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, because it’s too real. I wonder who will stand up for me if I go through it. I think all the men I personally know might just allow it. It’s the way it is. What to do?, they’ll all say. Ignorant is not the same as ignoring, but I think ignoring is much worse, and I think a lot of the boys I know will ignore. As they are doing now. Give this a chance, they’ll say. This way is better. “Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.” Right?
I shouldn’t have read the book because it makes me realise that the revolution I thought is coming is far, far away. I might not even be alive. And the temporal distance is scary. The princess may not be able to save herself in this one. Because she’s blinkered away and there are systems in place to keep her blinkered, and to keep her silent. And if such a time comes, there is not going to be someone to stop it.
I see Luke, and The Commander, and Aunt Lydias in this world. I know one of each in my world, and I keep wondering what I have been thinking of since I know of these things– Why aren’t we standing up against it, even now? After all this time?