Monday, August 02, 2004

The Handmaid's Tale

The web address for this blog is a tribute to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale [see study guide here]. I was amazed at her prescience - and she bases her dystopian visions on current events and facts - when the Taliban suddenly ordered all women in the area they controlled (including doctors, lawyers, etc.) to don the blue burka and stay home. Neither women nor their daughters were allowed to work or go to school or leave home without a male escort. If they didn't happen to have a man to escort and support them - and many men were killed fighting the Soviets - they were blamed for not having prayed enough to keep their men alive. Their only recourse was to beg.
A recent movie called Osama dramatically illustrates the plight of women and girls when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. According to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, George W. Bush did business with the Taliban before he became president, and then, when it was politically expedient in the post 9/11 world, he sent out his "Stepford Wife" Laura to express the solidarity of American womanhood (which she supposedly represented) with the oppressed women of Afghanistan.
I was incensed by the sheer hypocrisy. For a long time, nobody seemed to care what was happening to women under the Taliban regime until they became a convenient excuse to vilify Bush's former business partners. I wonder what the Afghan women's lives are like now that they have been "liberated" - are they still afraid to walk around without a suffocating blue tent covering them from head to foot, on pain of being beaten or raped? That's not a rhetorical question - I would really like to know...
While women's rights are being rolled back to the middle ages in some parts of the world, women who live in countries where they have achieved mostly equal rights with men are willing to throw it all away for the sake of femininity. I don't intend to rant here, but being a feminist doesn't (or shouldn't) mean imitating the worst attributes of men. On the other hand, being feminine doesn't mean trampling on the hard-won rights for which some of our sisters gave their lives. Nothing should be taken for granted. If you need a reminder, read The Handmaid's Tale.

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